Our reporter, Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, recently caught up with Pharm. Gbenga Olubowale, Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Lagos Chapter during the World Pharmacists Day celebration at Police College, Ikeja, Lagos. In this interview, the former national secretary of PSN explains why pharmacists need to be more proactive and what qualities he expects of the incoming PSN president. Excerpts:
What is your view about the World Pharmacists Day celebration?
The World Pharmacists Day is a unique opportunity we all need to embrace to talk about the usefulness of the pharmacist. The day has its genesis in 2009 during the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), which took place in Istanbul, Turkey. It was a period when pharmacists around the world came together and fixed September 25 for global recognition. For instance, this year’s theme was “Pharmacists: Your partners in health” and it further emphasises the key roles that pharmacists play in the society. We work closely with patients and never in competition with anybody. We are the experts in drugs. We just want to do that which we have been trained to do. As I mentioned earlier, it is an opportunity for every pharmacist to step up his game
What is your assessment of the growth of pharmacy practice in Nigeria?
Pharmacy in Nigeria is just like the nation itself. It is still evolving, full of many potential but great and grossly under-utilised. The number of products being manufactured locally in our manufacturing company is very few compared to our real capacity. Also there is minimal awareness on the street about whom a pharmacist is; people don’t seem to really know much know about us. Sometimes, they mistake us for other caregivers.
Let us also look at the regulation of pharmaceutical practice in this country. We are not yet there. Sometimes you see a lot of charlatans coming into the pharmaceutical industry. They only look at the business aspect of it. They see drugs as trade items. We know that drugs, even though they are useful and potent medications when used rightly, can at the same time be a great disservice to the patient, if used wrongly. They can be quite injurious!
It is always important for us as pharmacists to let people know more about what we do. We need to step up our activities and be more visible. A lot of us are too shy when it comes to public relations. It shouldn’t be so. We are leaders in our various localities. I agree that we are not yet there but we can do better.
The 2015 PSN conference will witness the emergence of a new president. What are those qualities you expect the incoming helmsman to have?
First, we need to know where we are coming from to understand where we are going. The current president, Olumide Akintayo, has done so well by raising the stake. Whoever is coming in as PSN president must also be ready to give it all.
Being a PSN president is no longer a part time job. It is full time because there are so many things to be done. As a one-time national secretary of the PSN, I know what I am talking about. The task at hand is so big – you have to be visible, you have to give that leadership direction. So we are looking at somebody who can provide purposeful leadership, who can sustain the good work of the current president and who can take us to the next level.
What do you look forward to seeing at the PSN conference?
Since this year is an election year, I think it is critical for us to be able to choose the right candidates to fill the various posts that would soon be vacant. For me, it is also a good way to meet and fashion out the way forward for ourselves; more so now that we are talking about CHANGE!
This is when we should also be talking about change in the pharmaceutical industry. To take it to the next level, let us do things right.