By Gabriel Olawale
Deputy Director of Pharmacy at the National Orthopedic Hospital Igbobi, Lagos, Kingsley Ekwunife, clocked 50 yesterday.
In this interview, Ekwunife, who had his first degree in Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nssuka, and Master’s degree in Clinical Pharmacy and Bio Pharmacy from the University of Lagos, shares his success story.
In 2014, the Fellow, West Africa Postgraduate College of Pharmacists, led a team to formulate the first World Health Organization, WHO, recommended hand sanitizer in Nigeria during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Today, Ekwunife is being bestowed the Distinguished Service Award, DESA, by the Association of Hospital And Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria, AHAPN, Lagos State branch.
He is also being honoured with the Merit Award Winner, MAW, award by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Lagos branch.
What does clocking 50 mean to you?
I am excited to witness my 50th birthday. God has been so good to me, both in my career and family as well. There is nothing I can give to God than to thank him for his faithfulness. All my children are doing well in their academics. My wife’s business is going on fine. My parents and my siblings are all alive and doing well.
I had this mentality while growing up that Nigeria will be better.
For me, most Nigerians are patriotic, they want to live together. We are blessed with a lot of human and mineral resources. For instance, if Nigeria had a functional refinery, our problem would be half solved. You can get almost 117 products from the crude oil when you refine it, but when we send it out of the country we get only seven products in return.
Our system is structured in such a way that the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. We have a federal system of government but the general thinking is that we are not practicing federalism.
I believe Nigeria will be better. Some people may be planning to leave the country, but for me, I believe in staying back and making an impact.
With hindsight, tell us about your growing up and lessons you think can be drawn?
What helped me while growing up was my background. My parents are both teachers. They are disciplinarian and that really shaped my life. I can still remember when I was in secondary school, my daddy would take me to school, we would cross by boat and the distance was about six hours. He went with me and returned the next day. He monitored me, he guided and advised me. My religious background helped me.
My parents taught me to always put God first in whatever I want to do and to also think about the impact of the actions I take.
During my secondary school days, I was very brilliant to the extent that my nickname was Pfizer. The Pfizer company gave me an award in my first year at the university. I was not corrupted by things of the world. I was not distracted by parties. I was always reading my books. I excelled in my examinations.
My parental background helped shape me. If you work hard and study very hard, you will become great in the future. I never failed any examination in my life. In 1999, I got my job on merit. I never knew anybody. You didn’t need to know anybody to become anybody.
Looking back, what events can you consider the major landmarks so far in your life?
Apart from this 50th birthday, it was the day I became a Fellow, West Africa Postgraduate College of Pharmacists. Another event was when my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. All their children and grandchildren were around to celebrate them. We learned a lot of lessons from them.
My prayer when I was young was that before I get to the age of 50, I should not be paying house rent anymore and God did it for me beyond measure. I was excited when I built my house in the village. My children are also doing well academically and my businesses are going on fine.
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We are also trying to impact what we learned from our parents in our children. It is to enable them to live a Christ-like life. I often teach them that there is no shortcut to success. You need to work hard to become successful most. Anything obtained through shortcuts does not last. I was the first pharmacist to formulate World Health Organisation, WHO, hand sanitizer in Nigeria during the Ebola crisis in 2014. When coronavirus came it was easy for us to formulate WHO hand sanitizer. Other organisations came to learn from us. That for me was a landmark that under my watch, Igbobi Hospital was the first hospital in Nigeria to produce WHO hand sanitizer standards in the country.
Were there people who inspired you?
At my level now, all I do is transfer knowledge to younger ones. One of those people that inspired me which I can call my role model is the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Pharmacist Mazi, Samuel Ohuabunwa. I always followed him right from when I was young. I observed how he became successful and learned great lessons from his story. I try to always be excellent in whatever I do.
You have come very far in public service. What were the key factors that made it possible that you may want others to emulate?
I want to encourage the young generation to remain focused, work hard, and have a vision. If you work hard, your vision is achievable. Believe in yourself, have absolute confidence in yourself and don’t imitate anybody. If you try to imitate anybody, you will only be the second-best, so be original.
Can you tell us about the cherished values that have contributed to making you who you are today?
People should not put money first in whatever they do. The truth is that salaries are not enough for anybody in Nigeria. One cannot depend only on one source of income. For you to be successful, you need streams of income, at least, four genuine sources of income.
I work in a hospital, when I close you don’t expect me to start sleeping. My wife is a pharmacist also. I have three pharmacies. Whenever I go there I look at what they are doing and also share knowledge with them. I also invest in property, especially landed property. I do a little bit of foreign exchange and drug supply. What is important is that you must do what you know about. I keep telling young people that Nigeria, as the most populous black nation, is a big market. There is nothing you do in this country that is not profitable. Just look out for a problem in your society and solve it, money will follow. All you need to do is sit down, think critically, and solve a problem. You must think, your brain will be more active and you will look younger.
You must be looking beyond 50…
At 50, I still believe life is a journey and this is a landmark for me considering all God has done for me. But as a man, you must continue to set goals for yourself. My goal is to have at least five pharmaceutical premises before I retire.
One more important thing is that before I leave this hospital, I want to set up an Antimicrobial Stewardship Team whereby antibiotics will be prescribed with some restrictions.
Vanguard News Nigeria