Pharm. George Okon is the zonal coordinator of ACPN Eti-Osa Local Government Area, and the superintendent pharmacist of a Lagos-based community pharmacy. In this interview with PharmaTimes Waire Emonefe, he shares his thoughts concerning the leadership of ACPN as well as the role of the pharmacist in fighting drug abuse.
You were an aspirant for the state chairmanship position in the recently concluded ACPN Lagos Chapter elections; why did you step forth to contest?
Many community pharmacists in Lagos are unhappy with the leadership of the ACPN, Lagos State Chapter. This is the reason why you do not see them in meetings and other functions. The only thing that makes community pharmacists feel that they are part of the ACPN is the annual dues that they pay, and that is because it is compulsory, otherwise you can’t get your license and practice. The ACPN state secretariat is a shadow of itself and a lot more, but everything boils down to leadership.
Now that the election has been held and new executives have come, what is the way forward?
Being the state chairman of the ACPN Lagos Chapter was not a “do or die” affair. I just wanted to go there and render service. I feel that we should stop complaining as a body and look to proffering solutions instead.
What steps have you taken to aid leadership in the ACPN?
I have decided to take up the struggle against selective leadership. I wrote a petition to the National Chairman of ACPN. We also moved a motion at the last Annual General Meeting for the executive body to inaugurate a constitutional review committee that would come up with a bye-law for ACPN Lagos and everybody will be involved in this process. We’ve been able to get this done. We are also showing keen interest in the selection of people that make up this committee.
What would you say are necessary areas that the leadership needs to improve on?
There is a lot that needs to be done. ACPN Lagos State Chapter does not have a database of all the pharmacists in Lagos State. Without data we can achieve nothing. Last year, the executives did pharma-mapping and this is a good step in the right direction. However, without the database that mapping will not be useful. Data has been a major challenge, when you don’t know the number of pharmacists you have under you, you won’t be able to do much. The previous executives have done their best, but we need to do more, we need to get organised.
What are your thoughts on the plan of the government to commence the implementation of National Drug Distribution Guidelines by the end of January, 2019?
It’s a good one; at least we’ve gotten a date for now. However, I doubt that date because that is quite close to the elections and the ruling government will not want anything that will jeopardise their chances at the elections. But, I would give the government the benefit of a doubt, hoping that they have the political will to pull this through, and if the government does, then kudos to them. The guidelines will be helpful in building an organised channel for drug distribution in the country. One of the core reasons for rampant drug abuse is the porous drug distribution system that we have.
On the issue of drug abuse, what do you think the community pharmacist should do?
The community pharmacist ought to create awareness using different platforms, including the social media, print and television. And the government needs to step up in tackling this problem. With the large quantity of codeine in circulation, who is approving these drugs? It’s definitely not the community pharmacists. If the government puts in their political will then they can actually control this menace. This year, community pharmacists plan to celebrate the World Drug Abuse Day in June by going to schools to create awareness on drug abuse and its many dangers to health, and the society at large.