Move Back to Nigeria is a series on BellaNaija which aims to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at MoveBackToNigeria.com, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap, considering the leap, as well as those who have tried it and realized it is not for them.
MoveBacktoNigeria.com’s mission is to showcase stories of Nigerians abroad who have moved back home and are taking giant strides, often against all odds and to serve as inspiration to others. This, however does not preclude us from sharing stories of the people who have moved back and are facing various challenges.
Ife Ogunlola,is our feature for the week. Here, she discusses her educational background and experiences in the UK healthcare sector, shedding a welcome light on a topical subject and sharing with us, her goals and aspirations. Read on for more.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Ife Ogunlola, and I am a wife and mother of two. I recently moved back to Nigeria, after (almost) 10 years in London, England to seek opportunities within the Healthcare and Pharmacy sector. My long term goal is to have a successful chain of pharmacies with several health awareness programmes and well being coaching services in Nigeria.
Please walk us through your educational background.
I grew up in Nigeria and studied Pharmacy at Unilag, graduating in 2003. After this, I did the mandatory internship required for Pharmacists to practice in Nigeria, at a place called ‘Juli Pharmacy’ in Ikeja, Lagos. After which I felt I needed to broaden my horizon and gain some overseas perspective, so I decided to move to London for a Master’s degree in Clinical Pharmacy, International Practice & Policy which I started in 2004 at the School of Pharmacy, University of London (UCL). The experience at UCL was great because I found the Nigerian system to be very theoretical but in the UK it is more interactive, practical and scenario based (with solving ethical dilemmas), so you know how to apply theoretical concepts to the real world. Ethical dilemmas are based on examples of real life patients and their medical histories, and how they react differently to the same medication. We also learnt about clinical decisions and adjustments we can make for better outcomes.
What came next after your Master’s Degree in London?
I decided to put my skills to use in the UK. The initial plan was to come straight home but I thought I’d stay behind for a while to get some UK work experience. My dream was always to start my own pharmacy in Nigeria, but I felt like I needed more experience to achieve this. In order to practice pharmacy in the UK, I had to undertake a conversion course to convert my Nigerian Degree to a UK equivalent, so I had to do a 1 year Diploma in Overseas Pharmacy at Aston University Birmingham. This was regardless of the MSc from UCL. Life in Birmingham was good and I got to meet a lot of other Nigerians who were on the same conversion course. During the programme, we had visits from a number of pharmacies, including Lloyds Pharmacy, Boots and others, who came on campus to recruit us. In the end I got hired by Boots and that’s how my pharmacy career began.
What was it like working at Boots?
The position at Boots was a mandatory 1 year internship, and based in Devon, UK. This was similar to the internship I did at Juli Pharmacy in Lagos because they don’t recognise the Nigerian internship in the UK. My role was as a ‘pre-registration’ pharmacist, so I had a practicing pharmacist as my tutor and mentor. I dispensed drugs, gave advice, and trained junior staff and technicians among other tasks. I was basically a pharmacist, but training under a mentor who was much more experienced in the game.
What else does a pharmacist do? It looks a bit more than simply dispensing medication?
A pharmacist is not just about dispensing medication. We do a lot of other things such as ‘medication use reviews’, (and also new medicines review), consulting and much more. For example, a patient might come in with their doctor’s prescription and ask if that’s the right medication for them e.g. if they are experiencing side effects (or drug interactions), and so we analyse each drug, and also advise patients on what they might be eating which could be contributing to the drug interactions. We also do smoking cessation programs with people who want to quit smoking and advise them on which cessation program to go on, i.e. whether they want to use patches, tablets or vaccination programmes. We also help with more personal issues like advice on depression, cancer awareness, weight management programs, sexual health advice, or even substance misuse advice. For instance in the UK, there is a methadone programme which is used as a substitute for heroin users, and we advise on how to stay safe and gradually withdraw using the legal medicine to get over the addiction.
Thanks for enlightening us. So you interned at Boots, and afterwards?
After Boots, I had to do a professional exam to be registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. This is because even after all the training, without passing this exam, I couldn’t practice in the UK. Registration also gave me access to a few resources e.g. the Pharmacists Online Resource Library, which has pretty much all the training one would need as a pharmacist in the UK. I became registered in 2007 and then I stayed on with Boots and was practicing as a pharmacist in Paddington, London. This time, my role was working at a Boots store, so I was a pharmacist in charge, and was also doing a lot of staff training. There were also other similarities to my role on the internship e.g. working on substance misuse programs and having a rapport with clinics i.e. going to clinics to make them aware of our prescription service and more. It was during this period I got married to my husband, whom I met in Unilag, and then started having children, which contributed to my reasons for wanting to move back to Nigeria.
Can you tell us more about your reasons for moving back?
As I previously mentioned, when I first came to the UK, the idea was to study and move back to start my own pharmacy. The UK agenda was just to get some experience so after working at Boots and having kids, I felt it was time to move back. Furthermore, my husband works in the entertainment industry, so Nigeria was where he needed to be. But first, I wanted to get a bit more knowledge in a different area of healthcare, so I joined ‘BUPA Home Healthcare’ just to get some more experience in areas like parenteral nutrition and infusion therapy for children, and also did a role in clinical chemotherapy as a cancer services Pharmacist at an NHS hospital in Watford. After this, I moved back with my family to do my NYSC.
What was the NYSC process like for you?
Registration was pretty much straightforward because I graduated from Unilag, and was mobilised for NYSC but never turned up because I moved to the UK. This time round, it was a simple case of remobilising me. I went back to Unilag, produced some documents and that was it. I didn’t even have to go to Abuja. It was a simple case of writing a letter to my faculty and everything else got sorted. In terms of the experience, I enjoyed every moment of doing my NYSC in Nigeria. I went to camp in Lagos, Iyana Ipaja and it was really nice and interesting.
Let me state here that I had an open mind about what it would be like. Before I started NYSC, I read a lot of blogs about the experience; people were painting a really bad picture. So, I was actually expecting the worst and prepared myself, for anything. Yes, the facilities were not great. Many people had to shower out-doors on a daily basis, the sanitation was poor in certain areas; but with an open mind, it was easy to overcome all of this. Or maybe it’s just me, after all I did my secondary school at Federal Government College Ijanikin, so NYSC was a little bit like re-living that experience.
Now moving on, what are your plans for the future?
Right now, I’m in the process of setting up my retail pharmacy in Lagos. I’m aware there’s a lot of competition with very good Pharmacies around and so to differentiate myself, I did two diplomas in coaching in 2013; one in Personal Performance and the other in Corporate and Executive Coaching at The Coaching Academy, UK. This is so that I can introduce wellbeing and health coaching into my practice. Most pharmacies offer the same essential services, but the public also needs motivation about their health. Everyone has a health goal, whether it’s to be focused on taking their medications, staying stress free or sticking to a weight (management) plan and staying healthy. So I’m going to have coaching as part of my range of services, where I can help people set wellbeing goals and motivate them to achieve them by using toolkits I’ve learned and acquired from my coaching diploma. With my training in cancer management and interest in this field, I intend to build up cancer awareness and enlighten low and middle class members of society on the information they would not ordinarily be able to access for different reasons.
On a separate note, how are you finding life generally in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole?
Life is good here. My kids are settled into school and they are enjoying the new environment. The infrastructural challenges do not bother me. When there is no light, I just automatically switch to the inverter or generator or just take a walk. Or when in traffic e.g. if I’m being driven somewhere and need to beat the traffic, I would happily leave the driver, get out of the car, jump on a Keke Napep (keke Marwa) and ask the driver to meet me at the destination. My family think I’m really crazy to do that but it works well.
Those Keke Napeps are able to navigate their way through the traffic because of their size and ensure you are never late if you have a meeting or engagement you need to get to. I feel like all this ‘butter’ mentality is not necessary if you really want to get by and get things done in Lagos in particular. Another way around traffic is to give yourself enough time. Personally I give myself 4 hours lead time when I need to get from point A to point B in Lagos for an important meeting. Besides you can’t be worrying about infrastructural issues when there are better things to consider e.g. Bank Olemoh Rice, University of Suya and other goodies.
On a final note, do you have any words of wisdom for those thinking of making the move back home?
First of all, have an open mind. Let it be your own decision to relocate and be mentally ready for anything. Do not compare Nigeria to the country you are coming from and do not worry too much about issues like security. It’s all about God, if God wants to keep you safe, he will, regardless of where you are. Make sure you allow family to support and help you, because they are the greatest source of help.
Be prepared for the worst, and then everyday will turn out better. Be adaptable and don’t worry about things you can’t control and you’ll be fine.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.
The primary objective of MoveBackToNigeria.com is to connect Nigerian professionals with various opportunities in Nigeria, ranging from recruitment drives to information & support regarding relocation processes, financial & tax advice and much more. Move Back To Nigeria also features social interest topics such as what’s on, where to live, how-to survival tips and so on. Consistently engaging with and featuring Nigerian professionals in weekly interviews, Move Back To Nigeria regularly publishes social interest articles relevant to the general public. Everyone is welcome to their online discussions & fora and you are invited to air your views & suggestions on the topical and trending matters section. For more information and further inquiries, please contact [email protected]