LP Stories: The Former PSN-YPG Executive Who Has Hacked the Formula for Winning an Election
Life as a Pharmacist (LP) Stories is a PSN-YPG Lagos series that spotlights the unique experiences and views of Young Pharmacists in their areas of practice.
In this LP Stories, Ajibade Oluwabukunmi, who is the immediate past National Vice Chairman of the PSN-YPG, takes us behind the scenes of his successful political campaign. He also talks about the school election that solidified his interest in politics, building a massive WhatsApp contact list and the strategy that has helped him succeed at the polls.
When did you make the decision to get involved in politics?
I have always been an active person with the aluta spirit. In my second year, I was elected as the public relations officer in my faculty. I won by a large margin — I got about 100+ votes to my opponent’s 10 or 20. I had a good start in politics and also, strong support from the people around me. These things encouraged me to keep at it. In addition, I realised that getting involved in politics was a better way to make an impact.
How did you switch from local to national politics?
Before contesting at the national level for the PSN-YPG Vice Chairman position, I had served as a committee member in previous tenures.
When I finally decided to contest, I consulted a couple of senior colleagues, and friends to seek their support because I knew I couldn’t do it all on my own. During this period, I met with the former national vice chairman and some state delegates before I began my campaign. The campaign was physically demanding, and financially draining. In the end, my team and I won the election held during the PSN Conference at Osogbo.
What other things go on behind scenes?
Before the PSN-YPG national elections, meetings are held to ensure that each geopolitical zone gets an office and at the same time, delegates lobby for their candidates. However, there are no guarantees because you could do all of these and still get disappointed. What matters most is your negotiation power and your ability to earn people’s trust.
How did you go about your campaign?
WhatsApp was the main platform for my campaign. I also used Instagram and LinkedIn, the only platform I didn’t use was Facebook because it’s not so relevant these days. But I think some of my friends posted there on my behalf.
Why was WhatsApp the main platform?
I have 3000 contacts on WhatsApp and I get a minimum of 400 views on my status update. Sometimes the traffic from the app makes my phone hang.
Once, I considered starting an ad business on WhatsApp, but I realised it will make me lose focus.
How did you get 3000 active contacts?
Right from my university days I have always been popular, most of these people are from my school and the others are pharmacists I met at PSN conferences. Since 2013, I have not missed any conference — this has helped me widen my network. Building up my WhatsApp contact was not a one-time thing. It took me 9 years.
What was your tenure like?
It was all shades of interesting. I went from representing 100+ pharmacists to thousands of pharmacists — it was a new level of leadership. As the vice-chairman, I was the second in command and stood in for the chairman any time he was absent.
My fellow excos and I implemented the University of Washington certification courses for pharmacists, and every tenure has continued with it. Also, we pulled off the conference in Abuja amidst all odds…I am happy to say that we delivered on our promises.
How were these efforts sustained?
At the end of our tenure, we didn’t wash our hands of PSN-YPG’s activities. After I handed over, I continued to work hand in hand with the new National Vice Chairman to provide advice as needed. This has helped with the progress and continuity of the programs we initiated during our tenure.
More like a mentorship?
What are you looking forward to in the forthcoming conference in Lagos?
Yes, I expect it to be the best. Because it is happening in Lagos, I’ve somehow been involved.
What are some problems you see in the pharmaceutical sector?
A lot of problems. One of the major challenges for us as young pharmacists is the remuneration, and there are many factors behind it. Like the poor attitude of some young pharmacists, and then we have the horrible employers.
I remember the case of a pharmacist who arrested a young pharmacist for trying to defame his company. I represented PSN-YPG at the police station for this case. The pharmacy owner kept insulting young pharmacists and the YPG excos saying that the only thing we did was to dress up in branded shirts. However, in that situation, we stayed resolute and were able to drive our point home. It was our way of ensuring that employers do not abuse their power.
In terms of remuneration, places like Edo, some parts of Delta and Lagos have made positive changes. We are doing our best to work with the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) to ensure that our voices are heard, and a standard salary scale is maintained for community pharmacists.
What is the standard salary scale?
For full-time pharmacists, it is placed at 200,000 naira and for superintendents nothing less than 250,000 — 300,000 naira. But we know that some places are paying below this range. For interns, we cannot determine the salary structure. It depends solely on the company hiring the pharmacist. However, it is not expected to be below 100,000 naira.
Do you find yourself using your leadership skills in your current job?
During my interview, I highlighted my leadership experience as a PSN-YPG executive. My job involves meeting people and the ideal candidate is someone with good communication and interpersonal skills, so those skills come in handy. I added that I was a good team player because my interviewers had made a joke saying “…if we give you the job, hope you won’t take over our office?”
Also, in my personal business, my WhatsApp and referrals from both friends and acquaintances were crucial to the growth of the business
Do your people skills give you an edge at work?
What is a typical day/routine?
I am nocturnal. I go to bed by 2 am and get about 5 hours of sleep. I work from 8 am to 4 pm, but I go to the office only three times a week. The other days, I work remotely and do my business too — I run an online warehouse.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
This question makes me laugh all the time. If you had asked me this question ten years ago, I would never have said I would be a regulatory pharmacist or entrepreneur, but look at me doing all of these things today. One thing is certain, there is a high chance I will run for another political office. Don’t be surprised if you see my name on a campaign flyer for a position in the House of Assembly.
That aside, I look to expanding my personal business and my career as a regulatory pharmacist.
On a scale of 1–10, how easy was it for you to get started in politics? (with 10 being very easy)
I’ll say 9. To get started in politics, you need social capital, and I had that. In every zone in Nigeria, I had people willing to speak for me and support me, it made the work less stressful.
If I want to run for a position, I just have to make some calls to each of them, and then we get to work.
Advice for young pharmacists looking to get into politics and leadership roles?
For me, I’ll advise that you get involved and meet people. Don’t belittle anyone and try to make people feel your presence. In conclusion, I will say be relevant and get involved.
So there’s no room to keep things low-key in politics?
A low-key approach may not help you in the long run unless you want to be what Yoruba people call afobaje — the kingmaker. In this case, staying below the radar might not be a bad idea. But to a large extent, politics requires popularity and influence — they matter to the people at the top and the grassroots.
The Life as a Pharmacist (LP) Stories is published every second and last Wednesday of each month. Every month has a new theme — June’s theme is “leadership”.
Now, if you want to share your story or know an interesting person we could feature, fill out this form.