I feel very honoured, humble and thankful, Omotosho

Chief Adebowale Omotosho is the Founder and Chairman of The Bond Group of Companies. A trained pharmacist, he has been described as a top industrialist and philanthropist. A member of many professional bodies within and outside Nigeria, he has also headed and chaired several bodies and organizations in the country and is a lifetime patron of several associations. He tells TOBI AWODIPE of his rise from Bond Chemists, his feelings at turning 80, the scourge of sickle cell, among other things

Can we meet you sir?
I am Adebowale Omotosho, Chairman of Bond Chemical Industries, a practicing pharmacist and an industrialist. I was born in the city of Kano in July 1936 and spent most of my childhood in the North. I started my primary education at First Baptist School before moving on to Keffi Government College and School of Pharmacy in Zaria and from there, proceeded to England to train as a pharmacist. I became a pharmacist in 1966 and came back to Nigeria in 1968. I have worked at various places before and was once the manager of UAC before I started my pharmacy, Bond Chemists in 1977 and to the glory of God has transformed into this great company today.

Why did you decide to mark your 80th birthday with a colloquium instead of throwing a big party?
I thank God for my life and I believe God is the source of everything. He has blessed me immensely and I give all glory to him. I decided to use this auspicious opportunity to discuss issues very close to my heart and to re-introduce a product for sickle cell patients we have been producing for a while.

Can you tell us more about this?
The product is Oxyurea, manufactured by the company and it is used for the treatment of sickle cell anemia. According to statistics at hand, sickle cell mostly affects black people and about 10 percent of our population suffer from sickle cell anemia with thousands dying yearly due to ignorance and bad care. A couple of years back, it was discovered that hydro-oxyurea which is used for curing other diseases could also be used in the treatment of sickle cell. I got together with Professor Akinyanju who is an expert on sickle cell and the chairman of the Sickle Cell Foundation, Nigeria. He asked us if we could produce it locally and we looked into it and decided that we could. We started producing this product about four years ago at a hundredth of what it costs in the United Kingdom. The raw material is sadly still purchased outside the country but we still sell it at rock bottom prices. I was introduced to a professor from Ghana who said they cannot treat sickle cell anemia simply because they couldnít afford the drugs because they were imported from overseas and were very expensive. The professor asked if we could produce for him to take to Ghana and we did and it has been testimonies galore. Please note that it doesnít cure, but it simply reduces the frequency of attacks and the pains.

Has the drug been in the market for a while now?
It has been in the market for three years now, but I cannot say we have gotten our moneyís worth. Professor Akinyanju doesnít want every Tom, Dick and Harry to have access to it but we want it as a controlled drug, whereby you go to the doctor and heíll prescribe the drug for you. Itís not like paracetamol that you can go and buy over the counter.

You mentioned the effect of the economy on the importation of the raw materials to produce drugs, how has this affected the production of goods and drugs in particular?
The economy is not favourable for manufacturers presently and it is only the grace of God that is still keeping most of us. Ninety-nine percent of manufacturers source their raw materials from outside the country and with the way the economy is presently, it has affected manufacturers in no small way and the pharmaceutical industry is not exempt. The government needs to do more to help us because health is very important. Manufacturing our drugs locally will help stem the problem of fake drugs that flooded the Nigerian market at a time and might likely resurface again if quick action is not taken. Presently, we have not marked up our goods too much and we hope we are not forced to do so. But even if it goes up, it might not go up too much. What we have been trying to reduce the cost, and itís the cost that makes the risk.

In your opinion, do you think enough awareness has been carried out in trying to stem the sickle cell scourge in Nigeria?
They have a foundation presently, but I wonít say there is enough awareness presently because a lot of people still donít know about it. In the case of this drug, we donít want just anybody buying it; we want them to go through a doctor. My message to all patients is that they should always see their doctor and also try to visit the sickle cell foundation for more information and enlightenment.

You are celebrating a milestone today. How do you feel at 80?
I donít even feel 80 at all. I might look it but I donít feel it. I am grateful to Almighty God because He alone has made all this possible. I feel very humbled, honoured and thankful. Right from when we started as a chemist almost 40 years ago and now to where we are today. It is not my power or my might but the grace of God. Seeing that I can only hit this milestone once, I am thankful for this colloquium that was put together for me to discuss and proffer solutions to the problems that beset the health industry in Nigeria. I hope after listening to the guest speakers, much would be gained from them and things would begin to improve.

How do you unwind?
I am a member of several clubs and societies and I always find time for our activities. I belong to Island Club of Lagos, Ikeja Country Club, Yoruba Tennis Club, Golf Club Ibadan, Premier Club Oyo, Recreation Club Awe, Ikeja Rotary Club and a host of others.

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