Mrs. Chinedum Peace Babalola is the First Female Professor of Pharmacy, and the first female Nigerian to be inducted as the fellow African Academy of Science. She is currently the Vice-Chancellor of the Chrisland University, Abeokuta Ogun State. Also the First Female Professor of Pharmacy to hold that capacity.
In an interview with NewsRain, she generally talks about women folks, and their low contribution to science and innovations, how the Federal Government can help research work, about the importation of drugs, and many other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Please Ma, can you let us know your background for the sake of our readers:
My name is Peace Chinedum Babalola, I’m a Pharmacist, a Professor of Pharmacy, and Pharmacokinetics at the University of Ibadan where I lecture, I’m currently the Vice-Chancellor of the Chrisland University Abeokuta Ogun State. I recently received an Award which is known as the African Union Kwame Nkruma Regional Prize Award for Scientific Excellent.
Why do we have a few women in Science, Research, and Innovation?
I can say women were created to be supportive, they were created to support men, even according to the Bible. Some believed that they are meant for homemaking.
Woman according to some people believes they are meant to raise a home, to some they believed that women are homemakers and generally it has been so difficult to change that mindset.
Though I’m not of that school of thought, I’m of the school of thought that we should give more opportunities to women, some are of the opinions that women are second class citizens and they should be treated as such, and but I disagree, because they are not, I don’t see them as such, we have to create more opportunities for them to excel in their chosen carrier, we have to create an enabling environment for them to thrive.
Women are more intelligent, women are good managers, they are able to multitask more than men, they managed home, children, husband, jobs, even they are homemakers, and so many other things, and that’s exactly how they’re brain works.
So they are dumpsters, Yes they can do whatever men are doing, but the only problem is the structural aspect and physical stuff but if it were to be brain stuff, as in to apply brain to do something to make it work women are so good in that aspect than man, though I still believed that women are more of supporting.
So do you believe that women can do what men can do as well, then why do we find just a few of them in Science?
Yes, I actually believe that women can do what men can do, the reasons why we have fewer patronages of women in science and innovation, is because some parents still don’t want their female children to study science.
You see those older generation people want their female children to be a teacher, a nurse, and all sorts, they don’t really want their children to go for real science, it’s a mindset that the people were brought up with, and that was how it was in the beginning, until recently people that people are given them support.
If women were given adequate supports they can go into science and become one of the best, women can be supportive in innovative, in science and technology, they can be supportive in inventing new Innovation, in engineering, you can imagine my husband is not even a professor, he is in the ministry but he supports me, so if women are given full support they will be there, the real reason they are not much in the science is the mindset of our people we have to change that notion that women, must be a nurse, Secretary or a teacher.
Lack of empowerment is also a factor hinder women folks to explore their God-given values in them, There is what is called a glass ceiling, you can say I want to break the glass ceiling, women can really do better in science if they have the support, I mean financial support and otherwise, and there’s need to be balanced, as a woman you must marry someone who understands you, someone who is ready to assist you to achieve your, and you must be ready for home cores, you help one another to be your best, I have shopped as I’m coming here to meet you, immediately I leave here I must make sure I cook for my husband, a woman must be able to manage both the home and carrier.
What can the Federal Government do to make things easier for the researchers?
The government can help us through policymakers, they can create a friendly environment for us through some policies that will give us backing, like for instance of the government introduce one policy now, immediately there is a changing of government that policy might not likely to work again in another new government that just come on board, and everybody will be complaining, and the whole things will just get scumble, I just didn’t know, you see NIH cannot scumble despite changes in their government over there, I think we need to build a situation here too, DFID will not scumble, Welcome Trust will not stumble because of any change of government, and these are all government funding agencies.
The government should be continuity, it’s a waste of funds, waste of resources, and after you left, someone else come and started saying we are going to start ABC, as in they will like to start a new one, so I think we really need to build a strong institution here too, and there’s one ministry that has been admiring, and that is the ministry of science and technology, they have been able to sustain continuity and it’s good, I think we should study that ministry properly, and I think if we should be able to implement all those what those ministry has been able to achieve Nigeria will go a long way because there are lots of findings in that ministry that needs to be implemented and it will solve a lot of problems.
We also need some certain industries to buy all those our research products, and if industries are ready to buy them then we can say we are going places, In most of the foreign countries, they spend not less than 2.1 Billion dollars on drugs to be on the table, so where is any ministry in Nigeria going to get such amount to get drugs on the table, and it takes likes fifteen years or even more to achieve or probably provide a drug, so the question is are we patient enough? And are we ready to invest as such in research?
We also need to be given flexibility in terms of our education, you see education in Nigeria is highly regulated both from primary to tertiary, in the University I can talk of, they have to look at your curriculum, all these and that, while all these are going, I think there’s need to be variations, for instance, they said they are going to be sentence people that buy a generator to a jail term, we can still make all those decisions and still maintains it, for the country like China, and the likes also took such a painful decision and now they are enjoying, you have to suffer for a while then enjoy afterward.
if you want Nigeria to be producing drugs today just short down the importation of drugs, you will see that necessity is a mother of invention, you will see that things will start to change, I’m looking for a situation where we can manufacture our drugs within our country, we are not producing drugs we are just packaging, most of the ingredients come from China, we have oil, we have everything and yet we can’t use all that blessings to even produce drugs. It’s so sad, that we are importing some drugs that we should be producing right here in our country.
What is your take on the level of importation of drugs in Nigeria and what is the way out?
In Nigeria we import a lot, eighty percent of what we use we import them, and that’s the why this Coronavirus is affecting us a lot, I have secured land for research on Africa to Africa drugs discovery, the center is still functional, is at the University of Ibadan, it was set to train more people, the center is still there, and we’re still going to do more of such by the grace of God.
I’m trying to set up a place where we will be looking at the quality of drugs that are going into the market,
The way out of drugs importation in Nigeria is to start promoting our qualified and certified drug manufacturers, that’s just the only way we can do it, and we actually can achieve it, part of what I’m saying is that the Coartem, is anti-malaria drugs, it belongs to one drug factory, but we have various of it, like now if I want to start my own pharmaceutical factory, I will just go to China or India and say this is money and this what I want to do, made me my own, I can call it Chinedu Artemiter, and this is not helpful.
The cost of productions here in Nigeria is too costly, and that is why I always say that electricity power alone is okay for us if the government can give us sufficient and stable power supply then like they should give us twenty-four hours power supply, Nigeria will be great, everybody will be happy, we go abroad, there is always twenty-four hours power supply, if the government can replicate that here in Nigeria, things will be better, cost of lives will be okay, the Barbers, the Welders, those artisans will be happy to work and they will begin to charge a lesser price for their services.
In Nigeria you are a local government on your own, where you generates your water by yourself, you generate power and all other basic amenities by yourself, and these are not ought to be, and they increase taxes, they shout pay taxes and all that, we need just four things to make Nigeria great and they are power, water, good roads, and security, so if our government can provide us these four basic amenities, there is light at the end of the tunnel, you will see more investors coming to invest in the Country.
No serious investors will want to invest his or her money in a place where there is no steady power supply or in a place where his life and properties are not secure. So for us to move forward, we need to sort out those issues then our economy will start to thrive again.
Despite the high bill that we are paying for electricity tariff we are not using electricity for twenty hours a day.
We cannot at this stage produce common paracetamol, I think the government should stop the importation of paracetamol to even start with, Ghana has stopped importing paracetamol since, and they now locally produced their own paracetamol.
We can decide and say this must be made in Nigeria, did you know that we have coal, and we can get a chemical, called Amphenol, and we can use it as a starting material for paracetamol.
We have coal deposited in Enugu, so our government just need to take a drastic decision that such drugs should be stopped from importing to our country, that we must make them in the Country, most of the drugs industries here are not producing here because of the high cost of production, what we are currently doing just a repacking.
All those drugs industries have shot down, M&B and the likes have gone, the government needs to give more priority to the local manufacturers we have in the country, all the foreign drugs companies in Nigeria now are just into selling of products and nothing more, they are no longer producing here.
Nigeria is such a large market that whatever you want to sell you will sell it and make a good gain,, the population is there, anything you put up you will sell, we are always ready to buy, the government should just empower the manufacturers and let them start at least from the Paracetamol and some anti-malaria, no more importation, then you will see what we happened, and that will start to create jobs for the teeming youths, and the government should also reduce the taxes of those manufacturing companies, they should make it easier for them to produce.
Why did you have this love for Science, or what motivated your zeal for Science and not other things:
Naturally, maybe because of my background, my Mom was a Maths teacher and she ensured that all of us has a love for Mathematics, she ensures that we all know mathematics, and you have no choice because she is a disciplinarian, she do tell us then, that if you know Maths. You will know everything, she was our homework teacher, by the time I was leaving primary school have been saying I’m going to study maths in high school, that was my thought then.
So by the time I got to secondary school I just love to be a science student, I could not even go near art classes, I just love anything science, and that was my own background.
Still don’t want to believe that women are not coming up on science, I know that the statistics are there, in Nigeria, and the Northern African is doing very well, in India they’re doing very well too, in anything at all when you get to the executive sectors you then see fewer women, I don’t know if we’re up to ten women that are Vice-Chancellor in Nigeria.
You will realize that at the top level, women are few, and that could be linked to our progress rate, which is slower in nature, at the time you will get married and have children, you cannot throw all those times away, some people are luckier they can have all that they are dreaming to be within their twenties or thirty, so the zeal to struggle with men dwindled at some points in time, how many of us, do we really have as CEO of companies, when you get to an organization you will see so many women, but when it’s get to the decisions making, the board room stuff. It’s hardly you will see women there.
What is your stand about the Orthodox medical practitioners, and the Pharmacist in Nigeria?
Having an orthodox section in the hospital is a borrowed idea from China. And that’s what works there, our government over time has sent people to China to go and understudy them their ways of life’s, and their way of doing things, but the China people did not copy these from anybody, so it seems is working for them.
You see what works for one country might not work for the others, if you want to license the orthodox medicine, I think there is an agency that can handle that, let there be a regulatory body, so they can be regulating what they do, so it might not easy to say orthodox stay here, it might not work in Nigeria, some of the people that are manufacturing drugs in China did not even go to the school not to talk of University, they are skilled and they are trained to do it and they do it perfectly with a better environment.
They are just like our own technicians here, even in Nigeria what works for a tribe may not work for other tribes because our genes mutations is varied, and I think we should come and do what will really work for us and not imitating.