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Prof Cletus N Aguwa at 80: Celebrating Nigeria’s ‘Pathfinder to Clinical Pharmacy’; By Isaac N Obasi

Prof Cletus Nze Aguwa

Today Thursday, November 24, 2022 marks the 80th birthday anniversary of a foremost Pharmacist Prof. Cletus Nze Aguwa, who distinguished himself as Nigeria’s first academic clinical pharmacist and the first professor of clinical pharmacy in black Africa. Part of the title of this piece: pathfinder to clinical pharmacy, is a borrowed phrase from Prof. (Mrs) Chinwe Victoria Ukwe in her Inaugural Lecture delivered at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2015. A proud student of Prof. Aguwa, she used the phrase to give a well-deserved tribute to her mentor in the field of Clinical Pharmacy generally seen as the youngest of all the disciplines in the wider field of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 

Celebrating Prof. Nze Aguwa at 80, is inseparable from celebrating his pivotal role in the development and growth of Clinical Pharmacy in Nigeria. So it is difficult here to separate a discussion on him from the development and growth of this discipline in Nigeria. But before doing that, it is important to observe that it is generally accepted as a fact that the quality of a nation’s development and growth is tied to the flourishing growth of its knowledge industry particularly in terms of the creation of a pool of expertise in critical areas of national development. The pharmaceutical knowledge industry in Nigeria is one area that has made and is still making critical contributions to the health of our nation. But sometimes we forget that it is individual scholars and their networks, as well as researchers in the pharmaceutical industry that make this possible through training and research. Prof. Nze Aguwa has played a central role in the growth of pharmaceutical knowledge industry in Nigeria particularly in his capacity as a pathfinder to the development and expansion of clinical pharmacy education in Nigeria. 

The first crucial step of the academic journey of establishing a new discipline called Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), was taken when the young Cletus Aguwa gained “admission to study Pharmacy at Howard University College of Pharmacy, Washington D.C., USA.” The second crucial step was when he completed his doctorate at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Sciences, and was subsequently offered an appointment as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at the Howard University College of Pharmacy, Washington, DC in 1974. 

He served the Howard University for four years, and following a request by the late Prof. J. O. C. Ezeilo, then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Aguwa returned to Nigeria in 1978 to become “the first academic clinical pharmacist to be employed in Nigeria.” In an interview granted to the Pharmanews on 6 May 2016, Prof. Aguwa revealed how this step he took, “opened floodgate of success” for him. But the journey was not without challenges as it was a long and tasking one, but nevertheless very fulfilling.  In his own words:

As the first academic clinical pharmacist to be employed in Nigeria, and then the first professor of clinical pharmacy in Black Africa, I had no choice than to bear the burden of pioneering discussions, seminars and workshops, locally and nationally. I was invited across the country to speak on various aspects of clinical pharmacy. I think I influenced the curriculum of many schools of pharmacy in Nigeria, despite opposing views from some colleagues (See http://www.pharmanewsonline.com/how-pharmacy…).  

Talking about opposition from some of his colleagues, and the way he surmounted it, Prof. Aguwa revealed that he had to lead a delegation of some deans of many pharmaceutical faculties in Nigeria to the United States in 1992 for a learning and advocacy tour. As he put it, “the main purpose of the trip was for these deans who were heads of pharmacy institutions in Nigeria to observe and get hands-on experience on how clinical pharmacy is taught and practised overseas.”

 Although, the trip was a brief one but “it was most rewarding as it convinced doubting Thomases among the deans. From there, it was forward march for the development of clinical pharmacy education and practice in Nigeria.”

 So when Prof. (Mrs.) Chinwe Ukwe called Prof. Aguwa a pathfinder to clinical pharmacy, she was very apt in her appellation. Some of us would even go further to call him the doyen, leading light as well as a father and grand-father of clinical pharmacy in Nigeria.    

In his career, Prof. Aguwa wrote many academic books “in the area of therapeutics and clinical pharmacy practice”, thereby “demonstrating that trained clinical pharmacists are not those who can just talk, but those who can deliver pharmaceutical care.”

 Recognising his immense role in the field of Pharmacy, Prof. Aguwa was honoured with the fellowships of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (FPSN), and the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (FPCPharm.). 

Summarizing his contributions to the field of Clinical Pharmacy, Prof. Aguwa modestly said:

My major contribution is that I have joined hands with other colleagues to train and graduate many pharmacists who are working in various areas nationally and internationally to improve the national economy. In addition, I have demonstrated leadership in the area of clinical pharmacy in Nigeria, thereby offering a new lease of hope and pride for the pharmacy profession. My books …are a concrete testimony of monumental contribution to the profession of Pharmacy (Pharmanews, May 6, 2016). 

Prof. Cletus Nze Aguwa is a proud and distinguished son of Mbaise in Aboh-Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State. He comes from the well-known and flourishing Aguwa dynasty in Umuezee village of Ezuhu Nguru community. His parents of blessed memory made positive history those years in Igboland by giving birth to 10 surviving sons in an era when infant mortality was very high and the ‘ogbanje’ superstitious belief held sway. 

As our sponsor in marriage, my family and I wish Prof. Cletus Nze Aguwa happy birthday and God’s continued blessings in his octogenarian age. Congratulations to you and your entire family.

Prof. Isaac N. Obasi, a public policy expert is of the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja. Email: [email protected]      

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