Follow your heart, let it lead you

16 years ago my father said ” follow your heart son, let it lead you”.

The background to his statement was a fierce argument as to my choice for college- Medicine or Pharmacy? My grades were up there- best graduating WAEC/NECO at King’s College (KC) Lagos. 12 straight terms first place in the Class A of my set- an arm reserved for the brightest boys in a school reserved for the most intelligent boys from across Nigeria. “Why would you not choose Medicine”, my father asked frustrated, “why Pharmacy?”.

Some months prior, I survived a fake drug induced coma. I was angry. Why would anyone make fake drugs. What is the value of your money to my life. I went back to the Guidance Counsellor and asked him,’who are the professionals responsible for making drugs safe?’. He was elated. I guess most boys in KC never saw him for counsel. Their path was set by their parents- medicine, law, architecture, engineering. And mine too would have been same, were it not for my encounter with a fake drug.

The counsellor, brought out a compendia of courses- told me it was the Pharmacist that made drugs and was responsible for their safety. He explained to me what was required to get into the course.

In convincing my dad, I argued, ‘remember how you used to tell us that your uncle seeing that you were a maker of things insisted you to go to technical school of engineering. You felt you should go to college to study engineering with some management. Your heart was not in it you told us. Do you want this to happen to me?’.

My father is a special African man. Very few of my mates had the benefit I was afforded to debate with my father. Most of my mates did as they were told. Afterall the African Father was Lord of the House. But my father afforded me the grace he never received.

My dad sighed deeply.” Ade, you are exceptionally brilliant. In Nigeria, some professions are accorded natural prestige. Most of the family are lawyers and engineers. You should be our first doctor. You do not want to be in a situation in future where your mental inferior with a Dr. in front of his name looks down on you.”

“But I understand you. Follow your heart son, let us see where it leads you”.

Father thank you for believing in me.

See where my heart has led me 15 years after- co-founding a global pharma tech company with operations in USA, China, Africa and SE Asia to mention a few. Working with partners from across the world. Doing what I received the vision for- saving lives from fake drugs and making drugs safe in countries few Africans ever step into; in nations I read only about in those atlases, maps and encyclopedias you bought me. Who would have thought that I would get this far- from living out of our car in a displaced persons camp in Kaduna (Northern Nigeria) and growing up in the semi-rural suburbs of Ibadan? Father, I did but I am not done yet. See where my heart has led me so far and how even further I am going with grace, hardwork and lots of help from good-meaning people.

And yes Father, I am giving the 2020 Plenary Speech at the prestigious 80th International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) World Congress- addressing 4 million pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists. Dad, it’s not just a panel, it’s a plenary session chaired by those at the global zenith of the pharmacy profession. This is where my heart has led me so far, and my journey is just at the start.

Thank you Father and hopefully my story can inspire someone- a young person confused about their future- to follow their heart towards their vision- even when the path is not yet clear.

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