Abia Onyike

The Nigerian society has developed a tradition where  its most prominent citizens  are those who rose to the top by government appointments and patronage.  Hardly do we come across people who climbed the social ladder by dint of hard-work, ingenuity and talent-driven creativity. But the life of Mazi Sam  Iheanyichukwu  Ohuabunwa( the incumbent President  of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria) is a   different ball-game. This tribute is a celebration  of  his 70 years of age  and a reflection on his  life as  one of  Nigeria’s pragmatic and productive professionals; a consummate  and quintessential leader of men and manager of resources, who made it to the top through  unique accomplishments in his chosen profession. Added to that is Mazi’s polyvalent and multi-professional achievements in other diverse fields of human endeavour. 

Mazi Sam was born  on  16th  August , 1950  in Port- Harcourt,  in the Old Eastern Region,  now  Rivers State. Born of Arochukwu parentage, his fore -fathers settled in Ikwerre in Port-Harcourt.  He was the first son of his parents in a family of twelve children. His father was Mazi Esi Ohuabunwa while his mothers were Madam Matilda Nwannediya and Madam Mercy Ejighator (nee Ukpabi).  The young Sam began his early life in the city of Port-Harcourt. He had his primary education  in the Woji and Rumumasi Primary Schools in Port-Harcourt.   After his primary education, he entered Okirika Grammar School, Port-Harcourt for his secondary education. It was while in secondary school that  Sam  manifested  exceptional academic brilliance and leadership qualities. He came top of his class consecutively for four years and presided over many junior societies where he joined two of his mates to produce plays.

His educational progression was, however interrupted by the Nigeria-Biafra war(1967-70). After the war in 1970, Sam went over  to Government Secondary School, Owerri, and passed out in 1971 in Division One with 8As. In 1972, he gained admission to three universities, namely the University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN), University of Benin (UNIBEN) and University of Ife (presently Obafemi Awolowo University-OAU). He later settled for the University of Ife where he read Pharmacy. At Ife, Sam was a notable socialite; the Mayor of Alpha Club and Editor-in-Chief of the famous Campus  media organ, the Cobra Newspaper. In spite of his  engaging social activities on campus, Sam still made second class upper honours degree in Pharmacy and graduated in  1976. He later  had his post-graduate training in Business Management  at Columbia University in the United States of America and the Lagos Business School (LSB).

When he left Ife in 1976, he went to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, for his internship. He was posted to Sokoto for his one year National Youth Service (NYSC), where he served in Yelwa General Hospital, Yauri, in present-day Kebbi State. After his youth service in mid July, 1978, Sam  joined  Pfizer Products PLC in Lagos as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative (PSR). He rejected another offer to work  as Products  Manager in Ranbaxy  or  PSR in Roche. Within a period of 15 years, Sam straddled the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company like a colossus, manifesting a measure of diligence and dynamism rare to find in this part of the world.  He rose rapidly through the ranks from  Area Sales Manager,  to National Sales Manager, to Group Sales Manager, to Marketing Manager, to  Pharmaceutical  Division  Director,  to Deputy Country Manager,   to Country Manager,  to  Managing Director/CEO of Pfizer Products  PLC and Pfizer Security Limited and finally to the position of Regional Manager for Pfizer West Africa in 1993. When the Pfizer Inc, New York, USA decided in 1997 to reduce its business exposure in Nigeria, they offered Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa  the chance to lead a Management  Buy- Over(MBO) of their 60% equity shares in Pfizer Products Plc.  Mazi Sam was able to accomplish that and the company which resulted from that was his Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals which  was a frontline  Pharmaceutical industry for years.

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Mazi Sam is one of the most decorated and most visible  professionals in Nigerian history.  He has a rich odyssey of diverse accomplishments  in the Sciences, Arts  and  Humanities.  A glimpse at his towering  profile reveals  that Mazi Sam  is a former  Chairman  of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and a man whose   contributions to  nation building  can no longer  be discountenanced.  He has been at the top of many complex organizations and still forges ahead as if nothing is happening.  Apart from being a pan-Nigerian leader, polemicist  and public commentator of  note, he has combined his practice as a Pharmacist with  a certain measure of activism for socio-economic  transformation  in Nigeria.  He himself attested to it when he said that “ I am experienced in a  large number of fields. I have been in economic advocacy and I have gone through the whole hog. My diversities demonstrate my multi-professional inclinations. I am a social worker building my country”. Some of the books written by Mazi Sam include: The Port-Harcourt Volunteer, Nigeria:vTime for the Evolution of A New Nation  and Wired To Lead etc. Mazi is an accomplished writer and author and was a Columnist with Vanguard newpapers.

In his chosen field of Pharmacy, Sam rose from the position of an ordinary member to the position of a Fellow. He is the current President of two important professional organizations. They are the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and the Association of  Corporate Governance Professionals in Nigeria(ACGPN). He is also a Fellow of  the West African Post-Graduate  College of  Pharmacists, Fellow of  the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy(FNAPharm), Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management(FNIM);  Fellow of  the  Nigerian Institute of Public Relations(FNIPR);  Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of  Management Consultants, Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Marketing, Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Quality Assurance, Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Immunology and Fellow, Nigerian Association of  Corporate Governance Professionals etc. etc.   Mazi also served as Chairman, Manufacturers  Association of  Nigeria(MAN), Ikeja branch; President, Nigerian Employers Consultative Association(NECA) and National President,  Nigeria-America Chamber of Commerce(NACC) etc.

Sam’s contributions to nation-building cannot be glossed over. Amidst the  contemporary  crises  engulfing the  Nigerian federation, Mazi  Sam joined forces with progressive  elements in Igboland to call for the reconstitution of  Nigeria’s monolithic federalism.

Onyike is the Chairman, ADF Media and Publicity Bureau

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