Home Entrepreneurship Remarkable Story of OBIORA CHUKWUKA: School Drop-Out Who Became King of Nigerian...

Remarkable Story of OBIORA CHUKWUKA: School Drop-Out Who Became King of Nigerian Pharmaceuticals

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Dr Obiora Chukwuka, Greenlife MD

To a first
time visitor at Greenlife Pharmaceuticals Limited, Dr. Obiora Anthony Chukwuka’s
mien cuts the image of an average office worker in the organisation.
However in
stark contrast to such assumption, he is actually the founder and chairman of the
company.
Popularly christened “The king of antimalarial,” the grass to
grace story of Dr. Obiora Anthony Chukwuka who is also the chairman of Seagreen
Pharmaceuticals Limited is a remarkable one.
Born on July 18, 1963 into the family of late Denis Ifedi and
Regina Chukwuka of Ubili Village, Nnokwa, Idemmili South Local Council, Anambra
State, the young Obiora was the last and only male child in the family of
seven.
His father doubled his job as a school teacher with that of a
Catechist in their local church. Going through secondary school was really
difficult. His latter day academic accomplishments served as testaments to his
quest for knowledge and also assuaged him for the early educational deprivation
that he suffered on account of financial incapacitation.
Obiora started his early education at Infant Primary school
(now Upaka Primary School), Nnokwa in 1970. He was very intelligent and as a
result, his teachers took special interest in him.
In 1973, Obiora moved to St. Stephen’s Anglican School
following the military intervention and change in education policy then.
He gained admission into Oraukwu Grammar School, Oraukwu and
his experience in the secondary school was to shape the course of his future in
a profound way.
After his five-year journey in Oraukwu Grammar School in
1980, his friends labelled him “Mr. Trader” because they saw him more as a
businessman than a student.
Due to the circumstances of his life as the only male child
in a poor family, he knew that the most appropriate thing was to forget
education in the short run in order to support the family’s lean financial
resources.
Obiora stated that even for him to complete his standard six
at that time was a huge struggle. In 1980, the young man moved to Lagos to join
his maternal cousin at the age of 17.
The cousin was then a trader in Idumota market, dealing in
ladies shoes. That was where the Greenlife boss cut his teeth in business. He
however spent only three years with his cousin before he was set-up in the same
line of business.
However, the joy was cut short by the Buhari / Idiagbon
military regime in 1984. It was an era that saw all illegal shops at Idumota (including
Obiora’s fledging business) demolished by the special task force put in place
by the regime.
What many viewed as terrible setback for the Seagreen
Pharmaceutical owner was actually a launch pad for the young man to determine
his future business. With the leftover capital at his disposal, Obiora delved
into the pharmaceutical industry, banking on his love for dispensary services
and previous experience as an active member of the Red Cross Society during his
school days. After a brief training in drug business, he started the trade with
a take-off capital of N10,000 in 1985 at Idumota, with the name Leton Medical
Store, which later metamorphosed to Caleb Pharmaceuticals.
However, being a determined young man with a vision, Obiora
had his game plan. He was determined to run a company recognised by law without
molestation. To regularise the drug business, he decided to approach the
Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) where he was instructed to get a
registered pharmacist, a shop with a size of at least 20 feet by 10 feet and
register his firm with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
With all the requirements met, an application was filed with
the PCN and Caleb Pharmaceuticals Limited was given approval in March, 1987.
Having started out as a legal entity, Caleb Pharmaceuticals
Limited enjoyed huge patronage. Unfortunately trouble came knocking on May
1989, barely two years after the company was fully registered. Inspectorate
officials from the PCN reportedly sealed off all the pharmaceutical shops in
Idumota area with allegation that majority of the operators had no licence to
operate as pharmaceutical companies.
The raid lasted for more than a month before re-opening. Not
done yet, the council clamped down on the traders again in 1992 when it declared
that there would be no renewal of pharmaceutical licences for operators in
Idumota. According to officials, the location was not conducive for
pharmaceutical service.
While problem with the council persisted in 1992, Obiora, not
given to stress and difficulties in life, made up his mind not to continue with
his business and trade in Idumota. He was determined that even if there was any
positive news from the PCN at the end of the day, he was not prepared to
continue doing business there. His vision and ambition was to run a full-fledge
corporate entity like the Pfizer or other multinationals of this world.
Not too long, a window of opportunity opened for him from
India. As at the time the opportunity came, Obiora was having about N42, 000 as
savings. In December 1993, Obiora travelled to India to perfect the deal on the
importation of drugs like Felvin 20mg and Gentamycin 280mg directly into the
country through one Blessed Augustine Pharmaceuticals Company located in
Mushin, Lagos.
Unfortunately, by the time the goods arrived Nigeria in early
1994 and went into circulation, Obiora encountered serious problem with the
product. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Limited, a multinational company in the
country, already had the patent for the product. He never knew that Pfizer
patent which covered the importation of Piroxican still existed and had not
expired.
Consequently, Pfizer, on investigation made attempt to arrest
the importer of the product and when Obiora got wind of this development, he
quickly withdrew the product from circulation. However, when the Pfizer’s
licence expired in 1995, Obiora immediately reintroduced Felvin into the
market.
With assistance from Konfidek Pharmacy, Obiora imported new
products from India and eventually registered Felvin 20mg and Genamycin 280mg
with NAFDAC using Konfidek Pharmacy.
In 1994, following repeated problems associated with the drug
market in Idumota, the idea of registering Greenlife Pharmaceticals as a new
company with the PCN became inevitable.
In 1997, Ebere Nwosu, who is now the Managing Director,
approached Obiora with a partnership request. In effect, he wanted both of them
to import drugs together into the country. Obiora bought the idea and as a
take-off, they jointly contributed N10,000 each and that marked the new
beginning of what is today Greenlife Pharmaceuticals Limited.
Obiora and Ebere, employed another Pharmacist, Ibe James (now
late), who eventually got Greenlife Pharmaceuticals Limited registered with the
PCN in June 2000. Thus with the registration, Obiora’s transformation from
being a shoe trader to a wholesale medicine dealer and now a corporate entity
became fully manifested.

L-R: Dr. Obiora Chukwuka, founder and chairman of Greenlife Pharmaceuticals and his wife receiving the 2015 Businessman of the Year Award from Dr Chris Ngige, minister of labour

Over the years, Greenlife has grown to become one of
Nigeria’s top corporate and respected indigenous pharmaceutical brands. With
over 120 NAFDAC approved brands currently on its stable, the company employs
several hundreds of Nigerian professionals across various disciplines,
especially pharmacy.
Years after he had made tremendous success in his entrepreneurial
stride, Obiora still felt the compelling need to further his education. So, in
2002, he secured admission into University of Lagos, after 22 years in
business, bagging Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, in
2008.
He got a Masters Degree in Corporate Governance from Leeds
Metropolitan University, England, from where he also had a diploma certificate
in Management Consultancy.
He is also a recipient of an honorary doctorate conferred on
him by Commonwealth University Belize, Central America, in collaboration with
the London Graduate School, England.
On the social front, Obiora is a member of the Council of
Nigeria- British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC); Institute of Directors Nigeria
(IoD), Nigeria Red Cross Society and Nigeria – India Chamber of Commerce and
Industry (NICCI).
He was recently decorated as 2015 Businessman of the Year at
The Sun 13th Annual Awards ceremony which held at Eko Hotels in
Victoria Island.
Receiving the award, Obiora disclosed that the award wasn’t
something he expected so soon.
“But what I saw today has given me the impression that no
matter what you do, people are always watching. I have always been an advocate
of “doing the right thing at all time” and I strongly believe that for as long
as you are hardworking and a man of integrity, you will always get it right
“I thank The Sun management for not just the award, but for
equally giving me the opportunity to tell my story,” he enthused.
Yet the King of antimalarial believes that he has not arrived
as many thought. He believes the world out there is for those who can conquer
it.
Don’t you just love this man?

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Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis is a communicator, Journalist, blogger, business coach and, of course, a prolific writer. He has Dip (Journalism) and B.A. (History & International Relations) from the Lagos State University (LASU). The self-effacing young man has worked for national, regional and local newspapers. He had worked with THISDAY covered community news for ISLAND NEWS and corresponded with P.M. NEWS (evening tabloid). Presently, he is the editor of CITYPULSE MEDIA and senior correspondent of PHARMANEWS, West Africa foremost health and pharmaceutical journal.

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