A Nigerian pharmacist, Jacob Sogboyega Odulate AKA Blessed Jacob produced the first Nigerian modern drug. Jacob was born in 1884 and originally hails from Ikorodu, Lagos but moved to the neighboring state, Abeokuta, Ogun state. He acquired basic knowledge of European pharmaceutical products as a pharmacy apprentice in Abeokuta.
This drug was produced from local materials and imported patent drugs from the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1918, a period where aspirin-coffee powder brands were just starting to spring up in the United States.
Nigerians are convinced that this drug cures almost everything from minor headaches, fevers and pains to migraines, fatigue, prevention of blood clots, battling arthritis and rheumatism.
Medically, this drug is considered an analgesic. It was produced in the form of powder and melts faster than tablets therefore, works faster than tablets. Nigerians from time have used several things to dissolve this drug; from water to soft drinks to dry gins. It is used in local traditional herbal medicine concoction as commonly as it is used in modern medicine in Nigeria.
Jacob Sogbeyega was nicknamed Blessed Jacob and it inspired the name of this drug. The drug was called Alabukun powder. It is the longest running indigenous pharm brand in Africa as it has been in existence for 104 years.
When this drug was produced, Jacob made a commodity that was affordable and readily available for even the low class citizens. He produced it in small sachets that made up a pack. It could be acquired either way depending on the consumer’s need or financial capability. Its availability and effectiveness made it quite popular. Western drugs did not move as fast as this Alabukun and the westerners were curious as to what Jacob’s marketing skill was. He just understood his people better.
Jacob Odulate unfortunately died in 1962 but the Alabukun Drug remains relevant and can still be found in the analgesic/ malaria drugs shelf in most pharmacies in Nigeria. In recent times, a sachet of this Alabukun powder contains 760mg of acetylsalicylic acid and 60mg of caffeine.
This story was almost untold until his daughter Folake Solanke told part of his story in her autobiography “Reaching for the stars”.