The Untold Story of JACOB ODULATE (The Blessed Jacob), The Man Who Invented Alabukun Powder Almost 100 Years Ago
THE ALABUKUN MAGIC
Nigeria is the most populous black nation on earth but a serious look at its entrepreneurial history will show that not many businesses in the country survive the demise of the founder, while even fewer enter the next generation. A look at the businesses of the late MKO Abiola or Charles Okafor aka Ezego are dominant examples in this regard. But in the face of all the obstacles, there is an indigenous brand that has persisted for almost 100 years in the most unlikely sector of trade for the average Nigerian: pharmacy.
Like the humble kolanut, Alabukun powder is one of the unifying items in Nigeria. It is very popular and there is virtually no home in the country where one or more members have not been in touch with or used Alabukun. Even without any considerable adverts, it beats all competitors and foreign brands hands down. Grandmothers swear by its healing powers while men claim it is their aphrodisiac. Yes, it is that popular. Cheap and easily recognizable, it is found everywhere. From headaches to voice troubles to stomach upsets to general body pain, Alabukun is the ultimate magic cure for millions of Nigerians. Some even take it to the dark side as they mix the whitish powder in a cold bottle of Sprite, swirl and swallow (some say they combine it with lime), as their drug for aborting pregnancies. Good or bad, the Alabukun brand has persisted and today, we will take a look at the history of the man behind it all:
Jacob Sogboyega Odulate aka Blessed Jacob was a Nigerian pharmacist, inventor and entrepreneur born in 1884. He died in 1962. In 1918, he invented the legendary Alabukun powder which is now a hit in the world’s most populous nation and in other West African nations. He was originally from Ikorodu in Lagos State but later moved to the neighbouring Ogun State. He was just 14 when he left Ikorodu, he trekked for three months before reaching Abeokuta to establish himself.
MAKING THE DRUG
The making of the drug was in Abeokuta, Ogun State, southwestern Nigeria. 1918 was a year of British colonialism but in spite of all the obstacles the imperialists placed before the ‘natives’, Blessed Jacob managed to create a brand from what served as his consulting room and workshop. His modest headquarters was at the Sapon Area, not far from where he later built his famous three-storey building in Ijemo Agbadu.
Apart from making the drugs, the energetic Blessed Jacob also produced other brands like Alabukun mentholine, other preparations and an annual journal called Alabukun Almanac which was widely distributed in Abeokuta and eventually all over Nigeria between the 1920s and 1950s.
THE DRUG ITSELF
So how about Alabukun Powder itself? What does it look like to a pharmacist? If you are to check it up in a formulary, what will you see? What are its active ingredients and what makes it tick and its users addicted to it? Well, information gleaned from the packet itself and on TabletWise shows that Alabukun Powder contains acetylsalicylic acid and caffeine as its active ingredients. A packet contains 760 milligrammes of acetylsalicyclic acid and 60 milligrammes of caffeine making a total of 820 mg. Although many Nigerians use it as an over-the-counter drug primarily as a mild analgesic for headache and other simple infirmities, the application of Alabukun powder is actually more diverse than that. It is used for a host of things and these include migraine, prevention of blood clots, myocardial infarction, transluminal angioplasty, ischaemic attacks and stroke. It can also be used in the treatment, management or prevention of these conditions:
– Sore throat
NB: Do not use Alabukun powder for any of these conditions without recommendations from a medical doctor. It is also important to note that the following side effects can result from taking Alabukun: oedema (swelling due to fluid accumulation, asthma, vomiting, nausea and vertigo).
So how does the magic of Alabukun powder take place and why is it so effective that many will swear over and over again that it can cure just about anything? Well, the pharmacodynamics of Alabukun powder show that it functions by preventing the production of platelet aggregation and inhibits adenosine in the body. These functions reduce pain and allows the user to breath better by stimulating the brain and the heart.
A LOVING FAMILY
He had a very exemplary family and he took education of his children very seriously. From the proceeds of his business, he sent his children to study at some of the best universities in Durham, Newcastle, United States of America and London. His children graduated and became medical doctors, lawyers, educationists and engineers. They returned to Nigeria to contribute their quota to national development.
PROUD AND SUCCESSFUL DESCENDANTS
The children of the late Blessed Jacob are worthy ambassadors of the family. One of them is Mrs. Folake Odulate (later to become Chief. Mrs. Folake Solanke) who is the first female lawyer in Nigeria to wear the silk and she also became the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). In 1966, she established the first law firm by a Nigerian female at Ibadan, Oyo State and named it Alabukun Chambers in honour of her great faher. Alabukun is another name for God in Yoruba and it means the Giver of Grace. His granddaughter, Toyin Odulate, is an entrepreneur and the founder of Olori Cosmetics, an African-themed beauty company dealing with hair, bath and body care products. She established the company in 2013 after garnering years of experience which included working with the global cosmetic brand, L’Oreal. Her goal is to take over the Nigeria and subSaharan market and she is making good progress.
Almost 100 years after, the brand remains one of the most resilient in Africa. Extracts from the book written by his eldest surviving child, Chief Mrs. Stella O. Odesanya had it thus:
The enduring success of the Alabukun brand is now interwoven into the fabric of modern Nigeria medical history. The Alabukun Powder in particular is displayed and sold in thousands of pharmacies, markets and roadside stalls all over Nigeria. In many states in Nigeria, Alabukun powder is considered to be the obligatory cure-all for almost every ailment. In neighbouring countries such as Benin Republic, Ghana and Cameroon, the eye-catching Alabukun brand is to be seen advertised everywhere. Alabukun products are sold in several towns and cities in the USA, the UK, in Europe, Brazil, Jamaica, and yes, even as far away as China. You can buy Alabukun products on-line, off-line, under-bridges and over-expressways.
Without any government support and facing immense obstacles from the British colonialists who controlled all the economy, Blessed Jacob managed to create a brand that has lasted a century. He was a very focused, determined and single-minded man. This is a lesson for all Nigerian youths waiting for miracles and the government. Look within and help yourself.
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
- Toyin Odulate, http://nawmagazine.com/african-women-to-watch-2015/
- Arambara https://www.facebook.com/Arambara/posts/963627380366294
- NewsExpress Nigeria http://www.newsexpressngr.com/news/detail.php?news=3899
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