Our personality of the week is Chief Ezinne Mrs. Alice Efoma Nwaebo, a retired senior bank manager, a philanthropist, and the Managing Director of Asuomuya Ezinne Event Management and Decoration. She is also into cake baking, rental of tents, chairs, tables, and full hospitality item. She assists her husband, Hon. Chief Chukwueme Emmanuel Nwaebo, Managing Director of Ezinne Hotels and Garden in running the hotel.
May we meet you Madam?
I am Chief Ezinne, Mrs. Alice Efoma Nwaebo, the Odoziaku of Owa Kingdom, Ezinne Ozioma 1 of the Anglican Communion, Ika Diocese. I am married to Hon. Chief Emmanuel Chukwuemeke Nwaebo JP, the Akpara of Owa Kingdom.
I am from Owa-Alero. My parents are from Owa- Alero, and I am married to an Owa –Alero man. I had my primary and secondary education at Council School (now Ewoma Primary School), Owa-Alero. I attended Secondary Modern School also in Owa- Alero. Till date, I have not been able to separate myself from Owa-Alero, I also worship at Owa-Alero (St. Michaels’ Anglican Church), even when I live in Boji-Boji, Owa I worship there.
What year were you born?
I was born at Owa-Alero in 1952.
Can you shed some light on your growing up years?
I finished my secondary modern school in 1967. We were the last batch before the war broke out. As a result of the war, many of us did not think of furthering our education as the Army was ravaging everywhere then. I went to Young Women Christian Association, YWCA, where I was trained in fashion designing, catering and all domestic things. I got married in 1969, when I was about 18years old. On getting married, I opened up my fashion design and catering shop at Ute-Okpu. I supplied chin –chin to about 6 shops then, I also made pap (Akamu) early mornings even while I had the shop. In 1971/1972, we moved down to Owa-Alero. While there, I had many trainees/apprentice who are all mature and established today.
I was also doing farm work simultaneously. I used to buy cassava from Baptist Primary School farm and worked on it very early. I learnt all these from my mother, Late Madam Asamuya, the name of my business today. I lost my father at the age of 6 in 1958. My mother was an entrepreneur, she sold everything sellable. But her main business was cassava business––Akpu.
My mother used to sound it to me that one does not need to be in bed by 6am. She trained us (her children) to be hard working, being from a polygamous home. She didn’t like borrowing things from anyone. She was a self sustained mother; she gave us the same training. She died in the year 2000. I am the last out of three surviving children.
Did you further your education after the war?
Yes, I went back to school when I went to meet my husband in the United States of America where I got my (GED) General Education Certificate GCE in Nigeria. Even before I joined him there, I was reading ahead. I went to junior college and studied Banking and Finance at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas; from there I went to Texas Southern University in Houston Texas. As luck would have it, I was privileged to work in the Bank of Austin. We were only four blacks that worked there; other members of staff were white men/women. Other Nigerians did not believe a Nigerian, was working in that bank. They filled forms to see me to confirm if it was true.
When I moved to Houston, Texas, I got another job with Macgregor Park National Bank Houston. US is a place that once you get a job, you do well and maintain a clean record, you can climb the ropes. Before I started working in Austin Community Bank, I had other part time jobs as a seamstress; and waitress. The experience I garnered from working there is what I have put into Ezinne Hotels and Garden. On starting bank job, they paid for my American Institute of Bankers (AIB) training. I have been a very privileged woman. I lived in the US from 1975 to 1981.
Chief Ezinne Mrs. Alice Efoma Nwaebo, how was life on returning to Nigeria?
On returning to Nigeria, it was a different ball game. The disparity was so much. We went for National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at Central Bank Benin. Due to the quality standard of Youth Service then, We were lodged in a Hotel for a month; we were fed three square meals a day. We later stayed with Late Barr. Isitor and family in Benin.
HRM. Dr, Emmanuel Efiezomor rented a flat for us at Abraka road, so we spent weekends in Agbor, and then spent weekdays in Benin for the one year duration of the Youth Service. After Service, I got a job with Union bank five months later. From there we started life in Nigeria.
Why did you opt for Union Bank against other banks?
Union bank employed me first. They had a pension scheme, United Bank for Africa had the scheme too, but Daddy (Chief Emmanuel Chukwuemke Nwaebo) my husband advised me to stay with Union bank. I dedicate my job at Union Bank to him as he kept supporting me, giving me words of wisdom and advice.
How were you able to jostle working in the bank with motherhood?
It was a walk over because my husband was there giving me all the support I needed. and my children were a bit grown. My husband did the school run; I also had help of other relatives. I ensured there was food in the house. It was convenient for me to run my home and also work. I did not go far from Benin City. My first posting as a manager was Union Bank, Oghara, in 1989 and from there; I went to Ovwian branch in 1990 where I moved from camp extension of Delta State Aladja to the present location, making me the Pioneer Manager. I also managed Ughelli, Uromi, Sapele, Effurun and Warri branches. I was at Effurun branch when I lost my mother in 2000.
Being a bank manager, I make bold to say that many of the bank managers now are just marketing managers, not bank managers. There is a difference between both managers. A bank manager should be able to manage both the human resources, financial resources, and everyone to maximize profit and carry everyone along. But the marketing managers of today are not so, they are only after the funds coming into the bank.
In our time, we sign all the cheques, and in the course of signing them we get to know our customers, know the type of business they do, we know how to project the customer and how to keep the money coming in. We know when the money stops coming in and know how to help them when they are in need.
Where and when did you retire?
I retired from Asaba main Branch in 2012.
What is your relationship with Union Bank Now?
Having retired meritoriously after 30 years of service, I am celebrated whenever I step into any of the Union bank branches. It is not an easy feat. I raise my head high. Before I retired, I was trained on life after retirement by the bank at different locations in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. My relationship with Union bank is cordial, and it will remain cordial because they are a part of me, and I will always project them well. What gives me joy about the bank is that even with the merger and taking over and closing up of some banks, the name “Union Bank” did not die.
I got my gratuity exactly 30 days after retirement, so I have every course to continue projecting and defending them. The Union bank I met, and left is straight forward, they are not involved in hanky panky that leads banks into folding, selling shares to finance themselves, or other dubious acts. Some other banks are involved in such acts, that is why most of them are taken over or bought over.
At what point, Ezinne Mrs. Nwaebo did you move to Agbor?
Daddy has been here since he contested Chairmanship election around 1997, I usually came over during the weekend. I finally joined him in Agbor when I retired in 2012.
On retirement, what did you venture into?
I ventured into the job I love doing, which is hospitality business, event management, decoration and occasional cooking for high profile events. Cooking is tedious, so it demands so much attention. I do cakes occasionally too. I decided to narrow my businesses down so as not to be a “Jack of all trades”. I love doing what I do. We have so many big tents and tables for rent.
How did the business, Asuomuya Rentals come about?
When my mother died in the 2000, I wanted more canopies, but I didn’t see enough. My husband was a member of the House of Assembly and I was a manager then, so the crowd was massive, we needed more tents but couldn’t find. So I had to buy two tents and 45 chairs since I couldn’t find where to rent. After the burial, I didn’t know what to do with them, so I left them at Owa-Alero. People took permission from me to use them for their events; anyone who wanted to use it could use it. It continued that way until someone reasoned with me to settle down and turn it into a business, but due to the nature of my bank job then, I couldn’t mix it with other business. So when I finally decided to start up the business, I decided to give it my mother’s name. “Asuomuya Ezinne” because she used to call me “Ezinwa”. I was also given an Ezinne award in the church in 2004.
The rental business was in existence, before my retirement from the bank job. After retirement, I embraced the rentals fully. The event center joined the fray in 2008; before my retirement in 2012. My husband helped me with the event center. He had to sell his properties to finance it. So many persons thought because I was working in the bank, I was swimming in money. With the training I got from the banking industry and my other jobs in the USA, we were able to stand the harsh business.
How viable is the banking sector today compared to your time?
The banks will degenerate because most people are no longer honest, those employing them are not honest, they employ based on sentiments and connection. They employ people because they are related or connected, not based on capacity to carry out a given assignment. Such persons go down with those they employ, because one cannot give what he doesn’t have. People must learn to be firm, tough, and not greedy. If you are greedy as a banker, customers can do things that will tempt you to go against the policy, and in turn, get you fired. Generally in life today, young people of this generation will want to drive the same type of car or build the same kind of house with someone who has been working for over 40years, all because of greed.
As a retired manager who has worked for 30years, can you work as a consultant to other banks?
Before retiring, the first option I considered to delve into after retirement was consultancy than stay at home, I went to Lagos to learn and improve myself. I used the opportunity to go to University of Benin to do my Masters programme. I continued learning skills until I was re-called to the bank as a manager again.
So, as it stands, I am an entrepreneur, I have a lot of trainees, including those from the State Government’s STEP initiative.
What drives you in life?
I am driven by interest and I love doing what I do. I can work for a long time. I feel sick and uncomfortable when I am idle. Before I retired, I was scared of life after retirement, but since I came out, I realised that I am more engaged than when I used to work in the bank. I have other activities in church, I am the Finance adviser to Bishop Onekpe, head of Action and Outreach Committee, Chairman, Harvest Committee for the past 6 years, and so many other positions. Both church activities and my job keep me busy.
How challenging are these commitments?
I am strengthened by my commitments to the church and also to my job. They both give me strength because I hide under the umbrella of God. Above all, my husband is always there for me. He encourages me, even when I feel like giving up. He says and does things to strengthen and encourage me.
Ezinne Mrs. Nwaebo, are you political, if yes, what is your take on women in politics?
I am very politically inclined, having been married to a parliamentarian who served in the House of Assembly, and a Chairmanship candidate who won but was not allowed to serve. But with the way politics is being run presently, I may not fit in or be able to run for any elective position. But I will continue to support them; I regard myself as a loyal supporter. I support in whatever way I can, through financial assistance, prayers and other ways.
I encourage women in politics, I do not believe women are marginalized, but rather, it is the way you carry yourself. I was a bank manager in Union Bank from 1989 to 2012, marginalization was there, out of 28 managers, we were always about two or three females. Even at that, I was always sought after in managing crises. So it is about hard work. Any woman in politics should get ready to work.
People know you as one who renders humanitarian services in Church and outside, what drives you in this regard?
The motivating factor is that, whatever situation or position you find in life is not by your making, but rather, by the special grace of God. Like a preacher said, everyone has a God given gift they will need to account for. If one can identify that gift and put it into use, such a person will do things effortlessly well. I enjoy what I’m doing, so there is always energy to do it. I believe life is by the special grace of God and by doing what you love doing.
Next year, you will be celebrating 50 years of marriage, what has kept you this far?
My husband is a wonderful nice man. We have blended together such that we do things in common. All through my carrier years, he never witch hunted me. Aside God, what has kept us this far is that I am married to a man and family that accepts and loves me.
What year were you conferred with a chieftaincy title?
That was in 2009.
What do you think prompted the title, the Odozi-aku of Owa land?
The Obi is our friend; He was the father of the day during my wedding in 1969. According to him, he said he had observed me and found out that I am resourceful, obedient and dedicated. He visited us in the US in 1977, he said the reception we gave him was wonderful, and hence he was watching me on our return to Nigeria. The title Odozi-aku means manager of wealth.
What is your relationship with Chief Erigbuem?
Chief Erigbuem is a philanthropist, a daddy to all. He has trained so many people, and he welcomes everyone, at any time. He was one of those that funded my going to America. When we came back from America, we had our room in his house. He can be described as a kind man, a true Christian to the core who cares for all, a good man and most of all, a father to so many.
What are your words of advice to the youths who think of crossing the Mediterranean Sea in search of greener pastures?
It is unfortunate that they do not understand the journey they are embarking on. No place is better than home. Some of these youths embark on such journeys due to ignorance and laziness. They feel life will be sweater when they go abroad, but that is a lie. My advice to them is to deploy that money they want to travel with into starting up a business here, learn a skill and put the money into it to make it big. At the very worse, they should marry. Settling down abroad is very difficult. Nothing is free abroad. Here in Nigeria, we make cheap money, unlike abroad where it is more difficult.
Chief Ezinne Mrs. Alice Efoma Nwaebo, the society seems to glorify those tagged Malaysian Burgers, what is your take on this?
They are making a very big mistake. The money they are spending now is temporary. Money is like a visitor. If a visitor comes your way and you treat him nicely, he will remain for a while with you and keep coming, but if they are not treated well, they will go and never come again. When the money they make has no root, it cannot be sustained, so that is not the best way to make money.
What are your philosophies and perception of life?
My Philosophy of life is to live and let live. I am contented with whatever I have. I do not kill myself over whatever I am not able to achieve, even though people may laugh at me. My mother used to tell me that “if people do not laugh at you, they will cry for you”, that means you are a dead person. So if people laugh at you, it means you are alive. Be contented with what you have, and don’t compare yourself with others.
What legacies will you like to be remembered for?
I will like to be remembered as a devoted Christian, very kind person, a generous person who is outspoken and maintains justice at all times. I will encourage people to live their life like that if they can.
Who are your role models/mentors?
My mother is my role model because she taught me to be hard working.
On TV, my role model is Opera Winfrey. She is a very generous woman, a bold and outspoken woman who always stands for truth. At a point in my carrier, truthfulness saved me.
What are your worse and happiest moments?
My worse and happiest moments arose when I had challenges in the bank, I was falsely accused of fraud, and placed under investigation. During that period people avoided me like a plague, my colleagues avoided me. Under investigation, I decided on my own to attend a conference of managers once, and people refused to identify with me, I was deserted, until one of our superiors arrived the conference and identified with me and gave me a pat on the back and affirmed my innocence. After that display, those who deserted me, came back to associate with me. That incidence brought tears to my eyes. I learnt so much from that experience. I have passed through so much; these are all things that made me who I am today.
When I give people advice and counsels, if they do not take it, they see it manifest in the future. After I was temporary sacked and recalled, I petitioned to Central Bank to look into the matter, and after their thorough investigations, they discovered I was sacked unjustly. My sack was one year of hell.
I have best moments all the time because looking through how I went to the USA, got a job in the bank, came back to Nigeria for my NYSC with Central Bank, being a branch manager, my husband being a legislator, I am a privileged woman.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I hate people who tell lies or pretend, I like honest, easy and outgoing people.
What Associations do you belong to?
In the church, I am a member of Mothers Union, Women’s Guild, Diamond mothers, Anglican Christian sisters’ fellowship, Ika Community Ladies Association; I belong to more of Christian sisters groups. Due to time constraints, I have refused to join other groups or meetings.
Do you Have awards in recognition of your deeds?
Yes I have awards. Recently I was awarded Episcopal merit awards by Bishop Onekpe, I and my husband were awarded couple of the year merit award, and also best couple of the year award last year.
How do you relax?
I have so many reasons to be thankful to God, because after a hard day’s work, once I freshen up, eat and lay my head on a pillow, sleep comes naturally.
What is your best Ika Delicacy?
I like swallow, I like Okra soup a lot.
You and your Husband look quite younger than your ages of 66 and 80 respectively, what is responsible?
There is no secret behind it; I will only say it is peace of mind. And grace of God.
How have you contributed to the development of Ika land?
To my credit, I have a lot of girls I have trained and empowered. We helped a lot of them to go to colleges and Universities. On graduation, they pass through Ezinne to work, get empowered and established, those are ways we have helped in developing Ika land.
Would you say Ika land is underdeveloped?
It is not under developed. The Governor has done much and needs to sustain it through a second tenure.
Finally, Chief Ezinne Mrs. Alice Efoma Nwaebo, what are your words for Ika people relating to 2019 elections and life generally?
On the coming elections, people should know that they can do nothing without their voter’s card, so I encourage them to get their Permanent Voter’s Card ready. Gov. Okowa has done his first tenure, he has to go back for a second tenure because others that served before him served for two tenures. Gov. Okowa’s second tenure will help develop Ika nation to the benefit of all. People should be up and doing.
Thank you for your time ma
It’s been my pleasure.