Our Personality of the week is Dr. (Mrs.) Ifeyinwa Pauline Tibi. She is an educationist, mother and wife of the former Provost, College of Education, Agbor. She became a sexagenarian as she celebrated her 60th birthday recently.
In this interview with Lawrence Uche, Dr. (Mrs.) Tibi shares her success story and family life. She also addressed societal issues.
Can we meet you Madam?
I am Dr. (Mrs.) Pauline Ifeyinwa Tibi (nee Idoye) born to the family of late Mr. Clement Onwuka Idoye, from Ogbeisere and Ohumere and Mrs. Maria Ekaonyewukue Idoye (nee Orumgbe). I was born in Ime-Obi, Agbor, on June 16, 1959, into a polygamous family. My father had two wives, eight children from my mother and six children from the other wife.
Mrs Tibi, how was your early days and Education?
My parents lived in Warri for a very long time, so I practically grew up in Warri until 1967, when we came back to Agbor as a result of the civil war. I started my primary school in Warri at Sacred Heart Primary School and completed it in Agbor at St. Paul Primary school (now Charles Burr) and St. Benedict Girl’s Primary School (now Alasi Primary School) in 1971. I then moved on to Baptist Girls High School Agbor, where I had my West African Secondary School Certificate Examination in 1977. I worked as an auxiliary teacher in a private school; Calvary Mission School, Eku from 1977 -1979 before proceeding to College Of Education, Abraka and obtained my NCE in 1983, where I studied French. I proceeded to the University of Benin, where I had my first degree also in French in 1989, I had a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology, (Guidance and Counseling) 1997 and Ph.D also in Guidance and Counseling in 2016 both from Delta State University, Abraka.
Mrs Tibi, how did you fund all these degrees?
I was teaching and at the same time, doing my sandwich programme. I was also teaching when I did my Master’s Degree. I taught at Ebhoiyi Secondary School, Uromi, after my NYSC and I became a teacher at Ika Grammar School when Delta State was created.
Did you get any form of scholarship or study-leave with pay?
No, I didn’t apply for any. I went through sandwich programme which is usually done during the holidays because I was teaching. For my Masters, I applied for study leave without pay but during my Ph.D, I did shuttling; as lectures are usually going on while your teaching job must also go on.
Do we still have sandwich programmes in the tertiary institutions these days?
Yes, we still do. Even in the College here, we still run it. We have sandwich and weekend programmes. The sandwich is during the holidays, while the weekend runs every Friday to Sunday.
Why French Language?
It is very advantageous; the neigbouring countries around Nigeria are French speaking ones. It is also very good to be bi-lingual so as not to be lost in some places and situations. It is also very important for the government to emphasize the learning of French as a second language from the primary school level. Some international companies demand their job applicants to have a second language either in French or any other language.
Do you speak French fluently?
Yes I do to a large extent but not communicating with speakers of the language regularly has largely affected my fluency in the language.
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How easy is it for one to learn French if one is interested?
There is what we call Alliance Francais; it is a French language learning centre that helps those interested to acquire knowledge of the language. The centers are all over the country. There is one at Asaba, there are teachers there who use instructional materials to teach them and they learn faster because they have made up their minds to learn.
Talking about your choice of career, what led you to Academics?
I have always had interest in education, I grew from a poor family and that motivated me to go to school because I believed that, that will make me have a future. My mother was an inspiring factor to my educational achievements, because when I did my Common Entrance Examination to Baptist Girl’s High School, Agbor; there was no money to pay for admission deposit after I had passed. She had to lease out her bed to get money from those in the village, Idumoza. By then, my father had gone back to Warri.
Can you say you have achieved your academic goals so far?
To the glory of God, I have attained the highest academic standard which is a Ph.D, so I believe I am fulfilled academically.
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After PhD, does education stop?
No, it continues, education does not have a limit, answering your question in context, our system in college has Chief Lecturer as the highest level of promotion but if it is eventually upgraded to a university, we will see that Chief Lecturer will no longer be the highest level. This is why some of us aspire to publish more articles before our retirement to attain professorship.
Looking back to those difficult days and your mother selling off her bed for your education, what would you say having come this far?
It was a huge sacrifice and I really appreciate her. Funny enough, when things started getting better, she wanted to go back for her bed. Though we told her to forget it, that we would get a new one, she kept insisting that it was her property, not until she was convinced and had to forget about it. I cannot appreciate her enough, I am doing my best and she will forever be cherished. I hawked corn pap (akamu) to support my mother in those days while in the Primary school and also sold soda, bonga fish at Igbanke market of Edo State.
Were you the only child in school then among your siblings?
I came from a polygamous family and there was some sort of rationing or arrangement, my immediate Elder Sister was told to attend a commercial school, when it got to my turn, I cried and pleaded to be allowed to go to a secondary school. I appreciate the efforts of Late Mrs. Vero Egede, Kelubia Egede’s mum who taught me in Primary School in Warri; she pleaded with my family to allow me go to school and advised my mother to do everything in her power to ensure that I went to school. My elder brother also went to school at St. Columbus; my immediate younger sister, Mrs. Julie Onyema attended a Teachers Training College. All my siblings went to school except my immediate elder sister that went to Commercial Institute.
Mrs Tibi, please tell us about your dad?
I lost my dad in 1994. He was a gentleman to the core, very quiet and he did not like problems. He had too much problems already marrying two wives. Whenever there was a problem, he would just put his head to the ground and shake his legs. He did not talk too much. My mum is still alive and strong; over 88years now.
Being from a polygamous family how is your relationship with your siblings from the other wife?
We are still together and relating very well, even this birthday I celebrated; they were all around to share in my joy and thank God.
We know you just celebrated your 60th birthday, how do you feel at 60?
I feel great; I give all glory and praise to God Almighty. 60 years is a landmark, and I pray He would grant me many more years.
At 60, you still look very young and pretty, what’s the secret?
Well, it is God. There is no special thing that I do. I just live and always try to be happy.
Mrs Tibi, the crowd at your birthday was overwhelming, even the Governor and His wife were present, how did you feel?
It was really overwhelming. I even heard people say that the crowd was not enough; saying that I was always there for people. I attend people’s occasions when invited without discrimination and that’s why people would always rally round me when I call. I feel happy to be loved by lots of people. So, I would try and keep up the good acts that have endeared me to people.
At your birthday ceremony, you received encomiums as a philanthropist and a benefactor to many. What is the passion behind it?
I think it is what one finds interest in that one does. I will say I am lucky to meet my kind of person as a husband who has a common interest with me in many regards. He has the passion to touch lives just like I do. So, once we discuss in that direction, we come together to see how we can help out. Many of them have been so appreciative. This passion is driven by my background; I am not oblivious of where I came out from.
What would you say to those who attended your birthday?
I appreciate everyone who found time amidst their tight schedules to attend my birthday celebration. I now know that I am well loved. I am very much humbled by the show of love and I pray God to continue to bless and protect everyone of them and their families.
Are you scared of getting old?
Am actually confident, anyhow it comes, I will accept. What one cannot change, one has to accept; old age is inevitable to age, I am ageing and its expected, it’s just that one has to try a little bit to keep oneself beautiful even while ageing so as not to look older than one’s age, I will advise those who are ageing like me to always check some of their activities including the food they eat, as it helps to check their health status and not to be weighed down by any ailment that comes with ageing but adhere to their health advice and medications.
As an educationist, what impact have you made on the generality of the people?
As a teacher and lecturer, I have tried so much to impact in and outside my class rooms; many of my former students are now successful in life. I even got an award from old students association of Ika Grammar School, sometime ago as their French teacher, telling me how they have now realized the value of learning French Language which I used to emphasize on in those years and which they took with laxity.
In those days, education was cherished by lots of families, but today money has become the main focus by all means. As a Counselor, what are you doing about it?
As counselors, we try to do our best by re-orientating the society on the importance of education. Many families heed to our advice while many others decline saying everybody is looking for money and in counseling we don’t force people. We can only assist them in achieving better lives if they accept.
What would you say about dwindling morals and value system in the society?
Obviously, our value system is no longer as it was. People now view life from the perspective of “Get Rich Quick” syndrome. Children these days hardly pay attention to their education as they get carried away by the flamboyant and luxurious lifestyles they see rich people live and exhibit, hence, conclude in their minds that immediately after secondary school they will leave the country and look for ways to make money abroad, believing that there is nothing in education. We have always tried to re-orientate our children that the value system they are adopting is a wrong one and also do our best to become role models to them.
How does parenting help change the value system?
Parents are also involved in this dwindling morals and value system change. You will see parents go all out looking for means to send their children out to Malaysia, India, Qatar and other countries without firstly equipping them with education, professional or vocational skill to sustain them for a lifetime. They don’t even care what the children are capable of doing or building with their minds. All they want is for the children to bring money, buy cars and build big houses, so the parents are also involved. So, when you ask some of the children now to come and take up a civil service job, they will ask you what the salary of 80-100 thousand naira will do for them in one month.
In our educational sector, the Guidance and Counseling department is not given much focus, what steps are being taken to correct this?
Guidance and Counseling have not had so much attention until the time of Dr. (Mrs.) Ogbuagu, the then commissioner of Education because she was a counselor herself. She made efforts to ensure that counselors in schools were only assigned to counseling duties. People believe that counseling is not different from teaching whereas counselors are meant to mainly counsel students, it is not right that a counselor would be given subjects to teach. There was almost a clash between the teachers and the counselors in those days due to the belief that the counselors only sit in their offices doing nothing, until the intervention of Mrs. Ogbuagu. The job of a Guidance Counselor is very enormous.
Rate of suicide is higher now. As Guidance and Counseling Professional, what would you say is the cause and how can we reduce this menace?
Many people don’t know how to make use of counseling services. They are not interested. We as counselors are still trying to make people understand that when they discuss their personal issues with us, it is to be respected and kept private. If they know how to make use of these services, I am sure the rate of suicide would be greatly reduced. People living with frustrations and depression hardly make themselves available for counseling. We are trying our best to assist them when they come to us.
There has been agitation for an upgrade of the College of Education, Agbor, to University of Education. As a lecturer in the College, what is your take on this?
It is long overdue. It will be a thing of joy for us. Considering the staff strength, I believe we are very qualified for it. I also know that within this axis, we do not have a University. So if it is upgraded to a University of Education, it will be of immense value to the community, the environment including Ika nation at large. We only pray that the Federal Ministry of Education and our amiable governor will listen to our appeal and upgrade it.
How would you rate the teaching profession in Nigeria today?
I am currently the Director, Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), College of Education, Agbor Chapter and I can boldly say that the coming of the Registrar, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye has brought a tremendous change in the teaching profession. He has declared that by December 31st, 2019, any teacher that does not have the TRCN certificate and is not licensed as a teacher would be flushed out of the system. That pronouncement alone has made teachers sit-up to get certified and do necessary registrations. Before now, they just paid for induction and that was all. Last year when the Registrar insisted that every teacher, in order to be qualified, he/she must sit for an exam, and then be inducted after passing the exam; we conducted our own examination and out of 400 applicants that wrote the exam, almost 80 of them did not pass, they would be coming back to re-write the exam this year. To me, that is a good initiative by the Registrar. Some people have the certificate but are not licensed. They have also been advised to get their licences before December, 2019 so as to retain their various job positions. This is to ensure that people don’t see teaching profession as an all-comers affair or as a last resort. In fact, for any teacher’s recruitment as it is currently going on or in the near future, the possession of TRCN certificate is an added advantage. There is this introduction of Professional Diploma in Education (PDE) as a course in some schools by TRCN. So that if one did not do education, one can now run a one-year programme to become a teacher professionally before obtaining TRCN certificate. This applies to all teachers including Private, Public and Missionary school teachers.
You were able to achieve a lot as a wife and as a mother; how have you coped?
My mother was very instrumental to my success. I don’t know how I would have coped without her and most importantly, my husband. He was always supportive and was there for me in every way. When I schooled at Abraka, taught at Uromi and even during the days of my sandwich programmes, my mother was always there for my children and husband. My husband would always go down to the village to check on the children even when I went to Togo, I felt relaxed having a mother and a husband that were solidly behind me.
Message to the man behind your success
My husband is my soulmate and confidant; so caring but sometimes, hot tempered. He never disturbed me in any way even as a worker; instead, he always encouraged me to achieve more. Even this Ph.D I have, it would not have been possible if not for the constant push I got from him. It got to a point when I got tired of the whole programme and the stress of combining family, job and Ph.D became too much, I started withdrawing. When my husband noticed it, he would so question me and say, “Won’t you finish your Ph.D programme? It is not in this house you will start a programme and refuse to finish it.” I replied him that I am tired and don’t want to go again; he would at that point not be pleased with me, hence, I had no choice than to continue the programme. Thanks to his relentlessness in pushing me to achieve more. I am where I am today because of him, he was even more interested in my success and I am so grateful to him for his encouragement.
Some are of the opinion that women only belong to the kitchen and bedroom while some Feminists argue that they are equal to men. What is your take on that?
Everything depends on understanding between the wife and her husband. Some people still ask me how I have been able to cope with this tough man (my husband), It is just understanding.
How did you meet your husband?
We met at Abraka. He was a lecturer then and I was a student. I met him through a late friend, Mrs. Edith Moseri whom I attended the same secondary school with and we coincidentally studied French together at the College of Education, Abraka. Her husband, Mr. Sunny Moseri was my husband’s friend. It was Edith that my husband asked to talk to me and it was the same Edith that introduced him to me. He told me that his mother wanted him to get married to an Ika lady so that she could communicate very well in their language with her daughter-in-law and that he has promised to do her wish. After a while, I said yes to his proposal and we got married in September 5th, 1981.
Looking backwards, any regrets making that decision in 1981?
I have no regrets. I am happily married and in a couple of years time, we would celebrate our 40years marriage anniversary by the grace of God. I got married when I was 22years old and I have no regrets.
If your husband (Dr. Emmanuel Tibi) comes your way in another life, would you marry him again?
I will marry him again and again and again.
As your marriage is about clocking 40 years now, what can you say has been the strength?
Most importantly, it is God’s grace. I have said earlier that it is all about understanding and trust for one another. I will advise women to persevere and be able to tolerate issues that come up in their marriages by building a strong communication system.
Let us into your family?
By the grace of God, we are blessed with four children; three boys and a girl. They are Chizi, Nkencho, Ifeoma, and Emeke. The first is a computer software analyst and System Engineer working in the United States of America. The second is an architect; the only girl is a Medical Doctor and the baby of the house is a Mechanical Engineer and an oil and gas expert based in Canada. By God’s grace I am blessed with four grandchildren.
When you started progressing, did you carry your siblings along?
When I realized I was relaxed financially, even though with the meager salary I was getting as an NCE teacher then, I combined efforts with my sister to ensure that the rest of our siblings went to school.
Was there a time life was hard or has it always been this rosy for you and your family as we see today?
Life was not so rosy at all. I met my husband while he was a lecturer. He was driving one car at that time which we used for about 22years. Sometimes, the car would break down and we would have to come down and push the car to start. We would see people, even our students laughing at us. My salary as a teacher then was quite meager and his was to be managed too because we started having children. My husband will take my children and I including those leaving with us then to the farm in the College where he lectures to work even under the scorching sun. We refused to be disturbed by the piercing eyes and mockery of students and colleagues of my husband. We planted and harvested cassava and when we got home, we would peel and grind the cassava and then fry. Sometimes, I would go to the market to sell the cassava if it was much.
We also planted corn which people come from Abraka and Uromi to buy from us. While living at Uromi, we would go to a big poultry at Eme-Ora, fill our Passat car with eggs and then, come down to Agbor to sell after distributing to customers in Uromi and then go back to Uromi where we lived. Other times, we would buy clothes and sell from our car. I did the selling while my husband did the driving. No pain, no gain. Recently, I met one of those who knew us back then who happened to be one of my husband’s students, While we discussed, she said, “Mrs Tibi, that your husband after teaching us for an hour, appearing all formal and speaking like a foreign lecturer, seeing him on the farm along with his family members, wearing singlet and peeling cassava after the class was really startling. You people have really worked hard to be where you are today.”
Have you outgrown your old circle of friends going by your status today?
No, I still relate so well with my old friends; those we grew up together, those who are junior to me at the office, even those who often see themselves as not at my level or class. I don’t discriminate. I flow with everybody and anybody irrespective of class or social placement. When my husband was the Provost at the College, even those at the foot of the ladder were so free to relate with me. I give them attention. I feel that is the reason we are still accorded so much respect anytime myself and my husband visit the college. At this birthday I celebrated, even the security guards and cleaners were present and I was glad to see them.
We are aware of your ecclesiastical contributions to the growth of the church; what is your drive considering your busy schedules?
God is the ultimate. When you entrust yourself to Him, He protects you and that is why I don’t joke with church activities and things of God at all. People were surprised that Revd. Fr. Mario-David Dibie came to my birthday. It is because I have committed my entire life to God through his ministry. He is my spiritual father. Since God is the ultimate, I owe Him nothing than to put all my life, trust and hope on Him.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would want to be remembered as someone who touched the lives of people, who helped the less privileged and whose philanthropy is not discriminatory.
Dr.Mrs. Tibi, your husband is now a politician, are you into politics too?
As a wife, I have no choice than to support him. I am not a politician. I am still an educationist and presently the Director of Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria.
How well have you touched lives in your hometown, where you grew up and your husband’s hometown?
By the grace of God, I have been able to do the little I can. When my husband was the Provost, my friends, village contemporaries, relatives from Idumu-Oza, Ekuku-Agbor, Ime-Obi even neighbours were given jobs in the college.
How is the present Boji-Boji compared to what it was before?
There are great developments now. The streetlights and the good road network are things to be happy about. I want to appreciate our amiable governor for his developmental strides because if he had no interest in it, we might not have seen these developments. These days, one can drive to church in the early hours of the morning or late at night feeling secured due to the streetlights and the good road network.
What clubs and associations do you belong to, Mrs Tibi?
I am a member of National Council of Women Society (NCWS), Ika South Chapter and I am currently the Acting President, Onyeoghani Association, Oghanihun Agbor, Ladies of the League, Onyehunwene; Ekuku-Agbor Dynamic Ladies and Catholic Women Organisation (CWO).
Others are; Counselling Association of Nigeria (CASSON), Women in Colleges of Education (WICE), Association of Nigerian Academics (ANA), Nigerian Society of Educational Psychologists (NISEP), Forum of African Women Educationist (FAWE), Kettril Brunn Society (KBS).
Mention some of your awards?
I was given an award of Distinguished Daughter of Mary by CWO Issele-Uku Diocese and Ezinne Adumodu by St. Louis Catholic Church, Ekuku-Agbor. I was also honoured as an Ambassador of Rosary club by St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Agbor in 2018.
Dr.Mrs. Tibi, what is your relationship with the governor and his wife?
I appreciate them a lot for their support. We have known the family for a long time; the wife is my cousin. We even attended secondary school together. She finished a year after I did. Even before the husband became a governor, while he was the local government chairman living at Ajuebor, we were very close and do pay ourselves visit. They moved to Powerline by Osamor around Efeizomor; all those times, we were always in close contact before they finally moved to their present residence at Owa-Ekei, they have always been for us and we don’t know how to appreciate them. We pray that God will grant their heart desires and keep them safe.
Reading, traveling, singing and dancing (l love Ika dance very well). I also love sports. I play volleyball too; I represented Abraka in volleyball competitions, while I was a student.
I think I like chewing more than swallowing but my favourite food is beans and yam; garri and groundnut.
My mum, Late Mrs. Veronica Egede and my husband.
Deceit, lies and cunning attitudes
Simple and straightforward characters
What is your principle?
Relate with everybody and anybody but keep few friends. Take a step at a time.