Recently there was an outburst from you in reaction to the recent visit of the College management to Mr. Agholor, with regards to the approval of Masters Degree programme by University of Benin. What is the motive for this?
Many people called me and actually termed it an outburst like you people just did. What actually happened then really incensed me and I had to respond. Anybody with an academic mind and connected with the academic industry would feel the way I felt, and as outraged as I was.
Mr. Agholor made a spurious claim that did not belong to the academic for the College by the University of Benin. To me, that was a wild statement to make. We need to be careful about saying such things. The man on the street would say they have approved the masters degree programmes for College of Education and most people who had desired to have masters degree all this while, who could not because of distance, will come and start applying. It is then that the College will start telling them that the college does not have master’s degree in one course or the other. In such things, one needs to be specific about the academic programmes- masters in education.
It was when I read this report in Ika Weekly Newspaper that I had the first inclination about the visit. But I was told that one other newspaper had earlier reported it and that it had been trending on social media. I am not on facebook so I would not know.
After reading the report, I needed to enlighten the public. For one person to lay claim that he facilitated the approval without participating in all the rigorous exercises involved in the approval for a master’s degree programme is reprehensible. In fact, I was the one that our provost appointed to head the team that requested for the programme. I recommended that DELSU should be our starting point, since they are running an affiliation undergraduate programme with the College. Though, we were not sure that Delta State University would give their approval for obvious reason, but, we felt that we ought to give them the privilege of first refusal so that they would not come back and question why we did it. This happened when we introduced the DELSU undergraduate programme; we had gone and arranged with Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka and University of Port Harcourt and they had given us approval, we were only at the point of choosing which of the University we would run the affiliation programme with. The Delta State University that we had approached before, and turned us down, heard of it and went to the State Government to complain that it would be out of place for the College of Education to run affiliation with other institutions, than the State-owned University. The government then compelled us to run the affiliation programme with Delta State University, Abraka.
So, when we went and met the then Dean of Postgraduate School, we were advised to write an application letter to the Vice Chancellor. We did so, but did not get any response from them. The Provost intensified efforts with UNIBEN and the College received approval. Officially, I did not see where Mr. Agholor played the role he claimed. Another part of the visit was when he claimed that he was of the opinion that doctorate degree programme could be brought to the College. This statement is actually outrageous and out of place. Universities are looking for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) so they encourage all these affiliations but when they seat in meetings of Vice Chancellors, there are Vice Chancellors who may take University of Benin up, questioning the affiliation programme with a College of Education that is not a degree awarding institution, so this approval issue is not supposed to be taken the way it has been done.
We were just being mild with the use of words, concerning the drama that surrounded the visit by the College management to Mr. Agholor.
I was simply protecting the integrity of the College academic programmes and the jobs of the staff and they understood this, which was why there was no single response from the College management. So I do not care what people say on social media. The integrity of the College where I retired from needed to be upheld.
What is your relationship with the College of Education management at present in view of the reaction to their visit?
My relationship with the Provost and the staff of College is still very much intact; as they understand that I am all out for the good of the College.
On the home front, it is a known fact that your marriage is a model. What is the secret?
I met my wife while I was teaching at the College of Education, Abraka and she was in her first year in the college. Her name is Pauline Ifeanyiwa Tibi, nee Idoye from Ime-Obi. We met when she was a student of NCE French department at the then College of Education, Abraka. One thing led to the other and we got married in 1981, precisely September 5, 1981. I fell in love with my student, and we got married which to me has been the most honourable thing to do. That is the beauty of tertiary institution. I am lucky to have taken that decision, under God’s guidance.
She has been a soul-mate, because we have been through a lot of tough times in our marriage. In short, she had to push our Passat car several times on our way from the farm. I drove that car for 22 years, of which she enjoyed the car when it was newly bought, but happily adjusted when it became problematic.
We got married during her NCE I; it was a very challenging period for us. That same 1981, was when I got an appointment as a lecturer at College of Education, Igueben. I had to leave her behind at Abraka. She completed her NCE programme in 1982, and then her youth service. During her NYSC, she served at Uromi. She later got a job with the Bendel State Teaching Board, as a secondary school teacher at Uromi. I later lost my job at the College of Education Igueben as a result of its closure, but she stayed behind at Uromi to continue her teaching job. She later got her transfer and we both relocated to Agbor. It was while she was at Uromi that she enrolled for her first degree programme at UNIBEN in French Education.
We are blessed with four children, three sons; and one daughter. It has been a wonderful relationship with my wife; in spite of the fact that she went through a lot of challenges with me, which I feel may be as a result of the peculiarity of the life that God patterned for me.
By the time we came back to Agbor we had started raising our kids, our car was very bad and all other kinds of things were happening. We started farming at the College new site because then, there were no buildings but just a large expanse of arable land. Then, the car was already getting old, there were several times we would be carrying cassava and other crops in the car and on getting to traffic light at College Junction, the car would stop, and she would have to get down and join to push the vehicle, so they knew us in this town with that old vehicle. In short, she had to serve as a natural battery.
During her degree programme at UNIBEN, as usual with French degree programme, she would have to travel for educational tours to French-speaking countries, leaving the children with her mother, who was with us then.
The aspect of my lifestyle that I am sure created challenges for her was the fact I was a very sociable person. Before we got married, I was in the habit of partying around the whole place; being married did not mean that I should give up those things. So, she and stay in the house, while I went partying. Also, people kept inviting us to numerous occasions, and we kept attending, even when it was not convenient for her. I started the Master of Ceremony (MC) activity in Agbor, and I was doing it for free. Today, MCs are smiling to their banks, unlike those days.
We kept attending these social occasions against her will most of the time, but she just had to do it. That way people would always come to us to sponsor them in weddings and all that. It was quite difficult then, as money was not very much available. The surprising thing about her even up till today is that she would never say things that she knows would not go down well with me. So, over time we have built a strong relationship.
One important thing is system; that is the College of Education, that he facilitated the approval of Master’s degree programme that she understands me very well. Take for example, after my birthday activities on 4th November, 2018, that took place on that same day, my cousin was around, we were all together when I decided to attend a night party as a friend, Moses Iduh was hosting a night party. My cousin was outraged and surprised because my wife was not angry at my going out that night of all nights.
When you have that kind of a wife, the least you can do is to at least respect her. Most importantly, I truly appreciate her.
You had a double celebration recently. That is your 65th birthday and your retirement from College of Education and His Excellency and his wife were in attendance the whole day. How were you able to do this?
I know people will regard that as the high point of the double celebration which it really is. That is the presence of His Excellency and Her Excellency at the Thanksgiving Mass and the reception, thereafter. This gesture does not speak much of my person but it speaks more of the humility of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and his wife Dame Edith Okowa and how much they regard the relationship that has been in existence between us over the years. Dr. Okowa has added much zest and leverage to my life and I have no way of paying back, but God is doing it for me.
I took a number of things for granted because of that relationship. I sent him a text message on the event, and I did not get any response from him. The wife, I am sure was equally instrumental in reminding His Excellency. It was just a simple invitation which they graciously honoured.
You just retired at sixty-five. Are you tired? If you are not, what are your plans?
It has been God’s grace upon us. I am not leaving the College of Education system because that is what is expected. But, if you look at the nature of academic work, even in the University, Professors who retired at seventy years old are still doing the job if they can. For the College of Education, Agbor, I am so enamored by my relationship with the College that if the management thinks that there is anything I can do as a way of contributing to the sustenance and the academic growth of the College, and ask me to come; I am ready to offer my services.
By God’s grace I am not retiring into indolence. Aside my interest in politics, I am ready and willing to serve my community in decent and acceptable ways, as I now have more time for community activities.
Sir, are you into partisan politics?
As they say and according to the dictionary definition of politics, everyone is a politician, but I am a partisan politician.
Then as a politician, are you satisfied with the performance of politicians at the different levels of government?
At the very local level, that is the local government level, I am an active participant in the whole process that is unfolding now. I was once there, incidentally, with the current chairman of the Ika South Local Government Council. We were there together at the Transition Committee. While I served as the Secretary, he served as the Vice-Chairman. And as a party politician, I had the privilege of being the chairman of the campaign committee for the present Ika South Local Government Chairman during his electioneering campaign.
As a PDP card carrying member, my strong relationship with Ika South Local Government Council Chairman, whatever I say now will be construed to be biased. However, I want to appeal to our people that even if they have not seen any significant sign of development, though much time has been spent, they should please be patient as there are many challenges facing the local government council. I would do my possible best to assist the present chairman whenever the opportunity comes to impact on the lives of the people. Things are looking better, now that Governor Okowa’s administration has cleared the backlog of salary arrears of workers.
The truth is that when you have limited resources, it does not mean that there are not certain things you can do to impact on the people. Take for instance, some weeks ago; some nuns were kidnapped along the Benin/Asaba Expressway by Emuhu. Two or three days later, the chairman brought a bulldozer to clear both sides of the road to make it difficult for those criminal elements to hide by the side of the road to commit atrocities. This is a very good example of the way to address the people’s challenges.
At the State level, I continue to thank God for giving us somebody like Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa at this point in time. This is because if we had any other person other than Okowa, many things would have gone under. The governor epitomizes prudent spending of resources in government. And if more resources become available today, we know that he will do more for the development of the State.
The Governor has been able to address the critical needs of the people. He did not take on white elephant projects; instead he is addressing the basic issues of the people, like massive construction of roads, upgrading of schools, innovating health care delivery and building peace etc.
So, for me at the state level, the Governor is doing well and I pray that God gives him more opportunities and resources to develop the State.
And then at the national level, being a PDP member will not deter me from commenting positively on any good thing being done by the APC government. I have been waiting since this APC government led by President Buhari, came on board to do something that one would have no choice but to appreciate their presence in government. Instead, they are attending to irrelevant issues. Why should we be talking about Buhari’s credentials at this time? Imagine the government celebrating the issuance of an attestation of result and all the drama surrounding it. The government should instead focus on governance, BECAUSE Nigerians have never had it so bad.
2019 election is around the corner, what are the chances for PDP in winning the elections at the different levels?
First as a Nigerian, I can only join the rest of the people to pray for successful and peaceful elections in 2019. This is because if it does not go well for the entire nation, we would all suffer. I am also praying that the courage which God built in Ex-President Jonathan with which he was able to concede defeat without making the whole process rancorous, to be in President Buhari, so that whoever wins the election is allowed to exercise his or her victory at the election instead of plunging this country into war.
Everyone should follow the acceptable and decent process of democracy of engendering an election of this nature. And that principal thing is that everyone must key into the tenets of democracy for us to have a successful election. As a party man, of course I am partial towards my party, which is the People’s Democratic Party. So all the candidates from House of Assembly to the Presidency are my candidates and I am praying and working fervently to make sure that they emerge winners of the elections at the various levels.
I am more particular that the re-election of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as the governor of Delta State is a task that has been accomplished in God’s court. We are praying that God will give us all the strength and the resources to achieve Gov. Okowa’s re-election, in Jesus’ Name.
Apart from your academic career, you are a chief in the Dein of Agbor’s palace and your chieftaincy title is an interesting one; Ojenebo Dein. How come about this title and what is the meaning?
I grew up to find it existing in my family, I was told that my grandfather who was one of the early warriors sent in from Agbor kingdom to Ekuku Agbor when there was a confrontation with the Ukwuani people which degenerated into a battle. Having ended the war, the way I was told, the then Obi of Agbor asked those warriors to settle down there, as a preventive measure against future attack from the Ndokwa people.
So my grandfather was one of the earliest settlers at Ekuku Agbor And he had this title, ‘Ojenebo’ Most likely he had this local intelligence or enlightenment because I understand that the word “Ojenebo” means a Whiteman’s chief.
My father was a teacher, with a Teacher Grade II Certificate and ACE, and was of all the father’s children, the most educated and enlightened. Most of his elder brothers went to other places like Ute-okpu, Ute-rumu that is to their mothers’ places to settle. This was how they were dispersed to different places.
At a time, my father became the most senior person in the family, especially when he returned to Ekuku-Agbor. I did not get to meet my grandfather. My grandfather’s title of “Ojenebo” was transferred to my father, though it was not a hereditary title.
During the time of the Regency in Agbor Kingdom, some persons from various communities were made chiefs and my father happened to be one of them. He was given the same title of “Ojenebo”, not that it was hereditary like I said before, but he was already bearing it as a nick name so it became like a family title. In 2007, the Dein of Agbor conferred on me the “Ojenebo Dein” of Agbor kingdom. I was then the Provost of College of Education, Agbor.
It is glaring to all that you and your wife belong to the academic world. Are your children toeing this same path?
As academics, my wife and I were never pressured into our career by our parents. We on our part, as educated and enlightened persons could not in anyway compel our children to take to our field. Our daughter read Medicine, our son Ikenchor had a flair for Fine Arts; he studied architecture and the last is an engineer, while our eldest son, Chizim, studied Computer Software and Systems Engineering. We gave them all the support and only gave counsel where necessary, but they made the last decision
Sir, are you implying that parents should only play advisory role in the choice of career of their children?
The act of parents forcing their children to take to the career they, the parents have chosen for them and not the children making their choice based on their ability, to me is wrong. This is one of the major root causes of academic fraud in our educational system today. Parents and guardians should only encourage children and wards to build on their potentials and innate abilities.
What is your perception about life?
For me, life is an opportunity given to men by God to live by the precepts in the Bible and the society. And so anytime you have the opportunity to live within this perception of what life is, you do the best you can to live up to the meaning of life in spite of the challenges that confront you.
More importantly, for somebody to survive, he needs to do an inward search of knowing his abilities and not to aim higher than he can attain, otherwise, he will live in perpetual frustration. You should be able to set goals that are achievable for yourself. That is to ensure that you are setting out to achieve the goals you have set for yourself.
Sir, do you have a mentor or mentors as the case maybe? And if you do, who are they?
Yes. I have mentors. That is why I defined life as being made up of opportunities. As for mentoring, Dr. Akhionbare of UNN influenced my career as a teacher educator. He still remains my mentor though I do not know where he is presently. He was an early influencer to my career choice.
In the political realm, my mentor is Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, even though he is younger than us, he is now well-ahead of us. He inspired me to go into politics. In 2001, when I was at my wits end as to where to do my sabbatical, he asked me to join him at the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources as Special Assistant to him as he was then the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources. This I quickly accepted. And as I started working with him, he then had the opportunity to initiate me into politics via his political meetings. I later became the Provost of College of Education, Agbor. I was the first provost to be appointed from the south south part of the country. He facilitated my appointment after the interview process. He remains a mentor to me.
What legacy would you want to leave behind?
I would want to be remembered as somebody who endeavoured to fit into every acceptable situation he found himself. What I mean here is that as I person I believe that I have the ability to fit into all situations. And this has helped me a lot in life.
What actually would you want to be remembered for when you have gone to be with your creator?
I would want to be remembered as one that contributed immensely to teacher education in the country, mostly in agricultural education and promotion of the College of Education system.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I like people generally, and gatherings of people who love to live life as decently as possible. I like associating with people a lot. I also love people who have philanthropic dispositions, who believe that they are in a better position to assist the next person as much as is within their ability.
In terms of dislike I do not have any because everything in existence serves a purpose. Though there are things humans do not like generally, for example criminality. Nobody finds it acceptable. I dislike social vices, especially those that harm persons and the society.
What is your favourite food?
I do not have any particular culinary taste. Whatever is available is okay by me, knowing fully well that we can find ourselves in different situations. As an Agbor man, my wife knows that I relish nni-igi and ofe-ose, but you cannot have it always.
How do you relax after a hard day?
I read a lot. That was why when friends asked where I got the report on the college visit to Mr. Ndudi Agholor and I told them it was in Ika Weekly Newspaper, they were surprised. What many do not know that is when you read such community newspaper it keeps you abreast of what is happening in your immediate environment. So, I am a consummate reader of Ika Weekly Newspaper. I also watch movies, wrestling and musical videos.
As a community leader, how have you impacted on the lives of people in terms of development, and by extensions Ika land?
In my little way as a Provost, I have been able to make the College of Education, a place that creates job for people. When I first came to the College, only few Ika people were employed and sadly, they were in found in the low cadres, even the host community, Alihame had no one in the senior staff category of the college. We were able to reverse the trend, without hurting the sensibilities of other ethnic nationalities.
Do you have any award?
Yes I do. I have received numerous awards in recognition of my contributions to educational development in Nigeria. In 2005, the Nigeria Students League with support from the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) gave me an award as the Best Provost in Nigeria. The School of Education, College of Education, Agbor honoured me with a merit award for my outstanding positive contributions to the growth and development of the college in 2012. I also received a medal as the second Inaugural Lecturer in the College of Education Agbor, Inaugural Lecture Series in 2012.
What is your message to Ika youths in view of the high rate of cases of Human Trafficking and illegal Migration among Ika youths?
My message to them is that it is a journey in futility, a life-threatening step. They are moved by the few who have made what is called ‘success’ without looking at the large number of people that perished in this quest. This is because until you get out there, you will not know that it is not every one living abroad that is living a life of comfort. It is quite perilous; many of the things we get away with in Nigeria, you would not dare contemplate, out there. Even when you are making the best effort to survive there, you still face humiliation, if not death.
So my advice to the youths is that there are a lot of opportunities in this country if you decide to do an honest work. You can make a living here a more than what you can earn abroad. It is one thing to make wealth; it is another thing to live a happy and fulfilled life.
We the Ika people like to be noticed for our effort, as a great farmer, great trader and so on. Your best effort outside may not be noticed there. Many come back home and show off their affluence, instead of impacting their community; they build houses that they do not live in. Those societies you are aspiring to go to were built hundreds of years ago. The younger ones should work towards the betterment of their communities, rather than flaunting ill-gotten wealth that may not be sustainable in the long term.
When did you join the Rotary Club of Agbor?
I have had a longstanding relationship with Rotary Club of Agbor, dating back before I became Provost of the College of Education, Agbor. The relationship however blossomed when I was serving as Provost. I was usually invited to their Rotary President’s installation ceremonies. Most members then were my friends. However, in September 2015, when Dr. Onyema Ugboh buried his father, I attended the ceremony and right there, Rtn. Lizzy Ogbetuo encouraged me to join the club and after the observation period, I became a Rotarian. Since then, I have been regretting not having joined earlier because Rotary is good for all.
Most people see Rotary as an elitist organization meant for people with money to spare?
I must confess that at a point in my life, I might have harboured that notion about Rotary but in the course of my interaction with Rotarians and especially since I became a Rotarian, I have come to realize that Rotary comprises people of different livelihood clarifications who are guided by the desire to sacrifice for the benefit of the less opportuned in order to make the world a better place. Rotarians are ordered by the spirit of giving. The collective nature of Rotarian’s actions enables Rotary to achieve in the service that we render to the society. Rotarians are definitely not the rich people in the society but are people who are happy to give to improve the lives of others. Rotary causes include promoting peace, providing clean water and sanitation, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies and fighting diseases.
As President of Rotary Club of Agbor for the 2018/2019 Rotary year, what should we be expecting from tenure?
This Rotary year started on July 1st, 2018 and will end June 31st, 2019. As the inspiration President, we are continuing from where my predecessor stopped. Briefly, we completed the Aliren Solar-powered End-Polio Water Scheme which was commissioned on 31st October, 2018, sponsored by Nigerian National Polio Plus Committee of Rotary International. Before that, we held the Family Health Day Activities during which for two days, we held Health Outreach Programmes in Oza-Nogogo and Akwumazi-Umuocha. In these programmes, health checks were done, medications were given to people as the need arose and admonitions on safe health practices were conducted.
On the 24th of October, 2018, we observed the world Polio Day by carrying out sensitization rallies across the two Local Government Areas of Ika nation, administering Polio Vaccine to children between the ages of zero to 5years, especially in schools with nursery sections. As for the future,, we have many activities lined up. First, through the effort of the District Governor of District 9141, covering Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and River States, Rtn. (Dr.) Adeyemi Oladokun on November 12, 2018, we received two 40ft crates of books and chairs from Rotary Clubs in the USA. They are to be distributed to schools in the District which did not get from last year’s gesture. The crates are at the College of Education, Agbor as I speak.
For our District sponsored project, we are working out a partnership with the College of Education, Agbor to install solar-powered street lights in the College.
We also have a club project to procure several pieces of electronic blood pressure monitor machines to be distributed to public institutions like schools, motor parks, offices and local businesses to help reduce the risks of high blood pressure related illnesses and death amongst our people. There are other projects that and also in the offing.
At the Ika Economic Summit of June 24th, 2017, His Excellency, Governor Okowa announced your appointment as Chairman, Delta Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Former ADP). What impact have you made since you assumed office?
ADP which is an acronym for Agricultural Development Programme was World Bank sponsored programme for agricultural development in the state and Nigeria through efficient and effective agricultural extension service delivery to farmers for improved productivity. The World Bank sponsorship ended about seven years ago and the fortunes of the agency dwindled. It took the foresight and visionary leadership of Governor Okowa to revive the Delta ADP by creating the Board of Delta Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (DARDA) to resuscitate the agency.
Since we came on board, extension delivery activities have commenced again across all the agricultural production cycles and their associated value chains. Extension advisors, subject matter specialists, enumerators and monitors have been empowered to do their work with payment of field claims, provision of motor cycles, working tools etc. Monthly training workshops are being held regularly, resource persons and specialists are being engaged to update and upgrade the extension advisors. Research outputs are being replicated and dispensed to farmers through DARDA staff and interventions and troubleshooting are ongoing in farms across the state. Facilities are being renovated too: four blocks at DARDA Headquarters, Ibusa, two blocks in Agbor Zonal Office, one in Effurun Zonal office and two in Warri Zonal office have been completely renovated. To address the challenge posed by mobility, we procured three well-used Toyota pick-up trucks and forty-five special design Yamaha motorcycles for field and office use. DARDA like the SMART Agenda of Governor Okowa’s administration is work-in-progress. Improved agricultural productivity and benefits to farmers will be the positive outcomes of efficient extension delivery.
What is your advice to Ika nation?
To our people, there is no proper definition of those things that seemly differentiate us. They do not actually exist, we are one and we should all continue to maintain that relationship. People should get smart, for the more divided we are, the less progress we make. Thank God for the opportunities we have now that our son is the Governor, because we are seeing evidence of those things that can only come from a united people. I am asking that every Ika man or woman should support Governor Okowa and work towards his re-election so that he can do more for Ika land. We are not being selfish when we say that because other ethnic groups in the state had their opportunity. So our son should be given full opportunity to develop his place without ignoring other places in the state.
Any regret sir?
I have no regret.
Are you a fulfilled man? If yes why?
Yes I am a fulfilled man. This is because those things dear to my heart have been provided for me by God. My joy is the modest relationships I have with most people that I have come across.
Are you satisfied with the level of development in Ika nation?
I am not satisfied as to where we are as an ethnic nationality, but God has created a number of opportunities. I am calling on all our Ika sons and daughters who have different places and positions in life to use their resources and scope in developing Ika land.
While we are at it, you have leaders and the followers. The followers that are the young people should also look at the opportunities our leaders have been able to create and work to make a success of them. Ika nation has a very bright future. We all need to harness all the endowments to build a peaceful and egalitarian society.
Where do you see the College of Education in the next few years?
In the next few years, I expect that the College of Education, Agbor would have transmuted from being an NCE awarding institution to a degree awarding institution. I use this opportunity to appeal to all the persons who are in various positions to work hard so that in no distant time, that the college becomes a degree awarding institution, hopefully, University of Education, Agbor.
The Ika nation needs the College to be upgraded to a University of Education and the college is qualified for it, given all the resources available, including a strong and virile faculty.
If you have to live your life all over again what are those areas you would like to improve on and those you would want to repeat?
I have refused to live a life of a patterned order. I am happy with what I have been able to do, and I simply ask that God provides more opportunities for me to better the society, in my little niche.