Our Personality of the Week is Dr. (Mrs.) Ukamaka Patricia Akumabor, an educationist and a retired lecturer from Yaba School of Technology, Lagos. She is the current Chairperson of FAFUNWA Educational Foundation Local Organizing Committee.
In this interview, she seriously frowned at the decline in our educational system, stating that teachers’ mediocrity as a cause.
Good day, may we know you?
My name is Dr. (Mrs.) Patricia Ukamaka Akumabor. I was born in Lagos on Sunday the 19th of January, 1947. I’m from Umunede, in Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State. I went to primary schools in Lagos, Ibadan, Akure and Benin-City. For my secondary school education, I attended the famous girls secondary school in Benin, St. Maria Goretti Girls Grammar School from 1961 – 1965. I thereby, became the first indigenous Umunede female to have school certificate (WASC) in 1965. In 1979 I graduated from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) where I studied English language/history at the National Certificate in Education (NCE) level with a distinction in teaching practice.
I served the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) from 1979 to 1980 in Maywood Girls Grammar School, Ebute Metta, Lagos. I also taught English Language in the same school for one year before I went back to Unilag for BA. Ed where I qualified within two years in 1983. I was also the first indigenous Umunede female to acquire a first degree. My master’s qualification was also from Unilag in 1986 where I researched into the teaching of English as a second language (TESL). My Ph. D in TESL was also from Unilag in 2001. On a lighter mood, it would interest you to know that I went to Unilag four times – for N.C.E B.A.Ed, M. Ed, and Ph.D. I also got admitted the fifth time for M.A English literature but my Lecture periods clashed with my job in Yaba Tech so I gave it up. You can see that I’m a great Akokite…. Great!!!
It would also interest you to know that I won a first place award from Fafunwa Educational Foundation in 2002 for writing the best thesis in the Faculties of Education in Nigeria. On a lighter mood, I was also the first female Umunedian who acquired a Ph.D, and the first Fafunwa Awardee in Nigeria. In 2001, I acquired a certificate in Information Processing from Yaba College of technology.
I belong to a number of professional associations both locally and internationally. These are: World Council for Curriculum and Instruction (WCCI), USA; International Technology Education and Development (INTED) Spain, Rocky Mountain Modern Languages Association – (RMMLA), U.S.A; Second Language Writing Association, U.S.A; Women In Technical Education (WITED); Forum For African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Nigeria; and Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN LA/t/00396 of 26th JUNE 2006).
I have attended workshops and conferences and presented papers in New Jersey (USA), Turkey, Spain, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria.
I speak, read and write three languages proficiently, Ika, English language, and Yoruba.
I have published extensively in both local and international journals. My research interests are: Effective teacher education, literacy, critical and creative thinking skills, reading and writing skills and ICT in language teaching and TESL. With over two decades experience in teacher training at pre-service and in-service levels, I would like to say that I have enjoyed working with teachers.
I gained a lot of work experience in Nigeria and Ethiopia. In Nigeria, I taught English language in several Lagos state secondary schools from 1980 to 1990 and I rose to the position of the Head of Languages Department before I got employed in Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) in 1990.
In Yabatech, I rose through the ranks from lecturer 11 to chief lecturer within a period spanning 1990 – 2012. I was the Director of the Technical Teacher Training Programme (TTTP) for five years and the Dean of the school of Technical Education for one year before I retired from active service in 2012. I held several positions apart from lecturing. I was an adviser, environmental research group from 2011- 2013. I was the Chairman, Yabatech Staff Schools Committee 2007 – 2010. I also belonged to several ad-hoc committees either as a chairperson or a member. I was the Former Treasurer Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Yabatech Chapter.
I went to Ethiopia in 2006 as an Associate Professor where I lectured in Mekelle University, as an Associate Professor of Mekelle University, Ethiopia. I lectured in Ethiopia for one year. I had planned to spend four years in Mekelle but a few months after I travelled to Ethiopia, it was announced that Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic were going to be converted to degree awarding institutions. That announcement made me retune after one year. In Ethiopia, I went through an extensive training as an educationist through conferences, seminars, workshops and symposium. As a result, I have a broad range of skills like: Executive Leadership And Management Skills; Networking and Excellent Interpersonal Relationships; Qualitative Writing/Reading Skills using Different Rhetorical Devices; Qualitative Skills in Curriculum Design, Evaluation and Implementation; Mentoring Skills; Qualitative and Analytical Skills in Research; an Amiable Team Player; Strong Verbal and Written Communication Skills; Excellent Workshop Organizer; Computer Literate; Counseling of the Youths; and Conflict Resolution.
In Mekelle University, I was the chairman of the Academic Committee in my department and a member of two other committees. E.g. Curriculum Committee and Research Committee.
My Mum: My mum, Mrs. Juliana Ikwoje Emetanjo (Nee Ozor) was born in 1925. She was from the Royal family in Obi Quarters in Umunede. She got registered to go to school but unfortunately her father flogged her when she returned from school and refused to allow her go to school. That was how she missed early education. Her love for education made her register for adult education where she learnt to write and sign her signature. She was full of regrets that her dad refused to send her to school because of her gender. For this reason, she was happy that her four daughters received tertiary education. “Mama Mia”, as I fondly called her was hard working, humorous and a Go-Getter. She kept asking me if I had not completed my Ph.D and I would say “Ohodu ekere” meaning I have some little more time to complete it. One day after I had my successful defense, she came to our house in Lagos and saw the fat thesis on the table and humorously asked, is that “Ohodu Ekere” we all laughed. My mum was a philanthropist. She assisted a good number of her nieces, nephews and cousins to travel to Lagos for greener pastures. She was nicknamed “mama Ikeja” because of her generosity. She was loved by Umunedians especially those who went to the Nigerian Police College, Ikeja. She received them with open arms and treated them like her own children. The very first day my mum saw my husband to be she fell in love with him and made up her mind to encourage him to keep visiting us.This was because she knew his parents. As a result, whenever any young man came to our house to see me my mum would tell me not to allow the guy visit me again. She was very strict about it. She sent away a Nigerian Airways Pilot from the East, a Lawyer, and a Banker. Little did I know that she was keeping me for Norbert Akumabor who became my darling hussy. Mama knew that he was a good man who would be able to look after her daughter. Mama was right.
My Dad: my dad’s name was George Ayi Osagie from Ile Quarters, Umunede. He was a palm oil merchant who travelled from Umunede to Idah with several drums of Palm Oil. His farming prowess was next to non during his hay days. He harvested three tubers of yams that were shaped in the form of human beings, a male, a female and a child. “Gi Ayi” (Ayi’s Yam) was the talk of the town. Many people, adults and school children all queued to have a glimpse of these miraculous yam tubers. He wedded my mother at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in 1944. They were blessed with two children, John and myself but John died in a motor accident at the age of ten. Unfortunately, the marriage was short-lived and six years after, my mum remarried Mr. Matthias Emetanjo who was my step-father. My step-father was a kind hearted man who trained me from Primary to Secondary School level at a time when girls were not allowed to go to school but married off to men at a young age. Mr. Emetanjo was a Police Officer from Umuonyia in Asaba, Delta State. May his soul continue to rest in peace. Amen.
So you have siblings?
Yes. I had three sisters and four brothers. Unfortunately, I lost three brothers and a sister. My immediate younger brother, Austin Emetanjo is in New Jersey (US) with his family. My sister, Dr. (Mrs). Ogugua Osita – Ogbu, is a former Director at the National Hospital, Abuja. After her is Mrs. Godswill Ojogwu, Favour who is a banker.
The three girls lived with my husband and I and we call them our daughters. They refer to me as mum and my husband, dad.
Tell us about your educational background?
I went to Our Lady of Apostles Primary School, Ibadan. I also attended Sacred Heart Primary School in Benin. It was in Benin that I finished my Primary education, and took the entrance examination to St. Maria Goretti in Benin. Initially, the school had no boarding facility. We were day students. The Principal, Sister Henrietta assured us that the boarding facility would be ready in three months. True to her words, in three months, the boarding facility was ready. Within the three months of being a day student, I lived with a family in Benin because my parents had been transferred to Lagos. The wife of my guardian maltreated me so much that I heaved a sigh of relief when our boarding house was ready.
I became a boarder when the boarding facility was ready. Thereafter, I spent 5 years in Benin and successfully finished my secondary school education in 1965. Consequently, I became the first indigenous Umunede female to have School Certificate. In the first year when we had our result, I started staying with an Umunede family in Benin the family of Mr. Humphrey Mordi. They treated me like their child. They never allowed be to go to the kitchen even when I could cook.
How will you rate Maria-Goretti?
I will rate it very high. It was the best school in Benin in those days; the Rev. Sr. instilled discipline in us, the teachers were also good. We had one Mathematics teacher in those day who would literally put the subject in your brain even if you refused to learn it. We also had some good English language teachers.
Can you remember some of your schoolmates?
Yes. I remember Miss Sylvia Omenai from Ishan, now Mrs. Sylvia Ataga. I even spoke to her a few days ago. There is also Mrs. Iyabo Ogbeide, formerly Miss Iyabo Akpata. She was a nursing sister who retired from UBTH. Also, Mrs. Clara Okodugha (Nee Idahosa) and Mrs. Caroline Shodeinde (Nee Thomopulous).
How will you rate the relationship of school children today with what you had in your time?
In our days in the secondary school, there was no current technology for being connected. Today the social media has made it easier for classmates to get connected even long after graduation through Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, We chat, Instagram, Tik tok, You Tube, Ozone and a host of others.
Did you further your education after obtaining your secondary school certificate?
After my secondary education, I started working in WAEC as a clerical staff. I was in charge of writing cheques for UNILAG lecturers who marked scripts.
One day, one Professor Ojo who is late now, came to collect his cheque and then he said to me, “Young lady, why are you wasting away here? You are brilliant. Go back to school and improve yourself.” I took it up as a challenge.
I went to UNILAG and I wrote the entrance examination for N.C.E programme. As soon as I got the admission letter, I went home and handed it over to my husband. When he saw it, he smiled. He didn’t tell me that someone had made a cynical comment during our wedding reception that we were not a right match, because he was a graduate and I had just secondary school certificate. So, he was glad that I had taken it up to improve myself.
I went through N.C.E programme for three years. After which I started teaching in Lagos State Secondary School. I taught in Surulere Secondary School, Marywood College, Ebute-Meta and Community High School in Surulere.
When I was in Marywood, I met Toyin a degree holder, who was in UNILAG hostel with me when I was doing my N.C.E. In each of the committees where two of us were, I was always her subordinate; I would do the work and she would take the glory. Then one day, she was naughty to me because she had a higher certificate. So, I went back to UNILAG for my B.A Education English. Since I already had my N.C.E., I was to do just two years more for my B.A. Ed After the two years, I came back to Marywood Grammar school, and the lady was still there. I taught for one year and went for my Master’s degree. This time, I took study leave without pay. I came back again; she was still there with her first degree.
When I was only an N.C.E holder, I would greet her, but she would pretend she never saw me. But, when I had my Master’s, she would sight me from a distance and run to hug me. Then she would tell me she also wanted to do her Master’s. She was still a first degree holder when I went for my Ph.D. Toyin’s snobbish attitude to me motivated me to greater heights.
During my Master’s programme, there was a lecturer I used to admire so much. She was my name-sake; Dr. (Mrs.) Pat Bello. She used to come to the class without a notebook and she would teach brilliantly well. More amazing was the fact that she would come in her next class days after and would continue from where she stopped, still without a notebook. I told myself I would want be like her. Hence, I went for my Ph.D, also coupled with the fact that my supervisor during my Master’s project encouraged me to go back for my doctorate.
I remember my Ph.D supervisor, Professor Victor Owhotu who gave me a challenge which I took up at once, because I love challenges. He told me to prepare my proposal and submit to him to know whether what I would submit was worth his supervision. When I left him, I went to the library where I spent two weeks. I would resume with them at 9am and close with them at night. I dug into a heap of journals in the teaching of English as a Second Language, until I found what I was looking for: using rhetorical devices to teach children how to read and write. I wrote and submitted my proposal to him. When I got the work back, I saw he had Okayed it from the first to the last page with long approval marks, including the references.
How were you able to combine family life with academics?
My husband was fantastic. He was the one doing virtually all the home chores. I was even in the hostel with two of my sons; one was doing his pre-degree and the other was in SS1 in the university’s staff school. Daddy would prepare soup and bring to us. We had a refrigerator in the Hostel. We will put the soup in the fridge and we ate from there. My second son, Collins also prepared delicious beans for us.
After dinner, the three of us would go to the reading room. It was quite interesting; mummy and two of her children reading together. My doctorate degree programme took me about four years and some months.
I was lecturing in the School of Technical Education, Yaba College of Technology before I went for my Ph.D. The school was initially meant for N.C.E holders who were coming for degree programme even now ND and HND holder who want to acquired degree are admitted. The school is affiliated with University of Nigeria, Nsukka for the B.Sc programme. After my Ph.D, the college promoted me. I became the Director of Programmes, and Dean until I retired.
When did you retire?
I retired in the year 2012, but, my Rector in his magnanimity said I should continue for three more years. So effectively I retired in 2015.
Before then, in the year 2005/2006, I went to Ethiopia on Sabbatical. There, I lectured in Mekelle University, where I taught the Use of English Language. I was to spend four years there, with the hope that after the fourth year, I would be a Professor. However, a few months after I left Nigeria, President Obasanjo announced that his Government was going to upgrade Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic to degree awarding institutions. My hussy was happy. He phoned me one day and told me to come back home because what I went to look for in Ethiopia was now in Nigeria. So, I decided to spend only one year before I returned. Sadly, up till this moment, Yaba College of Tech has not been upgraded to a university. The closest they got to being is a degree awarding institution is the affiliation with UNN which has been on for over 20years.
Any memorable experience while you were in Ethiopia?
I had quite some experiences there in Ethiopia. But one that I would always remember and laugh at was when I attended one of their ceremonies and was given their first round of coffee, called ‘no. 1’ coffee to drink. The process was that, a young girl will pound the raw coffee and put it in a kettle on the fire. When it boiled, she would serve everyone present, that first round, after that, she will add water to the remnant of the coffee in the kettle for a second round (no.2) and then a third (no.3), which will end up becoming almost like ordinary water. They added granulated sugar to it. The first round is heavily concentrated and black. I ignorantly took the first round. That night, I didn’t sleep. My stomach was on fire. After that, each time I had the experience of visiting them and they offered me coffee, I always requested for the no. 3.
They are very friendly people. I made many friends in and outside the university.
How is their educational standard?
Not as high as Nigeria’s. The students will want you to pass them no matter what, and if you fail to do so, they will report you to their HOD. But one thing I admire in them is that they are extremely time conscious and punctual to their classes. If a lecturer fails to come at the exact time scheduled for the class, they will wait for him/her for about 5 minutes, and if the lecturer still fails to come within that time, they will leave the class and report to the HOD that the lecturer was absent. When I discovered that, I started going to class even before the time to wait for them.
How do you feel with the fact that what you left Ethiopia for did not materialise?
Well, I always take things the way they come. I don’t blame anybody for anything. I feel it’s just the way God wants it to be. To God be the Glory.
Were there other engagements aside from your job at Yabatech?
Yes there were. In 2003 during Nigeria’s Federal Election, INEC appointed me an electoral officer in charge of Ajeromi Ifelodun (Ajegunle) Local Government Area of Lagos State. After the election on the first Saturday, the chairman of the LGA sensing that his party would lose the election offered me N5m (Five Million Naira) for me to announce that his Political Party won the election. I turned down his offer and announced the correct result on Lagos State T.V station in Ikeja.
The chairman’s party lost. The following weekend, he, came back to beg me that if his party should lose again, his party leader would kill him. These time, he increased the amount to N8m (Eight Million Naira) I also refused to accept the money. He became desperate and he went to the field to lobby the officers who manipulated the results. Since all party representatives signed against the mutilated results in the chairman’s Favour I had to announce the result. In 2007 I was also appointed as INEC electoral officer. When I returned from Ethiopia in November 2007, I took interest in teacher retraining because of the series of workshops that I attended in Ethiopia on teacher mentoring. The British council appointed me a teacher mentor and sent me to Nairobi and Abuja to train teachers.
Lagos State Government (LASG) also advertised that teachers should apply to work as teacher mentors.
Consequently, 600 teachers/lecturers applied to Lagos Eko Secondary Education Project in conjunction with the World Bank for the teacher mentoring interview. After the interview 183 (one hundred and eighty three) of us were selected and trained by Pearson International under the Eko/World Bank Project. The objective of the Eko Project was to improve students’ learning outcomes in all Public Junior and Senior Secondary Schools in Lagos State. We were trained for 8 weeks. At the end of that training 25 of us excelled and were selected to attend a further training for 3 weeks in order to become master mentors. Having completed the training, I was assigned 9 teacher mentors to work with me in 42 government secondary schools in Eti-Osa LGA, Lagos State. We went round to monitor schools in order to ensure that teachers were always in class and teaching students to a mastery level. The classroom teachers were taught to teach students using behavioural objectives of remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create’. These could be broken down to:
Retrieve relevant knowledge from long team memory.
Construct meaning from instructional messages.
Carry out or use a procedure in a given situation.
Separate a whole into parts,
Make judgments based on criteria and standards.
Combine elements or ideas to form a new whole.
The British Council also invited me to mentor teachers in Abuja. With that experience, I started my own teacher mentoring business. I call it ICON Training and Consultancy. I was training teachers and retraining them. I went to train teachers in Kith and Kin College with several other private schools in Lagos. As a result of their interest in my mentoring, the school even made me one of their Board members. I became their Board member about six years ago.
Other activities are:
I was a Commissioned Author who developed a background paper towards the preparation of NEEDS II on education and skills development.
A facilitator at the Imo State finishing school – a seven week residential immersion programme for seventy unemployed graduates of Imo State that transformed them..
Chairman, board of Governors, Lucina schools, Ojota – Lagos.
Chairman board of Governors of Westland college, Surulere, Lagos
Member, board of Governors Kith and Kin Educational Schools Ikorodu- Lagos 2010-date. Master mentor for Lagos state secondary school teachers.
Former chairman, Yaba College of technology staff schools’ committee, 2007 – 2010.
Was a facilitator at the training workshop on science writing organised by Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) 23-27 May, 2007.
Resource person, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) workshop for primary school teacher 2007 – 2009
Chairman, Electoral Committee, University of Lagos Post Graduate Hall 1999.
Resource person, St. Jude Private Schools 5th Avenue, Festac Town, Lagos 2005 to 2006 ( retraining of all the teachers in the schools-primary and secondary) in modern strategies for teaching English language – reading skills, writing skills and group approach for teaching large classes.
Resource person, El-Dallas Company on Communication Skills. Conflict Resolution, Stress Management, and Time Management 19995 – date.
Guest Speaker on Technical and Vocational Education at Queens College, Yaba-Lagos, 2004.
Resource person, Ogun State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) – retrained 350 English Language Teachers In Language Skills, Listening, Speaking, Reading And Writing (Comprehension, Summary Writing, Essay Writing, and Grammar) 2008.
Resource Person, Dale Management Consultancy, Retraining of Civil Servants in Memo Writing, Report Writing, Time Wasters, Communication Skills, Innovative Tools for Writing Communiqués and Conflict Resolution Strategies 2009 – date.
Retrained teachers on communication skills in Badagry for SMI in 2008.
How did you impact on those in the academic world?
By God’s grace, I was able to impact greatly on some lecturers in Yaba College of Tech. I encouraged so many to go for their Master’s and Doctorate degrees, which I am delighted they adhered to.
When I finished my Ph.D, I was the first person in my age bracket at Yaba Tech. who had a Doctorate degree. I motivated a lot of people to go for their Ph.D. Once someone had started his/her doctorate, I was always asking how far the person had gone to give my imput if required and also assisted so many lecturers by helping to edit their work.
To God be the Glory, today, Yaba College of Tech has over 200 Ph.D holders. Some went to South Africa for their Ph.Ds, some to Britain, and different places in the world.
Being so long in the academic world with laudable engagements and contributions, where do you think the decline in the educational system of this country is actually coming from?
The government has the major fault. The budget allocation to education is very poor. The libraries are bereft of books. There are no current books in the libraries. There are also no journals for the students to see scholarly articles of their counterparts round the world.
According to the National Policy on Education, (NPE 2004/2013), “No education should rise above its teachers”. Teacher’s quality is instrumental to students’ achievement. Students learn better and faster if teachers update themselves in the 21st century strategies for teaching and learning. Teachers also need to use lots of instructional materials in order to make teaching and learning real. Effective teaching leads to effective learning and this will enable students think critically and creatively. The pertinent question therefore is how many teachers take a step further to improve themselves after graduation. Do they take their jobs seriously with commitment and interest? Are they teaching the students the way they were taught, These are questions our teachers need to answer while doing self-examination; because what they do is part of the problem. Many teachers neither read newspapers nor attend workshops and conferences. One thing I have noticed is that many teachers do not educate themselves after schooling. There is a difference between schooling and education. When in school, you read and cram to pass your exams. You are likely not to get the full concept of what you are reading. But, when you graduate, it is necessary you revisit your textbooks, because then, you’ll read without tension. That’s when you understand a topic better. Also, it is advised that as a teacher, you should go into research. Find out things and new topics. In that way, you will better yourself. So, learning and education start after graduation. In order to enhance teacher quality, teachers should be empowered through constant training and development activities because they are vital to life-long learning. Also, societal values have changed. You see a young man driving a jeep and erecting a mighty building with nobody knowing his source of income, and nobody is asking. It’s disturbing. We need to bring back our societal values. In those days, when you surface with sudden wealth people ask questions; but now the end justifies the means. The children as a result, are no longer willing to learn. They see people who did not go to school who are rich and they want to be like them. One thing they tend to forget or are ignorant about is that education improves one’s acumen. Also, when you are opportuned to make money, you’ll know the right thing to use it for. There are some people I can’t interact with even with their money. Education is very important. In addition, our reading culture is now at the lowest ebb. Parents no longer buy novels and story books for their children.
Not until we address these problems, the decline in the educational sector will remain the same in Nigeria and even grow worse.
Any award so far?
My Ph.D work gave me the FAFUNWA award, as the best thesis written in the Faculty of Education in Nigeria in the year 2001. The topic is; The Effect of Instruction in Rhetorical Structure on Expository Writing Achievement of Some Students in Colleges of Education (Technical). As a result, Professor FAFUNWA made me a member of his foundation. Today, I am the chairperson of the FAFUNWA Educational Foundation Local Organising Committee. Since he died, I have headed the committee that organises lectures, seminars, and conferences for FAFUNWA Foundation. We celebrate him. His birthday is 23rd of September annually. Ten universities in Nigeria send in their PhD thesis from the Faculty of Education and the best 3 are selected. Lately, I added Delta State University so that my state will also benefit from it.
I got an award in my N.C.E teaching practice because I had the highest scores. The British Council also gave me an award when we went for the teacher mentoring programme. I have other awards.
What Impact have you made on the people of Ịka?
Quite a good number of Ika Youths lived with us in the past. We trained them from primary school level to tertiary level. Many of them are graduates who hold important positions in their places of work. As early as when I was a clerical staff in WAEC, I used to assist Ika youths with their WASC results. While in Yabatech, I lobbied HODs anytime an Ika person came to seek admission into Yabatech. I also sought admission for Ika people into University of Lagos, my Alma Mater. It gives me joy anytime I see an Ika person who would say ‘Mummy you don’t remember me’, I was the person you assisted to get my result from WAEC when you were working there” or those who will say, ‘Mummy, thank you for enabling me go to Unilag. I have graduated now, I made a 2/1 and I’m working in First Bank. In addition, I encouraged many Ika ladies to go back to school and improve themselves.
Who are your mentors?
My main mentor was Dr. (Mrs.) Pat Bello. I admired her style of lecturing a lot. We became friends as a result. I even went to her house, visiting. I was unhappy when she left academics because Banbagida’s wife gave her a contract that made her leave lecturing.
My husband also is my mentor. I have other mentors like Prof. (Mrs.) Funke Lawal, Prof. (Mrs.) Nonye Ikonta, and Prof. P.A.I Obanya and Prof. Durojaiye Adebayo Ajeyalemi.
How Did You Meet Your Husband?
How I met my husband is interesting and divine, one afternoon, a relation came to visit his Aunt, Mrs. Ofulue who was living in the same house as my guardian Mr. Humphrey Mordi. As soon as I saw him, I went inside and brought out my result to show to him I said, Uncle, Uncle see my result, see my result. He took it and looked at it and gave it to the man he came with who later became my husband and they both smiled and commended my outstanding performance because I came first in my class. Then I took my result and left. That was when my husband met me for the first time. So, when he finally decided to get a wife, he said he started thinking about me. He had to go through Mr. Anidinma whose half-sister was staying with us in Lagos. I had already gone back to Lagos for the holiday. Mr. Anidinma gave him a letter to give to his half-sister, whereas according to him, his intention was to see me.
My mother who was able to discern his mission, called me out to greet him and the man he came with. I greeted them and ran back to the room. When they were leaving, she called me again and asked me to see them off. I was completely oblivious of what was going on. He asked me when I would be going back to school so that he would ask one of his father’s drivers to come over to Lagos and take us to Benin. I told him and he informed my mother about it, which he did.
The day came and we set out to Benin in his father’s car. The long distance gave us satisfying time to familiarise, and our friendship started. We began writing to each other I told him to write to me through my classmate Clara who was a day student because my principal would read all letters at the Assembly Grounds and punish the owner of the letter. Our friendship blossomed until I graduated from the secondary school and started working in WAEC. Not long after, we went to Umunede for our marriage. To God be the glory, our marriage has been wonderful and blessed with lovely children and grandchildren.
How many children do you have?
We have three sons; Kenneth, a Builder/Construction Manager, Dr. Collins, a Medical Doctor and Chris a Computer Expert who works with Nestle in Lagos.
How does it feel like being without a daughter?
Well, I have never had any ill feeling as regards that. My three sisters have filled the vacuum. They see me as their mother. Once it’s Mothering Sunday or any celebration, they will all come to celebrate with me, with various gift items.
When I was hospitalised, my husband called Dr. Ogugua Osita-Ogbu and when I woke up the following morning, I saw her by my bedside. She came with all sorts of presents and spent the weekend with me.
What do you have to say about your husband?
My husband is the best husband in the whole world. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I would marry him again. There is nothing too small or too big for him as long as he is doing it for his Patty.
When I was studying for my Ph.D, he would stay with me where I was typing the work till the following morning. Mosquitoes would be biting us. He was also coming to see me at the hostel always with cooked soup, jollof rice etc.
How have you people coped these 50 years without quarreling or fighting?
Definitely, there are bound to be disagreements. But, the thing that will tie you together, which has always been our bond is the initial love. When he is wrong and sees I’m not happy, he will hold me and say he is sorry. Initially, I wasn’t doing so. But, when I noticed he was always doing that, I had to follow suit. So, whenever I am wrong and he is unhappy, I say, “I am sorry.”
‘I am sorry,’ is very strong. Every husband and wife must learn to say that. One should not be proud or shy to say it.
Aside that, my husband has always been there for me. He has been so supportive and fantastic. Surprisingly, our 50 years anniversary which we celebrated last year 2019 was to me as if it was just like yesterday that we got married. I felt on top of the world at the anniversary celebration organized for us by our children in Lagos.
What is your advice for young couples?
They should stick together, love each other, and not allow the marriage to crash. Our children see us living together peacefully, and they see how happy we are. So, we have left them good legacies to follow. For a happy and successful marriage, there is need to look at some areas of human interactions.
Personality issues: these refer to whether one of the couple is aggressive, passive, assertive consumed with anger or ill-tempered. As a woman, one should submit to one’s husband, study your husband like a textbook and know how to treat him with love.
Communication: Do you both talk at each other or discuss as equal partners? This is very important if you want the marriage to last a lifetime. You are two in one, so discuss as equal partners. Husbands should not be domineering or assertive all the time. My husband seeks my opinion in whatever he wants to do. We look at issues together before we take a decision.
Conflict management: – We are able to manage our differences such that we do not let our relations know.
Family finance: We have a joint account. This way we are able to account for money spent. When our children were younger the world, go through me in order to collect money from their dad.
Leisure activities: – We spend our free time. Together in Lagos we went to the Beach, Ikoyi Club and the gym together.
Family and friends: – We do not allow family and friends to interfere in our marriage. We put in place effective boundaries for third parties in our marriage.
Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Our key words: “I’m sorry solves and resolves all problems.
If young couples use the above advice, they would live happily together and their marriage would last a life-time.
Most mothers-in-law visit their son’s house and make the home unbearable for their daughters-in-law. What’s your view about that?
I had an understanding mother-in-law who treated me like one of her daughters. She showered me with love and as such, I have no reason not to love my daughters-in-law. My daughters-in-law take me as their mother, and I relate with them as my daughters. Even when I went to one of them and her husband was being naughty to her, I scolded my son and told him he shouldn’t do that to his wife. I made him apologise to her in my presence. I don’t allow my sons to make their wives unhappy.
How do you spend your leisure?
At my spare time I read some novels like Chinua Achebe’s, Things fall Apart and No Longer at Ease. Buchi Emecheta’s, “The Joys of Motherhood and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half a Yellow Sun are also among the novels that I read.
I love Cycling: Reading, Writing and dancing. The day my mum passed on to greater glory I rode my bicycle from Yaba College of Technology Quarters to Surulere to visit her. Little did I know that I was seeing her for the last time. May her soul continue to rest in Peace. Amen.
I love dancing: I love dancing because dancing is in my blood. My late mum was crowned the queen of a dance group in her youth in Umunede.
I love listening to music: I love Kenny Rogers’ (May his soul rest in peace) the 1978 Gambler. Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie “She believes in me”. Don Williams, 1982 Islands in the Stream. Kenny Rogers’ died recently, may his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Highlife- Osita Osadebe, Sunny Ade, I.K. Dairo, Ebenezer Obey and a host of other high-life music.
On the 22nd of November, 2016 I told my hussy that I wanted to travel to Lagos to see my darling sister Mrs. Isioma Ileka. My husband didn’t want me to go to Lagos but I begged him to let me travel. He approved of it and early morning of the 32rd of November, I set out for Lagos. All through the journey I was very sad and I kept praying for my sister to survive I was so attached to her because she was my little bride, when we got married on the 27th of December, 1969 and she lived with us. She was our first child. Sadly, by the time I got to Lagos, she had gone to be with her creator. I cried. I still miss her.
Lastly, how has your stay in Umunede been so far, now that you’re back home?
“Home sweet home”. I am happy to be back home after about 70 years sojourn. I feel great. I can fit into any environment. It’s exciting to be home.
It’s been an interesting time with you