Anambra State Commissioner for Education, Professor is a passionate and renowned teacher whose innovative ideas in managing education in Anambra has brought the state accolades from national and international organisations. In this interview with Peace Obi, she said she would gladly return to the academia where she belongs and spoke on the supportive role her husband has played in her career
What was your growing up like?
Well, I lived a very sheltered childhood life because I lost my mother when I was 11, so my father became my only parent for quite a long time. So, I developed a great bond with my father, but before my mother died, honestly, I had learnt a lot from her. She was a teacher and before five years, I was already in primary school because I had to be in mother’s class normally just to stay and play but eventually when they took exam, I came first. My mother couldn’t believe it and that was how I started studying. So, at 10 years, I was already in secondary school and at 15, I was out of secondary school. So, enjoyed a lot of love from my parents because my parents were so much in love and they showed me love a lot.
What was your best subject in your primary school days?
As always, English and it has always been.
Do you still keep in touch with your childhood friends?
Yes, one in particular. My father was a principal, so we were moving from one village to the other. Sometimes, we stay like one, two, three years in a town and move to another town. From Neni to Adazi Nnukwu and from there to Adazi Ani and you know, just like that. So, we were always on the move.
Who among your parents inspired you?
Both of them. My mother loved me because she was very charitable, that aspect of her was very fantastic and she was also a great disciplinarian. My father loved novels, so when I was growing up, in primary I had read all the classics like Mount Zuma’s Daughter, Allen Porterman, King Solomon. At primary school my father will make you read them. My mother will teach me poetry and make me sing and dance. Oh, my God, when I think of them, I will say, I don’t think I have been such a wonderful parent because I didn’t take my children through all those things but they are all doing well but my mother was fantastic and my father was fabulous.
What are your hobbies and how do you relax?
I used to read novels a lot, but I haven’t been having time to do that now. So, if I want to relax, I just take comfortable position in my room and watch movies. Already, with the kind of job I do, I go out a lot. Oftentimes, I am on the field, I don’t have time to go out.
What do you do to keep fit?
I got to the gym most evenings or I dance. I have a small gym in my house.
As a top government official, how has it been managing your home and office?
Well, I have a very supportive husband that has made life a lot easier for me. In it all, time management is crucial but the ones I am not able to do, my husband helps out.
What is your best delicacy?
Ukwa (Breadfruit)! I am very real. When it comes to food, I prefer our local delicacies. For the Ukwa, I prefer it prepared naturally without adding fish and all the sort. My love for Ukwa may be because I have been a village person all my life. It has been my favourite food right from my childhood.
What is the secret of your beautiful and elegant look?
Secret? Nothing special, I try not to stress myself unnecessarily.
How can busy women like you keep a successful marriage/relationship?
Honestly, what I do with my husband is very interesting and unique. He knows when I have the time, not just having the time but I bring out time no matter how busy I am to make him special delicacies. It is not often, but when I do that, he is just so happy about it. Once in a while I give him a taste of my cooking and when I do that you could feel his joy and appreciation.
So, I tell every busy woman that no matter how busy you are, you must create time for your family and spouse especially. And of course, occasionally when I am at work I could send him a text of how much I found him loving and supportive and that kind of a thing. I mean what every woman needs to do is to keep making her husband know that he is in control even if she is up there in her career or profession. It is very important! And of course, I make him to go with me to some occasions. And frankly speaking, each time I go out with my husband, I feel so happy. I mean, he is so protective, caring and loving.
Let me say this again, as a wife let your husband know that you value him, no matter what height or position you have attained in your career or even in the society, he will always be there to support you. You will have nothing to fear as you climb the ladder of success and fame. But as soon as you begin to show him that you are this or that, you are sure to have problems with him.
So, you mean you are still in love with your husband several decades after you said I do?
Oh, Mike will be my husband in the next world, if there is such! I keep saying that and it is true because he is a great man. He was the one who looked after my six children here in Nigeria for me to go to Britain to do my Ph.D. And it is not easy for a man to look after small children. My last baby was less than two years then when I travelled abroad to further my studies. He did all that so that I can go and improve myself. My husband is a great man.
What do you think could be responsible for the high rate of divorce and failed marriages/relationships?
Young people are yet to learn some basic principles that make marriage to work. Failure in marriages that sometimes leads to divorce is a problem of lack of understanding and unwillingness on the parties involved to make the necessary sacrifices for the union to grow and blossom into a successful marriage. A successful marriage is an institution where the two people involved are deeply committed to making it enjoyable. The man and the woman have a role to play. And for any marriage to succeed, couple must understand their roles and diligently play it. They also need to ensure that they have this healthy lubricant, mutual love respect. Every relationship needs it for it to be enjoyable and successful. Women should also learn to accord their husbands the due respect irrespective of who they are in the society. They should be given their proper place.
What are some of your favourite books and authors?
All the classics. I read novels a lot. Achebe of course is my favourite, I have read Things Fall Apart more than a million times. And any book I can lay my hands on.
At the end of your tenure as the Commissioner for Education in Anambra State, what is your next career plan?
I will go back to the university where I belong. Well, I am on leave of absence, I am on loan to Anambra State Government. So, I will go back immediately.