There are times that as a people, we share in the glory of feats by Nigerians at home and in diaspora that are globally celebrated – because of the sheer captivating quality of such exploits; the motivation we receive to break barriers that impact the lives of others positively and the invaluable inspiration we gain from them to live better versions of ourselves every day.
Some of such widely venerated accomplishments are, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh’s remarkable diagnostic work on the Ebola virus; Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye who along with his surgeon partner Dr. Darell Cass, removed a 23 weeks old baby from her mother’s womb, performed a fetal surgery on her and then put her back until birth; and most recently, Tanitoluwa (Tani) Adewumi, an homeless (up until a week ago) third grader at P.S. 116 in New York, who won the New York State Scholastic Primary Championship in his age bracket.
Nevertheless, there are also seemingly simple human stories that when one takes a closer look at them, are quite extraordinary accounts. These stories reinforce one’s belief in the indomitable spirit of man; the tenacious quality that Nigerians often exhibit in the face of overwhelming setbacks and of course the fact that these stories visibly chip at the discouraging international narrative as well as perception that most Nigerians cannot be attributed to much good.
The sojourn of Reverend James Onwuegbuzie Ashibuogwu from illiteracy to attaining formal education at an age that many would have given up is a Nigerian story that is also worthy of being told.
Born on June 7, 1955 in Ekuku-Agbor, Ika-South L. G.A, Rev. James Ashibuogwu who currently serves as a National Presbyter under Church of God Mission International (CGMI) Asaba DLA Branch, gained his Primary School Leaving Certificate in 1972. However, due to his father’s sudden demise in that same year and for lack of sponsor after several attempts to seek the same, his quest for further education, met with an abrupt end.
But Rev. James remained undeterred and in 1979 sort as an inexpensive alternative, the opportunity to study Theology at All Nations for Christ Bible Institute, Benin City. This decision after having discontinued his education seven years prior did pose a great challenge for him. According to him, he was unable to grasp anything he was being taught in his first three months at Bible School, as his teachers were foreigners and their manner of speaking the English Language was an impediment to his learning.
Thus finding it difficult to study but setting his pride aside, he resorted to seeking the help of school children in the community to explain his notes to him in an accent he was able to comprehend and by the forth month had improved his learning capabilities significantly enough to complete his course in six months.
Post Bible School and following his marriage to his wife Deaconess Josephine Ashibuogwu, he settled into family life as well as the duties of a clergyman.
However Rev. James always felt the hollow of not completing formal education among his peers and not fulfilling his dream of becoming a lawyer, and in 2002 at age 47 despite several discouragement from close quarters and without care of possible shaming, chose to enroll in a Secondary School to study and sit for Secondary School Leaving Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the National Examinations Council (NECO) general education certificate exams.
He made certain to enlist the help of secondary school students at his church to tutor him in chosen subjects especially Mathematics. He studied very hard and during his exams appeared in the mandatory school uniform (blue and white) to write all his papers. He stated that writing each paper was tough as he was very slow in writing unlike the younger students. This became a cause for concern among other students his examiners but never discouraged, completed all his papers successfully.
And today, Rev. James Onwuegbuzie Ashibuogwu, a father of seven children who are all graduates and a grandfather to ten, do not only hold a Diploma in Leadership and Management from Benson Idahosa University, Edo State (2008); certificates from Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC) (2016) and the International Leadership Resource Institute (2018);
He is well on his way to becoming a lawyer by bagging a certificate in Law from the National Open University in March 2019 at age 63.
Rev. James is not only a shining beacon of hope to many who have suffered setbacks in pursuing formal education and fulfilling their career goals; but a clear example that age is not deterrent to living one’s dreams and clinging to those dreams tenaciously will make every life challenge surmountable.