My Life Is An Open Book – Gov Ikpeazu

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Chukwuemeka Egejuru, Umuahia

It is quite doubtful if Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu of Abia has ever revealed his person, persona and personal life to anyone as he does in this interview. Perhaps, many do not even remember that governors are human beings. We only think they are gods or Father Christmases who answer our prayers and bring our fruits of fortunes to us. But Governors are human beings, and are propelled by some personal reasons to do certain things.
Gov. Ikpeazu, in this exclusive interview with Kennedy Onyenma and Chukwuemeka Egejuru they probed the mind of the governor where he revealed some of those forgotten pasts in him that drives his governance, including his parents, family, community, education, Christianity and even his understanding of the Hausa culture. ‘My life is an open book’; he told us.
Excerpts:

How do you relax?

(Giggles) I read a lot. I also set aside my Saturdays for church, rest and things that concern me. I try to dedicate the first three hours every morning to do some physical exercise. I am a lover of nature and animals. I love being close to nature. If I want to see, I stroll around sometimes. It’s quite a hectic schedule. Today is Sunday, and you can see that I have seen close to 29 people today and still counting. I still have other engagements. It’s not been easy but we get by.
I observed you were playing football, even with your aides. How does that make you feel?

Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu during an interactive session with National Ambassador Newspapers recently in Aba, Abia State.

Well, I think my philosophy generally is that the person, Okezie Ikpeazu, has to impact the office of the Governor without necessarily allowing the office of the Governor to impact the person of Okezie Ikpeazu. I try to, more often than not, most times in the day, live like Okezie Ikpeazu. Okezie Ikpeazu is somebody who loves to be around people. I have great respect for everybody in my team, irrespective of your position. I think the driver is as important as the special adviser. Police officers and my guards are also as important as my commissioners. It’s just that we all play different roles in the organic nature of the Office of the Governor. We play in a very relaxed mood, and in playing with them, I try to excel. We are colleagues, friends but I am also the boss.
I tell you, it’s all about my personality and my philosophy of life. As a teacher, I remember in those days when I became Head of Department. I had to pull down the door separating my office and office of my secretary. I made it a policy not to see people individually unless on special request.
I live my life like an open book. Consistently from 2015 till now, I have carried on without written scripts. And it amazes people how I remember my promises in 2015, and how I remember my comments, my statements, my speeches, and the things I say and proclaim in the public. It’s not easy. It’s easy for me because I have my heart in my head. I speak truthfully. I speak frankly.
I am an open book. What I tell you, I tell you from my heart. I speak the way I perceive it, and I collate facts as I know them and as they come to me. What it means also is that I don’t need to go through any script to remember. Because at all times, give me the same scenario, I will behave the same way because God has blessed me with a mindset that comes with sufficient humility to accept my faults and my flaws. If I had made a mistake, I’m humble enough to accept it, even before my subordinates. I don’t have problem. I don’t have an ego issue at all. Wherever you find me, I don’t have any problems with people looking through to see me, even from outside. I like to connect with people. It’s my life. If every leader will come to a place where it can be open enough to the people he is leading, to the extent that the walls are openly broken down, both physical and spiritual, then they can connect. I live my life and act in a way that is best for my people in all circumstances. I live my life like an open book

How much did your parents inspire your growing up?

I spent a longer time with my mother. My father died at 62. And that is my greatest regrets that he didn’t live long enough. But between those years that he lived, he impacted greatly. He taught me the virtue of being honest, being fair, being courageous, and being humble enough to accept your mistakes; without any airs, or stereotypes. He taught me the importance of respect for one another, human empathy, especially for those who I may regard as the downtrodden, the voiceless,. Those who leaders today are truly supposed to represent. We are supposed to stand in the gap for those who cannot speak for themselves. My father was a stickler for perfection. He liked to do things- at first, get it right. My mother was able to connect this attribute to my spiritual life.
My mom taught me that there’s reward and punishment for every good or bad work, especially if you relate it to pride. One can make honest mistakes. My mom also taught me the fact that if you bend down and pick up somebody who is weak; God at your own time of weakness will also bend down and pick you up.
My mom also taught me the act of communicating with people freely. It’s my mother who also taught me to be courageous. As a leader, it is important for you to show courage no matter what the situation is. My parents were amazing people. They had great influence on me. I thank God that through their help I become who I am today and their pictures constantly reminds me of what they would always have me do under every circumstance. Each time I am confronted with a dilemma, what comes to my mind is, ‘what will Dad and Mom have me do now?’ The answers will come naturally. ‘Do what is right, fair and just. Try as much as you can to do that. Then you can sleep with your two eyes closed’. So, everyday, I close my book. When I go to bed, I ask questions- like we used to say in primary school, “If I have wounded any soul today?” I get my closure every day. When I wake up, I go through what my day is supposed to look like- going forward. I try to arrange them as good as possible, and then correct mistakes of yesterday and march on such that I am convinced that I won’t be able to do everything as Governor but I must be very convinced that when 2023 comes by, I must look back and be able to say that I have done an honest job within the time under the circumstance.
I am convinced that I won’t be able to do everything as Governor but I must be very convinced that when 2023 comes by, I must look back and be able to say that I have done an honest job within the time under the circumstance.

 

Gov Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (Ph.D)

You’re blessed with an incredible sense of native intelligence;

Yes, I think that started from my relationship with my grandmother-from my mother’s side. Then, my parents were great communicators, sincerely speaking….I recall in 2015, somewhere in Isialangwa South. One of my friends then Chief of Staff, Chijioke Nwakodo of blessed memory. I was going to mount the podium for the first time. He came to me and said, ‘Doctor, please, try and speak vernacular. ‘He was my friend but didn’t know I could use vernacular to interact with the audience. When I mounted the podium, God gave me the utterance and he was shocked…. I got some bit of it from my genetic endowment. But overtime, I tried to… I see myself as a people’s person and I connect with all kinds of people. You just observed that this morning. I played soccer with my people.
I am just an ordinary person and will remain an ordinary person even after now. I know and understand the language of the ordinary person, and there is no air of sophistication around me. I can rise to any occasion and address any gathering….. I enjoy it. I like it. I am happy they understand me.

At 16, you were off to Maiduguri. What gave you the courage

To start with, Maiduguri then is not the same Maiduguri now. Maiduguri then was like Garden of Eden. I must give my Dad the credit. He took me to the State. We were in a bus for two days. When we arrived, he literally spent one week with me in the hostel. Because we arrived early before other students resumed. We were alone in the hostel and he saw me through the registration period and all of that. After one week, he left.
I saw it as an adventure. Naturally, I am an inquisitive person. I will like to say also street-wise. I see it as a great opportunity- the exposure I got. It helped me to see Nigeria. The experience I gained schooling in Maiduguri, my sojourn in Maiduguri for seven years, is also helping me… my assignment as Governor, my understanding and experience about Nigeria.
I will tell you one basic advantage I got schooling in Maiduguri. In Abia, we have one of the lowest incidents of Fulani herders / farmers’ clash. The reason is that I understand that these two cultures, Igbo and Hausa cultures are basically different in many respects. But when it comes to offence and forgiveness…. If you offend an Igbo man and say, ‘Sorry’, our tradition is that you have to wait until the person you offended will say, ‘Okay, I have forgiven you’. It’s not just enough to say ‘sorry’ and you walk away. When you say, ‘sorry’, you have to wait until the man responds. Because he could look at you and say, ‘Pay me for my damaged farmland’ or whatever.
But in Maiduguri, if you ram your Keke into someone’s Mercedes Benz, and the man comes out and says, ‘It’s God that has brought this, Sir. In the name of God, please I am sorry`. The man with the Keke that rammed the Mercedes moves away. More often than not, the owner of the Mercedes Benz moves away too. Once they put it in the hands of God, it’s over.
You don’t herd your cows into my farmland in Igboland and you say it’s God’s will. No, you have to wait. To mitigate this, I set up Herders-Farmers Conflict Resolution Committee at the local government level. And I say to them, ‘Let me say the sorry and let me pay the compensation’. So, the Hausa man will herd his cows into a farmland and just moves away. The Igbo man is angry, not just because you damaged his farm but because of the way you moved away. Then, I will say, ‘Don’t worry. I will pay N100, 000 for the damaged cassava. If the committee at that level fails to arrest the issue, it comes to the State where the Commissioner of Police, CP, is the Chairman. But ultimately, it gets to my desk and I pay the compensation. So, we have managed this situation well. This is what the part of knowing Nigeria does to your psyche, and your perception of one another.
A multi-diverse state with over 250 languages needs someone that has an understanding about the culture, temperament, religion and views of others. So, from 16, I developed sufficient tolerance for all shades of opinion, nuances and idiosyncrasies of individuals across Nigeria.
A multi-diverse state with over 250 languages needs someone that has an understanding about the culture, temperament, religion and views of others. So, from 16, I developed sufficient tolerance for all shades of opinion, nuances and idiosyncrasies of individuals across Nigeria.

You have sustained a very peaceful disposition, even against the wishes of your close friends. What’s the philosophy?

It’s very simple. The energy you need to fight is also the energy you need to work. If you come to a position, the first question you ask yourself is, ‘Where am I? What is the air around the socio-political, economic environment I found myself’? No two eras will be the same. The man that will take over in 2023 will stumble onto things that are different from what I met.
In 2015, when I came, we were battling low oil prices, low oil production capacity, and then insecurity. I also had 13 court cases to deal with. How do I concentrate? The first priority for me… the logical thing for anybody to do… would be to try and engender stable socio-political environment so that now that you have so little to chase so much, the little can affect much because you are capable of some robust social mobilization of the people in a certain direction. But if you have a knack for fifth columnists, they will widen the crack to the point that you begin to fight fire from within your house. You’ll dissipate a lot of energy. You’ll spend a lot of money and you’ll lose focus. This is also part of the problem we have in Nigeria.
The greatest problem that this insecurity scenario is causing for us in this country is not only on the score of losing human life, which is sacred, which should not happen, but the one that will be trans-generational; because if a man dies, you bury that man. That may be the end of the story. But the one that is trans-generational is the social dislocation. It is social dislocation in the sense that to mobilize people becomes a problem. Social mobilization is key, even when the times are beautiful, much less of when you are fighting low income, revenue, dilapidated infrastructure, etc. You need to mobilize everybody to a certain direction so that they will see.
In 2015, when we came, we needed to buy into people’s perception- because social mobilization for the people and their trust in government business was at its lowest. I had to bring Grade a contractor. I had to make a case that I am serious. I am going to do quality job. I needed them. They were going to cost me more. Some were going to cost N300m per kilometres of road, while others would charge N100m. The money is not the important thing for now. The most important thing is can the people open their hearts for me and give me the benefit of the doubt that I will do a good job? And so, when people started listening and watching, and say, ‘Look at what’s happening. Then, I engaged with rigid pavement technology because they need to see roads and infrastructure that can last for more than 30 years.
Without prejudice to facts, the only way we can build solid infrastructure base is when we build roads that can outlive two tenures. If I end up with 300, 400, 500 roads, I am sure the next person coming will not go back to those roads. I am sure the next person will build his own set of 1000, 2000, etc. At the end of the day, Abia will be better in 16 years. If the person does roads that will outlive his own tenure, at some point, we will have so many roads that people will be asking, ‘where are we going to build roads again?’
But if I do roads that will not survive four years, and I go back to repair them and nobody will inherit them, then, we will be running round in circles. What I am trying to say here is, ‘We need peace. You need to create an ambience that can enable you to funnel all your resources- mental, economic, goodwill etc, towards rapid socioeconomic development of the ecosystem. Once you have an unstable polity, that won’t happen again.
The greatest quality of any leader who is playing within the realm of what I can call ideal or classical democratic norm is that you must develop the courage to respect the other arms of government. Why should I quarrel with the legislature? Are they my enemies? They are supposed to be enablers. I let them do their work. Why should I quarrel with the judiciary?
The greatest quality of any leader who is playing within the realm of what I can call ideal or classical democratic norm is that you must develop the courage to respect the other arms of government.
Why I Won’t Quarrel with My Predecessor
Again, why should I quarrel with my predecessor? He did not do everything but I came in, in the first place, because there are things to be done. So, the fact that he didn’t do everything created a job for me. So, the man that is coming after me is coming because I wouldn’t do everything. So, why should I dwell in the past? If my duty is to complain about the past, then why did I take up the job? I took up the job because there are more to do and I think I can add value. So, there is no need. This had to be the mindset. But human beings are created in a way that we love fisticuffs. That is why even in our native culture, when you see two birds fighting, you put a knife in the ground and you want them to fight to their deaths. That is why there is so much money in boxing and WWF. We like to see people hurt themselves. That is why you see people playing with swords, and we call it game. The physical sports- boxing, wrestling, etc, all of that are things that we spend too much time and money. For me, I dare to be different. So, if people are looking for who will draw the first blood, I am sorry. I am interested in moving Abia forward.

How are you able to separate Nigerian politics from reality?

Yes, because a man, whosoever the man is, a summation of his genetics and his environment. Genetics is what he inherited. He has no choice about it. But his environment, including his home school, his education and his interactions…. The education outside the four walls of a classroom is more profound and should be more impact-filled than the education in the four walls of a classroom.

As a matter of fact, the education within the four walls is like the slate you acquired. The chalk is what you learn outside school because that is what you have to learn to write on the board. If you don’t have the board, sorry, you’ll be writing things that are ineligible and things that are incorrect.
My definition of the challenge of leadership is … connecting the dots-
‘What is my road doing to the hospital? What is my hospital doing to my SME? What are the SME, the hospital and the roads doing towards creating a better life for my people?’ The projects you have spoken about now, all came from my desire, ruthless commitment to create a better life for my people.
The strategy is about how I go about it. But a lot of people don’t know the jobs that are cut out for them. At times, you see people in my position doing roads leading to nowhere, building roads leading to their villages. I recall someone who wanted to criticize me so much, saying, ‘Ikpeazu cannot even do the road leading to his village’, and my response to him was, ‘I like to do the road leading to Ariaria, Ngwa Road market, etc. Which market is in my village? How does the road to my village impact on the socioeconomic well-being of 99% of Ndi Abia?’ Strategically speaking, if I had started with the road leading to my village, I would have ended up doing roads leading only to the homes of political bigwigs.


But because I didn’t start with my own, no political bigwigs have had the right to start demanding that I build the roads leading to their own homes. What I want to say is that my job is to create a better life for our people using the things they can do better than others. What is that, SME, Trade and Commerce? Small and Medium scale manufacturing will do it. We do the best shoes, dresses, etc.
Using these as pillars, how do I enhance it? You must enhance traffic into Aba and Umuahia, because 60 % of our clients come from Akwa Ibom, and Cross River. So, you must open that channel. I had to do Ekwerazu etc. Now, they have come into the city centre. How do they connect? I had to do Ukaegbu, Umuola, and Ehere. Now, they are heading to Aba. They are not coming because they want to see Aba. They want to see Ariaria, Eziukwu market, Ngwa Road Market.


I had to go to Port Harcourt Road, Faulks road, etc. People from Port Harcourt, Owerri must come. If they must come, you have to open up the roads, end to end, so that you can deal with the flood problem….. Oh, somebody has bought something in the market. How is he going to exit? There will be traffic jam, and nobody wants traffic jam. So, you must do MCC, Umule, etc… open other channels to ventilate that market.

How would you like to be remembered

Oh, some people are complaining about the problematic traffic jam around Osisioma Junction. No, no, no, there must be a touch of flyover. So, this is what drives me. I am ruthlessly committed to it. It’s all about the legacy, not the glory. What will happen after? Earlier, this Abia became the number three in terms of foreign direct investment, (FDI). That was the first time such a thing is happening. It means something is happening. Investors will not invest because they love me. They’ll only invest if the roads are good. And we build cement roads. People said he’s playing to the gallery. I said, ‘No, I am speaking to investors to come and see. My roads have 30 years life span, minimum. Make a choice- do you go to the one of five years or 30years? Choose for yourself. And they responded by saying, ‘We love that. For the roads to be stable means huge returns on our money’.
Without sounding immodest, I am a deep thinker. I love to solve problems. That’s what Biochemistry tells me. I like to look at the molecular basis of the solution we are proffering. Ephemeral things don’t run deep. I must prioritize things that matter. Everyday, I am confronted with making choices; first, security. Once I am able to speak to and handle things about security… The next is, ‘how does it help the pillars?’ There are so many things I would love to be remembered for.
Ahead of all the things you have mentioned, I would love to be remembered for our intervention in Tele-Health. That intervention in Tele-Health was published in London on the 7th of last month as an ‘ingenious approach by a government in Nigeria to deepen health access to people’. Today, Abia is the only state that has over 500 primary health cares connected to one another online all the time and connected to call centre where 15 doctors are working round the clock.
These are some of the things I would like to be remembered for. Today, we are doing shoes for Nigeria Railway, military, customs, etc. We have people indicating interest to run a made in Aba shop in the UK. We have a modern shoe factory in Nigeria today in Aba, ENASCO. And the building for Aba Garment Factory is almost completed. That will also become the biggest garment factory in this part of the world. We have moved shoe making from artisan stage to an automated stage where we can take orders for 50,000 shoes….
There’s a backup…. The footwear academy from a private sector to officially programme the training of shoe makers to the point where they can be certificated, understand how to use machines and take pride in what they are doing. Of course, you know that I am a student of the footwear academy. We are moving. The same thing will happen in the garment sub-sector. Ikpeazu came when we were using hands to make shoes. But he’s going to bequeath an era where we are now using machines to produce shoes and clothes. The next Olympics, the jerseys of the Nigerian contingent will be made in Aba.
The next Olympics, the jerseys of the Nigerian contingent will be made in Aba

How do you balance your religious persuasion and politics?

I have been propelled thus far by the grace of God. And this grace also opened my eyes to appreciate the mighty works of God. A lot of people are in denial of the work of God’s intervention in their lives. I am not one of those. It has helped to keep me in check. The Bible is the greatest book of leadership and political science.
In the Old Testament, it’s more of kings, leaders and the led; Leaders and their followers. Moses, Aaron, Solomon etc. All these leaders were confronted with similar scenarios as we are confronted today. But people look for answers to leadership problems in areas where they don’t exist, other than the Bible. Most people who write leadership books, some of them have neither been leaders but followers. But in the Bible, you see an interface. Leaning on the Bible gives you a more global picture. You may have read about what the great leader did in Dubai.
But what all those biographies will not tell you is what God did for them. But if you go through the Bible, especially, the Old Testament, you’ll see what David did. Saul led Israelites, and how God intervened in everyday activities. It has now become a mirror for me to know that at the centre of whatever I am doing is commitment and covenant with God. Then, commitment and covenant with the people, especially the voiceless, because I know God cares for voiceless people, the poor and the downtrodden. This has led me to spend a lot of time doing interventions targeted at this kind of people.
Because if I fail to do them, I know that God will see, and I know what his position towards such a king or ruler will be. Coming from a background that I am privy- I live and I survive out of God’s grace and benevolence- has led me to the mindset that I can’t be so busy that I will not have time for God’s work. As a matter of fact, if you do God’s work, God does your work, or if you do God’s work, God will do your work. And that is why 52 weeks in a year, by his grace and answered prayers in a year and supplications to God, I pray, ‘God give me the privilege and opportunity to worship you every Saturday. And God has answered that prayer. I have been so consistent in my Church. My annual church average was between 40, or 45 times out of 52, and the 12 weeks that I missed Church, half of it was out of my own carelessness. I am in a place where people don’t give me things on Saturdays, even my colleagues. But you must be known for something….’Don’t tell Ikpeazu. He will say….’ I like it when people say that on my behalf. To go a step further, I also covenanted to God I would lead people in crusades. I thought I would have had a vacation.
But I have not had one vacation since I became Governor. Except I go for medical checks, others are economic purposes, or looking for scholarships for our people. I wanted to spend my vacation, if I had any, by going to remote places doing evangelistic work, places I wouldn’t be known or go with security, even if it was outside Nigeria.

What are the qualities of a Good Leader

But again, that hasn’t happened. But again, I have compensated by making sure that I speak in church…. My spiritual life is that governance…. I weave my governance around my spiritual life because that is where I draw my strength from. Politics is not entirely bad but the individual can be bad.
I give you an example. There’s enormous power in the office of the Governor. But a good leader must have the presence of mind and the humility to appropriate those powers for the good of the people. The powers are not designed for you to abuse. Some people will come to you and say, ‘Do you know that you have enormous powers. Pull down that house; cancel that C of O, etc., but you must have a still voice in you that will say to you, ‘Can you consider the widow that you will create on account of the man you will kill? Remember David and Uriah. Can you consider those that you will hurt when you take that decision? You want to cancel somebody’s C of O and appropriate their properties to yourself? Will you ask for the head of the prophet as what you need to catch your sleep?’ The power anybody in my position holds should be what you hold in trust and should be used to do well.
There’s enormous power in the office of the Governor. But a good leader must have the presence of mind and the humility to appropriate those powers for the good of the people. The powers are not designed for you to abuse my Children, My Brother and Me.

How have you been able to draw the balance between your family, power, exuberance and interference?

Because I love my family, I don’t want them to die…. Power can destroy somebody…. I want my children to evolve organically. It’s my duty to buffer them from negative effects of power, because this is ephemeral. This is not an end in itself. I am on an assignment, on a duty. Their duty is to pray and support me that is all. They are not the Governor. I am the Governor. Abia people elected me and not my children or my brother. There’s a difference between Okezie Ikpeazu and the Governor of Abia State, their father and the person. They have a relationship with Okezie Ikpeazu, their father. The Governor and government belong to Ndi Abia, same thing with my brother. He has to find a way to be Barr. Iheanyi Ikpeazu. But I will forever remain his elder brother. The greatest things he can get from me are my prayers and advice. But he has to learn to stand on his two legs.
My children will also learn to stand on their two legs, and I thank God that God blessed me with children who understand. They are under tremendous pressure. They have friends and people around them telling them to do this and that. But they have gotten to a point where they will tell those people, ‘I am not the Governor. If you have such brilliant idea, go share it with my father’. That’s it.

What’s your interest in sports, arts and culture?

Everything in life-development, economics, civilization, culture, must take a beating from geography and history. What makes Singapore what it is today is geography. Recall that at some point, Malaysians were asking Singaporeans to go away. Then Singapore discovered that the sea in their area was deep, the deepest…, something that should have been a disadvantage. They now built an ultra-modern seaport that can hold the biggest vessel in the world. No vessel that big can come to Nigeria. So, the biggest vessels in the world berth in Singapore and then trans-load into smaller vessels.
Those vessels you see in Apapa are small vessels and that was the beginning of the progress for Singapore Geography. Dubai, if you look at the map, it looks as if it is at the centre. They built a beautiful airport. What I will call a trade port, not like a motor park, where you can come and transit and go away. Now, if you have $100 million and come to Dubai, you’ll spend it all there in beautiful hotels. From London, Nigeria, etc, it’s all six hours, and you hold meetings in Dubai.
They came up with different ideas- free trade. You export your goods there without spending. But you’ll sleep in hotels and spend the money. That is the concept they adopted. That is the idea behind our Enyimba Economic City. If I want to create a culture of excellence here in my family and everyone else, they must know where they are coming from.
And that takes me to your question on my love for arts and all of that. I want my children and grandchildren to know their grandfather and great grandfather; knowing their grandfather is not by knowing him physically. That’s not possible, but through his writings.
I have letters my father wrote to me which I have preserved, and my children have read them. They are going to be on display in that his Memorial Library. I have this small table and delivery couch upon which my mother delivered over 1000 babies in this community without any casualties. With that, my two daughters that are studying Medicine will know that they have to save lives.
My grandfather was a blacksmith. I never saw him but I have his bellows which my great-grandchildren will also see, and that is why the male folks, all of us, we have a paradigm, which is, ‘strike the iron when it is hot’. What does it mean today? Take your chance when you can. You can’t be given a second chance to make a first impression.
I want my children and grandchildren to know their grandfather and great grandfather. Knowing their grandfather is not by knowing him physically. That’s not possible. But through his writings
We’re no more creating heroes
Culture, history- your background are what will eventually forge your future. We are unfortunately in a Nigeria today where we are no longer creating heroes. I spoke in a journalists’ conference in Port Harcourt and I asked them, ‘Delete Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael okpara, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Mbakwe, who are the heroes we have created in the past 30 years?’
The narrative is that every politician is a thief. But are we all thieves? The answer is no. We have decent people that are working hard. The greatest burden in leadership today is that you’re going to be branded a thief, whether you like it or not. So, we must try to create heroes. These heroes are the heroes our children will look up to. Talk about agriculture. You must remember M. I. ?kpara. We must create these heroes.
That’s why you see the kind of things you see here, the kind of environment I try to create. So, I try to forge my future and tell them this is why you have to do this and all that.
And again, sports are an integral part of my existence and life. I am talented in many things, in terms of sports. I probably would not have excelled in terms of professionalism, anyway. I play table tennis, lawn tennis, soccer, golf. I swim, even though there is no river here. My wife didn’t know I swim. In fact, at some point I swam from Isialangwa to Mbaise across Imo River; at Ihie. So, she saw me plunge into the deepest part of the sea, and she asked Abaribe should go and hold her husband.
So, I try to create the opportunity for my children to work ad then play. The important thing is create an environment where you can work and play.And that is what life is all about.
My Wife, My Pillar, My Prayer Warrior, Real Mother, Original

Tell us, how you met your wife?

The relationship started with our parents. Her parents were industrial nurses, the father and the mother. We were family friends. I didn’t know about her. But I knew about her elder brother, the former deputy Governor, in one of my visits to their house. I saw her and developed interest. I was pretty young. I think I was in the University at that time. The funny thing is that I married her 10 years after I proposed to her.
So, we have been together all my life. She’s a destiny helper, an ideal wife, a model of a mother, a good wife. A good wife is one who gives you ambience to think, radiate and flourish, and execute and has confidence that you can deliver. That’s a good wife.
Because every man has his low tide when you are by yourself-which words did you use, what words did you hear? You need somebody who would come and whisper to you that you are a hero, ‘you’ll deal with this thing. You’ll get it done. Even if it’s not done, I am here for you; just go and excel. I will cook your best soup; just go and do it and come back’. And then you’re propelled because you don’t want to fail. She lifts you through by praying, highly spiritual. I was telling people…. I had meeting with the elders’ council in my village yesterday. And I told them that the reason why we have broken society is that we are not doing a good job at home.

But why are we not doing a good job at home?

We, the men, are too busy working. We are looking for the ends to meet. But this end will not meet because… even that expression, experts in English language say, ‘this is an end, (points to an end) ‘this is an end’, (points to another end, with laughter). But in between, there’s a huge force that will collapse the ends and make it a circle, and that’s the wife.
So, I told our people, ‘Appeal to your wife. Lock the door. There is nobody there. Kneel down for your wife, and tell her, ‘Dear, I want you to do something for me, because if you kneel down for her there, nobody will see that you knelt down. But it will be on her conscience that you have knelt down for her.
People don’t know the power of women. Women are very powerful, far too powerful; a set people that brought the whole world to this stage. They are too powerful to be left on their own. The mistake that Adam made was that he allowed Eve to be on herself. Don’t ignore… the worst mistake is to ignore your woman. What are you going to do to appeal to her? Ask her to, ‘Please groom our children for us. Let these children be better. We have this decision for them to be better. Please, help us, help me’.
She spends more time with them than you. You don’t know what she tells them. If you say that, she becomes careful about which home video they watch, how to shout, her conversations with neighbours, because your children are listening. They are watching, otherwise, you’ll come back and see something different from what you bargained for. So, all you need to do is monitoring and evaluation.
A good wife is one who gives you ambience to think, radiate and flourish, and execute and has confidence that you can deliver. That’s a good wife. That’s my wife for you. She’s my pillar of support, my prayer warrior, my greatest cheerleader. She’s the mother of my children, real mother, and original.

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