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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

I SOLD SALT DURING BIAFRA WAR –BRIDGET OBI

Bridget
AFTER serving as commissioner, her vision is to help people fulfill theirs, es­pecially in agriculture. Her micro-finance firm is committed to the cause of helping people at the grassroots to stabilize and have a means of livelihood through farm­ing. In this interview, Mrs Bridget Obi who just turned 60 a couple of days ago and still looks charming, quickly tells you she’s a ‘village person.’ She opened up more about herself and her take on ag­riculture in Nigeria of today.

Could you tell us more about yourself?

I’m Bridget Obi from Okija in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State. I was a commissioner for wom­en affairs in Anambra State and I’ve served in different capacities. I was a member of Vision 2010, a lot of com­mittees locally and overseas. When I look back, I think I have left a worthy legacy and I’m striving for higher re­sponsibilities.

How do you feel at 60?

It’s quite amazing. When I look back, I’m like whoa, you are already on this planet for these years?. When I look also at the journey so far, I think I should be grateful, after all, my chil­dren have started to settle down and I have grandchildren. It’s a great feat.

What do you do at present?

I’m the Executive Director of Chil­dren of the Farmers Club. It’s an NGO. I also have a micro finance firm. I’m ac­tually into community empowerment, empowering women and youths, es­pecially in agriculture. That’s actually the area I believe needs a lot of focus. Unfortunately, revenue from crude oil is dwindling and now everyone is talk­ing agriculture. Agriculture takes a lot. It’s not just those that say they are farmers that are farmers. A lot of people, maybe after serving in government, have farms, but if you go there, you’ll know they’re political farms. We should actu­ally look at real farmers , those in rural communities that are naturally endowed. They are the ones actually sustaining us daily.

How was your childhood?

I was born at Oguta in Imo State to the late Chief Francis Okwuosa and Lolo Adaeze Okwuosa both of blessed memory. I had a good child­hood. I have six siblings , four broth­ers and two sisters. I come from a family that does business. My par­ents were traders and our daily needs were met. It was during the war that we left Oguta for Okija. We also did a little bit of business during the war. In 1960, I had my flag, I was already in school, I had independent cup and independent flag. These are all milestones. I sold salt which was like diamonds then not even gold. Salt was scarce during Biafra war and I was fortunate that we always ate salt but there were people who ate without salt. Salt deficiency was one of the things that actually brought kwashiorkor on our people. After the war, I went to KRC Onitsha and by 1975, I was already out of secondary school. From there, I got married and my family is blessed with 5 children. I was privileged to live abroad from 1977 to the early 80s and I studied at Sunderland, United Kingdom. That also shaped my attitude to life.

What’s your disposition to life?

The secret actually is in our hearts. It’s about doing what you love, it’s about facing life’s issues, it’s about saying no to things you don’t like and doing something about them. Just don’t tolerate everything and it’s also about loving and doing what you can for others. A lot of people think they should eat all they have, when you do that, you abuse your body. Life is full of ups and downs. When you are up, you are happy, you share it with peo­ple, when you are down, sometimes you can reflect. Have a quiet time, talk to God about it and also look for people that will genuinely tell you the truth. Keep those friends that tell you the truth. The truth can be hard but I think that when you deal with it you can smile again.

You look great, what’s the se­cret?

I’m quite simple. I believe that beau­ty is in our simplicity. I have always used toiletries all my life and I have never bleached. I love to look natu­ral, beauty is natural and it’s easier to maintain. It’s not all the time we have money, so if you use expensive creams when you don’t have the cash, your body starts to rot. Also, watch what you eat. Our diet is important. I like to eat natural things. Fruits and local food. Our local food is very rich and our seasonal fruits are very nu­tritious. I do my workouts. You can have cars but know that your legs are meant to help you. Look at the people in the village, some of them are 100 years old and they are still moving about. The car and all the luxury limit us a lot. Many of us cannot trek, we feel it’s like suffering but it’s not. A few years ago, I went to UK and I was hav­ing arthritis, my back was always ach­ing. During the two months I stayed, I was just having a walk from the house to the centre every morning and I dis­covered that most of the pains I was having in my joints just disappeared. I now know it’s not about driving all the time but walking all the time that keeps you in good health. I love my sleep too. Anything that will bother my heart I just deal with it. You should also be happy and stop frowning. Laughter removes wrinkles and also brings life into other people.

What’s your advice to lead­ers and bud­ding youths?

Try to raise your children in a way that when they are of age to leave home, they leave as sound adults, people that you can close your eyes and sleep without wor­rying about anything. I think God has blessed me in these areas, the children have been able to come out won­derfully and settled down. My children are married and they have children and are really living their lives. When you are at your peak, remember that you cannot remain at the peak, remember that one day you will come down. Af­ter being a commissioner, a lot of peo­ple can just go into their houses and lock themselves up feeling that they have outgrown the society. You are only punishing yourselves. It’s better to know that it was service. Come out again, continue to serve the people with your knowledge, your connec­tion, because people need us. As I’m leaving Lagos, I’m going back to the farm where my people are and they can rely on me. I can access funds for them from the government, I can tell them what government policies are. Continue giving people hope and there is something that they give you in return. Some people will call you to seek your advice but a lot of people don’t have people to call them. They are rich, they just eat and sleep and spend their money. These people are actually expired. Let us know that as we are moving, we will come back and when we come back, we have something that is sustainable to the people. People also need us, not just our children, other people do.

I served as a commissioner between 2002 and 2003 but today also, I’m still relevant in the politics of my state, lo­cal government and nationally.

How do you relax?

I’m a village person. In the village I do workouts. I cook, I also do my church activities. I travel a lot to the US to see my children when I want to. I also mentor a lot of people, because I believe others can learn a lot from me. For all that went to school, for all that can use internet, for all that can listen to CNN, be on Facebook, you need to pass it out to people who don’t have ac­cess to these facilities. There are lots you can do to im­prove our society.