‘Know Your Dream And Determine To Follow It’
I am Prof. (Mrs.) Justina Mgbada, the Provost, Federal College of Agriculture, Ishiagu. I am from Isuochi town in Abia State and married to a man from Ezza in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State; that makes me an Ebonyi person. I had my first degree in 1986 and after my NYSC, I had my PGDE postgraduate diploma in education, Masters, PhD and I became a professor in 2006. I married very early after my secondary school education. I had my first child in my second year in the university and before I got my Masters, I had finished giving birth to my children. I have two boys and two girls, and they are all adults.
How was growing up?
I come from a humble family, not too elite. My mother worked before she went into business, my father also worked before he took to business. I am the first child of a family of 10. I was highly loved by my parents and I used to be very intelligent. Each time I came first in my class, my father would kill a chicken for me.
My parents love education so they encouraged me from the scratch. My father always told me to make sure the training I was receiving did not become a waste. He would say, ‘Don’t go and marry early and leave your education.’ That was why when my husband was coming, I told him that the only condition I was giving him was I would continue my schooling, and he said okay. He did not stop me until I got my PhD.
I did my primary education at Isuochi, I went to Girls’ Secondary School, Okigwe, and University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) for my first degree.
How would you compare the way you were brought up and the way parents now raise their children?
I can say there are a lot of similarities because I still have the spirit of my mother, and anything I do, I still remember what my mother used to do for us. I try to live a role model life my children. I still cook and serve my children even as a professor. If I go home now, you will see me entering into the kitchen to cook. My mother was cooking for us until she died. So that is what I try to impact on my children. Generally, you can see that the way children were trained those days is not the way they are being trained now, but I can tell you that it all depends on families.
I remember one day someone from my village came to my house and after observing the place for some time, she called me and said they keep wondering the type of person I am. ‘Why are your children calm despite your stubbornness of character; none of your children resembles you in character.’ But I used to tell them that I am not stubborn; If I am stubborn as you people think, I will not have got to where I am today. None of my classmate is in the position that I am today; it’s not a boast, but I know I have been progressing. I have never stopped even for one year. People come to me to ask, ‘What is your secret?’ I tell them determination, focus, know where you are going, know what you want, know your dream and determine to follow it.
Did you attend parties in those days?
Actually, I am not a party person. I married early immediately after my secondary school. I was supposed to go to party when I was still an undergraduate but I didn’t have that opportunity, but as a secondary school student, I still remember one particular day my friends took me away and I attended a party in one place. I can’t forget that experience. I was a focused person as a student in secondary school. I was in boarding school; my school was a convent school, my principal was a Reverend Sister, so we had tight security around us.
I was also a prefect from Class Three and a basketball player. So, most of the holidays I was out for camping. I played basketball because of my height. I played for the nation, I played for the state. I have seven gold medals but immediately I got married, my husband stopped me from playing. When I got to Nsukka, they saw me and were jubilating that they have gotten someone for NUGA games but my husband refused to let me play.
That you got married early, was it part of your programme?
It was not my programme because I didn’t want to get married early. If I wanted to get married, I would even have got married in my Class Three in secondary school. That was when I started having the pressure from people. They saw me as an intelligent person, so people just started coming for me. In my Class Five when my husband saw me, he told my uncle that he had found someone he would like to marry. When I finished my secondary school, he started coming for my hand in marriage.
I refused because I was preparing for my JAMB examination, but the pressure was too much on me and you know he was a politician; he was a member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He was the Assistant Secretary (South East). I just remember that he was highly connected; almost all the bigwigs in NPN were coming to plead with me to accept my husband. I had taken my JAMB examination and came out successful. Then during my second year, I did my traditional marriage. When I finished my second year exam, I gave birth to my first son.
How did you meet your husband and what attracted you to him?
My husband saw me when I came to visit my uncle at Corpus Christi College, Achi in Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State. My husband is a handsome, intelligent man, outspoken and humorous person.
Is there any difference in your person before and now you are a Provost of College of Education?
I am still the same person; I am still what I am. I still maintain my friends. I was the head of the department for 12 years; from the Head of the Department I was elected Dean. I finished my first tenure and was elected again for another tenure which is supposed to finish in September before I got this job. I have been in a leadership positions for a long time but there are some friends I met when things were still difficult I still maintain them.
What changes have you brought in the institution as provost?
Yes, I made some changes. When I assumed office, I restored peace, initiated improved welfare packages for both students and staff of the institution and implementation of effective communication principle and vision to make the college an epitome of excellence.
When I came, it was not just conflict between the community and the college; there was conflict among the management and staff of the institution. It was a terrible situation and the case of the college was known nationwide. I called for meetings with the management and pleaded with them to forget the past and let’s face the future.
I also called for a meeting between the management and the unions, where I spoke to them in a motherly and gentle manner and through effective interaction, I started handling all the issues affecting the college. I took the issues one after the other and set up Ad hoc committees. Issues bordering on pension and insurance were all handled as I told them that I will base my administration on professionalism and effective communication. I also visited prominent Ezes and chiefs of the communities around the college to inform them of our vision for the institution which was acceptable to all.
What other things do you wish to achieve?
I have a vision to make the institution a centre of excellence in terms of academic achievement, research, extension and dissemination of information so that their graduates will compete favourably in the open market. Since I took over the college as Provost this January, the college has been going through intensive transformation. Soon a new look college will be unfolding and apart from these, I have revived the livestock generally. The birds have been increased from 1,400 to 4,000; improved our piggery production, restored our bakery and made it functional, renovated some classroom blocks and bought new seats for our students.
Do you make up?
I do make up. I take care of myself very well; I do my pedicure and manicure.
What of your hairstyle, do you put on wig?
Yes, I do my hair but I don’t put on wig. I have three of them but I have never worn any of them.
Do you have a particular body spray and perfume you apply?
You know I am not a wealthy person; I don’t go shopping in Dubai, neither do I go to Italy. I have only been to fashion villa in Santiago, California, USA. I went there for an international Conference. I don’t have a particular one I use.
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