Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa is a the former Director, Maritime Service Department of the Ministry of Transport and former Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). During the maiden edition of the Women In Leadership and Career Empowerment Programme (WILCEP) Africa Mentorship Lecture organized by Kings Communications Limited, Mrs. Ezenwa delivered a hearty lecture about the importance of making the right choices, how it helps one to attain the altitude in his or her career and she also reveals the ordeals she has gone through to be successful.
Life is about the choices you make. Every choice you make has something to do with your life either positive or negative. If you make the wrong choice, it can bring you to Doomsday but when you make the right choices, you are on the path to success. I am 66 years old, but my career and life journey started when I was 15 years old. I became old, young.
I had a father who was very prominent but he took ill during the Nigerian Civil war. My mother was a complete housewife and I had seven (7) other younger siblings.
I asked myself if I was going to watch my father die? I wondered if I would go into prostitution because many of the young ladies at that time were chasing after the soldiers. Many got married because they couldn’t take the heat, but I heard a voice cautioning me not to make the wrong choice because all the luxury that the soldiers had to offer would come to an end when the war was over.
I took to trading, I made the right choice. Most of us had been recruited into the Biafra movement as freedom fighters but after a while I had to bolt out of that body because I understood that life is about choices. I decided to trade and I had to be disciplined. This discipline is what is required to be a successful career person.
You were created for a purpose you must be disciplined enough to find and appreciate that purpose. Don’t live an empty life, find your purpose and decide to be a success. That was how I was able to sustain a family of ten, while I was only 15 years. I don’t believe in following people blindly. I followed that my path because I knew what kind of result I wanted in life. I always wanted to have a successful career. I begin by making the right choices several years ago. I was able to sustain my family of 10 until that war was over.
When the war ended, I had an uncle who was leaving in Lagos and I joined him as he returned to Lagos. I made up my mind that I was not going to remain in the East because most of the schools were not open and there was no plan to open any of the schools because we were defeated people from the war. I was interested in going to complete my education. His wife was an understanding woman as I had expected. Every morning I went to Maloney Street, to try to get back to school.
It was a tough choice to leave my parenss. After the war, any money you had was collected and we were given only £20. I dropped my £20 with my parents before I travelled to Lagos with my uncle.
These are some of my life stories which my daughter has started documenting to produce my biography after I die. I have instructed her not to publish it until I’m dead.
When I got the Federal Ministry of Education in Lagos, the Ministry was only after those students who attended Federal Government colleges, Kings College or Queens College; they weren’t interested in someone like me who was a victim of the civil war without any certificates to offer.
I remember that while I was on the queue as a very young girl, the lady before me tried to intimidate me when she asked if I had attended either Federal Government College or Queens College. I told her not to intimidate me because I was coming from the East and I had lost all my documents during the war. I later found out that she was also from the South East because people who attended all those schools were asked to come back so that they could do a test and be posted to other Federal Government Schools pin scholarships. When it got to my turn, I told them that I was coming from the East and I had lost all my documents but when questioned if I attended any if the Federal Government schools I said yes. I told them that I attended Queens College Lagos. This was not true but I needed to survive. I needed to give myself an opportunity to go to school.
At the end of the day, those of us without certificates had to sit for examinations, but what manner of examinations would I be able to write after three years absence from school. I remember crying out to God to help me out because I had lied but I made up my mind that I wasn’t going back the East to end up being impregnated or getting married. Life is all about choices and I had made mine.
They took us to Queens College Lagos for a test. My name wasn’t in any of the Queens College records but I was allowed to sit for the exams and passed. That was how they sent us to the Federal Government College, in Warri on scholarships. I got home and told my uncle about my journey to Warri that was also sponsored by the government but he was still puzzled on why a small girl like me at the time was so confident and enthusiastic about going to Warri. His wife gave me one shilling and I jumped into the bus to Warri. I got free uniforms, books, accommodation and tuition. To the glory of God, the likes of Emmanuel Uduaghan, Former Delta State Governor and the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode were my juniors. That school made me who I am today. If I have problems and I go to the alumina to call on them, they answer promptly. I left a legacy in Warri because I was a member of all the important committees in school.
From Warri, I went to Canada to study. It was there I met a young man who just got his PhD degree and I said to him, “you better marry me now because I needed to be married to survive the toughness of the new country”
The young man had not heard this kind of thing before, but we clicked and we married. I told him that he would not stop me from going to school because I found my way there so that I could continue my studies. I wanted to study where I wouldn’t have to pay school fees. I opted for schools and disciplines where I could get full scholarships or partial scholarships.
Later, I decided to come home to Nigeria but he wasn’t ready to come back. However, he allowed me to bring our children to Nigeria. I knew that Nigeria had offered me so much and I wanted to give back to the country all that it had invested in me.
I started my career in the State House where I worked with Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Ibrahim Babangida and even Mohammadu Buhari, while they were Heads of State. From there I was posted to another field but I still didn’t allow any of my job demands affect my marriage because it was something I contracted and I had a lot of respect for my husband. Remember, I asked him to marry me because I needed a shelter. Marriage is a beautiful union that could also be rough and demanding but God put it there to checkmate the man and woman.
I later ended up in the Ministry of Transport where I rose to become a Director in the Maritime Services department. I grabbed every opportunity I had to get trained and increase my knowledge. I congratulate everybody here today because you are in the right place that could usher you in the path of success.
I pity young people who have no vision or plan for their future especially young women, who only care about Brazilian hair, extended nails, artificial eye brows, etc. You must purge yourself from these things if you want to have a successful career and rise to the top.
I had two people that were physically challenged in my family and all the while I was running around to further my study and enhance my career I was thinking about them. I had a brother who was deaf and dumb and a sister who had autism and I was responsible for their wellbeing. I had to set up a business for my brother; I was paid N500 a month at that time and that money wasn’t enough to buy the hamburger and French pies that my children were used to abroad. So, I was working in the National Assembly, State House , the Nigerian Government was taking me to set up libraries all over the nation but I still wanted to have my own business to fall back on when I get old. That was why I discovered ‘Lee Luk’. I set up the business called ‘Lee Luk’ in 1985, the meaning was for my brother; “you cannot talk, you cannot hear, but you can see”. So, when you can see, you can do things whether you are challenged or not. Don’t have self pity for yourself because that is the worst thing that you can do for yourself. A lot of suicide cases today are as a result of self pity. Nobody promised you that the world would be a bed of roses. Nobody owes you anything; you owe yourself everything. Don’t believe that you are entitled to anything. The power supply you complain about is not your creation; you are not Thomas Edison who discovered electricity. Why are you complaining when there are people living in worse conditions and they aren’t complaining, besides what solutions or suggestions have you put forward to help your country?
I love China because it is a country where everybody works. You find mother, father, grandfather and grandchild all working and nobody is complaining. In Nigeria, you give a job to somebody and he wants to overthrow his or her boss without being humble enough to learn the trade or skill.
You must work for what you want. I have never presented a budget to my husband. May his soul rest in peace! He was always telling his friends that he doesn’t understand why I never present a budget for school fees, food items, etc. I buy all these things if I have the money. When I see a shirt I like I equally buy it for him but I never complained that he didn’t buy anything. Remember, I was the one who begged for the marriage. Men could be promiscuous but when you stay focused on your career, home and marriage you make them become like you.