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Why I Relocated To Kogi State – Chief (Mrs.) Modupe Jemibewon

JemibewonLagos celebrity lady and wife of Major-Gen. David Jemibewon (Rtd.) took her friends by surprise when she relocated from the glamour world of Lagos to Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State to stay with her husband. Recently, the elegant and stylish lady explained why. Read on…

Recently, you hosted the governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, with his entourage in your school, what was it about?

Well the governor was visiting Ijumu local government where my school, Jemibewom International Academy, is situated. He decided to start the visit in the school. I am grateful to him because it immediately became an exposure for that part of Kogi State because that Tuesday morning, he was with us for about three hours. He came with everybody-the deputy governor, who is an indigene of Kogi West, Architect Yomi Awoniyi; the SSG, Professor Jegede, and all other high ranking cabinet members of Kogi State. And you know, the whole entourage of the governor were with us. It was a pleasant visit. The governor did a facility tour and he spoke of his appreciation. To see is to appreciate what we have on ground there. Though my husband is a conservative person who believes that word of mouth will do it.

What is the difference between your school and others elsewhere?

Like the SSG said that he is surprised and shocked that we built a standard school like that and waited for the students to come. And the emphasis is actually on ICT and multi-dimensional education. That is what is there, in a very serene environment. This summer, I am going to run a summer school for children who want to do sixth form because it is a very serene place that nurtures the mind of our young ones. I was very proud of what we had done when our students were on the piano and played Amazing Grace for the pleasure of the august visitors. We have a Reverend Sister, one of the notre Dame Sisters, the principal and staff are just unique. And that is because we cannot continue to complain that the standard of education has fallen and we are not doing anything about it.

For instance, I am a product of two teachers. So the best I can do is to give back what God gave me naturally. I must impact on the next generation. Let us see if we can still save this country.

You love arts, how has that reflected in your school?

People in the arts are beautiful people. Art is humanity. We do a lot of literature there and I would say that because of the geographic position of Nigeria, we should pay attention to the official use of French language. We are surrounded by people who speak French from Cameroun to Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Republic of Benin, we are surrounded by them. They are fewer of those that speak English around us.

A little part of the Cameroun speaks English but even then, the English they speak is diluted. So we need to let this country relate properly in language synchronisation with our neighbours. And so in this school, there are lots of developments in the French language and when my children sing in French, it’s always so lovely. When they say the national anthem in English, they also say it in French.

What is your interest in going into investment in education?

Like I told you, I am a product of two teachers and I know that as a child in this country, I had a rounded education. Be it in the province or at the capital, it was a rounded education that my generation in Western Nigeria had. Basically, it was even a free education. In my days, we didn’t need to go to a private school. That was because-everything was done and structured properly. In the last two years that I have been interviewing people to teach in the school, I have felt very despondent and feel sorry for this country in the sense that I interviewed 50 graduates and hardly could I find five that I could acknowledge to come with me to work in the school and help to impact the next generation.

That, to me, is an abysmal level. But, we can’t just keep complaining, we must be proactive. That is one of the reasons for this kind of school. Again, where my husband was born is sort of an enclave. They’ve been a Yoruba enclave that produced the core administrators who have been running the administration in the Northern Region of the country then suddenly, we reached a point where a northerner wakes up and starts looking for money to become an ‘Okada rider’ after primary school. No, we cannot let that continue, we must send them back to school. We must make our effort at repackaging and re-modelling the minds of young people.

It is important for young people to know it is needful to be educated. It is esoteric.

Why locate such a high investment school in a country side and not Abuja?

We chose to locate it where my husband originated from. That is where it is located. We all cannot be in Abuja, Lagos or all the other popular cities in the country. The mistake people make in this country is thinking that Abuja and Lagos are where the country ends and other places are not the real Nigeria. It is because I have travelled extensively and I have been exposed to various cultures, that I know that Nigeria does not end in Abuja and neither does it end in Lagos. This is a vast expanse of land, geometrically, geographically and demographically. God has put us together and we are many, we can t all be city dwellers. If we put all the schools and all the infrastructures in the cities, what happens to the country side? The countryside of this country is still this country. What has happened in Chibok, for instance, has gone a long way to open the eyes of Nigerians to the fact that, the country side is also an important aspect of this country.

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What actually inspired your love for the countryside, especially now that you have lived there for a long while now?

(Laughs) But you are talking to me in the city as we are now; hmm, but that is part of the sacrifice I have made. But then, it is not as if I relocated completely. Personally, I can’t do without Lagos, if you know what that means. But I tell you, the country side of this country is where the revolution can start from. And this is our own little contribution. Half of my family live in the United States of America. I’ve children in Maryland who went to school in Baltimore, went to university in Baltimore, who work now in Baltimore. So, for me, the countryside is pristine. It is unpolluted. It is serene. Yes, the buoyancy of Lagos or Abuja may not be there, but in the countryside, we still live very normal life.

What do you enjoy about the countryside you live?

I enjoy the serenity, pristine nature, I live within palm trees. People come and when they see where we live, they ask questions: “You mean you live here?” They are always shocked because the city dwellers don’t know this country. They do not know the enjoyment. If only people could see the way people are living in the countryside, they will eat their heart out. If you do not move around this country, you won’t know what is available, some of my friends say that I live in ‘Camp David’ and reply, ‘yes I do’.

So, how do you run your business in the city of Lagos and Abuja when you are mostly in your country homes in Kogi or America?

The truth is that, I have been doing my business for quite a while now. If by now I have not been able to mentor people to run my business for me without my physical presence, then I would consider it to be a failure. But I have been able to groom, I have been able to mentor people. I have also been able to let them to know and live up to their responsibilities. I have been able to impact on some of my people. So, they run the business for me. All I do is to make sure that they do not deviate from the principles that made me to set up the business. Apart from that, I sleep well. I do not have worries about the business.          .

Yours is a top society face in city social circles. Hope your mends have not been complaining that they do not see you much these days?

Oh, my personal friends complain. Like I came in this morning to Lagos and came to my business house in Lagos. People have been coming around since morning, the place has been full; everybody has been happy, but I won’t overdo it, I mean coming here often. That is because I also want my managers to grow. They are also doing their best even though I do not tell them that. They are and as you can see, we have not closed shop.

And does the social scene miss me? Oh, there are a thousand and one of my kind of person in this town. So even if they miss me, the party goes on. But I am here today. I am going to a friend’s 50th birthday party: the other day I was in Abeokuta somebody’s wedding. Lagos is part of me. I maintain my friendship. I keep in touch with people. I psyche myself to attend what I am supposed to attend. But orientation-wise, I am very comfortable living in the country side. And it is not that I live there permanently, I live in Abuja too. Abuja is nearer the home for me. That is why most of the time, I do the Abuja-Kogi route.

Did you move to the countryside because of your husband? And how do you tend to your family?

Well, you know the children are grown up. They all have their families, so I have grand-children. Oh, they come home. They always come. You need to come and see us all together some times. Even in America where we live, it is very pristine. It is very countryside. So, I am quite used to it.

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When you look back and recall your days in Nigeria Airways, do you miss the kind of opportunity Nigeria had, having her own airline?

Whether we like it or not, we must have our own airline again. I do not like talking much about this kind of issue but the truth is that when deregulation started, I was still in service, we knew this would happen. We knew that we would be flying and dropping corpses from the sky. We knew that a day would come like that. Aviation is very expensive but those who went into it after deregulation went into it all for the profit. Whether we like it or not, we will: still have to have a Nigerian airline. Recently, I was happy when I heard that in Maritime, they are trying to bring back the shipping line. And automatically, they have to bring back the Nigeria airline. I am sure that the basic foundation will be different from the erstwhile Nigerian Airways.

What happened to Nigeria Airways happened to Swiss Air.

The moment Swiss Air went under, the Swedish government created Swiss’ merging all the liabilities and disabilities, that is what should have been done in this country. It happens all over the world. Though I do not want to go into the details.

Yes, there was mismanagement, but Nigeria Airways with all the properties and facilities that it had all over the world didn’t have to go under. In my days there, we didn’t cut corners. If a plane was not good then, it was not good. We said sorry, we cannot fly. We looked for a serviceable one and used. If that culture had continued, accidents wouldn’t      have been happening.

Apart from partying, how do you catch your fun these days?

I still live my vibrant and intrusive life. I find a lot of pleasure in the children we are grooming. It gives me great pleasure to mentor children, to mentor people. I am a teacher at heart. You need to see this.

What do you do that keeps you relevant to your friends because we know you have invitations to social events in Nigeria, West Africa, Europe, America and other places?

Really, I do not know why too, because I have not gone into politics, though, I am very political, and I will go into politics when this country gets it right. I will go there when you do not need to be a mega millionaire to serve your country and your people. Anyway, I guess the people who want me are the people who know that I am a truthful person. I am always me. I don’t like people who are chameleon in nature because I am not such.

That is why my friends stay with me. Let people know you for what you are. That’s what being relevant means.

As a woman with education and good background, do you think women have been able to find their feet in the scheme of things in this country?

I am not a believer in the fact that I am a female, so somebody must give a line to excel. The brain we have is not distinguished by being female or being male. Although having grown up now, I know that there are not very many fortunate females around like those of my generation in this country culturally. There are children that were married off at age 10 and 11, it wasn’t their making. Maybe for such areas, you need to have some level playing ground. But for me, I feel when you write exams, nobody cares whether you are male or female. It is about your number. And whatever you get is from what you put down.

But at the same time, it is not to say totally that there must not be a way of inclusive women participation in governance. Then again, I do not believe in mediocrity. This country produced people like the former Vice-Chancellor of University of Benin, Prof. Grace Alele Williams. There was Mrs. Margaret Ekpo. There has been Prof (Mrs.) Bolanle Awe; there has been Mrs. Oyagbola. There have been women in the east. There have been women who carried out the Aba Riot. These things were done by women, who didn’t have people prodding them on and bending over for them because they were women.

Late Mrs. Margaret Thatcher did not become Prime Minister because she was a woman. Neither did Late Indira Ghandi or Late Benizir Bhutto. They became such because they are human beings who had the capacity and capability to become such. And women even ruled in Islamic world. You know what that means for a woman to rule in an Islamic nation. I don’t want to beg the issue; this is why I feel very bad about the Chibok situation. If in that remote part of the country, we have such large number of girls in secondary school writing their finals, it means somebody somewhere is shortchanging the women. It means that the rural Nigeria is not what people think it to be.

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You know our social life very well and it is even said that Nigerians are among the happiest people in the world, but don’t you think that are celebrations and its expenses are going beyond board?

Fortunately, I am a Yoruba person, I have a different take on these festivities that we do. We don’t have a culture of going to the movies. We do not have a culture of going to the theatre. As for shows, thank God that the younger generation are coming up with them. When I was young, my parents would take themselves to the cinema in Ibadan. I recall Queen Cinema, Odion, and Skala. But those things have disappeared. So, where do you want people to go and recreate or let steam off?

It is the Owambes, the parties all over the country that have filled the gap. They have filled the social purpose of taking the steam off the people.

However, I would love us to have a rounded cultural development. I would have loved us to be able to pay and use the National Theatre for the purpose that it was built. I was passing by the National Theatre yesterday, and I found the place so dark. I felt sorry for this country as I am here, I have my tickets for concerts and theatres in England for summer: From Olympic Theatre to Cambridge Theatre. I sit at the Cambridge Theatre and my whole concentration is on what is unravelling on the stage. We must be able to have outlets for social interactions like that. Probably the Muson is doing something like that, but for how many people? It should be a mass thing, not an elitist thing.

Even as a student in those days, I spent some time in Senegal. Even as at that time, the syndrome of house helps or workers in Senegal and even Kenya was terribly different. They were there, but by 6pm they had closed from work to go home to have a bath, put on their clothes, wear their powders, and they were off to the cinemas. I had a friend that was in Kenyan Airways, in those days, they had this open cinema thing going on out there in Kenya. And she was telling me then now she goes to the cinema, just sits in her car and from there, watch the cinema with other people in the open space. Guess who was next to him? It was his Chef! That meant a lot to me. It wasn’t elitist. Although out there now, it’s like their government is about to destroy those beautiful people. Going to parties is just a way of letting off steam.

Over the years, you have been able to sustain your marriage even with your hectic schedule, how have you been able to do it?

I have been truthful to myself. And if you are truthful to yourself, you will be able to sustain a relationship. I am not his first wife, but I am a Catholic. I grew up with Catholicism. You must be resilient. There is no perfect individual, the perfect living Master is in heaven. I have my short falls. My husband or any other person has his own short falls. But if it is not major, we can manage these things. It is perseverance, resilience, believing in yourself and your partner. That is what has sustained me in my marriage. He is a good man. He has his faults, but he is a very genuine person.

Now that the children have left home, that means all round enjoyment for you and your husband, isn’t it?

We still work even in retirement. For instance, we should have done this school some 20 years ago, but then, God’s time is the best. We are busy as it is. Life could be beautiful in retirement though, if you sort yourself out early.

Describe yourself

I am a firm believer in terrestrial and spiritual ordination of life. I was at a car wash yesterday when the man that owns the car wash saw me reading some of the philosophical writings he had on his wall. One that touched me was ‘not all idea

is God’s idea, but all God’s ideas, are good ideas:     .

Fundamentally, my mother was able to impact that into us that we must be a friend of the people. In my form two in school, I read a passage in a literature book that said, I like to be a friend unto man and build my house by the side of the road. That summarises my kind of life. Even in my drivers, in my guards, in my gatemen, I see intrinsic value in them. I am not all about elitist culture, I mix well because poverty does not make one a vagabond. Everybody has his intrinsic worth.

– Courtesy: The Nation