I thank God I married a man that appreciates education – Nwammou
Dr. Nkiru Nwammuo is a woman of vigour, an embodiment of beauty and brain. She has charisma and is an academic whose doggedness saw her rise from the grass to grace, now almost at the pinnacle of her career. In this interview with Ada Nwanagum, she shares her life story, challenges and breakthroughs.
Madam, can you tell us about yourself?
I am Dr Angela Nkiru Nwammuo, currently an associate professor of communication at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam. By birth, I am from Agulu in Anaocha local government area of Anambra state. I got married immediately I finished my secondary education in 1993 to my heartthrob, Chief Cyprian Nwammuo of Ifite village, Oko in Orumba North local government area. He is the president general (PG) of Oko Progressive Union and our marriage is blessed with five lovely kids of three adorable girls and two macho boys. I started schooling as a young girl in my own village school, Community Primary School, Agulu, later moving to Union Secondary School, Agulu where I was a senior prefect. So, I become a full woman, so to say, with my marriage. While in my husband’s house, I started my Ordinary National Diploma (OND) at the then Osisatech Polytechnic Enugu, where I read mass communication. It was a good choice made by my husband. I lived with a reverend sister at the Immaculate Heart Sisters Convent, Enugu. After my diploma I had my one-year industrial training at the Federal Polytechnic, Oko. I stayed back there for my Higher National Diploma (HND). After my HND programme, I went to Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka for a Post Graduate Diploma in Educational foundations (PDGE) followed by a PGD in mass communication. A master’s degree [M.Sc] also in mass communication completed my studies at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University because I proceeded to the University of Uyo for my Ph.D. it was a tough time as I had to shuttle from Oko where I had my family to the Uli campus of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu University, COOU, where I was teaching and then Uyo where I was doing my Ph.D. I was even pregnant at some point; but this did not deter me.
How would you describe your growing up?
For me, growing up was very tough because I came from a very humble background; I wouldn’t want to use the word ‘poor’ just like other people would say. My dad died when I was still very young and we were seven (7) in number; you can imagine that and I am the first daughter, though the second child, and my mother a petty trader. At times, during my secondary school days, I had to skip school just to help my mother sell wares at the market. I really saw hell but thank God I went through. It wasn’t easy and that was why I got married very early, though early marriage was trendy then. It was pretty hard for my mum, a poor widow, to take good care of seven children at that time from her petty trade. My humble background really helped me to be focused on my dream in life.
Amongst your parents, siblings and relatives, who played key roles in your life during your formative age?
Hmmm… My mum has it all. She is my everything and taught me many things while I was growing up. You see, when my dad died, my paternal uncles and relatives were not there for us. As for siblings, I came before them and, so, no impact as such from them. I was, rather, the one impacting on them. But I will give kudos to the people from my mum’s family especially my aunty. I can remember how she was there for us and really helped us and I will ever be grateful to her. She was the one making sure that, at least, I was looking good as young girl.
Can you recall incidents during your childhood formation that influenced your life today?
Growing up in my village at Agulu, I would say my teachers then, my school experiences. Being intelligent and, somehow, above my peers then, I got a lot of encouragement from my teachers, though I also had some nasty and unhappy experiences unlike some children who were born into rich or wealthy families. Those bad, and unhappy experiences, however, shaped me into what I am today, especially when I was combining studies and raising children. It toughened me to the extent that no single student in class during my first degree never saw my back academically. I had my last baby when I had started my Ph.D. programme.
Did you have any of your dreams or fantasies fizzle out?
No, there was none because of the difficulties I faced while growing up. I don’t really know how it happened but I had it in me that I must make it in life. You see, one thing I can remember now is that, then, I would sleep and wake up and will always remind myself that I must make it in life; that I am going to be a great woman and, all my life, I had this dream of becoming a teacher because, as at that time, people respected teachers a lot. Some children even feared them and that was why I vowed that I must be a teacher. But when I was coming up in the education cadre, I found out that being a lecturer was higher than being a primary or secondary school teacher and my resolve changed to getting into the university to teach as a lecturer. I resolved not to go into trading because my mum suffered as a trader.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
So far so good, this professor of a thing is it for me. From day one, I said I must get to the climax of this profession and, by the special grace of God, I am almost there. For any academic person, any scholar, professorial cadre is the highest you can get. So, I thank God. In a short while, I will reach that cadre. I give God all the glory for giving me life and keeping strong.
How did you make your breakthrough in your career and what event made it happen?
Really, I think if I hadn’t married the man I got married to, I wouldn’t have made it in life. Assuming I married a core businessman or a man who had no regard for education and had stopped me from my academic pursuit, all my dreams would have died with me. I thank God I got married to a man that knows the value of education and also to a town that uses educational qualification as a yardstick to wealth. My husband has been so supportive. That’s why I have been able to make it in life.
How do you handle issues related to sexual harassment and female intimation in your career?
Let me tell you something, when I got into this department in 2005, I worked here alone as the only woman for several years before another lady joined us. So, when people talk about sexual harassment, it doesn’t hold water for me because I have never experienced it; and I am being honest here. I am a strong woman and you don’t intimidate me. I always walk with my shoulders high, on and up; I don’t give room for that. I have all I needed for my pursuit so what will you use for your intimidation. I can date you if I want to…yeah…not because of threat or intimidation. I kept saying this; if you are a woman and you don’t want anybody to subject you to anything, stand on your feet and work hard and men will just be afraid of you and will just leave you and that’s it. Women should build self-confidence because if you don’t build confidence in yourself as woman, men will toy with you. Yeah… Men must admire you if you are good looking and attractive, but when it comes to ‘you must give me this to get that’, you show your worth. I make sure I worked hard not to create room for harassment or intimidation.
Who, among the Igbo career women, can you say influenced you?
I will say that Professor Dora Akunyili, whom I respect and loved for her strength of character and vigour. I love that strength of character to withstand all odds and to pursue that which is right. Professor Chinyere Okunna is another icon; first woman professor in communication in Nigeria. She taught me gender, an eye-opening course which I still love and teach my students till date. Other sources of influence and encouragement to me are Professors Kate Omenugha and Grace Nwagbara. The latter is of University of Uyo.
What is the greatest career or life-threatening challenge you have faced and how did you survive it?
Hmmm … I have had series of accidents but I kept surviving. God moulded me for a purpose and I am going to fulfil that destiny. There was this accident I had when I was very young and it affected my hips. My mum kept hiding it from me until I had my first child with much struggle. She was very happy, dancing and jubilating in the hospital, later opening up to me that doctors had said that I might not be able to give birth naturally except through operation. Today, I have five kids delivered naturally.
Do you have any past decisions you regret today?
Ooh… not really, all my decisions are guided; I don’t make hasty decisions. I always think it through, before moving into anything.
How do you wish to be remembered?
I will like to be remembered for my contributions in the academia, I will be very glad if a students that passed through me future recognises me as a role model, as a woman that nurtured them and had impacted positively into their lives, and that will be fine for me. As a mother and a good wife, that one is sure because I have my lovely husband and kid to do that for me.
Any message for younger women?
For the younger ones, I try to change some aspect about how they live their lives. These days, we see and hear a lot of things so I try to correct them. One thing about them (mostly the females) is that they don’t believe they can get there with hard work; rather they believe their body will do the magic; that it’s all about the bottom power. I always use my story as a reference. So, I tell them to always remain focused in any area or industry they find themselves. There will be a time when that your body or bottom power will not fetch you anything and you will live to regret it, but hard work never fails.
“… if you are a woman and you don’t want anybody to subject you to anything, stand on your feet and work hard and men will just be afraid of you and will just leave you.”