Saturday, 27 October 2012
A woman of many interests, Dr Adenike Onibokun, a consultant psycho-oncologist, nurse educator and health psychologist is a former head, Department of Nursing, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. In this interview with TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE, she speaks on her childhood days, her job and marriage.
Was there anything during your childhood days which prepared you for your profession?
I’M a woman of many interests. Nursing was my initial academic interest. As a young girl, I had always loved to be a nurse. I love nurses’ uniform and the way they dress neatly and smartly. Their uniforms always looked well-fitted on them. I’m from a modest family and as a young child, my parents were particular about neatness and maintaining a clean environment. But I later realised that nursing involves more. Nursing is a profession focused on the care of individuals, families and communities so that they can maintain, attain or recover optimal health and quality of life. Nursing as a profession requires commitment, a lot of sacrifice. You must have an interest and aptitude to cope with the rigours that come with the job. And since it’s demanding, it requires giving yourself.
What was life like as a child? And can you compare this with what we have today?
There was no sophisticated life-style like we have now. There was no mobile phone. Those who had the analogue phone were mostly government officials. Then we did go to NITEL to make calls. And moreover, there was none in Owo, except in Akure. There was regular power supply and of course there was peace. We weren’t living in fear. I was a day student and would trek from home to school. Parents were not afraid of their children being kidnapped. Life was good. Not many were rich while there was no yahoo or internet fraud. The emphasis then was hard work. In those days, students were not engaged in cultism, because they were well- trained at home. Then there was respect for teachers, students didn’t skip classes or take to drugs. Today, we see secondary school boys in hotels patronising prostitutes. We also have secondary school girls who are prostitutes. In my younger days there was the fear of God, so we could hardly find anyone stealing.
Can you recall an incident in the course of carrying out your duties which has always stuck to your mind?
I love working with babies especially in the paediatrics department and when I’m on duty, I would sometimes back these babies when they are crying. There used to be a baby who was physically challenged. This baby eventually died while I was on duty. I was sad because there was a bond between us. That the baby died while I was on duty pained me a lot. Coming to the nursing profession, you must have passion and it also demands a lot of hard work. But then when patients get better and are discharged, I feel happy. As a psychologist, we care for the body and mind and with my nursing background, this makes me a total person. I remember also losing one of our patients who died of cancer. Nigerian women come out late when they have cancer. An American won’t die early because she comes out to be treated early and again, they are not superstitious. People need to cooperate with health care providers. As a matter of fact we relate with the families of our patients even after their death in order to support them. We want them to grief normally so as to continue with their lives. I feel so bad losing patients, but then I always have a clear mind I did my best.
Why do we have more women in your profession than men?
On a lighter mood, the founder, Florence Nightingale is a woman. In her time nursing was looked down upon. But now things are changing. It was just like in the past, when we had more men as engineers and medical doctors. But then looking at the nature of nursing, women will be better off on the job than men because women deal with caring and we provide more, the tender, loving care. A woman can sacrifice anything for her child. We are full of milk of kindness.
There has been complaints these days that nurses are less dedicated and caring. What have you to say?
Nursing is all about sacrifice and not comfort. But the fact remains that many join the profession because of the wrong motive like travelling out and making money. They don’t understand the expectations of a nurse. I remember while I was doing clinical nursing as a young lady, I loved my job and gave myself to it. I could help you with your night shift if for any reason you wouldn’t be around. When I was married and had my first child, the first time I had to go on night duty it was hell. But then I had to sacrifice my family’s comfort for my profession.
Some people believe that nurses are flirts...
I won’t say they are right or wrong. People are labelled without any concrete evidence. I will say I have not seen one who is loose or is a flirt.
What were the things you wanted in your marriage partner as a spinster?
I wanted someone who was caring, knew and heard from God, had a job and prospect in life, and who was able to sustain the family. Love, to me, is not blind.
Can you tell us what things are essential in choosing a marriage partner?
Marriage is about getting married to someone who has a different background and orientation. So it would be stupid to think that, I will always please him or vice versa. I will say, check your compatibility co-efficience. You should check if you are emotionally, spiritually, socially and educationally compatible. The Bible says ‘can two walk together unless they agree? Unfortunately some do not check all these while some deceive themselves.
How do people start a relationship in your youthful days?
When you are wooed, you don’t say ‘yes’ immediately. During our parents’ days, they go through intermediaries. A man should woo the woman, but now it seems anybody can do it, but this is contrary to our cultural belief. I didn’t say yes immediately. And when I did after few months, it was ‘Yes’ to a relationship and not marriage. After courting and we were sure we could live with each other, the rest of our lives, I said ‘Yes’ to marriage.
What attracted you to your spouse?
He was caring, that is with the words he spoke and the little things he did. He learnt to know what I liked. He was well-groomed, had a nice carriage and always presented himself well. If he was speaking in Yoruba, it was Yoruba ponbele and if English, it was sound. He was good at giving me cards, a gesture I love, and these had words that speak from the heart. He’s late, but I always play back the good memory of him. I cherish the relationship we had together. He was a responsible husband, caring father.
How long has he been dead?
And when do you miss him most?
I miss him most during his birthday and Christmas.
In our society, it’s believed that it’s the men’s right to initiate sex. What’s your take on it?
Women have their rights. There is the sexual right of the woman. In Africa, the system is partriachal. Men dominate both in the home and society unlike what holds in the United Kingdom and United States. The sexual right of a woman should be respected by the husband. Women are shy and timid and that’s why effective communication is essential in marriage. You talk over sex amicably which makes it necessary you marry someone who is ‘sane’, someone you can understand. A woman must not deny her husband sexual intercourse everytime, and of course a woman can also demand for sex or intimacy from husband.
What do you do to look good?
I exercise, eat good food and I’m not a party person. I attend reasonable parties if I had to. I also keep myself occupied. As an extrovert, I don’t keep malice.
Many women change their diet when advancing in age. Did you?
Yes, I don’t take fatty food, but fresh fruits, more of water, vegetables, scally fish, brown bread, beans, chicken, no red meat and low cholesterol oil.
What advice do you have for women on their health?
Every woman needs a medical check up once in a year when you clock 50 years. That you are woman makes you prone to cancer.
Photography, travelling and meeting people.
Saturday, 20 October 2012
Ask Professor (Mrs) Eyitomilayo Adekanye who has scored firsts as the first female professor of Agriculture in Nigeria and Agricultural Economics in Africa, the secret of her success and she will ascribe it to God, her background and hard work. In this interview with TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE she reminiscences on life as a child, her tenure as a three-time-commissioner in old Oyo State, her experience as a lecturer and marriage. Excerpts:
YOU marked your 70th birthday few weeks back? Looking through the years, would you say that life has been fair to you?
I was 70 years old on September 2. God has been good and kind to me. I had a fantastic background. I'm from the Falohun family in Osun State. My father is from Okuku and mother an Ijesha indegene, both from Osun State. My parents were elite. My dad attended St. Andrews College in the 30s while my mother attended United Missionary College (UMC) in Ibadan. They were both trained teachers. I have been a professor since 1983, that is upwards of almost 30 years. Supposing my father had been a farmer and uneducated like those I see when I go around farms, due to the area of my specialisation, I wouldn't have had much advancement in life. I attribute all to God.
You are unique in the sense that you have scored firsts as the first female professor of Agriculture in Nigeria and first female Professor of Agriculture Economics in Africa. How did you achieve that?
I'm not an armchair professor, but have been active. I don't have an agricultural background and neither did I sit in the office writing papers. But rather, I go round the villages. I have been to virtually all the villages in Nigeria and have also travelled as far as the topmost countries in the world like Argentina and some other countries like Poland and China among others. But again, I attribute my achievements to God and the teacher training background of my parents. I've gone this far by share hard work. It was not a joke. I was the only female lecturer in my department for 15 years until I became the Head of Department in 1984.
Then I appointed three bright girls in the department who are doing well.
I have 41 publications in both international and local journals. I wrote in a Canadian journal of Agricultural Economics and attended conferences. God granted me good health, energy and safety while travelling round the villages.
As a young girl, can you identify something that geared your passion for hard work, determination among others to excel?
I remember my father bought me lots of story books in the primary school. I would read them while eating and had the pages of my books soiled with oil. God gave me a lot of endowment for hard work.
You have seen the two sides of the coin of our education sector. What's your comment on Nigerian education?
Values have gone down all over, and not only in education. It will be right in saying that Nigerians don’t read or buy books, but photocopy which is against the authors’ copyright. Now, parents help students to buy results. I once had a house help who had credit in eight or nine subjects and I felt she was a good candidate for the university. But events later revealed she obviously bought the result.
As an Agricultural economist, what's your comment on the state of the nation's economy?
There is first of all a global shaking starting from the West and this has affected all sectors. The banking industry is not at its best. Those who invested in shares in the capital market are affected. When talking about development we are not talking about mere growth or percentage increase in population, but what happens to the ordinary man. What's the income distribution? When we have five or six people having to themselves 50 per cent of our resources, then we have a problem. A lot of people are on the street who can't feed themselves. I remember in 1983, when I hosted some students in my home. I prepared them rice for dinner. After the meal, one of them gave a speech on behalf of others which was touchy. They confessed that some of them would had had 0-0-0 or 0-0-1 as their meal table if not for the rice. Things are going down. Some people can banter figures around, but what sectors are growing? Are we just looking at per capita income or distribution, food consumption or speaking for the man on the street. In real terms the economy has not developed at all.
You were a three-time commissioner in Oyo State. What was your experience like?
My husband and I both have a Christian posture which has impacted positively on us. It has not been easy in Nigeria when you have your mind made up that you aren't going to steal government's money, which some believe and say is a short way to poverty. The morning we were going to be sworn-in as commissioner, my husband told me, ‘Tomi, I don't want you to get involved in the practice of taking 10 per cent, the name Adekanye is precious to me.’ Many people are still sulking 20 years after I have left office, for being straight and not bending the rules. I was made a commissioner to serve and push the economy forward.
There's much noise on government's transformation reform in the agricultural sector. Do you think the government is doing enough?
I'm talking as an academic. I have been going round villages since I graduated in 1966. I'm still active in agriculture because I'm at present at Babcock University, Ilishan, Ogun State. I'm there as a professor on contract. I think we should not kid ourselves anymore. Oranges are cheaper in London than in Nigeria, yet they do not produce oranges there. So also is vegetables. We have food insecurity in Nigeria. Many people are experiencing qualitative inadequacy in terms of not eating right and lack of nutritional value. Farming is still a problem. During the regime of Oresanya as the military governor of Oyo State, there was a time five trucks of fertilizer were diverted. They left the port, but didn't arrive in Ibadan and these were meant to be shared among farmers. We spent a whole day looking for them. Clearing the land is still a hoe and cutlass system, while there is the problem of low yield and poor and inadequate input by farmers. A lot lip service is being paid the agricultural sector. The government has to put in a lot of money into it because it has performed below expectation, comparing it to what holds globally. This has resulted in food insecurity. Now four onions sell at N100.00 and these were cheaper few weeks ago. This can be traced to lack of storage facility or good processing for perishable items and so up to 50 per cent if not more of vegetables and fruits rot away. We need to add value to what farmers produce.
Apples which are imported are everywhere, but banana which is planted here is scarce.
Can you recall a training your mum gave you which you frowned on but later appreciated?
My mother used to cook beans which I had to eat, though I didn't like it. I didn't like beans due to the way it was prepared for us in the secondary school. It was always full of weevils. I told her I would never cook or serve beans in my home as a grown up. But then she came to our home one day and saw me eating beans. She reminded me of my saying in the past and I told her beans is good for the body. Again as a young girl I was not excused from the house chores. She taught me to pound yam and prepare other food. She would touch my ear stressing that the pounded yam must be as smooth as it is.
Your spouse is a professor of political science. What are the plus and minus of being in the same profession?
We have different areas of specialisation and travel to different parts of the world. We encourage and advise each other on our work. We understood as young graduates that we had to sit down and work late into the nights.
How do you feel about him?
It's nice to have somebody you love with you, nice to have somebody to share your joy and burden and this is vice versa.
It is believed that when women attain the same status with their husband, they become less submissive. What’s your take on this?
I believe in gender fairness and both male and female children being given equal opportunities. But physically, we are different, equal but different. Each person should have respect for what the other is. My husband will always let me go out of the door first when we are going out or coming in. Many men don't do it. Many times, if I don't have a housemaid in the home, he would come and assist me in the kitchen. I always tell him jokingly he's on my way in the kitchen. Everywhere there should be a minimum respect and understanding between the two.
There is the clamour for more of women’s presence in government. Do you think this has been achieved?
Globally that has been the clamour. I advocate the use of both men and women in the labour market. The United Nations and several international organisations have push gender budgeting and what proportion of the national budget gets to the women? We should have more women in governance and in all sectors.
Nigeria belongs to all. Nobody gives privilege freely, you have to work for it, and not have it on a silver platter. But then equal opportunities should be given all women and let them have a choice.
The news had it that your name was listed as the deputy governor of Osun State, but it didn't make the final list. What went wrong?
That's definitely a wrong information. At my age, I can't be on any cabinet. I have paid my dues to Nigeria and its development, so let's give the younger ones a chance. I'm a member of the Osun State Prerogative of Mercy set up by the government. I'm close to the government and fond of the governor and his deputy. I like and respect them.
You are obviously a busy person. How do you make your weekends different from the week days?
I try to rest on Saturdays. I don't readily attend socials and if I have to, then it must be that of a close relative or friend. I hardly have time to watch television. On Sundays, I rush to church. Anywhere I am in the world, I try to go to church.
I like to listen to music, read Christian books and the Bible because you will always find something new in it.
You still look good at 70. What’s the secret?
I've always been conscious of my age. I'm from a family where we were big. My mother impacted on me when I was young. She taught me to dress well. I pay a lot of attention to my weight and have completely changed my diet. My diet is now very close to that of a vegetarian. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables while I have also stopped eating red meat. Now I take chicken and fish. There's this Alleluyah diet which is hinged on the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1 verse 20. It emphasises on much intake of fruits and vegetable and it is used in curing cancer, diabetics and the like. I encourage women to reduce their families’ intake of carbohydrate component and increase that of fruits and vegetables.
What lesson have you learnt from life?
Knowing the importance of God in one's life is essential. Somebody often says, bo ti le wu ka pe to laye, a peju be lorun. God has been kind to me by giving me a good family, nice children and a fantastic profession and good chances in life.