Alabo Daerego Clifford JP and his siblings, on 25th July 2019, celebrated their beloved mother, Mrs Mary Atiegoba’s 70th birthday in grand style. The event brought together the crème de la crème of society, including politicians, captains of industry, chiefs, friends, relatives, and well-wishers of the Atiegoba family, to the ancient city of Buguma, Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. In this exclusive interview with Kalabari Times, Alabo Daerego Clifford reflected on his mother’s 70th birthday, why he and his siblings decided to celebrate it, the lessons learned from the event, his childhood experiences and how his mother’s legacies influenced his life. Excerpts:
May we know you, sir?
My name is Alabo Daerego Clifford JP. I’m the second son of my beloved mother, Mrs Mary Atiegoba.
Your mother recently celebrated her 70th birthday and we know that you the children supported her. What was the motive behind the celebration?
First of all, she’s my mother; she brought me to this world, so I have every reason to celebrate her. When she told me that she will be seventy – that’s the day personally I have been looking forward to – I said okay, let her gather all her children and let’s know how she wants to celebrate it. We held a meeting and she formally told us. As a son, I saw it wise to celebrate my mother while she’s alive. And those are the things I want to do that will ever be in her memory till she dies. Whatever thing you do when a person is dead, you’re just doing it for our friends or colleagues to see. I took upon myself to start inviting fellow Chiefs, Friends, and my colleagues to join me to celebrate my beloved mother. That was what happened that Sunday.
At 70, what can you say about your mother’s legacies that make her thick and which you will hope to sustain when finally the Lord calls her home?
My mother is a very industrious and very good disciplinarian. She never takes nonsense from any person – you were her child or any person. Those are the few things we learnt from her. And again while growing, this is a woman that taught us how to cook. That’s why all her male child –we know how to cook. She also taught us how to do business because we followed her to the bush market in those days. She took all the male children one by one to go and see how she bought the foodstuff right there -the yam, plantain- how she did the pricing, how she counted it and tells you this is the cost. Even the yam too, she will weigh it and tells you ‘this is the cost.’ These are the things she taught us and that’s why all her sons -we know how to sell.
All these things they’re selling now, we also know it. As it is, I can tell you the number of cups in a bag of garri, rice, beans and a lot of these things. Those are the things she taught us. I can go to the market and see a basin of garri and tell you if it’s sizeable or not. We too, on our own, go to the market, buy things in the company of other market women, and give to her. These are the few things we learnt from her.
Did these things she taught you in any way influence what you do now?
Yes. The things she taught me are what I put into this position. Where I am today is a very challenging environment. It is these things I learnt from her that shaped me and keep me going. When we’re working, we work with all our strength and mind. These are the things we achieved from her.
We saw that people defied rain to attend your mother’s birthday. What do you think made them show such solidarity?
Like I said earlier, she’s one woman that when she says yes, it is yes; when she says no, it is no. In fact, that is even the style of her grandmother – going around affecting the life of everybody in terms of advice, in terms of information. And also, don’t forget, she’s one of the grass root politicians in those days. She has been the first PDP Chairlady of Ward 9. That is why she extends to everywhere, beyond her compound. She extends to everywhere. It has been her style. That is why, despite the amount of rain, people still defied the rain and still came out to identify with her. You could see a lot of people, chiefs, dancing with her.
That day, we saw a lot of PDP, APC members dancing together. We thought you were the one who pulled them out.
You see, I’m of PDP extraction. My elder brother is of the APC. The way I play my politics, it’s cut across all members. You know we all started with PDP. There was nothing like APC before, it was one fold. But unfortunately, there is a divide. Some moved to APC. Some are still in PDP. I’m a man that does not play politics with bitterness. We’re still friends. Even today, both APC and PDP, we sit down and discuss the development and betterment of our people. These are people I have known before politics. Before the advent of PDP or APC, we have known ourselves in Buguma. Most of us attended the same school – Kalabari National College (KNC)- and we still have that bond. Most of them are my seniors but we still meet at meetings. So when the call comes, we all gather. So, whether PDP or APC, they’re still my friends. We still meet to discuss the welfare of our people. That’s why you saw both APC and PDP members there. All of them were there eating, drinking and dancing together. That is how life is supposed to be.
Your mum being a politician, do you feel any pressure trying to replicate or uphold her legacies of discipline and hard work in the position you find yourself now?
Even human being alive must face challenges in life. It only depends on the ability with which you handle them. Yes, the pressure is there, societal pressure, family pressure, but the ability with which you absorb them is what makes the difference. Given your family background, then secondary school, higher institution, youth service, in the course of all these, you meet different types of people. Now, we learn every day and knowing how to absorb these challenges makes you a man. Yes, temptations will come but you need to withstand some of the things. These are some of the things we learnt from her and our grandmother as we were growing up.
Given the way your mother brought you up, what advice can you give to present-day mothers in terms of bringing up their children?
My advice is that people should live within their means and seek the face of God. It’s God that directs and gives wisdom. Again, my advice is that people should live within their means and ensure that society does not influence them. Although there are lots of outlets, you shouldn’t allow those things to influence you. As a mother, you should have time for your children. Give them time; know when your children are deviating or losing focus. Also know the kind of friends they keep, the kind of things they read, the kind of movies they watch. Check them from time to time. Talk with them, be with them, discuss with them, encourage them, not any slightest mistake you shout on them, you want to beat them, and you punish them. Build confidence in them. That’s my advice for mothers.
What’s your advice for children who don’t celebrate their parents?
It’s good for us to celebrate our parents because they provide for us, cater to us, and shield us. It’s good to celebrate our mothers. When I travel abroad, I buy kits for her; if I’m not around, I’ll send it across to them, to remember that she’s my mother. I remember that without our mother there’s no way we will come into the society. It’s your sole responsibility to take care of your mothers and also to celebrate them. The celebration might not be on their birthdays. It can be any day. Buy gifts for them; take her out, with her grandchildren. Whenever she’s happy, she will be praying for you; she will be blessing you. These are some of the advice I have them.
You are a United Nations Ambassador for Peace, awarded to you by the United Nations Positive Livelihood Award Centre (UN-POLAC). How do you marry your work as an Ambassador for Peace with your office work?
Before even the award, I’m one young man that loves peace. My father is a peace-loving man. Wherever I go, I preach peace. It is important that you make peace, preach peace. At times, people don’t know that when you live in peace, you have a long life, you have rest of mind. That’s why wherever I go, I talk to people to let go. Sacrifice is very important. It doesn’t change your status; it doesn’t change your personality. But at that moment, you allow peace to reign. And when that peace reigns, you won’t know the extent of what you’ve done. Because of my work, I relate with people; so anywhere I go, I talk to them that whatever they’re doing, they should see it as an opportunity and always make peace with all men. What they should know is this: the forefathers we’re talking of, in their own time, were like us. And that’s how it is. Other people will also come. What will people remember you for? People should remember you for certain things. Above all, it will take the grace of God. You need to align yourself with the grace of God. In all you’re doing, seek the face of God; he will give you wisdom so that you don’t fall victim. That’s just my advice to people.
Thank you, sir.