Dr. Azuka Valentine Dibie, is an international medical doctor based in the United State of America, who specialises in Obstetrics and Gynecology, an indigene of Igbodo Kingdom in Ika North East LGA of Delta State.
Through dint of hardwork and academic excellence, he was given scholarship by the federal government of Nigeria to study medicines overseas. Dr. Azuka Dibie, was the former President of Igbodo Development Union (IDU) North America Chapter, a goal getter, who delights in building people for a better future and sustainable development through sponsoring their education.
In this interview he granted Ika Weekly Newspaper reporter at Love Story Fast Food and Event Centre in Agbor, during a short visit to Nigeria recently, he takes us through his experiences and sojourns in the medical world within and outside the shores of Nigeria and what to do to improve the health care services in our country, Nigeria.
May we meet you sir?
I am Dr. Azuka Valentine Dibie, I am a medical doctor in Chicago, U.S.A.
Can you tell us about your Childhood?
I was born into the family of late Mr. Sylvester Dibie of Ilabor quarters Igbodo, in Ika North East LGA of Delta State. My father was a carpenter by Profession, he worked with the Nigeria Railway Corporation in Bauchi, Jos and because of the Nigerian Civil War he had an early retirement. When he came back home, he got a job with one of the companies in the then Bendel state, which I cannot remember the name now and became a foreman, where he eventually retired and did some part time carpentery work before he passed on to Glory to be with the Lord in 1998 at the age of Eighty Seven years.
My mother was Late Mrs. Justina Dibie also from Igbodo, fondly called and known as Nne Ator (the mother of Triplet), she died recently in 2017, at the age of Ninety Three years. My father had one wife, and the union was blessed with eight children, I am the fifth child. Speaking about my mother, I will describe her as a heroine mum, the most hardworking woman that I know. When I was young at the age of four before the war when we were in Bauchi state, my mother used to have a bakery and my older siblings used to hawk the bread round the streets then; but my mother lost everything during the Civil war and when we came back home, she started a business and was able to cater for the whole family. My mother was a great bread winner at that time and supported everybody. When I was given scholarship by the federal government in 1980 to travel abroad for further studies, my mother was the only one that was able to raise N800 to support me, indeed it was huge money back in those days.
Tell us about your educational pursuits?
I attended Anglican Primary School 2, in Ekwuoma, and finished in 1973. Actually, I will tell you that I did not stay long with my parents while growing up, not grow up with my parents, because when we came back from the North, they took me to stay with my Uncle Mr. Benneth Nwokolo, who was a Headmaster at Ekwuoma; and I really did not live with my parents until when I went to Secondary School at St. Pius the Tenth Grammar School, Onicha-Ugbo, where I started as a day student and was going to school from Igbodo to Onicha-Ugbo, for two years before my father registered me in the school’s boarding house, that was the closest I was with my parents. I left the Secondary School in 1977 without completion and went to Jos, where I completed my secondary school in 1979; upon my graduation, I gained a federal government scholarship and left for studies abroad in former Soviet Union, where I studied languages for one year from 1980 to 1981. From 1981 to 1987, I studied in the school of Medicine in Soviet Union but in present day Ukraine, in the city of Kiev. The name of the school is Kiev Medical Institute, where I graduated in 1987, I came back to Nigeria and did my Housemanship at the Military Hospital Yaba, Lagos and had my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), at the Yaba College of Technology Clinic between 1990 and 1991. After my service year, I worked briefly in Lagos for about six months at the same clinic where I served; after which I went back to Kiev in Ukraine, for a post graduate studies in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and graduated in 1993; I stayed in the school teaching and working for about three years, before I moved to the United State of America in 1998, where I have been working till date in Chicago.
From your childhood experience, did you miss the company of your parents?
Indeed, I did not really had that parental relationship much with them, but sometimes I feel like I would have done better in life if I had their parental advice, better than that, I know truly that they loved and really cared about me, because every time I returned home from abroad, it was always a warm welcome.
Are you a Christian?
Yes. I am, I was formerly of the Anglican faith, but now I am a Pentecostal, an elder in the church.
How has it been since you travelled abroad in 1980?
Well, I wouldn’t complain because I would only give thanks to God, things have been very good for me because of the scholarship I got from the government, even when I went back to study for the post graduate, it was on scholarship too, so it has been good for me. However, after my post graduate studies I left Ukraine for the United States of America in 1988, and since then I have been in Chicago.
Are you married?
Yes. I got married in the year 2000, to Pastor (Mrs.) Rhoda Dibie, from Ndokwa area of Delta State. The marriage is blessed with three kids.
I will say there is no regrets, because I count my blessings than anything else, what can you do if you don’t have life? It is the greatest blessing of all. Every day I say and teach my children to appreciate life because other things can be taken care of.
As a Medical Practitioner, how will you compare Nigeria’s health sector to that of the country that you are, and how can we improve?
Actually, there are a lot that can be improved on, the principles of health care in oversea countries and here in Nigeria are the same, but the problem is the implementation.
Anywhere in the world, the goal of health care is to improve the quality of life to make it better. Here, a lot of money is wasted, a lot of projects are unfunded, there is a lot of corruption in the system, and so, those are some of the things that affect health care here. One thing I want to mention is that in the United State, most health care institutions are privately owned, though you will see government hospitals; personally, I work in a government owned hospital. The government hospital is specially established to cater for the under privileged people, but it is not only catering for the under privileged but for the reason being that, they feel that nobody should be denied health care and if you are sick and you go to the hospital, you will be treated, no questions will be asked until you are well enough to be able to pay, but if you cannot pay, they have government organs that take care of some of the bills, so that is the difference.
Again, here in Nigeria, you will discover that there are hospitals but they are unfunded in most cases. I don’t see why any child should die of malaria or typhoid fever in 2018. It shouldn’t be happening, because there are treatments for these ailments; malaria can be eradicated, it is not a mystery, but our government doesn’t have the will power to pursue these things. Health care cost money but you have to invest, because investment in health care returns more than double because a healthy human being will give you more than thrice of what you have given to that sector.
The major problem here is management which entails supervision and the implementation of the programme. They have wonderful programmes but implementation doesn’t go far enough and that is part of the difference where the government can put more resources and credible people to do the job. The training has to be good because when exposed to quality training, most Nigerians do better abroad than the people they meet there but here in Nigeria, they cannot do anything because they don’t have the resources, the equipment and the training.
Do you desire to go into politics?
No. I am not a political person because I can’t do what politicians do. I have to be sincere to myself, I will love to have the power but I will not love to go through the process. My view is that, if I have the power, I will use it differently from the politicians; may be because of my background and training in the medical school. For me, the welfare of the people should be paramount before any other thing. I see human beings differently like some people say, I think if we are all born in the same environment, same town, same school and same things; we will all probably do well if we are exposed to the same training but you find yourself in one environment and the other man finds himself in another environment, Mr. A does well and Mr. B didn’t do well, that doesn’t mean that Mr. B is not smart enough but because of the environment he finds himself. Knowledge is not hereditary, it is learned, hence, everybody can learn if given the opportunity; that is why if I have power like the politicians, I will do things differently because some politicians think that their children are better than others but that is not correct. As a matter of fact, the farmer’s child might do better but the opportunity is not there.
Do you have any plan to come back to Nigeria?
I would love to, but not immediately because my kids are very young. I will like to navigate them through the right path especially in America where everybody has too much rights especially the kids. So, if you are not there as a parent, they can easily go the wrong way. Hence, I will love to build them until they get to the University and probably don’t have much control on them.
Can they speak Ika language?
Although they are still learning the language, but they can speak the minor ones like; come, give me, and they also understand our local greetings.
As a onetime President of IDU, what impact or contributions did you make with your position during your tenure?
I was the Public Relations Officer for Igbodo Development Union (IDU), North America Chapter around 2008 to 2012, and was the President of the association around 2012-2017. We just concluded our convention in August 2017. I served a total of five years as President and handed over to Dr. Charles Ego.
During my tenure as President, we did a lot for our people and our Community, some of the things we were able to achieve included resolving problems within local chapters, we were able to reconcile the people in Houston Chapter together, and we also tried to reconcile the people in Washington D.C. and Maryland who were having problems. We executed some projects at Igbodo; some of them were in the local maternity, we funded the renovation of the hospital and established a scholarship scheme for six Igbodo indigenes every year to higher institution of learning, a scholarship that was to the tune of about $250 per person. We also paid for the enrolment of about eighty students of Comprehensive High School, Igbodo who sat for the National Examination Council (NECO) examination in 2016; the Principal of the school contacted us and said that the students were not able to pay for enrolment which we funded to the tune of two million naira in 2016.
We also participated in the Coronation of His Royal Majesty, the Obi of Igbodo Kingdom, also in the Mass Return Home Campaign in 2013 and further participated in the burial of the Obi’s mother. We did several other projects.
However, the last was that we were able to bring our Royal Majesty to the United States of America during the last convention that was held in North Carolina around 5th to 8th of August, 2017. It was a wonderful experience both for us and for His Royal Majesty and his entourage. It was an opportunity for him to meet his subjects over there and Igbodo people also donated a Toyota Camry car to the Queen of Igbodo during the visit.
What is your relationship with the home branch?
During my tenure, Chief Peter Ozili, the Ekwugbama of Igbodo kingdom was the President General, we had a very good working relationship, he is one of the most patriotic Igbodo person that I have ever known, he helped to actualize most of the projects mentioned earlier that we executed.
However, I will say that from the tenure of Chief Peter Ozili as President General to the incumbent Deacon Matthew Okwaje, the working relationship and communication between North America and the parent branch has been well established. I will give credit to the immediate past Secretary General, Barr. Justin Nwaeke and present Secretary General, Mr. Emmanuel Egbuchinem who have been very useful and communicating all the issues and situations going on at home. We appreciate it because it helps to dismiss some kind of myth that people have about the people at home.
Communication is very vital for distant members because when people know, they understand, guess work is taken away. So, we really appreciate the synergy and strongly hope that it will continue.
Which Ika delicacy do you like most?
Egusi and Bitter leaf soup with pounded yam, garri or wheat. Even in America my wife cooks both soups very well.
Do you have role models?
My real fan is President Barack Obama. I like him because he is a very smart, thoughtful person and well articulated. I admire world politicians like Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela. Back home here, I like writers like Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi. Civil right activists like Gani Fawehinmi because he was fearless and outspoken. Coming to religious people, I like Archbishop Cardinal Anthony Olubumi Okogie. In those days, these were men that spoke against the vices in our society and I wish we could have men that can speak out against what is going on today in Nigeria especially, the evils of politicians, Boko Haram and other social vices.
Your word for the politicians
When Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State was to commence his gubernatorial campaign then in Asaba, I was around and my advice was that he should use the opportunity well because he is an intelligent and smart person. He has done well before he became the State governor but I hope he will not misuse this life time opportunity. I pray for him and hope that he will do better than he is doing. In general, I wish that our leaders can listen to their people and do something for the populace, leaving a legacy behind that they will be remembered for. Your name is more than the wealth. The name will live forever, but the wealth will disappear in a very short time. I wish we will come to that consciousness in Nigeria where the name matters more than the wealth. President Obama was not a rich man, he was in debt and hasn’t even finished paying his school fees when he became president but today he is a millionaire by writing books, Obama was able to create a huge health care programme that really helped the poor. He also reformed the judicial system. He has left a name; same goes to George Bush, in his fight against AIDS, he devoted a huge amount of money that really stopped the spread of AIDS in Africa and the world. I wish our government will start doing something meaningful to leave a legacy behind.
What is your perception about life?
Repetition is the key to learning anything. Put in your best, do your best and leave the rest for God, which is what I believe in.
If you want something right and you want to go for it, you have to put it to work. In your profession, to get to the height, you have to put in your best to work. You cannot become the best medical doctor without work.
How do you relax?
I love watching the American Football and I also love nature. I love going out with my family and we take trips to the forest.
Do you have a favourite club?
I am a super fan of Manchester United Football club.
Do you have Awards?
I do have several awards both from my own job and associations that I have served in. I am currently in the country for a conference of World Comparative Education that was held in Port-Harcourt. I am not an official member but because I helped them in coordinating certain things, they invited me and made me a honorary fellow of World Comparative Education.
What legacies would you want to be remembered for?
I will love to be remembered for education. Personally, I have helped many people in education, through sponsorship by paying their tuition. Many of them I don’t know but in my heart, such humanitarian services gives me joy. That was why I stressed on the need for us at the IDU meeting in North America to assist the students of Comprehensive High School, Igbodo with scholarship to enable them sit for their NECO examination. I cannot resist doing that because one of those students might end up being the doctor of your children tomorrow. The Ika Association in America usually support schools with whatever they need, mostly the Primary school. We just pick a school and donate educational materials to them.
Do you have best and worst moments?
My worst moment was when I was in medical school from 1981 to 1987, because of the stress involved. Apart from that, the other was the period that my wife and I were waiting to have children. While my best moment was the day my first daughter was given birth to.
On the issue of Nigerian youths traveling to Libya through the Mediterranean Sea, what is your take on that?
It is quite unfortunate. You need to see the dilemma people go through when they try to explain to people that it is not all rosy when you travel abroad. I tell people all the time and they say why are you there? I am there because I survived but there are many people who have gone along the way. I fault our people, who are back home here and our people abroad that gives false information.
My advice to the youths is for them to see the truth, it is not rosy abroad especially in Europe, that is why I supported the Youth Leadership Summit recently organized for students and the unemployed graduates of Igbodo Kingdom to let them understand that opportunities abound in Nigeria as they can make it here in Nigeria without traveling abroad. Again, I will encourage our youths to be involved in viable ventures, learn a skill, through vocational enterprise in order to have a secured future and sustainable development.