For our Gliters and achievers section this month, Ikaworld.com will cull an interview conducted by Ika Weekly Newspaper with Mr. Micheal Ebie, the current Presesident of Ika National assciation Inc. USA. Please keep reading.
Ika Weekly Personality of the week is a weekly publication on illustrious sons and daughters of Ika land at home and in the diaspora that have made their people proud by affecting many lives. Below is one of such personalities
Ika Weekly: Sir, can you tell us about yourself?
First of all, I thank you for considering me worthy to be your "Personality of the Week". I feel privileged because I have been a subscriber of this well respected and informative newspaper for nearly four years now, and I have seen the caliber of the individuals you’ve featured over the years as personalities of the week. To be considered in that vein humbles me greatly.
To the management and staff of Ika Weekly Newspaper, what can I say! For many years, you have worked honorably and successfully to serve the interests of the working peasantry. In spite of the overwhelming odds, this community focused Newspaper has survived these many years, and continues to work honorably and successfully to serve the interests of all indigenes and working peasantry in Ika Nation and beyond.
Ika indigenes, especially we in the diaspora owe you and your Newspaper a debt of gratitude for getting us closer to newsworthy events in and around our beloved homeland. Most importantly, members of Ika National Association, USA, Inc cherish the partnership we’ve shared with you and your Newspaper these many years; we look forward to many more years of stronger bonds between us.
Please do not relent in your efforts in the pursuit of excellence that Ika Weekly Newspaper has come to be known for; we wish you and your Newspaper continued success for many more years.
Now to your question, my name is Michael Ndidi Ebie, a native of Aliokpu, in Ika South Local Government area of Delta State. I was born to the late Mr. James Ebie Ibe, popularly known as "K.C. Boy", and the late Madam Lucy Ebie (nee: Salami) of Ozanogogo, also in Ika South LGA. I was born in Agbor, but grew up all over the place because my late father, who worked for the Ministry of Health was transferred a lot throughout his career. I started out in the western part of Nigeria, specifically Ado-Ekiti, where my late, immediate younger brother was born and was named as such. From there, my dad was transferred to Ondo where another younger brother (now deceased) was born and also named as such. I guess you could say my dad wanted a reminder of where he had lived; I am surprised he did not name me or other siblings who were born in Agbor, "Orogodo".
From Ondo, my dad was transferred to Benin City where I started my elementary school education at Edokpolor Primary School; but the Nigerian Civil War put an end to that when the Federal troops began making their push into then Bendel State (f/k/a Midwest State). My dad immediately sent us back to our homeland, Agbor Orogodo, where I continued my Primary School education at Government Primary School, (Now Erigbe Primary School), Agbor. I proceeded to St. Charles College, Abavo to pursue my secondary school education. As devout Catholics and Mass Servers in the Catholic Church, my dad wanted me and my siblings to attend a Catholic secondary school. I thank him for that decision because St. Charles’s College gave me an invaluable education.
After graduating from St. Charles’s College with my West African School Certificate in hand, I proceeded to Lagos where one of my mentors, Daniel S.O. Usifoh helped me secure a job as a clerk with the then Nigerian National Oil Corporation (NNOC), n/k/a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). I worked at NNOC for a couple of years before leaving for the United States of America to further my education.
While in the United States of America, I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Texas in Arlington, and a Master’s degree in Finance from the University of North Texas. Additionally, I hold a Diploma of Graduation from Colorado Graduate Banking School, and attended various Advanced Credit Evaluation Courses. I am also a graduate of the ABA National Compliance School.
I have been in the financial field ever since, having held positions in various disciplines, including eight years as a Commissioned Bank Examiner with the Texas Department of Banking. I was responsible for the examination of commercial banks’ loan portfolio to assess underwriting, as well as perform credit reviews to make determinations as to the Safety & Soundness of such institutions.
For the past sixteen years, I have worked for First State Bank where I was recently elected as Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer. In this position, I am responsible for all lending activities for the entire bank.
Prior to that, I served as Senior Vice President and Compliance Officer for the same bank. In this capacity, I was responsible for implementing and supervising the bank’s Compliance Program on an on-going basis. Additionally, I served as the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Officer, as well as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Officer.
I have served on various boards and participated on various government panels regarding banking rules and regulations.
I am married to Mrs. Lita Ebie, a black American and have been for over 30 years. You may ask why marry a black American? As a very wise person said to me, "When the desired is unavailable, the available becomes desirable". She has adopted my Ika culture and is very active in Ika community here in the United States of America. She also holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Marketing, and is an Insurance Company executive for the past 20 years.
We are blessed with two beautiful children, a son and a daughter; however, we lost our son many years ago. Our daughter, Monica Nwakaego Ebie, holds a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration and is gainfully employed. The death of our son helped to make me who I am today. It taught me a lot about life; to cherish every day and treat people with respect and dignity. I learned then never to question God for only He knows why things happen the way they do. We can ask, but He owes us no explanation.
Ika Weekly: What informed your decision to travel to the United States of America?
When I graduated from secondary school, there were very few Universities in Nigeria at that time to accommodate all who wanted to further their education. As was common with youths then, impatience became the rule of the day as most of us wanted to seek admission anywhere in the world. I was fortunate that the first school to offer me admission was in the United States of America. I immediately embarked on a mission to secure a student’s visa. After nearly two years of trying to secure a visa, I finally succeeded and as the saying goes, "the rest is history".
Ika Weekly: How long have you been in the United States and what challenges are the black people facing there?
I have been in the United States in excess of 35 years now. As for challenges faced by black people, there are many; but as a very young Nigerian in a foreign land, challenges faced by black people were the least of my worries then. My personal challenges didn’t allow me time to worry about the color of my skin. My survival and success were of paramount concerns for me.
Life is challenging enough, and if you want to let the color of your skin be the determining factor as to whether or not you want to succeed in life, well go ahead. If you are black, you are black and there is nothing you can do to change it. I am reminded of a news network interview of General Colin Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was asked, "General, how does the color of your skin affect your job performance?". To paraphrase his response, he said "I do not wake up every morning and worry about the color of my skin", instead "I ask myself how can I do the best job for mankind?". Those were and continue to be my sentiments exactly, and if anyone has issues with my skin color, they need to take that up with my maker. I had no choice in that decision.
Ika Weekly: When last did you come home? If not often, why?
I am embarrassed to say it’s been nearly eleven years since I last visited home. But just because I have not visited home recently does not mean I do not care about my homeland. Believe me, I am totally disillusioned about the state of affairs at home. I am the current National President of Ika National Association, USA, Inc. Our activities here are centered around how we can help alleviate the sufferings of our people. We recently sponsored a medical mission, and from all indications it was very successful. We hope to sponsor more of those mission in the near term.
Ika Weekly: You are the President, Ika National Association Inc. USA, a group that has in no small measures touched the lives of many Ika people back home, how do you people get the fund that you use for your humanitarian programmes?
Yes, I am currently the National President & Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ika National Association, USA, Inc. In my answer to the previous question, I indicated the main purpose for forming Ika National Association, USA, Inc was to find ways to help alleviate the sufferings of our kith and kin at home. Over the years, we’ve embarked on various missions, including raising funds for the victims of the collapsed water tank at the primary wing of the College of Education. We continue to provide 4-year scholarships to students studying in institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, and we supplied computers to the public library at Agbor, etc; not to mention the just concluded medical mission to Ika land.
Ika National Association, USA, Inc. is an umbrella organization here in the United States of America. We have various local chapters, and some of these chapters have also embarked on some humanitarian ventures as well. For example, the Chicago-land chapter provided benches, etc to various local hospitals and clinics around Ika LGAs, and the Washington/Baltimore Area chapter embarked on borehole projects in various communities in Ika land.
Funding is mostly through donations we receive from our biennial conventions. Ika National Association, USA, Inc. is a Tax Exempt Organization under Chapter 501-C(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States of America. This means that donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. Our next such convention is scheduled for May 24 –26, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ika Weekly: When did you become president of Ika National Association Inc. and what are the challenges so far?
I was elected to the position in May 2008, and re-elected in May 2010. A term is for two years, and one can only serve a maximum of two consecutive terms in the same position. That is what our national constitution mandates, and as a result, this is my second and final term. I will be handing over my duties and responsibilities in May 2012.
My challenges as the National President are many; but I must say, the opportunity to serve my people has been the greatest honor ever bestowed on me. You will always face challenges when you lead a group; but you must keep your focus and keep your eyes on the prize, which in my case is to alleviate the sufferings of our people. Over time, there are many frustrations; but whenever I get to that point, I always remind myself of heroes such as the late Rev/Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If he had given up, most of us would not be here in the United States of America, and if we were chanced to, it would probably be in a subservient capacity.
Ika Weekly: What informed the unity among Ika people in U.S. Any regret being a member and being the president?
As they say, "necessity is the mother of invention", and "wesi, ihien me mirin me ofe". (Something made water to become soup) We had no choice; we are too far from our homeland; we are all we have and we had to unite. No matter what level you achieve in a white man’s land, they will never let you forget that you are still black. Regardless, there is nothing like being amongst your own; our conventions exemplify this belief when we come together every two years.
I have absolutely no regrets being president of this wonderful association; it has been a great honor.
Ika Weekly: Do you have any regret traveling to the U.S.A?
I have no regrets at all; the only regret I have is that I do not visit home as often as I loved to. I have lost many loved ones at home, my dad, my mom, brothers and sisters, although I still have siblings at home; home reminds me of the loved ones I have lost. I guess not visiting home is my way of dealing with those losses.
Ika Weekly: If you were in Nigeria would you still have been involved in communal and humanitarian services as you are doing now?
Very good question; but honestly, I do not know. My life experiences here in the United States of American helped shape my current view of life. I am not sure what my life experiences would have been if I were in Nigeria. So, it is difficult to answer that hypothetical question.
Ika Weekly: Now that the free medical mission to Ika land sponsored by your association is over and successful what next are Ika people to expect from their illustrious children in the USA?
Let me first seize this opportunity once more to extend my personal "Thank You" to everyone who made this humanitarian mission possible. To the folks at the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association who freely sacrifice and give of their time to make sure their fellow human beings who are less privileged are never forgotten. To the folks at home without whom the mission would not have been possible. Mr. Steve Ekiri Mekeriuwa Ashien and the staff of Ika Weekly News paper, Mr. Daniel S.O. Usifoh and his staff and my darling Aunty, Chief/Mrs. Henrietta Ajuebon-Egabrin, J.P. Of course our very own Chief/Dr. Edwin Kaliku, his wife, daughter and granddaughter, as well as my niece, Miss Fidelia Salami who traveled all the way from Lagos to provide a helping hand. You all took care of the logistics on ground. May God Almighty in His infinite mercies reward you all most abundantly.
To our king/ruler, Keagborekuzi 1, the Dein of Agbor Kingdom, who made us very proud. May you live long!
Let me not forget our Ika folks here in the United States (Mr. & Mrs. Onyema Gabriel Nmorka; Mr. & Mrs. Christian Mbulu, Dr. Patrick Idoye, et-al) whose continued support of the African Women’s cancer Awareness Association over the years was instrumental in Ika land being included in this medical mission. God bless you all.
We hope to sponsor more of such missions in the future; the blue print is already there and hopefully my successor will continue with the program.
Ika Weekly: Many of our Ika politicians who claim to be political leaders are part of the rot in Ika land and sometimes they are your guests in USA, have you people taken time to ask them why they are not representing their people well in government, like their colleagues do in the U.S and other places?
Ika National Association, USA, Inc. is a non-political organization and we do not believe in antagonizing anyone. Instead, we believe that dialogue is the better approach. The politicians who attend our conventions are asked about the rot in Ika land; but I would ask that anyone who thinks we are "pushovers" as far as the politicians who attend our conventions are concerned should endeavor to attend our conventions. As they say, "a picture is always worth a thousand words".
Ika Weekly: Personally, what is your relationship with Ika political leaders?
I am not a politician and I do not aspire to be one; my relationship with Ika political leaders is one of mutual respect. First and foremost, they are human beings and I owe them that respect as human beings. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the best way to get performance from Ika political leaders is not through antagonism. We will get there; "ekere ekere kiwe gi ebi-elu!" (Life is lived a little bit all a time)
Ika Weekly: What are your views on the Nigerian democracy?
Let us not forget that Nigeria is still a very young democracy. Although she just turned 51, Nigeria had been under military rule for most of those years. The United States of America, the beacon of democracy still has a lot to learn, let alone our beloved young baby, Nigeria.
Ika Weekly: Don’t you think that Nigerian leaders need to be educated on financial management?
They do not need education in financial management. They already do a very good job managing, albeit, for themselves. What they need is an education in self-control and responsibility to their constituents. In my humble opinion, morality should rank very high in that curriculum.
Ika Weekly: Have you received any award from any Ika community or people for the good work you are doing?
I am reminded of the famous quote by former president, the late John F. Kennedy when he said, "Ask what you can do for your country, and not what your country can do for you". I have been serving my community ever since I arrived the United States of America as a young university student. We’ve had Ika organizations in different forms and fashions and I have been part of all. I did not get into this service to my people for any awards. The best awards I get are the phone calls and prayers from recipients of our many humanitarian ventures.
Ika Weekly: How is your religious life?
Probably not as good as it should, given my early years as a "Mass Server" in the Catholic faith; but religious life is a relative term. I sincerely believe that Christianity is at heart; there is a difference between a Christian and a churchgoer. What is important to me is that I have given my life to God.
Ika Weekly How do you relax?
Relaxation is a luxury that I currently do not have; in between my very demanding job as a banker and other organizational commitments, etc; I really do not have time to relax much.
Ika Weekly: What is your hobby?
Whenever I can, I watch Nigerian movies; I have a huge collection of Nigerian movies.
Ika Weekly: Who is (are) your role model(s)?
My role models are my father and mother who instilled in me at an early age to have a healthy self-esteem; never to allow anyone define who I am. I have many other role models but I would rather not name them for fear that I might forget some.
Ika Weekly: What is your advice to Nigerians?
Nigeria is our country; let us make it better for our children and leave it better than we inherited it; hopefully in a much better shape, a country full of opportunity and prosperity for all its citizens.
Ika Weekly: What is your message to Ika people?
Never give up hope; we need to unite and stop the in fighting amongst us because united we stand, divided we fall. "Onu kokome, ogbu ofifi". (The lips are rounded to whistle) God bless you all, and once more, thank you for the opportunity to be named as the personality of the week.