Lady Helen Uche Ibezim is an administrator and educationist. Her book of memoirs/inspiration, Your Gift is Your Power was published by SEVHAGE in 2015. In this interview with Su’eddie Vershima Agema, she bares her mind on writing, inspiration and the spirit of her book. Enjoy…
How did you conceive the idea of the book, ‘Your Gift is Your Power’ and when did you first start writing the book?
I conceived the idea of the book through the various experiences I had as a classroom teacher, a parent, a school administrator, and an ordinary citizen on the streets of Nigeria. I realised that one can only feel fulfilled in life when one has successfully unfolded what he is made of. Many people make the mistake of imitating others, without knowing they have specific roles they have been divinely called to play. They fail to understand that, as faces are diverse, so also are talents which I have termed ‘gifts’, which they possess, that will make them excel in life. Life is all about challenges, ‘highs’ and ‘lows’, so, the best option for everyone is to locate where they are gifted, and develop such into skills that will be beneficial to them and the entire humanity. I started writing the book in January, 2015, and it took me a period of one year. The published copy came out in December, same year.
What was the writing process like?
The writing of the book, like I stated in the acknowledgement page, was not something close to writing an ordinary essay. It was tasking due to researches here and there. Consultations were equally made on the best way to come out successfully, since it’s my first outing in book publication. You know one has to be careful so that the public will not be misled. Naturally, facts had to be verified, in order for the authentic information to be published. When I started with my handwriting, I wrote on several papers, then inside booklets. Later, I edited and rewrote the work before engaging the services of a computer operator to type the manuscript. Unfortunately, a lot of typing errors cropped up and that gave me ‘little headache’. Since I noticed that the first person was not capable of handling the work to my taste, I employed the services of three other different people, and they did the typing of the remaining work. However, my knowledge of Microsoft Word empowered
me to do some editing on what they did. I was burdened with many typographical errors, many omissions, and some additions of some strange words not originated by me! It took me some time to retype some embarrassing mistakes, change some font types to my taste, and come up with some peculiar concepts.
In order to establish confidence in the reading public, I was quite mindful of the language used, the grammatical structure, and the manner of presentation. First impression matters, you know. I felt that unnecessary mistakes could kill my integrity, I therefore took time to edit the work several times before giving it out to my husband and children for their own opinions. This was later followed by the forwarding of the work to professional editors (Su’eddie Agema and his SEVHAGE Team) for their professional advice, opinion, and final editing. This done, the publication followed suite, resulting in what you are now seeing.
Though the process was quite involving, I devised means of making the work lighter for me. I never missed my sporting activities. They really enhanced my performance in the literary work. Anytime I felt saturated, I went on either jogging or aerobics. Sometimes, I would take a walk down the street or listen to some exciting music, while taking some fruits. All these opened my entire body to the business I was I into.
Readers want to get much from a book without being bored. Do you think you have been able to write an exciting book readers will connect with? Explain how or how not.
Getting much without being bored? Yes, I had to devise means of sustaining my readers’ attention. With some sense of humour, I attracted a little bit of more attention because people need to read things that will make them laugh once in a while. Readers are enticed with some of my personal experiences which were daring. It’s not really easy to expose some naughty experiences one had in the course of growing up, but I had to, in order to make the book real, especially to younger readers.
Again, I had to spice the book up with the mention of concrete names people across ages are familiar with in the social world in order to draw the points home. The entertainment world which comprises of music, sports and film industries are striking areas in the minds of people, so they will be interested in reading what is going on in such areas of human endeavour.
It’s equally interesting to find out that the book deals with basically almost all areas of human endeavour while moving people to locate their talents and make optimal use of such. Definitely, every reader will find in one or more of the 26 chapters of the book where he or she is addressed. This is why I term it a book for everyone – students, teachers, parents, administrators, political office holders, physically challenged, girl-child, boy-child, government officials, business men and women.
Another striking means I used to sustain the reader’s interest is the use of poems at the end of each chapter. Each of the 26 chapters of the book is complemented with a poem composed by my humble self. As we all know, poems open us up to think beyond the physical world. You are taken to an exciting realm, where you’ll be feeling relaxed and moved. The rhyming nature of the poems there will equally make the reader feel like ‘singing’ and ‘dancing’. These are my unique strategies.
Did you ever think about stopping when you started writing? If yes, what did you do to move on?
No, not at all. It’s true that sometimes, I felt that the book was taking much of my time, especially the period I would have used to watch the television, discuss the political campaigns by the various political parties (because I was on the writing desk during the period of 2015 Nigerian General Elections), and luxuriate in rest, but I felt it was a mission that had to be accomplished. Consequently, I never thought about stopping. I only devised strategies of having my ‘breaks in transmission’. I stopped writing at intervals to get a little bit of distraction through sporting activities and other family engagements.
You are an educationist and moralist who is experienced in diverse fields. How did your experiences and thoughts come to bear in ‘Your Gift is Your Power’?
In my book, I tried much to share some of my experiences, especially my life as a school Administrator. You see, when an authority speaks, the targeted audience listens. Just like I stated in one of the chapters that ‘iron must bend’, the students are somehow compelled to lend their attention to all those areas where their sharp practices are x-rayed. This will subsequently move them to go ahead and read the solutions proffered to their prevalent problems. The other life experiences I shared there are to concretise the issues raised there. Definitely I can’t advise someone not to eat egg, for example, without telling him why he should not or what happened to me when I ate it. This assertion reechoes one of my poems in the book which says ‘Make it real’.
Now that your work has been published, looking through the whole writing and publishing process, do you think it is a venture worth the whole trouble?
Yeeeees! Again, I say ‘yes’. This is because nothing good comes easy. You see, in life, there’s nothing as challenging as not seeing the result of your endeavours. On the other hand, there’s nothing as exciting and fulfilling as seeing your product – successful end. I have learnt that if there’s no pain, there’s no gain. The more painful the fight, the sweeter the victory. The end justifies the means, as a matter of fact. So, seeing my published book gives me great joy and a feeling of immense literary achievement. My mind is now revealing to me that I was not conservative with my intellect after all. My ideas are now immortalised and will surely serve as reference material to generations yet unborn. Really, contrary to the French proverb which says ‘le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle’, I make bold to state here that ‘the game is worth the candle’.
What has the response to the book been so far and what plans do you have for it?
The response to the book so far has been overwhelming. I’ve been receiving acclaims here and there. The fact that the final packaging of the book blends with the content quality of the book is heart warming. People who have seen the book are feeling satisfied with what has been put together for the reading public. Some are impatient with the date fixed for the launching and had to order for copies immediately. They bought for themselves and for the rest of their family members. They even extended the gesture to their friends and visitors. Some have asked me to supply copies to them to enable them spread the message of self-empowerment to some indigent children, school libraries and even prisons. The response is awesome.
My plan for the book is to spread copies to as many schools as possible. Since ignorance is a disease, the awareness of self-empowerment through one’s gift has to spread to all and sundry, in order to have a sanitised society.
What next are we expecting from you literary wise and when do we expect it?
I’ll come out soon with another literary work, as I don’t intend to keep readers in suspense for long. My next book is fiction – a novel. This first one is non-fiction (inspirational and motivational) so I want to show my other side to the readers. The next book is so engaging that one will never desire to drop it until he sees the last page. The writing is already ongoing and by the special grace of God, it’ll come out clean like this first publication. My plan is to launch that one by the middle of 2017.
As readers digest the contents of this one and unfold what they’re endowed with, I promise them a more thrilling package next year. Enjoy your reading and be intellectually enriched!!!
A little bit about yourself?
I am a graduate of French from University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1984). I equally did my post graduate Diploma in Education in the same University. However, these came after I had graduated from Queen’s school, Enugu where I had my secondary school education. I shall not fail to mention that I had my primary school education at St Barth’s Primary School, Asata Enugu where I had my First School Leaving Certificate.
While in the University, I travelled out to France for a one-year abroad programme undertaken by students of French course. I came back after obtaining Diploma in French Language, Literature, and Civilisation at Université de Grenoble. I took my Degree exams and came out with B.A. (Hons) French, Second Class Honours, Upper Division.
Some years later, while in the teaching job, I enrolled in a Computer school and obtained a Diploma in Computer studies. This was later followed by a Certificate in Creativity which I obtained in New York City.
Before coming up with this publication, I have written many articles in magazines and journals. I have served as Editor in RSL and The Light magazines. I have equally been recognised in a number of ways such as: Woman of Vision, Mother of Faith, Matron of Scouts Movement, Lady of the Knight of St Christopher, and award of Excellence.
The teaching job took me to many schools and later, I was appointed a Vice Principal (Administration) of a school. This I did for about two years before I was appointed a School Principal. As a Principal, I served two schools – the first was Junior Secondary School, Karshi, Abuja, and the second was Junior Secondary School, Kurudu, Abuja. After being a secondary school principal for almost eight years, I became an Inspector of Schools. It was during this period I started writing this book. I was later posted to FCT Universal Basic Education Board as a Deputy Director. After setting down there, I completed my writing and went for the publication of this book.
I have hobbies which include reading, writing, sports, and travelling. I have gotten international experiences from South Africa, West Germany, France, République du Bénin, USA, Egypt, Switzerland, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and United Kingdom. I love people who bring out the best in them and equip themselves with such, for a self-fulfilled life.