On Friday, October 15, Dr Alex Egbona who represents the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, turns 57 and in this interview with a selected group of journalists, he speaks on his regrets in life as well as the things he holds dear in life.
How has life been for you in the last 57 years?
I would say life has been fair, very fair to me. I think I will be right to say that in the last 57 years, I have enjoyed the best of God. When I look back and remember where I came from, someone that the father died and left at a very young age, someone that was left in the hands of an elder brother who was not even well to do, someone that had to fend for himself at a very early stage in life, someone that struggled to become a graduate, all I can say is that God has been generously good to me.
The last 57 years has been wonderful for me. There have been times when I have to give to scores of people; times when people depend on me to survive, times when I would cry and times when I would dance.
Just recently, I had cause to cry. I cried when I lost my bosom friend and brother, Mr Sam Asebe. That was a few weeks ago and as I speak to you now, I am yet to recover from that shock, even though we have buried him. A young man who left this world at the age of 48, a brother that meant so much to me and the people of my constituency. He died and left us here and it has caused me so much pains. I lost my father when I was very young. I may not have really felt his departure the way I felt when this my brother died. I mean, this is someone who was there with me as we got committed to improving the lives of our people. He was into business; not into politics like me. But he impacted lives, employed our people in droves and gave hope to so many. It will take a very long time for me to recover. So, as I turn 57, it is difficult for me to roll out the drums because I am still in pains.
You must have missed him a lot. His death must have been seriously regrettable?
Yes, if I say I have missed him, it will only be an understatement. But such is life. His death is regrettable, not just for me but for all the people of my constituency, especially our village where, even the old women, the old men, widows, orphans are still mourning.
At 57, you must have got some wonderful and not too wonderful experiences. Can you share them with us?
Of course I have got some very terrible experiences and also very, very good experiences. They are just many. But let me summarise by saying that human beings are just too difficult to deal with. That creature called human being is a wonderful being. You have people who will deal with you without blinking, without thinking of the consequences of their actions, and sometimes you begin to think whether some people have conscience at all. There have been times when people disappoint you or deliberately take advantage of you and they do it with all amount of effrontery, not minding if you would be hurt by their actions.
I have had times when people will come to ask for assistance, with the promise of paying back. They would cry and roll on the floor. As a growing young man who was also trying to eke out a living, I would be sympathetic and go out of my way to help, but the same person will sting you. I have seen all these. People have taken advantage of my simplicity. People have taken advantage of my good heart a lot of times. People have taken advantage of the fact that I am accessible. Till now, people are still taking advantage of my simplicity. Even before I got into public office, people find it very comfortable to take advantage of me. It is even worse now that I am in public office. But what do you do? Do I stop showing kindness to people just because some persons have hurt and disappointed me?
I have seen a lot in the last 57 years of my life. Now, I can tell you that I receive at least 800 messages on a daily basis; about 1000 calls on a daily basis and more than 90 per cent of those calls are from people who are in need, or people who need help from me, whether genuinely or not. Some will call and tell you about their house rent, they will ask for money for hospital bills, they will ask for money to feed their children, money for burial and so on. It is good enough if you have to give. But unfortunately, most of the people do not even want to know whether you have. They just assume that you have, or you are supposed to have. So, even at midnight, they will call you and if for whatever reasons you did not pick those calls or respond to those messages and at the time they want responses from you, you become a very bad person.
I believe this is one of the reasons why people in public office steal, just to be able to satisfy people. Sometimes, when I tell people who need help from me, that I do not have today, at the time they are calling for the assistance, they find it difficult to believe. But what I will not do is to steal to be able to give to people. I won’t. I will only do the one I can do. Now, my salary finishes even before it comes and that is because before the end of the month, there must have been a very long list of account numbers from people you need to help and you keep them on the queue. So when I am paid, I assist those I can assist and the others will be carried forward.
You know what? If I go and steal to give out and I run into problems and EFCC or ICPC or the police arrest me, the same people will be mocking me. So, I will continue to do the ones I can do and leave the rest for God. But I can tell you that human beings are very wonderful. Believe me. However, it will not deter me from doing the things that are good.
What are your regrets in life?
Regrets? I’m not sure I have regrets. But for the sake of answering your questions, let me say that perhaps, my regret will be that I really wish I had so much to meet the needs of everybody. The people that look up to me on hourly basis are much more than I can carry. So, I regret that even though I have the will to touch every life and be of help to all those that come my way, the resources available to me are not enough to meet those needs. This is a concern to me. That is why I keep praying everyday that God should bless me much more so that I can be of a blessing to many more people.
I regret that my bosom friend, Sam Asebe had to die now. It is also painful and worrisome that politics in Nigeria has become very expensive. Nigerian politics has become something else. There has been so much deceit. Those of us who were brought up to live a life of sincerity are finding it difficult to cope with people who cannot be trusted, people who find it difficult to keep their promises, people who set out to deceive and cheat you. I find it very difficult to function like that because it is not in my blood.
My regret in life, too, is that the wonderful people I have encountered in life, I did not get to meet them earlier. Believe me, I have encountered and dealt with genuine people. But they are very few. People whose words you can take to the bank. I have some of them around me as friends and I really wish I met them long before today. But that is how life is; you encounter the good, the bad and the terribly bad ones.
How do you spend a typical day?
My day begins with God. I don’t play with my personal time with God. A lot of people complain that they cannot reach me early in the morning. Yes, and that is because I take pleasure in starting the day with the Almighty. I enjoy spending quality time with him each morning before I can set out to deal with the day’s businesses. I love to read. I read a lot. So, on a typical day, you will find me reading newspapers and other news channels. I like to be up to date with happenings around me; so I listen to the news in the morning before or after my physical exercise, depending on what comes first.
And then once my phones come on, the calls and messages will start coming. Sometimes, you would attain to those calls and forget yourself. But you must do the things you need to do.
I am one of those who love my work. Wherever I find myself, I love to work. I am always dedicated and committed to my work. When I was a councillor, you would always find me on my toes, working, going for sittings and all that. When I was chief of staff, you would always find me on my duty post. I can say I am a workaholic. Now that I am in the House of Reps, I think I am one of those legislators that you will always find on their duty post. I go for sitting when I am supposed to and I get involved in oversight functions when I am supposed to.
I like to eat right and at the right time. I pay a lot of attention to my health and my family. I have a very wonderful wife and I think I am blessed to have her. God has also blessed me with good children that I am always proud of. So, my immediate and extended family, including my political family give me reasons to work hard to be able to cater for them. I hate laziness the way I hate crime. Even with my busy daily schedule, I still try to find time to relax, even though this one has been very tough. But in all, I thank God for who he is and what he is to me. The last 57 years have been very eventful and I can only say to God alone be the glory.