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IF I COULD, YOU TOO CAN: Difficulty is not a permanent factor and with God almighty, hard work overcomes difficulty – Late Engr Cyprian Mbonu

Autobiography: Here’s the life and times of my beloved father, Engr Cyprian O. Mbonu (of the blessed memory) who transitioned into a greater glory on the 6th of February, 2016.

He actually wrote this article himself few years to his demise.

I, Cyprian Okoli Mbonu, the third son of Mazi Jospeh Ikedionwu Mbonu and Mrs Elizabeth Mgbeke Mbonu nee Onwuchekwa was born on 1st June, 1947 in a village called Ikpaeze Umuedi Arondizuogu in Okigwe Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo state.

Both my father Mazi Joseph Mbonu and mother Mrs Elizabeth Ngbaeke Mbonu were Christians and wedded in the Catholic church at Uturu near Okigwe. Before I was born, the seat of the Catholic church had extended to Okigwe and at this time, Okigwe Catholic residence was known as the Okigwe parish stationed at St. Mary’s Catholic church Okigwe. The christian life of my parents made it possible for every child born of my parents to be baptized 3 months after birth so I was not an exception to the rule. At the age of six, I started primary school at St. Gabriel’s Catholic church Ndi-Akunwanta Nkwo fada and my performance was extraordinarily admired by my teachers.

Consequent upon this phenomenon, my father Joseph Mbonu developed special interest in me to the extent that every request concerning my education was granted forthwith and my father also showed much interest to my two elder brothers though they were not as bright as myself, they were given the same opportunity to prove their mettle. My father was fond of speaking English language to me in our home because he noticed that I have a flair for English language. He was educated by a Methodist church situated near our village and on Sundays, the Methodist used to hold Sunday school immediately after Sunday service and my father participated in the programme for 5 years and got educated to the level of knowing how to read and write. He participated in the reading and interpretation of the holy bible and later he was converted to Catholic church where he featured prominently to the recognition of Reverend fathers from Ireland. He was made the leader of the church council and his relationship with Reverend fathers brought him social recognition to the extent that he was recommending any young person who passed standard six to Reverend fathers for appointment as a primary school teacher.

Three years into my primary school, my father fell sick and only lasted for a day before he passed away, then I was in primary two which was then known as standard two. It seemed to me like the end of the world because I thought that my brilliant performance in the primary school would come to an end but to the glory of almighty God, it did not stop as expected by many people, though my primary education did not stop with the death of my father, the death of my father made the going rough and uneasy. It also made it impossible for me to follow the course of study which I planned with my father when he was alive and as if the catastrophic blow caused by the death of my father in 1956 was not enough, my mother also died in 1957 just a year after the death of my father. The whole village was again put into sorrow, many villagers came to my help as an orphan, three of my younger brothers were also orphans and people from my maternal home took the little children into custody and I was left alone in the house. Some of the friends of my father and mother came to my help in many ways, one of the friends told me to always go to her farm to harvest cassava whenever I was in need of cassava and her name was Mrs. Ahaoba Okeke of her blessed memory, my autobiography can not be complete without mentioning her name.

My God father, Late Richard Ezenwaka contributed immensely to feeding me whenever I visited him and another person who showed much concern to my early education was Nathaniel Obi, a retired nurse who served at Anua Missionary hospital in now Akwa Ibom State. He paid my school fees saying that a brilliant boy like myself should not be allowed to stop going to school. When I passed standard six in 1960, an uncle was ready to send me to Secondary School but he fell sick and died in 1961 and he was the Chief technical officer in Post and telegraph (P&T). I was also put in another confusion and one day, I remembered one of our brothers in law who was rich and lived in Uyo in Akwa Ibom state and I carried my belongings in a beer carton and went to live with him. I told him my main objective of coming to live with him but he did not show willingness to help me rather, he was only interested in sending me to do domestic work for him. One day, one of his brother’s son by name Samuel Okafor took his Raleigh bicycle and sold it to a bicycle repairer and turned back to accuse me of stealing the same bicycle, the news spread like a bush fire in Uyo and it was so much that I was badly stigmatized and every Igbo man in Uyo saw me as a thief. When people saw me, they were surprised at my age and wondered what I would be in future if at my early age I could steal a bicycle, all Igbo people in Uyo heard the news and I was so stigmatized that it was better to die than to live with the stigma coupled with the value of a bicycle then.

This lingered till one day when I made a prayer to almighty God requesting that I would prefer to die while sleeping than to live with such a stigma where people would see me as a thief, our almighty God answered my prayer and an unknown man appeared in my dream and took me to the place where the bicycle was sold and showed me the bicycle and told me to come back there with a police man to arrest the man who bought the bicycle. As early as possible in the morning, I went to the place I was taken to in my dream and I saw the bicycle and called the police and the man was arrested and taken to Uyo Police Station, later the man Mr. Samuel Okafor who stole the bicycle, a student of Luthern Lutish School Obbot Idem was arrested and brought to the Police station for detention. It was that God’s intervention that vindicated me on the accusation and victimization that followed and when it became clear that my brother in law was not prepared to help me, I left the man to Portharcourt to stay with my uncle who was working in Portharcourt municipal council. On reaching him, I told him of my objective of coming to stay with him which was to help me acquire skill for livelihood and after about a year when the expected help did not come, I then requested him to help me get general duty work such as carrying cement, block and mortar to serve bricklayer in building construction site. I served as a general duty labourer for nine months and was able to save 25 pounds which I used to fund my apprenticeship in panel beating and welding and after 2 years I became I workman.

As a panel beater and welder I was making a living on my own and I had 6 apprentice trainees. I was making enough money daily but I had no job satisfaction because my classmates in primary school whom I was performing much more than they were performing were then in secondary schools. Consequently, I was seeing myself as an unfortunate boy before my primary school mates and this unfortunate phenomenon gave me sleepless nights that one day I thought of making use of postal tuition to pass General Certificate of Education London, GCE ordinary level. I immediately enrolled with rapid result college London and Mayflower London, I studied diligently for 2 years and at the same time running my workshop with my 6 apprentices. When I was ready to register for GCE London, the civil war cut off the former Eastern Nigeria from the rest of the country and it then became impossible for me to continue the studies. When Nigerian soldiers entered Portharcourt, we ran from Portharcourt to the hinter-land loosing all our belongings but I did not loose my books because my books were my most valued properties and when the war became very severe and the movement of young men were restricted and compulsory military service for able bodied men was the order of the military government, I joined the Biafran air-force and when the war ended in January 1970, I got employment in Ministry of works of East Central States of Nigeria. No sooner I joined the works ministry than Ford foundation of America came out with Scholarship awards to the children of East central states of Nigeria who recently came out of the civil war.

My participation in the scholarship examination was excellent and I passed to the extent of making the 8th position out of the 90 people that passed and I also passed the verbal interview. The tuition studies which I made with rapid results college and Mayflower London helped me during the scholarship examination, the studies shaped my future because after passing London city and Guilds in welding and fabrication Engineering practice I secured the state scholarship award of the former East central states of Nigeria which was tenable in Bulgaria and after the 4 year studies I obtained a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Metallurgy with Distinction. On returning to Nigeria and on completion of National Youth Service Corps, I secured another scholarship to study for a post graduate diploma in Metallurgy at USSR which is now Russia. On completing the programme in 1983, I went to University of La Verne California, Athens Campus and also completed a Master of Science Degree and after obtaining my MSC degree in Management with Metallurgical background, I returned home.

My life as a father

I am happily married with 6 children, all of which are either university graduates or undergraduate of University.

My life as a public servant

I served in various government organizations including Institute of Management and Technology Enugu (IMT), Ajaokuta Steel Company Ajaokuta, Imo State Supply and Distribution Agency (ISDA) known as Imo Marketing Company Owerri, National Directorate of Employment Owerri, finally I worked for 12 years in Development Finance and Investment Company Imo State which is wholly owned by Imo state government. I retired as the General Manager Chief Executive officer in June 2007.

My life as a Lecturer.

I combined my industrial practice as a General Manager with lecturing Management at Imo State University Owerri, Abia State University, University of Calabar and National Open University Owerri (NOUN). From the foregoing, we see that difficulty is not a permanent factor and with God almighty, hard work overcomes difficulty.

Hope this article inspires someone to work hard and not give up until result is seen. Thank you for read and kindly drop your feedbacks.

Nna m, may your soul continue to rest in peace, Amen.

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