Damiete Braide and Sijibomi Fatayo
PetersBell Jigo is multifaceted, but for quick digest, her profile can be summarised in one sentenc: “Author of two books, director of procurement and corporate services at Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited, and vice president/principal vision carrier, Mt. Moriah Prayer Gathering (MMPG).”
A careful reading of her curriculum vitae, however, highlights the fact that Jigo, who earned bachelor degrees in Theatre Arts and Law, respectively, from the University of Benin, and City University, London, an MBA in Oil and Gas Management from the University of Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom, and has attended several executive programmes at Harvard Business School, is a woman of substance.
Presently, she is on the board of four charity organisations, including St. PetersBell Jigo Foundation, the St. PetersBell Centre for Law and Justice, the F.B. Peters Fund Foundation and the Aiteo Foundation, where she is an executive director.
In this interview, she discloses to Daily Sun her quest to improve the sight of Nigerians; she also underscores the importance of improving the literacy rate in the country and the need to scale up youth reorientation.
What informed your decision to go into medical outreach, especially eyesight?
I believe in enlightening the mind. Although we do not need to have physical sight to read, however, there is a majority that sees more than those who do not see. For you to be able to have an enlightened mind, you should be able to read with your eyes, while the blind make use of the Braille to read. I am referring to people with physical sight, and I realised that, if they are not able to see, how can they read? It is a beautiful thing for the eyes to behold, see the sun, and a man who cannot see is in darkness and in deep trouble. There is a popular saying that if you want to hide anything from the Black man, put it in writing, but they are wrong because the book is not the only format of information. There is also information in electronic format. So, people need their eyes for knowledge and to read to feed their mind.
Two years ago, I was in Harvard for a programme and, while in class, I asked an individual who had a foundation in France that cared for the sight of people what her plans were for Africa. And she said I should see her after the lecture. We went into discussions on how to establish a medical outreach in Nigeria, which we have successfully done. I desire to see people have good sight to be able to read and write.
We are ready with the execution of our programme. We have identified people that need urgent medical attention and, in a few weeks, they will be treated and their sights restored.
Some people have eye problems because of the wrong diagnosis. Something more dangerous could be going on from just reading letters, but our foreign counterparts have brought their skills and technology to treat Nigerians with poor eyesight.
Why is your focus on youth re-orientation and skills acquisition?
The youth are the future of the generation. The current leadership in the country has failed youths. If we do not imbibe nation-building values in our youths, there will be a generation that will come and will not meet Nigeria of our dreams. It affects other institutions in the country like the church, politics, society; people no longer have integrity and a nation cannot be built on a solid foundation without integrity.
Developed countries have good leadership and discipline and that is why they have been able to take their country to a higher level. We should give our youths values that they will look up to and it will make them have integrity. I feel sorry for some youths today because we don’t have anything to give them that they will hold onto. I am passionate about raising key players within the African continent with the ability to have systems put in place for knowledge transfer.
There are people, they have knowledge but they cannot impart the knowledge to others. If you share knowledge, you retain power and if you share the knowledge of your power, you will retain that power. Who knows tomorrow? You might be in need of an enhanced version of the knowledge that you shared some years ago? I believe in mentoring, which is a specialist process, and the young ones should be mentored in areas where they will become useful to society.
What do you think is the cause of poor vision in Nigeria?
Poor vision in Nigeria is as a result of poor education. In this era of social media, you find Nigerians pressing their phones in a poorly-lit room. When people do that, they create irreversible damage to their eyes. A celebrity makes a statement on social media and they want to read and comment on it. It is not a must that they see or read the comment at that moment, it can wait till the next day, then they can read the comment when everywhere is bright. If they have to read that comment, they can go to another room and put on the light to read it rather than disturb other people in the room. It is not a do-or-die affair that they have not been able to read what another individual has written on social media.
Even when people have been educated, they still disregard instructions on what to do. What is the thing that makes people go contrary to the health of our eyes? It is addiction to trending issues on social media; they are addicted to information that educates and enlightens their lifestyle.
What are the illiteracy figure in the country and how do you intend to reduce this figure?
The United Nations statistics available on illiteracy figures in the country is that about 75 per cent of Nigerians are illiterate. To reduce the high rate of illiteracy in the country, there should be constant enlightenment through a campaign for people to see the damage it has caused. Also, the media should join hands with government and corporate organisations in the dissemination of information to reduce illiteracy in the country. Where were we when we were an educated society and where are we now when we are no longer an educated society? We have done that analysis and know areas of need to channel a solution to that effect.
What inspired your second book, Service The Way Out! God’s Answer to a Woman’s Question On Religious Insurgency?
It is a book written not just for the Nigerian audience alone but also for the church community. Today, the world is burning like an oven. A certain war is raging on a scale that humanity has never known. We are faced with terrorism occasioned by the ideology of radical religious extremism. The proponents of this ideology claim they are on a mission from God, with an agenda that seeks to globally obliterate faith in the truth that Jesus Christ is the son of God. For all who believe, this is a botched plot to exterminate the church. But, and sadly too, the majority in this present church are estranged from their God by self-reinvention from children of God to sons and daughters of a strange god, and thus empower this abysmal order of persecution.
We need to get rid of the ideology that opens the floodgate of persecution. We should do what God wants us to do to maintain the little savour in the world.