Dr Mina Margaret Ogbanga is a graduate of Harvard University with a doctorate degree (Ph.D) in Development Studies and works in the Institute of Natural Resources, Environment and Sustainable Development (INRES), a specialized centre of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State. She has served as a research fellow in many national and international institutions. She is well published in national and international peer-reviewed journals. She has interest in impact analysis and coping mechanisms and is an experienced community development specialist, who founded and managed the Center for Development Support Initiatives (CEDSI Nigeria), an institution that promotes good governance and sustainable development in rural communities. She also serves as member of the Board of Trustees of the Rivers State Community Development Foundation.
Please briefly tell us about your mother.
My mum, Mrs Belema Margaret Anga, died on October 17, 2018, when she was 74 years. She worked on missions while alive. She became blind at the age of 19 when she entered the University of Ibadan to study Law. Immediately she lost her sight, her dream of becoming a lawyer was aborted. She decided to go into missions because she wanted to preach the gospel in the creeks and rural environments. She was from Ogu town in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area of Rivers State and an Old Girl of Aunty Ayo’s Group of Schools.
What did she tell you about boys?
She told me to respect boys but I must be bold, courageous, fearless, focused and strong. She encouraged me to have healthy competition with them. My mum gave birth to eight boys and two girls. She raised us with so much love. Despite her condition she was able to raise her kids properly and ensure we excel in our academic work. Mum was a strong woman.
Please tell us one particular advice she gave you as a teenager, which you still hold on to today?
I the lesson that there is no point sinking in worries rather you should stand strong and believe it would be okay. Also, I also learnt from her that God is our ultimate help. He is our ultimate guide and in all we do we should put God first.
Tell us some of the things you did with her that you miss badly?
My mum was passionate about Nigeria; she made us pray every day for this country. She believed that God would heal this land by faith. To her God does not make any mistake and she urged us to take each day at a time. Mum was amazing.
What was her favourite meal that she prepared, and which you equally enjoyed so much?
My mum was an excellent cook; she possessed a fabulous cooking skill. She could turn just vegetables and onions into a mouth watering dish; it may seem unbelievable but that is an absolute truth. She loved vegetables a lot and could apply it in various meals but vegetable soup was her favourite soup.
How did you feel when you first saw your menstruation?
Menstruation is usually dreadful for girls when they first see it. I was shocked but mum explained everything to me. She advised me not to get pregnant because seeing my period was like an embargo placed on me. I was no longer to play freely with boys, to avoid them taking advantage of my innocence; she said I had to learn to behave as a woman.
What do you value so much about your mum’s personality?
A multi-skilled personality with insightful oration, she became a very strong woman after she lost her husband, my father, Mr Lawrence Kenneth Anga, 30 years ago. My mum had an uncanny influence that made you want to simply do the right thing and have vision as a person. My mother stood her ground to see us become useful citizens to ourselves and society. She smiled always even in the midst of turbulence. She had a striking sense of things happening around her though she was blind. We were raised in a godly manner and responsible people of the society.
Why did you establish the NGO and the impact you have made so far?
I established the non-governmental organization, Centre for Development Support Initiatives (CEDSI) to address the environmental challenges faced by women in particular and rural communities in general. I wanted to be the voice to speak for communities when I saw the degradation experienced by oil producing communities due to oil spillage. We have worked in over 600 communities and still counting, to act as a voice and strengthen their capacities to meet their own needs.
We have carried out strategic environmental protection initiatives amongst youths and other targets to enhance sustainability and livelihood. Today, many communities have their own community development plans as we were able to provide the backup capacity to enable them identify their priorities, design the plan and identify potential support structure to enable them achieve their objectives.