By Christy Anyanwu
Mrs. Phina Origho retired as a director from the Delta State Post-Primary Education Board, after serving as the principal of Jeddo Secondary School. Jeddo, Delta State. She went into private business by setting up Plamj Hotels and Catering Services Limited.
With a background in Home Economics, getting into the hospitality business after retiring from the civil service was a very logical move that is now paying off. And it could not be otherwise given that Origho is one person who believes that a diligent, focused, goal-driven and determined person could achieve any desired purpose. In this interview, she shared her thoughts as well as her journey in life and career.
What’s your assessment of hospitality business in Nigeria?
We are trying, but we are not yet there. When you compare what the developed countries are doing, I would score the hospitality business in Nigeria above average. We have a long way to go in terms of different areas of customer care, where we are lacking a lot. Also, knowing where to site hospitality business is another thing. Some of the environments and edifices are nothing to write home about. We are still growing but I believe we have a lot to do.
As an entrepreneur what was the experience like during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020?
That was a terrible year, a year that brought down everybody and every business. It was a year that made people realize there’s nothing in this life. We are still struggling in business, not just in Nigeria but all over the world. My business was shut down and that was the beginning of the slowing down of my hospitality business. Till date, I’m still struggling to stand and many entrepreneurs are feeling same thing. I believe that, someday, everything will be all right.
What lesson has life taught you at 60?
The best piece of advice ever given to me came as a one-liner: take life one day at a time. Everything in life you do, do it one thing at a time. Being 60 is very special. To me, age is nothing but a number. When I turned 60 my husband and children ‘conspired’ to give me a surprise party. And it honestly left me very surprised and pleased. They beat me to it. I never expected it at all. My children and my husband told me we were going out for dinner. I never knew they had put together a huge party to mark my 60th birthday. People came from different parts of the world. I was surprised when I entered the hall.
How does it feel to be 60 years old?
Age is a number. That’s the way I see it. And it is in the mind. If you want to be old, you tell yourself that you are old. If you want to be young even in old age, you behave like a young person. So, I believe that age is just a number. I feel young and energetic.
In what way do you take care of yourself?
Everything is by the grace of God. Most of the time, I multitask myself, doing so many things that I am not supposed to do. I do what makes me happy whether I am delving into so many activities, I don’t care, as far as doing those things makes me happy.
Tell us about your background…
I grew up in Delta State, after the Nigeria Civil War. My dad, who was working with Shell Petroleum, took all of us to live in Ughelli, Delta State. I was in primary four when I came to Delta State. I went to primary school there. I went to secondary school, and I also had my tertiary education in Delta State. Growing up, I was inspired by my childhood friends, my primary school and secondary school friends, whom I still relate with up till date. There are some that even came for this surprise birthday party. I used to be an educationist. I retired two years ago. Once you are an educationist, you are always an educationist. I delved into hospitality business after retirement. I studied Home Economics in the university. All my life, I have been practising the profession. While I was teaching, I was doing that as a side job. When I retired, I decided to go into it in full force.
You said nice things about your better half at the event; how did you meet your husband?
We met when we were very young. I’m from the eastern part of the country and my husband is from Delta, Urhobo. My dad worked with Shell Nigeria BP in Warri. I went to school, primary, secondary and university, in Delta State. I grew up in that place. I met my husband there and my parents consented to the union. You pray for your children, wherever they are going to pick their mates. As far as there is love, that is what matters. At a stage, because of the tribal differences, there were hitches, but we resisted, my husband and I. We said we had found each other and we belonged to each other. My parents and his parents accepted the union and our marriage is 35 years plus today.
What were the qualities that made you fall for him?
He’s a very handsome man. He smiles a lot and he doesn’t talk. He was a quiet person. He’s a very strong, religious man. I’m very charismatic and that has kept us together. I wouldn’t say there are no problems here and there, provided we are able to resolve them and move ahead. Knowing each other has kept us. We know what we want and what we don’t want. Trust is another thing. He trusts me so much. He has a lot of trust and believes in me. People see my husband as a tough man but I don’t believe that. You might be different in your home and in your workplace you will be a different person, and many judge him by the office standard. He’s a stern person in terms of work. He doesn’t play with his work, he believes in integrity. He doesn’t stain his name. People might judge him differently but, for me, he’s just a nice person. I’m very optimistic. If I believe in a cause, I would go to all levels to get all that. That’s me. People might take that as being stubborn.
What advice do you have for young couples to be united in marriage?
They should put God first in whatever they do and they should be friends. The husband and wife should open up to one another. There shouldn’t be secrets. If you open up, if I am working in a place and I tell you what I earn and you tell me what you earn, I think, from there, we know how to solve our problems. But when there is secrecy, there’s usually a lot of problems.