Mrs Bridget Ejezie, 84, is a retired primary school supervisor from Ihiala in Anambra State. The octogenarian tells ALEXANDER OKERE about life in the early years of Nigeria’s independence and her career
You got married in 1960, the same year Nigeria gained independence. What was life like during that era?
I got married in August 1960. I was about 25 years old at that time and Nigeria was stable. At independence and during subsequent years, life was enjoyable. The government worked in the interest of the masses. Roads were built and electricity was stable. Workers’ salaries were paid monthly and retired workers got their benefits promptly. As soon as one graduated from school, they got a job according to their qualifications. There was nothing like idleness and there was no hunger.
What was your occupation at that time?
I had worked for years before independence. My husband was with the Nigerian Railway Corporation. He was a station master there. So, we were transferred from place to place so he worked in the North, East and South. At each new station, I got a job. Life was very good. We had eight children and seven of them are graduates.
At what point did you notice that life was no longer as rosy as it used to be?
I can say that for the past 10 years when it became difficult for people to get jobs, crime has increased. Things got worse about 10 years ago and I will say that idleness is the cause. There have been cases of brother killing his brother, son killing father, and so on. These things didn’t happen at the time Nigeria gained independence. At that time, there was nothing like kidnapping, but now, it is the order of the day. I will say these things were caused by unemployment and because political leaders make empty promises that they never fulfil. They work and put the money in their pockets, instead of caring for the masses.
How would you compare the character of the youth of your generation with the contemporary ones?
They are like two opposite things. The way children disobey their parents now, we didn’t do that during our time. Now, children take hard drugs and join cults. Now, parents fear their children and not the other way round.
You spoke about workers getting paid monthly when you were in active service. How would you assess the welfare of teachers in the country today?
I feel bad. In some states, salaries are not paid to teachers. My younger sister retired three years ago but she has not received her gratuity. She only started receiving her pension this year. Teachers are suffering these days, especially after retirement. In those days, when I had to move from one state to another, I got a job as soon as I got to a new location and received my salary. Teaching was an enjoyable profession then because we got three months of leave and pregnant women got three months of maternity leave. I am a member of the Knights of Saint John. I retired 30 years ago, in 1990, and have been receiving my pension for 30 years. I retired as a primary school supervisor in Jos, Plateau State. I will be 85 next month (November).
At 84, what do you do to stay healthy?
At my old age, I am selective about the things I eat and drink. This keeps me healthy and happy. My slogan is: live and let live. I bless my children because they care for me.