While the year 2020 was one of the toughest years in history, especially with the outbreak of the Coronavirus which disrupted different sectors and affected many people all over the world, we still believe there are lots of salient lessons to glean. Last year we had a conversation with with one of our pioneering mentors, Dr Ada Uche, the past President of NUNA who works and lives in the United State with her family. In this interview, she shared her perspective on leadership, legacy, the pandemic and other trending issues.
How would you describe the year 2020?
Dr Ada Uche: “I would say the year 2020 has been very interesting and challenging. This year has been characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost every part of the world had to deal with the challenges of the pandemic. Every economy in this world has had its ups and downs because of the pandemic; ranging from high levels of unemployment to troubles with health and safety around the world especially in the United States. Thousands have died due to contracting the virus. Many contracted the virus, became very sick, but also recovered. Essentially, the year 2020 has been plagued by a lot of uncertainties and difficulties for many people. Also, this was an election year in the United States, so we had a little bit of turmoil and tension in that regard. We also had social justice issues here in the United States due to the frequent killing of black men by the police. Hence, we were sympathetic when we heard there were protests in Nigeria as well regarding the EndSars movement.”
She also added, “this year has been very precarious but all in all we are hopeful that the year will end on a positive note. Here in the United States we ended up having elections with an outcome that many of us were happy with. That is at least one silver lining in what has been a very difficult year.”
When you served as the NUNA President? You invested millions of Naira in scholarships to help many NIFES students and alumni, You funded many programs and projects that had never been done before in NIFES. What do you think is your legacy now that you are no longer in office?
Dr Ada Uche: “I believe that the legacy is the lives that we touched, the people we gave hope, the folks whose lives were made better due to the programs and projects that NUNA championed. It was an honour to serve, I’m proud of the work we did when I was serving in office, but I’m also enjoying my new role as a NUNA member with no official responsibilities. Now, the baton has been passed to the next generation of student/alumni leaders. The question is, will they choose to make progress or will they continue to mark time in one spot? The choice is theirs. On the alumni side, I was happy to hear that the brethren in Nigeria elected Dr. Seleipiri as the new President, he is a man of wisdom and foresight, so I’m sure he will move the organization forward, by the grace of God.”
Knowing you live in the United States where we have the heat of the pandemic, did it affect you psychologically and did it change your world view?
Dr Ada Uche: “The answer is yes! The United States has 4% of the world population but now has over 25% of the total number of COVID cases around the world. So we have more cases per capital than any other countries in the world. Having over 320,000 people dead due to this virus has really changed how we see ourselves and how we see life. This pandemic period made me appreciate the small things. I learned to take things a day at a time, to just stop and smell the roses more. I have learned that life is fleeting and short. We only have one life to live and it’s important we try to enjoy it and be a blessing to others. So I say, let’s make sure we are holding each other close, letting the people we love know that we love them and living our best life in the short time that we’ve been given.”
“Were there any plans or expectations that you were not able to meet up with this year?”
Dr Ada Uche: “Yes, absolutely! This year has been very different from our typical year. Most people now work from home, especially if your work does not require physical contact with clients. Children are now doing E-learning. The things we typically take for granted such as going out for dinner, visiting friends, celebrating birthdays, going to church, being able to hug people, going on vacation…; all of that could not happen this year, everything had to be done virtually. For the first time in ten years my family did not have any guest at our Thanksgiving table and for Christmas. It was just my husband, our three kids and me. Also, we all have to wear mask everywhere now to make sure we are being safe and helping to keep others safe. So yes! 2020 has been a very different year from what we typically have.”
“What advise do you have for those who are being affected psychologically?”
Dr Ada Uche: “At this point, I think my only “two-cents” is to say be patient with yourself and do not be too hard on yourself. Just take it easy with yourself. Do what you like and what you enjoy. If you like reading, read more. If you like taking walks, do more of that. If you like listening to music, try to do that. Be kind to yourself and others and hopefully we will all get through this, together.”
“The United States, being one of the world powers has outstanding technology, but during the pandemic they did not do well in curbing the spread of the Coronavirus, what’s your take on this?”
Dr Ada Uche: “Yes that is true. The United States has had the highest incidence of infections and even deaths from the Coronavirus. The problem we had here was that of poor leadership. The Trump administration’s response to the pandemic was very inconsistent and chaotic (having large rallies with people not wearing masks), their response became highly politicized. Many local leaders, Mayors and Governors did their best to curb the effect of the virus, but a house divided against itself cannot stand.
There was chaos around the country as some people felt that wearing masks meant that they were losing their freedom. There were situations where people attacked doctors, nurses, and elected officials, just for telling them to wear masks. It was so bad that doctors, mayors, governors were receiving death threats, just for doing their jobs. Now, this wasn’t a good look for the United State. This is certainly not who we are as Americans.”
She also added, “Fortunately we are getting a new administration that will come on board in January and we are thankful for that. Our prayer is that after January 20th, this country will start to heal and return to some semblance of normalcy. We also know that Pfizer, Mordena and AstraZeneca; these three pharmaceutical companies have come up with different vaccines. We are trusting that as these vaccines are distributed, the country and the world at large would start to recover from the effect of this virus.”
“What encouragement do you have for the students, career persons and entrepreneurs?”
Quoting the scriptures, she said, “‘Say to the righteous, it is well with you’. I would say that this too shall pass. We will get through this together. Be merciful to others just as Matthew 5:7 says- ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’. I say this because I was so proud seeing young people marching and protesting during the EndSars movement. I saw how well they performed, how well they worked together, united as one, having one voice and how much they achieved doing that. There were calls for the government to begin to listen to the voices of young people. There were calls for reform and change which is very much needed in the Nigerian society.”
Highlighting the need to for all societal issues to be given equal attention, Dr Ada added, “Also, there were calls for the international community to step in to convince the Nigerian government to make changes and reforms. This also led me to think about the fact that just few months before, the women were marching and protesting about some of their experiences in the society and they were not treated well. I don’t think they were shown the same grace and mercy that people were pleading for during the EndSars movement. The point is, as we say in the United States ‘No one is free until everyone is free’, we all need to be sympathetic to each other’s pain.’ We all need to show empathy to one another, be kind to one another. I’m invariably saying that when our women are sharing with you the issues they are having, you need to listen. When minorities are sharing with you the issues they are having, you need to listen, because one day you will be the one that needs help and will need other people to listen to the challenges you are experiencing. So, let us be merciful and kind to one another. Let us show compassion to one another’s situation and God will help us in Jesus Name!”
“If you were to make a Christmas wish, what will it be?”
Dr Ada Uche: I have to say in all humility, that I have everything I need, God has blessed me and my husband, we have a happy home and healthy kids, we lack nothing in our family. But my wish each day is that we’ll have a better world, a fairer and more just society, one where Christianity is used to heal and not to hurt, where everyone is precious and equal in God’s sight. That is my prayer each day.
“What is your hope for the new year – 2021?”
Dr Ada Uche: My hope is that the New year will usher in progress, growth, and the betterment of the lives of our people. I pray that God will show us mercy when it comes to the Coronavirus, so that we will find a cure to this disease and return to our normal lives, by the grace of God.
Having read Dr Ada Uche’s recount of the year, we hope that you are somewhat encouraged regardless of whatever you might have been through and are hopeful for the new year…
Compliments of the season from all of us at CMP!
Interview conducted and edited by Jennifer Chioma Amadi
Transcription done by Orevaoghene Odoko