Mr Barth Nwibe, a seasoned engineer, consultant and All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant in Anambra speaks on his humble beginning, challenges of leadership and other sundry issues.
You have ambition to be governor of Anambra State. Can you briefly tell us what your beginning was like?
I grew up like every normal person born in the 60s. I had a father who was a tradesman while my mum was a business woman. But they believed in education so, they sent me to school. I grew up in those days when almost everybody in the village then was almost at the same level. Nobody was too rich and nobody was too poor. I will say that I had a humble beginning, but my parents realised that education was a path.
So, I had my primary school at Ifite Primary School, Igbo Ukwu. When I left primary school in 1975, I proceeded to Christ the King College, (CKC) Onitsha in Anambra State for my secondary education. CKC was one of the premier schools then. In fact growing up then, people could tell if you were from CKC based on your behaviour. So, I was very happy when my parents sent me to CKC. And at the end of my secondary school in, I came out with distinction in my school certificate examination. And with that, I proceeded to University of Nigeria Nsukka, where I read Civil Engineering.
What inspired your choice of Engineering for your first degree?
I have to be honest with you. I was reading Ebony magazine one day and I saw a black guy dressed as an engineer. He said that he schooled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As I looked at that picture, I was so inspired to study in the same institution. But of course, my parents didn’t have the money to send me to MIT.
So, that was how the thought and inspiration of becoming an engineer came.
My parents actually wanted me to read medicine and almost everybody around me thought I was going to ready medicine because just like I said earlier, I was the leader of my class. So, I chose to read Engineering and Civil then was the engineering course. In fact, in my JAMB, I registered for Civil Engineering and Physics and Physics as single honour because I liked Mathematics and Physics.
That was what inspired me to read engineering.
How has your career as an engineer been?
It has been very excellent and fulfilling. Engineering has given me the opportunity to believe that anything is possible as long as you can think it through. I left the university in 1980 and I did my youth service in Rivers State. In fact, during my service, I was given a certificate of commendation for my excellent performance in my place of primary assignment. After that I got employed by a relation who had a structural engineering firm in Enugu.
I worked with the firm for six months and got a job with an oil and gas firm – Wog Allied Services Ltd. I did three years with this establishment and joined Sperry Sun Drilling Services – a division of Halliburton company. I did about three years with Sperry Sun and the company left Nigeria because they had a big contract to do in Saudi Arabia.
I joined Baker Hughes where I worked for about a year and then left to work with Schlumberger Drilling and Measurements where I had most of my working life. Having spent about five year with Schlumberger, I left them to become a consultant also to Schlumberger. I did that for two years before I got a consultancy job with Shell which I did for about five years and I quit to start my own when the local content came into play and that is the company I have been running till today.
Your movement from the job looks so seamless, was it so also in school?
One, it is the evidence of God’s grace upon my life and secondly, that is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I made a 2:1 from Nsukka. I should have made first class, but you know growing up, one or two things happen to you.
What further studies have you undergone in the line of your career?
In my line of training, I have attended so many professional trainings in my career both in Halliburton and Schlumberger, all related to what I do.
But between 2013 and 2014, I went to McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, I did one year training in leadership, also pertaining to energy and management. I have not gone back again formally to the classroom.
What are your hobbies?
I like reading and I like football. I am a fan of Arsenal because I don’t believe you always have to win, I believe in doing things right.
What is the book that impacted your life most?
The book that impacted me most in life is ‘Success through a Positive Mental Attitude’ by Napoleon Hill. I read this book just after I left secondary school. It was a book that helped me to realise that whatever the mind can conceive and believe, that the mind can achieve it. I was so inspired by that book. The titles were so catchy that one of it says ‘if you don’t have money, use OPM’.
And OPM means ‘Other People’s Money’. And reading further, it will tell you that you are going to meet the most important living person. And you keep reading to know who is the most important living person, it tells you that you are the most important living person. It was a book that helped to shape me. But once in a while, one comes across some good books. Then another book that inspired me is ‘Why Nations Fail’ by a Turkish-American Economist, Daron Acemoglu and a British Political Scientist, James Robinson. With this you will understand why some countries are rich while some are poor. It is a book people should read. Also, in Nigeria here, the book by Mallam Nassir el-Rufai, ‘Accidental Civil Servant’, is also a good book. So, such books, you read them and you get to know how people navigate through life and what leadership entails.
As a father, husband, business mogul, politician and now a governorship aspirant, how do you cope with your family obligations and responsibilities as a man?
For a man, the most important decision he will take in his life is to choose a wife. If you get the right wife, then you are almost certain you will succeed. Because a woman is not just your wife, she is supposed to be your partner, your confidant, your friend. If you are lucky and fortunate you get a woman who you will share ideas with; a woman who should look you in the face and tell you, “look, you can’t do this.”
I am happy that I have a wife. I am not saying that I don’t quarrel with her, we do but we make up. To me, I think my parents also had that kind of marriage. I don’t think there was anytime they had any serious quarrel. And because of my background; to us, marriage is for life.
When you are married, you are you married, you have to make it work. But I am fortunate to have a wife who understands me and I too, understand her. And we are blessed with good children, who academically are doing well. To me, marriage has been a good and enjoyable experience.
From secondary school to tertiary institution and even in your career, it appears you maintained a track on science-related course, how many of your children are following after you?
My first daughter is reading Pharmacy, second one is reading Medicine while my son is reading Electrical and Robotics Engineering. Then my third daughter is still in secondary school and she is also thinking of reading Engineering, but I am trying to encourage her to go into Management but she is science-inclined. In fact she wants to be a Chemist, she wants to read Chemistry single honours. Anyway, that is her passion.
So as a governorship aspirant, how comfortable will you be with a woman being your deputy?
To me, there are some things women even do better. Which man has done the kind of job late Dora Akunyili did in NAFDAC or even Oby Ezekwesili in this their advocacy ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ they are doing? Like I told you, women should be encouraged. If I have the opportunity and a good lady presents herself to be my deputy, why not? But I am not going to go all out searching to bring a woman on board. But if she has what it takes and she is prepared to do what she need to do – to partner to make it happen, that will be okay.