It’s unimaginable Nigeria prints passport booklets abroad –Ex-Asst Comptroller of Immigration, Adefolaju

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p style="text-align: justify;">A retired Assistant Comptroller, Nigeria Immigration Service, Mrs Faramade Adefolaju, speaks to ABIODUN NEJO about her glowing up and life as a career woman, while also touching on public policies

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p style="text-align: justify;">How would you describe your early years and growing up?

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p style="text-align: justify;">I grew of as a child of teachers. Teachers were posted around and so, I grew up in so many towns in the old Western State, but I finished my primary six at St. Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, Idanre where my father was headmaster. I then proceeded to St. Louis Grammar School, Ikere Ekiti in 1971.

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p style="text-align: justify;">What kind of treatment did you get as the headmaster’s daughter?




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p style="text-align: justify;">My father became a headmaster in 1968. My mother was a teacher too, but at a stage, because of constant movements, she had to step out of the teaching job to take care of the home. Being the first child and a girl, I was moving round with my father and as the child of the headmaster I was treated with respected. I got a lot of gifts as a little girl moving around with my dad. The love the community usually showed to teachers was extended to me as a child of a teacher. In Idanre, where I completed my primary school, I made so many friends. A       serving senator, Patrick Akinyelure, was my classmate; we shared a seat in both Primary 5 and Primary 6.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Which higher institutions did you attend?

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p style="text-align: justify;">I went to Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo in 1977. After that, I went to the University of Ibadan, where I majored in (Communication and) Language Arts.  After working for some years, I went back for a Master’s in Industrial and Labour Relations at the Ekiti State University; then it was called University of Ado Ekiti.

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p style="text-align: justify;">You must have been outstanding in secondary school for your colleagues to choose you as the national president of the school alumni association. Is that correct?



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p style="text-align: justify;">At St. Louis Grammar School, the reverend sisters gave us the same kind of training, so anyone of us could have been chosen. But I think my commitment to St. Louis Old Girls Association informed the decision to make me national president. I gave my time and my energy to the association and they thought I could move it forward. The association is about 14 years old now and is such a formidable group of people. It is not that I have a particular trait that made them choose me; it is because of my commitment and the love for the school, which makes me give back to the school.

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p style="text-align: justify;">What was your childhood ambition and why?

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p style="text-align: justify;">As a little girl, I dreamt of becoming a Reverend Sister because I am a Catholic and I grew up in a Catholic home. I saw Reverend Sisters as angels and I thought I could be one of them. As a little girl, I loved the convent, but as providence would have it, I did not go in that direction.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Did you have pressure from the opposite sex while growing up and how did you handle it?



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p style="text-align: justify;">In St. Louis, who are you to talk to any boy? In our days, it was letter writing and your letter will come to the Reverend Sisters’ table. They would open the letter, read it properly and mark it with their red pen. Once they suspected it was from a lover or somebody eyeing you, they would call you, sit you down and counsel you in a motherly manner on how to go about life. Then, our principal, now of blessed memory, would say, ‘You have to be a girl now and not a woman. These boys will make you a woman and they will leave you to suffer in life’. They protected us against any molestation from the opposite sex then. That was why many people would say St. Louis girls were timid. As a St. Louis girl, you were scared of mixing up with any boy then because of the training we were given. They instilled fear into us that if we went close to any boy, we would get pregnant and lose our track in life.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Did that orientation shape your relationship as a single lady?

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p style="text-align: justify;">It helped us not to give in easily to any man. Anybody that came to you, you had to make sure that it was for a reasonable purpose. It helped us to scrutinise their intentions.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Did your parents directly or indirectly influence your decision to go to a college of education after secondary school?



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p style="text-align: justify;">Yes, they did. My desire was to go to the school of nursing, but my father specifically told me that being a teacher was better than being a nurse. He said as a teacher I would have the opportunity of moulding children, both my own and children of others. He convinced me that being a teacher was more rewarding than being a nurse. That was why I went to Adeyemi College of Education, which was then affiliated to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo Universiy).  After finishing from Adeyemi, I went to the University of Ibadan for a degree in Language Arts.

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p style="text-align: justify;">But despite your father’s influence you did not end up as a teacher.

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p style="text-align: justify;">I worked briefly as a teacher. After my NYSC, I was posted to Aquinas College, Akure. I taught pupils there for two years. There was a crisis then during the Second Republic when salaries were not paid and people were getting discouraged. As a young lady, I needed to settle down, so I had to look for another job. And coincidentally, I went for an interview in the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigerian Prisons Service, the two of them gave me appointments, but I chose Immigration, which I joined in 1983.

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p style="text-align: justify;">How did your parents feel when they learnt of your decision to quit teaching for the Nigeria Immigration Service?



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p style="text-align: justify;">Neither my father nor my mother went against it.  Rather, they prayed for me but impressed upon me to ‘remember the child of who you are’ and that was indeed my watchword all through my 35 years in the Nigeria Immigration Service.

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p style="text-align: justify;">At the NIS, what special assignments did you undertake?

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p style="text-align: justify;">When I joined newly, I had no specific assignment, but as I moved up the ladder, especially towards my last few years in service, I headed some units. I headed the Anti-Human Trafficking and Labour Unit; I also headed what they call Migration now, it used to be Aliens’ Section, then during my final three years, I headed a section called Combined Expatriates Resident Card. There, I dealt with only foreigners. The section was in charge of issuing to foreigners what the Americans call Green Card. I headed the section for the South-West zone and my office was in Ibadan. That was where I retired from.

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p style="text-align: justify;">How were you able to rise in your career and raise a family at the same time?



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p style="text-align: justify;">I was determined to get to the peak of my career. Though I did not get to the peak, at least, I almost got there. When I joined the Nigerian Immigration Service, women were very few, so I had the opportunity to go for training. And I must thank my husband because each time I travelled for training either in Nigeria or abroad, he was always at home with the children. I had a cousin, an elderly person, who was always coming to stay with us. I enjoyed family support and that was why my children were able to be without me for the period I was away; but each time I came back, I resumed my duties as a mother.

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p style="text-align: justify;">How did you meet your husband?

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p style="text-align: justify;">We met through a cousin of his and our courtship lasted five years before we decided to get married. My father gave me a rule that whoever I would marry must have a degree. He was qualified, he finished from the University of Benin; he is calm and cool-headed. My husband is a very quiet and likeable person and my father supported me when I brought him home. My husband is a professor of Sociology now. He is an academic, though he worked in some federal ministries before joining the academia.

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p style="text-align: justify;">What reforms do you think the Federal Government should carry out in NIS?



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p style="text-align: justify;">I am not allowed to go into details, but I want to suggest that the issue of our porous borders should be dealt with. They (Nigerian borders) are too porous. Then the issue of passport; I think people should be able to get passports more easily. People go through a lot of suffering waiting to get passport. It is supposed to be given within 48 hours. But two weeks, one month, people don’t get it and I can’t imagine why our Nigerian Security Printing and Minting in Lagos cannot print our passport booklets instead of being printed outside the country, but the government knows the best. They know what to do.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Today, some Nigerians believe that the Joe Biden presidency in the US will be beneficial to them in terms of crossing over to America. Going by your experience dealing with expatriates at the NIS, what are your thoughts?

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p style="text-align: justify;">There is no place like home. I have travelled a lot; I have seen that Nigeria is the best place to live if we have good leaders. When abroad, you don’t have the freedom you have at home. You go abroad, it is just like you are in a prison; you don’t really have time for yourself. If you get a job, you work round the clock, you pay many bills. But here in Nigeria, there is freedom, you enjoy the good weather, you enjoy the people around you – our people are very accommodating, they care about you. But over there, nobody cares. If any American President is encouraging people to come to America, maybe there are some jobs there people cannot do. But Nigeria is the best (place to be). Home is the best if our leaders can make it a bit comfortable for us.

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p style="text-align: justify;">What specific things do you think Nigeria leaders should do?



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p style="text-align: justify;">We are talking of constitutional amendment, we are talking of restructuring, these are things that should be done. Restructuring is the way to go. If you restructure this country, then we will have a beautiful place. Things will be okay.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Do you think Nigerian women in politics are doing well?

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p style="text-align: justify;">They are not doing well. But we can do well if we are allowed. Men oppress and suppress women in politics. They don’t want to listen to them. The culture that women are to be seen and not to be heard is affecting us. It is our culture, we met it and we cannot change it in a day; we have to work towards it. The few ones (women) in politics are struggling; our men are not allowing them (to thrive). That is the problem.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Many women naturally see their gender as a limiting factor. How can women overcome such a mindset?



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p style="text-align: justify;">As I said earlier, it is our culture. In other cultures, women are not restricted on the basis of gender. But in Nigeria, there is restriction; men believe they should be the head of the family. Yes they are, but where we (women) want to talk, they suppress our voices.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Overcoming this restriction will be a gradual process. It is not something we can do in a day. Right from the family level, we must keep talking to our men, in the school, we must give sex education. When we say sex education, it not just the sexual side of it; it also entails teaching the young ones to identify who they are. It is to let them know their roles as males and females and what is expected of them in their immediate community and society at large? If you can identify that and you work towards that, I am sure one day, we will get there.

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p style="text-align: justify;">How do you feel about worsening insecurity in the country with women and children increasingly becoming targets of attacks by rapists and kidnappers?

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p style="text-align: justify;">It is just like in wartime, when women and children are always the victims. When men that are supposed to shield us are being carried away or killed, women and children, therefore, become vulnerable.



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p style="text-align: justify;">How did we get to this point?

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p style="text-align: justify;">We got to this point through our carelessness. Our governments do not have listening ears. I said earlier that our borders are very porous. When you talk about these people, according to what we read in the dailies, many of them are not Nigerians. If we have good borders, then we will know that our problem is internal. But a situation where anyone can come in through any border by merely walking across is not good for the security of the country.  I think our government should wake up and secure us the more.

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p style="text-align: justify;">Contact: theeditor@punchng.com
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