Interview by the Guardian Newspapers of Mrs. Audrey Ezigbo

I attended military schools at the primary level in Kaduna, Owerri and Lagos, then on to Queens College Lagos. I have a first degree, post-graduate diploma and MBA from University of Nigeria, an MBA from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, an Executive MBA from the Lagos Business School, and further leadership certifications from Harvard Business School. I am the second of ten children.

Pretty straightforward for me actually! I understood clearly what my objectives were at the university and so had my nose stuck in my books all through. I probably attended all of four parties in my first year and even then was always the first to find someone to take me back to my hostel an hour or two later, and then I recall attending one more in my final year because it was a friends 21st birthday. Somehow that social scene did not and still does not work for me. I am an academic at heart. I enjoyed my courses and the learning, kept very few friends and generally had a quiet, very focused and purposeful time as an undergraduate.
In my view, coping is a word you use when the things that you do are not borne out of deep love and passion, and when there is lack of clarity in your life as to what the most important things are and how to prioritize them. I do not ‘cope’, I thrive! I thrive because I understand clearly that my husband and my children are, aside from God, the most important people in my life and so I give them my utmost priority above all else. I thrive in business because I am an entrepreneur at heart and love the dynamics that play out in the business space. I have also worked with my husband for almost 20years and I love being with him so that also adds to the love I have for my work. I have never however placed work above him or the family. My core belief is that all our success in business will add up to nothing if we do not have a close loving relationship at home and happy, well balanced children. This guides the choices I make in the business space and how I manage my time. I thrive as a consultant and speaker because I am very passionate about building up people. I see thousands of people whose lives would be so very different if they only had the right people walk through life with them, giving them appropriate counsel and support. The Lord has given me the gift of encouragement and exhortation, be it in business or life in general and I believe one of my core assignments on this earth is to add value to people and help them fulfill their destiny and purpose. Nothing is as rewarding as knowing you have added to another human being in positive way and so when this is not a difficult space for me to operate in. How do I make this all work? Nothing to do with me at all! In my own strength, it would all certainly be too much, but I thrive because I have a very close relationship with God and I have learnt how to allow Him order my steps, literally speaking. I am passionate about pleasing God and I want to be sure that I will die empty of everything that He has put in me to bless this world with. He is my helper. He is my source of strength. When He says ‘Go’, I know He will also give me the wherewithal to fulfill the assignment.
I love to write, yes. I am a columnist in TW magazine as well as run my own blog for women called ‘Uniquely Woman’, though I find I also have quite a few male readers. The articles are really universal, just that I have a particular passion for womenfolk. These are firm commitments that I have to meet within timelines and so I have set schedules for these so as to meet my deadlines. Other than this, I write whenever I can. I write in traffic. I write in the evenings when the family is done with dinner and we have spent time together. I write sometimes very early in the morning immediately after my quiet time with the Lord. It is just such a part of me. By the grace of God, I have published two books recently titled Uniquely Woman and Double Impact. They didn’t happen overnight, but this is beauty of life. When you apply yourself to your passions, using the ‘gap time’ such as traffic or while waiting for a meeting, it is amazing what the final output will be.
Focus! Focus! Focus! Life is not easy and indeed is not designed to be. Our Lord and master Jesus Christ Himself said to us that in this world we would have troubles. Understanding this is critical. I believe that regardless of what curve balls life has thrown at us, the ability to literally set your eyes ahead on what could be is an imperative for anyone to be successful. Too many people are running around laying blame on what their parents or someone to the other did to them. Everyone has a story, but some people have refused to let their past hold them down and they are the same people we are looking up to today. I believe that the expression ‘nothing good comes easy’ is not a cliché, it’s a reality. Too many people want the easy success but there is nothing like that, and where it happens it is not enduring because the fundamentals that will stand the trust of time are not in place. Too many people, especially the young ones, are looking at the glory and not realizing there is a long difficult story behind it. I can tell you the struggle of the early years, and I mean years. It took focus. It took commitment. It took humility. It took getting down in the trenches and doing the work. It took not questioning the success of others, but rather thinking how to learn from them. It took a willingness to sacrifice in the short term so we would have a better tomorrow. It took dedication. It took determination not to take our hands of from the plough. It look contentment, and understanding that where we were each day was not the end. It took looking unto God and trusting that He is more than able to turn things around in the end. I could go on but the bottom line is this – focus on what is in your heart to do, and be willing to do the work. Commitment and consistency, and with God firmly in the mix, success will certainly come. Again understanding the measure of success is important for young people. Believe me when I say that success is not about being a big name and having lots of money. In my books, success is still having a wonderful loving relationship with your spouse through the years, having children who are doing extremely well and living exemplary live, having a close loving family, and more than anything else is having a close relationship and fellowship with God. Everything else, as we say, na jara. There are millions of people who have the name and the money, but no love and no peace, and no God. They are in my view the most miserable of all people. Young people, be very careful what your benchmark of success is so that you do not end up as one of them in the long run.
Based on a childhood experience, I determined as a teenager that I would not work for anyone else, but would rather own and manage my own business. My husband also had an entrepreneurial leaning though he was lecturing at the time we met. It was more divinely orchestrated than anything else, that we found ourselves sharing knowledge, experiences and counsel in our independent forays into business. One day, it just clicked that we should pool our skills and resources together and Falcon Petroleum was birthed out of that dream. Since 1994 we have worked doggedly side by side and our success today is hinged largely on our shared vision and values, and our optimization of our individual competencies in the best interests of the business.
Falcon has two principal lines of business. On one hand we are an EPC company of repute, and on the other we are heavily vested in the gas sector – being the Local Distribution Company LDC charged with the responsibility of the construction, operation and management of the Ikorodu Natural Gas Distribution Franchise. More recently we have ventured into the provision of maritime support services.
We are a company that recognizes the importance of operating in a sustainable and responsible way. This was just one of the various initiatives and projects that we carry out in order to fully engage with our host communities. We are particularly passionate about the development of women and so designed the program to run over a few intensive months, followed by industrial attachments for a month to allow the participants gain additional experience in established institutions in their areas of training, prior to final graduation. We then gave the participants starter packs and working tools to enable them start up their own businesses effectively. We understand clearly that the maxim ‘train a woman, train a nation’ is very real and this was the underlying theme for this initiative. We have since followed this up with formalized business management training for the 58 women, as well as initiated a financing scheme with our bankers to support them with soft loans for their growth and expansion purposes. The results that we have seen out of this project have been simply remarkable and we do not expect any less in the subsequent runs of this csr initiative.
This award and every other we have received in times past really and truly represent two things to us. First is the validation of things that God has spoken to us about what He is able to do with our business as we continue to honor Him in the marketplace. He is the One who brings promotion and recognition and to us the awards are simply God’s way of telling us we are on the right track. Secondly, the awards are a marker reminding us not to relent in our efforts, not to lose the momentum in the midst of the accolades. There is much more territory to conquer, much more impact to make in our industry and in our nation. For every recognition or award we get, we celebrate and give God the glory, and then we immediately remind ourselves that we need to move to the next level. We are a fully ISO 9001:2008 certified company and so we understand and live the maxim of continuous improvement and next level thinking. It’s just our way of doing things.
We are currently working to expand our investments in the gas industry, moving infrastructure into other regions and positioning along the gas value chain. We believe there is yet so much Nigeria stands to benefit from gas developmental activities and we have positioned to be a major contributor to the country’s industrialization in this regard. We are also looking at some opportunities for regional expansion in Africa within the next few years.
Two things I would say. First is the general state of insecurity in the land. But this is something that military might and concerted State intelligence efforts can contain if they set their minds to it. More worrisome however, is the lack of unity, national identity and ownership that is prevalent in the land. Until we all begin to see this Nation as a treasured entity and individually and collectively commit to doing our bit to better our country, we will continue to struggle as a nation. That cohesiveness in the hearts and minds of every Nigeria – religion or tribe irrespective, is an imperative for nation building. Too many are focused on self. True, we have come from years of battering from bad leadership and those whose sole purpose was to plunder the nation; but we have to come back to the place of realization that the power to change lies in our hands. The extent of selfishness and divisiveness that is in the land is in my view the greatest threat to our nation’s progress.
Unfortunately, oil theft is just one of the fallouts of the symptoms of the general economic malaise this nation is dealing with. It is happening at two levels – the big boys who are siphoning barrel loads, and the lower end who have to vandalize to access the product. Either way, government has to be decisive in dealing with established cartels which, in my view, are well known to them. The major challenge is that of debts owed to Godfathers and kingmakers of those who would otherwise have had the power to take a strong stance on the matter. Believe that if those in power make up their minds to put national interest above personal interests, we will see a major turnaround in the oil sector of this nation. Beyond this, every other thing will just be a lot of talk.
I believe in marriage. It is God’s design for a man and woman to come together for companionship, for procreation, to together achieve oneness. I believe that marriage is designed to be a fulfilling and enriching experience. Unfortunately, I see that society is redefining marriage as God intended and putting couples under undue pressures. There is too much self-centeredness ad not enough commitment and willingness to give of self, and to love truly and deeply. Many couples have forgotten how to be friends and to truly uphold and build each other up, and this is why there are so many problems in marriage today.
On as many evenings a week as is possible, we share dinner together as a family, after which we spend another hour or so around the table telling stories and making jokes. This is always the most relaxing part of my daily routine. On some evenings, we all thereafter huddle together on the bed in our room and watch a movie or whichever drama series we are currently following. I also deliberately create and guard very jealously on weekends, a couple of hours when I do absolutely nothing at all, and I mean that literally.
My life is filled with high points that would be too many to mention. I think it has to do with my outlook and life philosophy. I serve a living God and He has helped me see and appreciate His goodness in my life on a day to day basis in so many ways that a lot of people otherwise take for granted. I go to be each night remembering that tomorrow is not promised me, and so I equally wake each morning with a very deep sense of appreciation for the breath of life that God has given me and that is usually my highest point of each day. I am not one who hangs on to pains or regrets so I can’t ascribe the label of lowest point to anything I have gone through. Life is a set of experiences that the Lord uses to work all things out for our good. Everything He has allowed me go through has been part of His grand design for my life, and He has helped me through every difficulty as well as strengthened my heart and mind not to hold on to past pains or disappointments. One of my daily mantras is that God is working all things out for my good. Believe me, if you hold this to be true in your heart; and if you also believe that His goodness and mercies will follow you all the days of your life, it will be very hard to give any major credence to the low periods of your life.

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