Dr Betta Edu is the Commissioner for Health in Cross River State and said to be the youngest member of Governor Ben Ayade’s state executive council. She talks to ALEXANDER OKERE about her children, career and how she handled the reactions that followed her appointment
You spent your childhood in London, UK, how was it?
I was in London until I was about eight years old before I came back to Cross River. I grew up in an efficient system in London. There was free basic education available and we had milk delivered to our doorstep to help keep us healthy. We had a functional health system we could rely on. The transport system was also reliable. The only difficult thing as a child was the cold weather, which could be very uncomfortable sometimes. My mum was basically a stay-at-home wife while my dad was a businessman. My parents had five children and I am a twin; I have a twin brother.
My father is very strict. As a child growing up, I never visited friends. My father thought we needed to concentrate. He was even harder on the female child because he said female children had a ‘shorter lifespan’ – time to stay with their parents, concentrate on education and build a career. He said they could get distracted by men, marriage proposal, and family life too soon. He paid special attention to his female children. So, I wasn’t allowed to stay out of the house after 6pm. I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend or mess around. I have never had alcohol all my life. I used to wear my natural hair. I still have it, though I wear wigs now. But at that time, it could not happen. I never wore trousers till I was out of my father’s house.
Was he a cleric?
In the later part of my life, he became one. Initially, he was into business and worked with an engineering firm. When we returned to Nigeria, he became a missionary; he is still a missionary. We lived a life that sacrificed for others; I could remember instances when we had to leave the house in the morning to buy things to make some stew because we had a bag of rice at home but returned to realise there was no single grain of rice left at home. My dad would just call poor people and give it all to them. We had a borehole in our house in Nigeria and people used to fetch water from it free of charge. We were never allowed to waste anything because he would tell us that there were millions of people who woke up that morning and didn’t have access to food and clothes. Once our clothes and shoes were a bit too tight for us, we would take them to the villages and give them to the residents there, every year. I just grew up helping others. My father taught me that the only way to go up is to give…