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To live long, marry only one wife — Tulagha, 80

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A reverend of the Anglican Church, Donald Tulagha, speaks about his life with SIMON UTEBOR

Tell us about yourself.

I am Donald Tulagha married to Mrs. Beinmo Tulagha. I am a reverend of the Anglican Church and a former Principal of Angiama Grammar School, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

When were you born?

I was born on March 21, 1937 by Mrs. Diribolouye Tulagha and Mr. Tulagha Akoru.

How did you know when you were born?

My elder brother, the late A.D. Tulagha, told me. He was educated. He took down the record of my birth. He was also a secondary school principal before he retired.

When did you start school?

I started primary education in 1943 at Kaiama Primary School in the present day Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. It was a very famous school at the time.  After completing primary school education (standard six), I remained at home for some time. My elder brother was also preparing to go to secondary school at the time. I was in the school until I was employed as a pupil teacher. I taught there for some years before proceeding to the Teachers’ Training College in 1957. That time, we used to call it Elementary Teacher Training College. I did Grade Three. The objective then was to teach from Standard four to Standard one.

After teaching for about two years, I attended Grade 2 TTC in Obizi, Mbaise, Imo State. We were there until the government closed down the school because of the proprietor’s inability to manage it. We were thereafter taken to Obinze in the same Mbaise to finish up with those who were there. We spent only a year there.

After that, I taught at Epetiama Group School in Tombia. After teaching for some years at Epetiama, I went to the College of Education to study for the Nigeria Certificate in Education in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. However, I could not finish the NCE before I had an admission to go to the university. I went to the University of Port Harcourt in 1983.

When I left the university in 1987, I was posted to Southern Ijaw Secondary School, Oporoma as the vice-principal. After that, I was taken to Gbarain-Owei Grammar School. After being there for some time, the ministry of education wrote to me that I should go and start a secondary school at Tombia. I went there and did as instructed.

I was there from 1992 to 1994 before I was transferred to Angiama Grammar School in Southern Ijaw. I was there as the Principal for two years before I was retired.

When were you retired?

I was retired at Angiama in 1996.

What happened after retirement?

After retirement, I came back to my hometown, Agudama-Epetiama, to join my children and wife. Then, my wife was an assistant nurse in a hospital. After sometime, some women came to me and said I should train as a pastor. I used to preach in the church. They said they liked the way I preached. I objected, saying that I did not want to do pastoral work. The women insisted.

Another day, they came to tell me that they had already given my name to an Anglican bishop to be trained as a pastor. When we went to the place, my name was the first on the list.  Then I had no option but to start training as a pastor. We were sent to Yenagoa for training and after sometime, we went to Awka to finish up. It took me two years to train as a pastor.

Where do you do pastoral work?

I have been retired on account of my age. My last station was at the Anglican Church, Olokpobiri in Bayelsa State. Once you have become a pastor in the Anglican Church, even if they retire you, you are still a pastor. They used to send me to some other places to be preaching. I am free to preach in any church.

What subjects did you teach when you were a teacher?

In the primary schools, one teaches all subjects. But I did Biology/Geography at the College of Education. Though I did not finish it before I went to the university. In the university, I studied Geography at the University of Port Harcourt.

Would you have wished Nigeria did not attain independence considering the state of its economy?

No. We were under the British rule before then and many things were going wrong. We were intercepted, so to speak, in a way that there was not much progress. We struggled and got independence and we are now governing ourselves.

The British were more interested in their taxes than developing the country. But now that we have got independence, anything we do will be within us. We believed then that it was better for our people to ‘suffer us’ than the foreigners.

But despite being an independent country, things are not the way envisaged by Nigeria’s founding fathers. What do you think is responsible for this?

We are not able to govern ourselves very well due to the love of money. Everybody in public office is there for self-aggrandisement. Selfishness and corruption have eaten deep into the fabric of the country. We talk about oil. This oil production has helped Nigeria a lot. We depend solely and wholly on what we can realise from oil. Now as it is, the oil too is receding and because we solely depend on oil, we are now suffering.

Agriculture should have been the right thing, but people shun it because of oil. If we now can go back to agriculture, perhaps that can give us some help. The government is not doing anything in this regard. If the government has been very responsible, they should have reactivated all the agricultural centres in all the states.

How many children do you have?

In my area, we do not count the number of children a man has but to satisfy your curiousity, I have 11 children.

Are they all from one wife?

No, they are not from one wife.  Some of them are from outside through lovemaking. We can call them love children. With my wife alone, I have seven.

What do they do?

My children are not doing badly. I have a nurse, teacher, doctor, engineer, etc among them.

Did it happen before you became a pastor?

Yes, it was before I became a pastor. When I became I pastor, I never dabbled into those things again. Before I became a pastor, we were going up and down with ladies.

Is it wrong for pastors to have more than a wife?

From the point of view of Christianity, pastors are forbidden to leave their wives to meet with other women. These things happened in those days when we were fairly primitive. We did not know the implication then. When you have children outside, the problems will be too many. Economically, it is not a palatable experience.

Would you advise any Nigerian to have up to 11 children?

I am advocating that we should limit the number of children we give birth to. The population of Nigeria is so teeming that people find it difficult to make ends meet. If I were to recommend, I would say people should not have more than four children.

What is your take on polygamy?

I advise that people should discourage polygamous practice. To live a fulfilled life and enjoy longevity, polygamy should be discouraged. I recommend one man one wife.

When did you marry your wife?

We got married in 1970.

What kind of drink do you like?

I take only soft drinks.

Do you take alcohol?

No I don’t.

Have you taken alcohol before?

I used to take just a sip according to the Bible, for stomach’s sake. When one takes a little, it will reactivate and reduce rumbling in the stomach and enable the food to digest properly.

You mean it is advisable to take alcohol at times?

Yes, if you do not take it to excess, it is not bad. It is not wrong to drink but when you take it too much, it will weaken the bone system and even the muscles. Excess of everything is bad. Excessive intake of alcohol can make one to become old untimely. That is why those who engage in excessive alcohol become old too soon.

What is the secret of your good health at 80?

If you want to attain good health, you should depend almost solely or wholly on vegetables and fruits. Then eat regularly, not too much. We know that the economic situation has forced people to change the course of their meals. However, it is advisable to take meals appropriately.

What is your view about the standard of education in Nigeria?

The standard of education is falling compared to that of my days. It is brought about by the lack of teacher training colleges, I mean well established teacher training colleges where people go to learn about how to teach. But today, things are muddled up.

What is your advice to married couples to check divorce rate?

The importance of marriage depends on love. Many times people marry because of facial beauty. Marriage should go with love. It is that love that makes marriage to endure. When there is love, couples will tolerate each other. Marriage should be preceded by genuine love; if people marry without considering this, they divorce because they have not studied each other’s likes and dislikes.

What is your most memorable day?

Most of my colleagues who schooled with me in secondary school were not able to get university education. The day I passed through the university was the most memorable day in my life. The day the result came that I had got a degree, I was so happy. I consider it as my happiest day.

Did you undergo the compulsory youth service when you finished from the university?

By the time I finished from the university, I was older than the service year, hence I did not serve. I was issued a certificate of exemption.

One of your children was killed in a mysterious circumstance allegedly by security agencies. How would you relate the trauma you passed through during the period?

Up till now, I am still traumatised. You know when a plant is growing and the bud is removed, it seriously suffers growth retardation. Since that incident happened, I have become heart-broken and all these days, if not because I am a man, no smile will spread over my face.

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