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I am having the best time of my life – Agatha Amata

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She is a Nubian in all ramifications. Strong willed, dedicated and a loving mother. Agatha Amata has been through it all. A broken marriage, a vibrant television show and publishing her own magazine.

Piecing all these together is a task of a strong man, but Agatha is just a woman and she is up to the task. She spoke with Deborah Nwokocha recently on what makes her tick

Background

I am the first girl in the family of seven.I attended Saint Mary private school, Ajala, Lagos. I was born in Lagos, from there, I went to Federal Government Girls College, Sagamu and then to the University of Jos where I graduated with a degree in Botany. I am the first girl. I have three sisters and three brothers meaning there are seven of us. I have an older brother who works at NNPC, and there is me, then my younger sister who is a builder. I have another sister who is an architect but runs a travel agency, then my other younger sister, Shimitte Katughn, runs a television programme called African Pot then the last born, my younger brother owns an entertainment company called YES Media.

Growing up

I look back now and I realized that I had a very sheltered upbringing. My mother was extremely strict. I lost my father pretty early. I think I was in form two and I was very close to my dad so it was a bit difficult. He was chief inspector of Taxes for Federal Inland Revenue Lagos at that time. But my mum was absolutely wonderful and she was so strict, I used to wonder if she was my mum. All the things that my friends could do, I couldn't do but I thank her for it now because she instilled a lot of discipline in us as kids. It doesn't matter if you are a boy or a girl, you must cook. I mean, all the boys in my house can cook! As girls my mother will say to us 'you do not sleep when the sun is out' so we had to wake up at 4a.m everyday whether you have something to do or not. Now, as a matter of routine, between 4 and 5a.m, my eyes must open. It doesn't matter what time I sleep even if I sleep by 3, when it's between 4 and 5a.m, I must wakeup. I could go back to sleep later though. It is in-born now. I don't need an alarm clock again. Once I open my eyes, I know the time would be between 4 and 5a.m. She didn't allow us to go to parties. That one was not good, even till now I don't think that was good. In University, my mum used to check on me. But I thank her. I realized what she went through now that I am older and the sacrifices she had to make to train seven children the way she did. Then I used to cry and say 'No, this woman can not be my mum. how can she be so mean' and all that. But I realize now that it is that upbringing that has helped me today to be who I am. My dad was some what different in the sense that, he allowed you express yourself unlike my mum whose words were laws. My father on the other hand was somebody, he says 'No', would explain to you why he said no and why you couldn't do what you wanted to do. And my father always taught me that you should not be afraid to say your mind because nobody can kill you for saying your mind, and at the end of the day, ask for what you want and say what you have to say. all you can hear is no and no doesn't kill.

I was stubborn. I got it from my father. Having the kind of father who taught not to be afraid to say my mind, has really helped me. If anyone knows me, he will tell you that I say my mind. You can get offended but you will not say you did not know because I would have told you. I don't have time for gossips and stuff like that. I will tell it to your face what I think.

TV talk show

Everybody has what they call a natural in-born talent. I was talking to my son a few days back and I said 'you know what, I don't know what I was doing with a degree in Botany”. I was explaining to him that I was good in the sciences and in the arts, and at that time, not like now, arts wasn't a fashionable thing. Parents wanted their children to be doctors, lawyers and all type that were tagged noble. And because I was good at both, and then was not as liberal as now where a child would tell you I want to be this, I want to be that. I had a Guidance Counsellor who thought along with my mum that I would do well in the sciences, so I did PhyChemBio; that is Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The aim was Medicine, but I was afraid of blood. Even now if you want to give me an injection, you have to catch me, and I still cry for injection (laughs). I don't like needles and I don't like blood. I can't be where a live chicken is being killed. But I will eat it. I knew I couldn't be a medical student, so I entered the University for Chemistry, I didn't like the subject. I moved to Zoology and then they gave me live animals to dissect, I ran away. In fact I remember I drew a diagram of a rat in whole without touching the rat or even seeing the rat, and my lecturer called me and asked me where I got the diagram from because my rat was still whole, I told him it was in my head. He then said that my diagram was perfect, the labeling and everything correct, but I need to dissect the rat and I told him that I couldn't and I failed because I didn't dissect the rat, because I was suppose to draw what I saw, but there was no way I could. After that I moved from zoology to Botany, that seemed to be the safest. The plants didn't bother me and I didn't bother them. So, I graduated with a degree in Botany, but on the other hand, I believed that if I had done the arts, it would have been more effortless for me because that was where my natural talent was. I mean in my WAEC, I had an A1 in oral English, that already said to me that, that was something that would have come to me naturally. I am naturally gifted for that. That is what I think God has put in me. I also believe that in life, if you hand it over to God, he would direct your path to where you are supposed to be, and so I think I am doing what I was naturally born to do. I didn't need an education in that to do this, but if I had had an education in that it would have been much better for me.

The name Inside Out

A friend chose it. I was discussing with her and telling her about my plans of hosting a talk show, but I hadn't come up with a name that would be suitable for it. She asked me what kind of talk show, then I was like a talk show that would discuss issues inside out, and then she said that is it, Inside out. Though I said it, but she picked it out for me.

Like I said, that is the thing about doing the things that you are naturally called to do. I love doing this. I would do this even if I wasn't paid. I have a passion for what I do and that is what spurs me on. It's not about the money. Sometimes, I don't remember I am on TV because that is not what it is about for me. It is that I have always loved talk shows. I have always loved game shows. I love what I do and so there is no alternative to what I do. Even when it is so difficult and there is sorrow, tears and blood, I don't think of leaving it. The only time I think I can leave it is when I feel I am fulfilled and I have achieved what I want to achieve.

The magazine

Every thing I do is as a result of what I have learnt from the programme. 'Inside Out' is a school. You learn what no school can teach you. It has opened my eyes; I have heard stories that have changed me as a person. You know sometimes you do something and then it changes your life, I have many of those. The most recent was when I did a topic on disabled people, since then I have held press conferences, calling them to come and say their minds. The woman who is the president of the 'Deaf Women Association' made a statement. She said something I had never given thought to. Somebody asked her why is it that deaf people are always angry. She heard while growing up that if you are talking to a deaf person, be careful because they are very quick at losing their temper. And she answered. “Can you imagine what it is like to be in a world where you cannot communicate with anybody?” She said she was ill, she couldn't speak, nurses couldn't talk to her. She couldn't tell them what was wrong with her and hear from them. She enters a bus if you are calling Anthony she can't hear. her baby was crying all night, her neighbours could not come and tap and say your baby is crying. one of her people was almost beaten to death by the police because they stopped him and he could not hear. She talked about how the physically challenged are not allowed into the banking hall. sometimes they sit outside in the sun and wait for long hours to get their own money. So, if you are in that kind of an environment, won't you be angry? She said TV stations don't even make provision for them. They only look at pictures, and radio is of no use to the deaf people. If there is an emergency today and they say 'evacuate Lagos', she wouldn't hear. Because of it, we have been able to get across. LTV is going to start using sign language and I have started learning it. Again, I have heard a lot of stories but you see the difference with Inside out is that, you hear it, and if you don't watch that particular episode, it's gone. so, most of these stories, I thought about it. I'd like to put them in a form that can be read in 10 years time, and the idea was to document these stories. The magazine is called The Real Inside Out magazine, fashioned after Readers' Digest which I grew up reading. I don't do gossip. I don't do fashion. it is purely educational, inspirational and motivational.

NGO

Yes, every thing I do is linked. In the NGO, we work with widows, young people. We just rehabilitated the juvenile welfare centre in Alakara. It is the NGO that is handling the press conference for the disabled people. We organize it, call them together and then Inside Out participate and then we put their stories in the magazine. So it is a three fold approach for those issues that I think are burning issues and need rapid change.

Motivation

There are a lot of things that I hear and it just spurs me on. I have no choice but to continue because I know now that what I do would help a lot of people; even if that wasn't the plan. You know that this people need help. Or, I talk to the youths and I find out that they are totally disillusioned and they just don't believe in Nigeria and all sorts of rubbish that is going on and you want to do something. It has changed my world. It has changed my perception of things, and it has made me a lot more vocal. I am not afraid to say anything because there is too much rubbish going on. Again, they said there is no provision for the physically challenged, it is either you use a taxi or you walk, and so when you understand and what the privilege Inside Out has given me, because I consider it a privilege, is to be able to hear things that people come to me and I thank God that they believe I stand for some thing. They know that their voice would be heard. So if that is what God wants to use me to do, gladly and willingly, I will do it. Also, I believe that the programme Inside Out has made me a better and educated person. Not educated in terms of book, but educated in terms of life.

Life begins at 40

Big time. My life is just starting. I am a happier person, a more fulfilled person. I have reached a stage in my life where I do not feel the need to impress anybody. I do not feel the need to make people like me. I am comfortable in my own skin and I can do my own thing. I am not afraid to say what I think. I can tell you my blouse is N200. it's my business. I do not feel the need to wear designer clothing; you know all those kinds of things that I had in the past. I don't have any misplaced priority, that is what I call what I had then. I am comfortable with Agatha, I am comfortable with who Agatha is and what Agatha is and I have no problems with it.

Life as a single mother

How is life as anything? How is life as a Nigerian? How is life as a human being? Everything in life, whatever you come across, you face it. You know, there is no manual as to how life is suppose to be. Like I said, I am a happy and a fulfilled person as a human being and I think that is the most important thing. Single, married, widowed, divorced, whatever you are, be comfortable with who you are. I am comfortable with who I am. I thank God that I am so blessed. I have two very wonderful children who are my pride and joy. I feel that I do not have any lack. Whatever I go through for my children, they make it worth it. I don't think there is anything in life that is good that comes easy. Everything has a price. Mine, I carry willingly and there is no big deal.

Wish Fred was back?

No. I don't really want to talk about men and relationships and everything because I don't really think that determines me and that has been over flogged and usually when I say anything that becomes the headline, the man issue and I don't have a man issue. My children right now are my husband. They are my priority. This is what I say. Everyday that passes is one day gone that I can't get back. They are with me for only a short while. I have so much that I am doing now that the man issue is not even an issue. I think in whatever situation you find yourself, you can be fulfilled. Every thing that you do is a state of mind. It is how you see yourself. I do not see myself as lacking in anyway and a man is not a bad thing and it is not the all thing.

I tell people that no other human being can complete you. Only God can and when you are complete in God, anything you get is suppose to complement you. So, if you are looking at another human being to complete you, then you have missed it. You are going to keep searching because every human comes with their own faults. You can be married and be totally unhappy or happy. You can be single and be happy or unhappy. It is what you choose. I realised that, so when I say I am fulfilled and I feel very blessed with where I am, I do mean it, because I have reached a place in my life where I know that God has blessed me tremendously. I look at myself and I say 'Agatha, where did you start from that you have done all these', but I know it can only be God. Now, how can I see that I can touch so many lives and do as much as I am doing and still be thinking of what is not available when there is so much available?

The children WITHOUT DADDY

My children are fine. They are not even children any more. they are teenagers now and who said that they don't have their father? Why are you assuming that because we don't live in one house that they don't have their father?

But there is no 'mummy is home, daddy is home thing”

Who told you? In which house? Where do you live? In which country? Which 'mummy is home, daddy is home?' Don't fool yourself. How many homes have mummy and daddy at home. Life is too hard now. If they want their dad, they can get their dad. Fred and I have a fantastic relationship. We talk, we gist and that is because we have kids together and we know that. That we are not together doesn't mean we are not friends. I like to be true to myself. We are going to be friends till the day we die because we have no choice. In fact, I have no choice than to make sure that we remain in contact because his children must always be in his life.

Working and relaxing

I don't work after working hours. I close by six. If you, Compass, call me at 6.05p.m, I won't pick it. If I do I tell you please call me during working hours, I am very clear on that. Sometimes I am rude about it because I work so hard during working time, so once I drive through my door, I am at home and that is home. All I want to hear is my son tell me how school was or how exams were, or we gist or we watch football whatever or my daughter. That is all I want to know. After that, I sleep. I can sleep for...Jesus. I don't joke with my sleep because I go around so much and sometimes, my weekends are crowded. So, when I have the opportunity to, I have no problems with sleeping. My son tells me that they will soon glue me to my bed. Once, I am on that bed, Ah!, there is nothing oh! I even eat on my bed that is how bad it is, I sleep. So, yes I do make out time to relax, and for me in order of priority, my children comes first.

Most expensive fashion accessory

I don't know and that is the truth. The reason is that, because of what I do, I get a lot of stuff. On my own, I am Ijebu. I cannot spend money on clothes, shoes. I do not place emphasis on material things anymore. I have done that in the past and this is me now. my programme has shown me how irrelevant a lot of these things are. When I had my 40th birthday, I went to juvenile welfare centre, and brought them here. I had to buy bathroom slippers for the children to wear to come for the birthday party, and they were so happy. I have interviewed a woman who soaks garri and allows it to swell before she and her 11children can eat. So, when you hear things like that, and you realise how blessed you are, and that all these things that we place emphasis on are not important at all. For me now, it is not about what I am wearing or how expensive it is. Instead, if you bring a dress here and say it is N5,000, I will calculate that I have had widows come in here looking for N1,000. I have had students come in here because they want to register for jamb but don't have the money. I have had a woman and her child come in here because they were owing house rent of N12,000, they slept under the bridge. And so, you cannot hear the amount of things I hear and still be extravagant. I just think about the number of people this money can help and it becomes totally irrelevant. Even though I do not buy clothes or shoes, I do not lack. I get them regularly, so if you bring them to me, I will not buy. My priority has changed. So, when you ask me about the most expensive item in my wardrobe, I probably have a lot of expensive items, but I didn't buy them so I cannot claim to know.

Most valuable assets

My children. Every thing else doesn't really matter. I don't have any material possession that I hold dear. There is nothing I can't do without. My children, for as long as I am alive, because I cannot die with them and they cannot die with me.

Possibility of going back to Fred

I don't know why after four years of separation I will be getting such question. My answer to that is, I don't know. I cannot say an outright no, which I am really tempted to say. I am not God, for as long as I am not God and I cannot see beyond this minute, I don't know.

Pressures to remarry

I am 41, I am not one. No body can pressurize any other human being except you want to be pressured. It is nobody's business what I choose to do. I am happy the way I am and that is the most important thing. If he decides he wants a divorce, then I am fine with it. Right now, I feel no need to change anything. I am not looking for a husband. I am not looking for a re-marriage. I am not looking for reconciliation, and I am not looking for anything. I am satisfied as I am. Like I said, happiness is a state of mind. You can choose to be happy or unhappy; it depends on you. I am having the best time of my life. We are not fighting. we don't have a bad relationship, so there is no reason to change anything in my life. I have a perfect life.