Mavi Isibor is the Senior Pastor, Church of God Mission Int’l, House of Praise, Lekki, Lagos and the Group Chief Executive Officer, Poise Nigeria Group which specialises in etiquette training, total personality development consultancy and performance enhancing corporate cultures. The outfit is presently grooming Olajumoke Orishaguna, the Lagos bread seller – turned model. She speaks with TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE on her background, the challenges of growing up, her activities and marital issues.
Let’s have a peep into your background
I am the second child of a family of seven children. I had a very humble beginning at Fadeyi, Lagos. While growing up, I had many wants and many of my needs went unmet. Our circumstances were harsh and the deprivation glaring. Fortunately, I was blessed with a father who loved education; hence, with the little earnings he made as a civil servant, he ensured that we attended school. However, upon his early retirement, the continuation of our education was threatened and it was left to my mother to bear the heavy burden of providing for our family (which also included extended family members). Even as children, we appreciated the sacrifices and grueling efforts my mother made to make sure that we remained in school, had food to eat, and clothes to wear. The foundation of who I am today was laid by the ‘never say die’ attitude of my mother. Today, by the grace of God, I am the Group Chief Executive Officer of Poise Nigeria.
What fond memories do you have about growing up?
Growing up was fun, even though we did not have it all. My mother was a disciplinarian and she drilled the importance of good manners into us. She was very particular that the boys respect any lady they came in contact with, and the girls learnt the correct attitude of a cultured lady. Her constant words to us were that life was a gift and that good relationships were our most valuable possessions.
How did you delve into the etiquette business?
It was my 40th birthday and I was deep in the doldrums. I wondered what I had achieved at that age, where I was going and what I had done with my life. My constant thought was “If I die today, who will remember me and what will I be remembered for?” after 21 years of working in both the private and public organisations. I finally came to the point when I could no longer stand the emptiness, the ache in my heart that came from the realisation that I was unfulfilled. I had always had a natural inclination for finesse, gracefulness, etiquette, decorum and decency, and coupled with my training at Protocol School of Washington, United States of America (USA), I became really good with matters of soft skills. It didn’t take long for my friends and colleagues to notice my expertise and they began to come to me for a hint or two on how to conduct themselves in public. It was during this time that the possibility of starting a finishing school first occurred to me. I reckoned that if I could do this with so much passion without pay and people loved it and asked for more, why could I not do it for a fee and make a living from it? This was the birth of the dream.
Do you believe everyone has the potential of being well tutored in etiquette regardless of background and upbringing?
Absolutely. You see, I have lost count of the number of times people look at me and assume that I was born with a silver spoon. The reverse was my case. Everyone can attain excellence if you want to and constantly strive towards it. You only need to first of all recognise that excellence is important and achievable and continuously work towards it. I tell you, regardless of your background, you will attain it. In behaviour and social interactions as well as other areas.
What’s the most challenging case you have worked on?
I wouldn’t say that there has been a most challenging case because every client comes with one challenge or the other that needs to be worked on and the challenges vary across so many factors. But one interesting case that we at Poise Nigeria have had the blessing of taking on is the case of Olajumoke Orishaguna. It was a rather interesting as well as challenging case because of the buzz that surrounded her quick rise to fame. When she got the scholarship to come to Poise Nigeria, we had to start from the scratch, from teaching her alphabets, numbers, to spelling, to tenses, to personality development, to comportment, to communication. It was and is still a work in progress. But we are proud of how far we have come with her and the progress she is making as a result of her teachable spirit and commitment.
What was your impression and expectation when you first met Jumoke Orishaguna?
She is a very well-mannered and responsible young lady although her level of education was lower than we thought. This just goes further to show that you do not have to have all the money in the world for you to be well mannered and cultured. She is very willing to learn and we will do our best to make sure she has all it takes to make the most of her good fortune.
At this time of economic recession when business is at a low ebb, what has kept you afloat?
We are constantly trying to expand our market and improve our strategy. No doubt, as with every business in Nigeria at this time, it has had its challenges. A lot of businesses have closed down and there have been reports of mass layoff of workers. But by God’s grace, we are cresting the storm by constantly reinventing our services and products and exploring new markets and ideas.
Talking about relationship, do you think good etiquette can affect the choice of a partner?
(Laughs). Etiquette or the lack of it affects people’s perception of a person and therefore will affect their reality as there is a saying that perception is reality. It is important for men and women, women especially, to be properly groomed in character, attitude, comportment and every other area for you to attract the right people. We do not live in a fairy tale where the princess marries the frog. Like the saying goes, like attracts like, so you have to be the kind of person you want to attract. If you are attracting the wrong people, you might need to have an honest self-examination.
For a lady who is of marriageable age, what qualities would you advise her to look out for in a man?
Well, I am not a certified relationship or marriage expert but for someone who has been happily married for many years, I would advise that your husband must be someone who loves and fears his creator. If this is firmly his stand, many unpleasant things that happen in marriages these days would not exist. He also has to have tremendous belief in you. He has to be your number one fan and your biggest support. If these two things are in place, every other thing is secondary in my opinion.
Is it in order for a woman to make love advances to the opposite sex?
Our society does not permit that kind of attitude in women. However, it is not a crime for a woman to make the first move in initiating a relationship with a man.
From your experience, what are the ingredients of a successful marriage?
Communication, respect, trust. All these things sustain a marriage when all the fluffy, butterfly feelings have waned.
What has been your guiding principle?
I have come to adopt the mantra “This too shall pass”. This attitude helps me to maintain balance and good health. Keeping a free mind is key to looking good and living a healthy life.
How do you relax?
I am a pastor, reading my Bible recharges my batteries. Reality shows depicting competition and some Nigerian soaps are my favourite TV views.
Is there something you wish to change about yourself?
I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I am grateful to God for making me the way I am. The things which are a weakness in my personality, I strive each day to change or be better at them but I do not wish to change anything in particular.