I have learnt to be grateful for all I have – Helene Ibru
Helene Ibru, a lawyer of Nigerian and French parentage, obtained her first degree in Paris, where she also earned her Master’s degree. She worker for some years in France, then decided that it was time to return to Nigeria.The mother of four, who changed careers at different times in order to be available for her children, is co-host of ‘Walk the Talk’, and older sister to Tabia.
Despite a thirteen-year gap between them, both sisters are so close. You could see the bond on the show as they interact with guests to tackle and ultimately proffer solutions to some of life issues.
Between you and your sister, how did ‘Walk the Talk’come on board?
It started a few years ago. We were talking about what she wanted later on in life. We always feel that Tabia had a natural talent for writing; that was her first love. She had written a lot of articles already and when she moved back to Nigeria, she started off as editor of ‘Guardian Life’. The response she was getting was quite encouraging.
Then, she suggested we did a TV talk show. As you know, we are a television family; we have been watching our mom on TV for decades. I said it was okay. I asked her who she had in mind and she said me. I said: “How do you mean me? I didn’t study journalism. You studied it”. She said, “We just go there and talk; just about things that we always talk about at home; about issues that affect people,
the country and all.
So she flung the concept at me and wanted to know what I think of a name. I said the only name that comes to my mind is that you want people to walk the talk and she said that’s it: Walk the Talk.
Before I knew it, she had put together a Powerpoint presentation that she presented to me and mum, stating the concept of what she wanted to do. It was very good, very promising. So we asked our mom who has the experience of TV what we needed to make it work. She gave us her input and, as they say, the rest is history.
What was your first time in front of the camera like? Were you nervous?
At first, it was a bit nerve wrecking. I felt very nervous because we are a shy family; my mum just kept telling Tabia and I to forget about the camera – “You know what you want to say; just go ahead and say it. Just do it as you usually did. You are just talking”. She kept encouraging us with a lot of positive adjectives. I find that taking that advice really worked a lot; to the point that when we finally got the courage to look at some of the shots and listen to myself, I said that was not bad at all. In terms of the presentation, what I was saying and what was going on on set, I felt very confident to go with it. So I have lived through all the 13 episodes and I am still standing (laughs).
As a lawyer, what do you bring to bear on the show?
For me, what it is, when I suggest a topic for discussion, I always have my facts to back it up. I always have examples to give. I always have reasons why. Working together, we present ideas to each other and we are able to say yes this or that will work. In a way, with my background, I can argue my case very well.
What is your relationship with your sister like and off the set?
Tabia and I are best friends; there is really no any other way to describe it. There is a 13 years gap between us but from the moment she was born, I fell in love with her. After 13 years as an only child and finally having my sister around, I fell in love at first sight and that relationship was nurtured and encouraged by our mom who made us realize that there are only two of us and we have to have each other’s back.
You must love and support each other and if you see that the other person is wrong, even up to the point where you think her make-up doesn’t look good, you tell her; force her to take it off and make her look presentable to the world.
That was how my mum raised us so the closeness and bond we have is very carefully nurtured by our mum and I am raising my children that way.
My mum made us to understand that the world outside is a united front; it’s you against the world. Nobody should come in and break you. As for our working relationship, we get along so well. I guess it is almost natural even though I do not have training in journalism; we get along so well. There is a lot of intuition between the two of us. It is easy to work together.
For instance, when I have something to say and the appropriate word is not coming at the time, because Tabi and I talk a lot, Tabi knows how to literally finish my sentence. So the working relationship is an absolute pleasure. It is good because we complement each other.
You must have a sister/friend relationship with your mum? Have there been times when she needed to put her foot down and be mom rather than sister/friend?
My mum is a disciplinarian. When I was much younger, all my friends know that she is a no-nonsense person. She doesn’t mince words. She says it as it is, whether you like it or not. I used to complain a lot to my grandmother then, that my mum was too hard. She won’t let me do what I wanted to do and my grandmother would always say very positive and patient words. In my older years, I realised that that discipline served me really well. I discovered that being harsh doesn’t mean you don’t love someone.
My mum was strict but at no time did I ever doubt in my heart that she loves me. It was out of love and out of the
kind of woman she wanted me to be. Our mum raised us to be hardworking, disciplined and humble; to realise that
everything that glitters is not gold.
I am so proud of the woman our mum is and we hope we are making her proud too. We are best friends now. We talk
about almost everything but she brings you back when you are going beyond your limits (laughs).
You read law. What informed your choice of career?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a paediatrician because I really love children. Why it did not work out was because I wasn’t good at Mathematics. Of all the sciences, Maths was my biggest challenge. When I went for different career fares, I thought about something that will make me work with children or have an impact on family. I thought about Law and decided to study International Affairs, specifically based on human rights. I also took another course in Family Law in French. I studied in France so my Law degrees are French Law degrees. Everything I studied was basically to see about women and children’s rights; how best to effect it in the society that we live in. So, it is safe to
say I studied Public Law as opposed to Private Law.
Did you practice as a lawyer?
I did back in France the law is not the same here In France, they follow the Napoleonic Code and in Nigeria it is the English Law. After having graduated and worked in France for some years, where I lived for about ten years, when I moved back here, I was told that I was not just expected to go to Law School which would have been fine but they actually wanted me to go back to the university to study Common Law. I wasn’t ready to do that. I started work with a company here and then my family life started, and as they say, choices had to be made.
You have been married for twelve years. What would you say is the secret to a successful happy home?
Like everything else, there will always be ups and downs because you are two people coming from two different backgrounds with two completely different mindsets. I think, first and foremost, you have to be very patient. You must learn to pick your quarrels and not everything must be a showdown. You also have to listen to the other person; you have to be attentive to the other person and you have to make up your mind that this marriage must work.
I know a lot of people who feel it’s not going the way they want, so they quit their homes. The reason why after 12 years I am still in a happy place is because my husband and I have chosen to be friends. We have chosen to value each other and not to take each other for granted. But like everything else, you should never be afraid to go through some hardship; at the end, you know what you want. For marriage to work, you have to choose rightly and you have to know where your partner is heading.
How do you keep fit?
I love dancing and I have always taken dance classes since I was a child. I dance and in that way exercise without realising I am exercising. So dancing does it for me.
What is your style philosophy?
When it comes to fashion, I have very diferent choices. I start from the point of view of my body, what fits. I look at the mirror with a very critical eye, check all the places that needs to be compacted and all that needs to show. I try as much to dress appropriately for any occasion.
I love classy pieces. I like earthy tones and pieces that also have character. So, I would say my style is simple and chic.
What is that one lesson you would say you have learnt in life?
I have learnt to be grateful for all I have. I remember my grandmother saying we always ask from God; that we should sit down, reflect and always remember to be grateful for all we have. Learn to recognise that where you are is a good place. That is one of the things my grandmother and mum always taught me; to be polite and grateful on a daily basis.