Anambra's deputy Gov Mrs. Etiaba:"I did not know Gov. Peter Obi until 2003; and why I said Obasanjo isfather of the Nigerian nation...."
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.comand CLASSmagazine, IgboEventsand The Black BusinessJournal
Dame Virgy Etiaba is a woman of history as deputy governor ofAnambra State and as the woman whoon the 3rd of November 2006, became the first female governor inNigeria -- following the impeachment of his boss Gov. Peter Obi.After 100 days, the courts handed back Obi's mandate back to him; andEtiaba returned to the 2nd position. Many have wondered how shehandled the relationship with Obi following her delay in handing backpower to Obi. These and many more issues were explored by USAfrica'sFounder & Publisher Chido Nwangwu and our editorial board memberattorney Ken Okorie in this exclusive interview held in March 2007 inRichmond, Texas. Here are excerpts from our chat:
Chido: What is your relationship, business-wise, with GovernorPeter Obi.
Mrs. Etiaba: Very cordial, very cordial and you know that it isvery cordial. Because the year that I handed back the power to him,it showed people all over the world that it is cordial.
Chido: Somebody mentioned, I don't know if it is true that youtaught him in school.
Mrs. Etiaba: Everybody is entitled to his/her opinion.
Chido: Ma'am, is true or is not true that some claim you taughtPeter Obi in school?
Mrs. Etiaba: It's not true, I never even knew him until recently.I came to know Mr. Peter Obi, His Excellency, only within the periodof politics 2003. Before then? No.
Chido: You're into the closing months of the first quarter of 2007in your roles in the government of Anambra State, now as deputyGovernor. Part of the history of Nigeria is that you became the firstwoman who, technically, rose to the position of Governor. What doesthis mean for the empowerment and advancement of women in politics ofthe country and in Africa as a whole?
Mrs. Etiaba: Partially, it is an elevation. Yes; it is the firsttime a woman came into power as first female governor and everyoneknows that it is a sort of encouragement for women who look forward;who enter into politics to get to the top, and here is a lady thathas arrived. So I must say that it is an encouragement. It is a waythe Lord has made possible for women.
Chido: I remember you mentioned that given the nature of how youtake politics, you love being referred to as 'Mama Anambra.' How doyou see the Politics of rancor and bitterness, political violence,going on in the country, today.
Mrs. Etiaba: After my swearing in, I made an inaugural speech,thereafter I made my media broadcast to Anambarians. I told them thatas far as I am concerned my major focus is to bring peace intoAnambra because I know that without peace there will be no progress.So I decided with the help of God to make myself available as motherof Anambra state in such a way that everybody irrespective of partyaffiliation, religion, gender or ideology. A mother will never, nomatter how bad a child is, a mother will never cast that child out.And that was and is still my own aim, so that I could treat everybodyequally on the same footing.
Ken: Since the current civilian dispensation, we have seen apattern of every government in Anambra state being besieged by whatseems like institutionalized sequence of impediments. How do you seethis? By that I mean you go back to the days of former Gov. Mbadinuju(from 1999-2003), from that to the governor after him (Chris Ngige)and to Gov. Peter Obi, that's before you took over, and then he cameback and took his mandate. You see that there is a very systematicplatform for somebody to counter everything the predecessor had done.How do you see this situation and what does it do to the politics ofthis state?
Mrs. Etiaba: It doesn't go well for the state and that was why Idecided to answer that name of Mother. Mbadinuju was from the PDPparty, Dr. Chris Ngige was also of PDP party, Mr. Obi APGA and myselfAPGA; and that was exactly what I detested. Each and everyone of themhad his own program. At a certain point you find that the program wasabundant, so when I came into power I felt that all the programs ofDr. Chris Ngige, and that of my predecessor; that I would have tore-visit all of them, and then add to them. And that was to say thatI tried to bring all of their plans together, and show them thatgovernance is not a personal affair. It is a humanitarian servicewhereby the Governor must have to be the chief servant and being thechief servant means that you have to bring everybody together.
Ken: Meaning, otherwise, trying to dispersonalize the business ofgovernment. But the way you started by identifying Ngige PDP,Mbadinuju PDP, Obi APGA. Yet you still see what would suggest thatthis problem, this pattern am talking about may not necessarily bepatrician, may not be party driven. Would that be a correctobservation and if so; and given the significance; the place ofAnambra in the entire politics of the South East zone of Nigeria,what does all this mean and how do we get out of it?
Mrs. Etiaba: I think the step I have taken is a way to get out ofit. Forget everything about politics, just see the state, see all theSouth Eastern states and say they all are Igbo states. So theimportant thing is for us to work to the progress, see how we candevelop our states rather than trying to get things that will tear usapart. Let us look for those things that will unite us ; and moveforward.
Ken: How did the PDP-dominated legislative branch receive thischange in direction by you?
Mrs. Etiaba: It was well welcomed. You know that my boss (Gov.Obi)... actually both of us were to be impeached. But along the line,probably, after much thought I was dropped. As a result of it, I camein and said well I must have to work with all the legislators, andthat word 'Mother' was a miracle and is still a miracle, because eachtime I talk to them I see them as my children and they call me'Mommy' and you know what that means for favoring and that was how Igot them. Even today they still obey me, call me mummyevery-time.
Ken: Is this an indication then that we should strive to have morewomen in politics?
Mrs. Etiaba: Yes exactly; and I assure that what is happening inNigeria, that if by the will of God a woman comes at the top, theremust be a change because we have been endowed from ages by AlmightyGod. We have been given that gift on how to handle things.
Chido: On the issue of maternal reference and also paternalreference, one of the best editorial writers in Nigeria's newspaper,today, Okey Ndibe, -- I would believe you would have read hiscommentary --- wrote that when you referred to President OlusegunObasanjo as the "Father of the Nation", he said: No, not his fatherof Nigeria, maybe yours for claiming Obasanjo as such. Ndibe listedthe kinds of divisive politics the President had impacted on Anambrastate, and other parts of the country. Personally, I note that in therealm of real politik; if I would utilize an Igbo metaphoricexpression "akwa na akwa a buro ofu..." I understand the subtlety ofbeing respectful, differential where necessary, but does yourpaternal appellation of father of the nation for the presidentObasanjo get in his way of his being challenged to be fair and properin handling of governance issues.
Mrs. Etiaba: There is one thing you need to know, everyone isentitled to his or her own opinion. My own opinion might not be thesame as his or yours. And the way you perceive things may not be theway you also perceive. So I am not here to criticize thepresident.
Chido: No; Your Excellency. I am not asking you to criticize thepresident. The question is do you see him as deserving of the titleof the Father of the Nation given the way he has handled or treatedyour won state of Anambra?
Mrs. Etiaba: Definitely, if any other person comes on board aspresident, he is "Father of the Nation." Just like I said, I am theMother of Anambra. That much is simple. It doesn't matter how theperson behaved as far as he or she is at the head; it is a title.You, Chido, can get there and you become "Father of the Nation."
Chido: In terms of the reality of the partisan contention forpower in Anambra state, weighing the factor of PDP through theircandidate Andy Emmanuel Uba, how do you compare those in relation toyour own party, I believe you are still a member of APGA. There hasbeen relative inability of APGA to organize professionally andseriously a few weeks to the April 2007 elections. We've not seen anadequate activation of APGA, that is, to put it politely. If theresources, the structure, the activism, the elements, the catalyticelements of running for political position are relatively weak, howare you going to seriously compete?
Mrs. Etiaba: To clarify, in the first place I am a member of APGA.I wouldn't like to dabble into PDP neither would I like to discusspersonalities. But all I know is that according to constitution weare entitled to our four (4) years tenure. We're starting from theday we took the oath of office; that much is certainconstitutionally. But we understand that in Nigeria anything canhappen. But that not withstanding it doesn't mean that we are notmindful of what is happening. Apart from the governorship ofelections, we still have others, House of Assembly, Senate, FederalHouse.... But all what I know is that we are there. We are running in2007 and we are also pursuing our four (4) year tenure in court.
Chido: Let's move to non-political matters. The controversialissue of female genital mutilation, others assert this as regularcircumcision. As a mother, grandmother and a community leader,national leader; what are your thoughts on that contentiousmatter..
Mrs. Etiaba: It has been a serious issue that has being taken tothe House.
Chido: Which House? Assembly in Awka, Anambra state.
Mrs. Etiaba: Yes; so we are pursuing it , because it adds to themarginilization of women, to health hazards that is involved. So weas women, we are not taking it easily. . It is a serious matter; justlike widowhood.
Chido: The other issue that we face is the issue of having votingrights. Nigerians abroad, as you know are predominantly persons fromthe South Eastern part of Nigeria which is part of your constituency.You've focused on the internal and local dislocations of Anambrapolitics, South Eastern politics with scant attention to the widerstrategic imperatives of politics in Nigeria which will benefit yourfolks and others in government like you. Why are the governors ofSouth Eastern states not actively agitating for voting rights forNigerians abroad?
Mrs. Etiaba: Are you sure? Because to the best of my knowledge, inthe year 2003, a lot of you came down from abroad for voting inNigeria. But the problem we now have I think I don't really know ifyou all came down for revalidation of voters....
Chido: That's part of the game.
Mrs. Etiaba: Sure; because if you did not come to re-validate thenyou don't have the franchise.
Chido: I covered part of the South African elections, I believe in1994. Their voting rights and centers were all over key cities inU.S. Only a last year, even Iraqis, were empowered to vote withouthaving to travel back to their villages in Iraq. It is an issue thatis important in order to further empower your constituency, thenumbers are big. It's an issue of concern for Nigerians and the Igboabroad.
Mrs. Etiaba: Yes, but don't you think it is now late. This issue,you would have raised it before this time.
Ken: It maybe late for this 2007 election but we have been pushingfor this. I know the World Igbo Congress (WIC) raised during the 1999elections, and the 2003 elections. When you have people (Nigerians)who have lived here for the last thirty (30) years, fully engagedwith family, work and everything else, I think it is unrealistic toexpect all of them to massively come down to Nigeria to validatevoting particulars and details. So, just like Chido explained thesecountries have made it possible to utilize the services of theirembassies here and support of the US state Department and NGOs.
Mrs. Etiaba: Am sure that was an oversight, we should havefollowed that line of validation because I can't even see how youpeople could have trooped down. Although there was a short of timeframe but even then it couldn't have been possible. So these are someof the things that need to be done.
Ken: Only recently the Minister of Information Nweke made astatement in London suggesting that Nigerians in the Diaspora are notreally relevant to the process at home. If that is the mindset of theObasanjo government, then....
Mrs. Etiaba: It could be a slip of tongue because I know that youpeople are contributing a lot.
Chido: What do you do to relax other than politics.
Mrs. Etiaba: I am a teacher by profession and I own a school. I ama school proprietress of fame.
Chido: Do you engage in any extra curricular activities.
Mrs. Etiaba: Church activities of which the Lord Almightyaccording to people is rewarding me.
Chido: And you have been blessed with very successful sons anddaughters. What are their names.
Mrs. Etiaba: Exactly, I have been blessed.
Chido: What are their names in order of seniority
Mrs. Etiaba: I have Benneth who is a Chartered Accountant and onetime President of Chartered Accountant of London. I have Emeka Etiabawho owns a big firm in Nigeria; Lawyer and practitioner. I have thethird one in London, his in charge of Gallery magazine. his my thirdson; Henry Etiaba. And here you meet Echezona another lawyer, he hasa big firm in Portharcourt and my daughter who is also a lawyer inNigeria and then the last one is a bank manager in Nigeria. I havetwo daughters, two females and four males. I have ninegrandchildren.
Chido: What guides you. What is your motto?
Do unto others as you will wish them do to you.
Ken: I think it is refreshing to hear a politician talking realfamily terms. It is quite refreshing. What can we do to facilitate orpromote the enhancement of women participation in Nigerianpolitics.
Mrs. Etiaba: Okay, USAfrica as an institution or you as a male orwhat?
Ken: As an institution.
Mrs. Etiaba: I think the best thing is as much as possibleUSAfrica and CLASSmagazine should try to project the image of womenin such a way that it will encourage others. I have seen that notmuch publicity is given to women affairs in our country. Such a movewill go a long way. Publicize whatever good that is done, publicizethe women that have made it like, Prof. Dora Akinyuli, ObyEzekwesili, Ngozi Iwuala, Joy Emordi, you talk of eh, it appears thatI am one sided talking of only the Igbos, and we have the Yorubas aswell as others.
Chido: We want you to speak on the very historical significantperiod, the One hundred days you lead Anambra state; especially, whatwould you consider the high point of that period?
Mrs. Etiaba: Thank you very much. I think I have to start by atleast talking from the time I was sworn in first as the ExecutiveGovernor of Anambra state. It happened on the 3rd of November 2006,and you must have known that it was as a result of impeachment of Mr.Peter Obi, my boss. As you know, constitutionally, it then becamenecessary for me to take up leadership. But before then I hesitated ,after a while but within 24 hours due to pressure from stake holdersfrom my party APGA and also constitutional lawyers, I had to stepinto that shoe and I was there for 100 days during which I must saythat I had no breathing space because I had to make my presence feltin and around the country, Africa and the world as a whole, for beingthe first Female Governor. So while I was in office, we tried as muchas possible to tow the line of millennium development in developingall the sectors of the economy, construction of roads, educationsector, the health, industry and commerce, agriculture, and whateverwould that would be done to keep Anambra forward.
Chido: Thank you, Your Excellency, on behalf of USAfrica andCLASSmagazine.
OBASANJO'S FAILED 3RD TERM POWER-PLAY IS GOOD NEWS TO NIGERIANS,ABROAD AND HOME....USAfricaonline.com and its correspondents in Nigeriaand across the major cities of the U.S are reporting an increasingtally of anti-3rd term phone calls and e-mails from our readers. By amargin of almost 7-2, USAfricaonline.com data show that anoverwhelming majority of the politically active citizenry are happythat Nigeria's Senate halted retiredGen. Olusegun Obasanjo's stealthy, unpopular, behind-the-scenes-winkand nod power plays to secure an "unrequested" 3rd term as presidentof Nigeria (a total of 12 consecutive years).
Many Nigerians still feel disappointed that a man (Obasanjo)who had gained so much from Nigeria would cling so tightly to power,even against the popular will of the people, moreso with age, energyand fresh ideas for a new era not on his side.
Also, USAfricaonline.com review of Nigeria's recent history show thatPresident Obasanjo seems to be moving rapidly into the zone ofill-repute of his former military colleagues who, like him, refusedto leave office when it was time to go. Gen. yakubu Gowon in 1975;Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1993; Gen. Sani Abacha in1995, 1996, 1997,1998. More baffling many Nigerians we interviewed recall is thelessons of the excesses of the late Gen. Abach who jailed Obasanjowhile the former schemed to remain in power. For the specialreport by USAfrica multimedia networks' Publisher Chido Nwangwu,click on 3rdterm.
DEMOCRACYWATCH: What Bush Should TellObasanjo.... By ChidoNwangwu (Founder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com)
His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective ofthe true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one likeyou!
Ugo n'abo, chukwu gozie gi oo!. ChidoNwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), isFounder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-ownedU.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet),USAfrica The Newspaper,CLASS magazine and TheBlack Business Journal. He has served as an adviser to theMayor of Houston on international business (Africa) and appears as ananalyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABC news affiliates.
This USAfricaonline.com commentary is copyrighted. Archivingon any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized except with aWritten Approval by USAfricaonline.comFounder.
CLASSis the social events, heritage excellence and style magazine forAfricans in north America, described by The New York Times as themagazine for affluent Africansin America. It is published byprofessional journalists and leading mulitmedia leaders andpioneers.
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His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective of the true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing and disposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures) this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce, juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of the vitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality of Chi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... it is a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude while taking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community. I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, the rigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed in most of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, because I share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a brief sentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here, folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle on the Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one like you!
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These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
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CLASS is the social events, heritage excellence and style magazine for Africans in north America, described by The New York Times as the magazine for affluent Africans in America. It is published by professional journalists and leading mulitmedia leaders and pioneers.