Not too long ago, I cannot really recall what exactly happened, but I suddenly developed some interest in the personality and politics of Florence Ita-Giwa, the fashionable and ebullient former Senator of the Federal Republic and until about yesterday or so, the Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters. I was then moved to start reading up whatever I could find about her, and equally gathering some of them in a small file.
I have since found out that Ita-Giwa is a very interesting politician. She exudes power, influence and pomp, and appears always very comfortable ONLY at the very centre of power and influence. I would recall that I first heard her name in late 1986 when Dele Giwa, former Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine was brutally killed with a parcel bomb. I was to read about her later, in greater detail, in the controversial book, Born To Run, by Dele Olojede and Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo. Although she was to later refute some accounts about her in the book, the story somehow helps to throw some light on this complex personality called Florence Ita-Giwa.
After this time, I heard practically little or nothing about her again (maybe because I am a not a great fan of soft-sell and society magazines), until she became very active in politics and became a Senator, where she and Khariat Gwadebe were about the most vocal and prominent female senators. During the battle of wits between President Obasanjo and late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo for the soul of the Senate, Ita-Giwa was solidly behind the towering figure of Okadigbo, and she did not hide it, even though she was in a rival party, the APP. She was once even quoted as saying that those fighting Okadigbo were intimidated by his height and great intellect. But when Okadigbo fell and a certain Pius Anyim was thrown up as Senate President, the newspapers splashed on their front pages the next day the famous picture of Florence in a warm bear-hug with Anyim that must have provoked deep envy in several male hearts. Again, it became clear that Ita-Giwa only relished being at the centre power, and had little or no patience with those who have fallen by the wayside. She was to latter join the PDP, and when Obasanjo conquered both the Senate and the House of Representatives to become Nigeria’s maximum “civilian” leader and the most powerful man in the land, Ita-Giwa became his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, and it was in this position that she emerged in her best elements as a great influence wielder. Indeed, it is believed that Ita-Giwa understands the inner workings of the National Assembly more than even several lawmakers, and could be counted upon to sometimes wield great influence to save her boss from head-on collisions with lawmakers. Although that power appeared to have significantly deserted her with Senator Ken Nnamani on the saddle.
It would appear that sometimes Ita-Giwa perceives herself as some kind of mother-figure to the National Assembly. She once made a famous statement when former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, was still in the good books of Aso Rock, and his colleagues were about to impeach him. While the meeting called to save Wabara lasted far into the early hours of the next morning, some concerned persons reportedly asked Ita-Giwa: “Madam, why not go home and rest?” To which she replied: “How can I go home when my House is on fire?” And recently, when Obasanjo almost met an empty National Assembly when he went there to present something (I can’t remember now), it was reported that Ita-Giwa had to call some of the Assemblymen on phone and succeeded in persuading a number of them to come to the House to save her boss the embarrassment of addressing an empty hall. And she does this so effortlessly. I also watched her the day Obasanjo went to the National Assembly to submit the census figures or so, and was amazed how she was guiding Baba through the whole proceeding like a mother would his frightened schoolboy, ensuring he did not make any mistake. Apart from politics, Ita-Giwa has also been into charity work, especially in her Bakassi area of Cross River State (now ceded to Cameroon). I was deeply touched when I read that she had adopted about a hundred children whose upkeep and education have become her sole responsibility.
But as I look at 2007 and beyond, I try hard to locate Ita-Giwa’s likely next bus stop in the whole power set-up, that is, the next centre of power from where she would throw her weight and influence about. I am afraid, the horizon appears hazy? Will Yar’Adua find another job for her or retain her as his Adviser on National Assembly Matters, or would Madam Bakassi retreat to the background to look after her countless adopted kids, attend high profile parties and earn prominent spots in the society pages of our newspapers, and receive more awards from the ever-willing Award-giving PLCs that seem to swarm the entire landscape these days? The next few days, or even weeks, will tell.