She is powerful, prominent, prosperous and philanthropic, she exudes a larger than life aura. Gracefully rotund, her gait is endearing. She is perhaps one of the most powerful women in Nigeria. A one-time medical professional now politician, she is reputed with the struggle of Bakassi people.
Yes, she is Mama Bakassi; she is a quintessential Nigerian decorated with the honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger. Even at 70, her age-defying beauty and youthfulness are superlative. Senator Florence Ita-Giwa is a robust personality; an Amazon. In this interview with THISDAY, Ita-Giwa speaks about her desire not to remain single for the rest of her life and still hoping to find the right man to spend the rest of her life with..
How do you feel at 70?
I feel much fulfilled and I give glory to God that I am celebrating 70 and by the grace of God in good health, both physically and mentally; I feel very settled in my mind. The most interesting thing is that I am very certain that I am in the right place that I should be. I feel much fulfilled with my family, with my work, with my charity and the position I rose to in my career as a politician.
You hardly look 70; any secret?
I think the answer I always give first is that probably because the year runs so fast; the number of the years you are carrying or you have attained doesn’t allow your body to adjust to the time. However, naturally in my family, we age gracefully and from where I come from as an Efik woman – from the time you come into this world as a female you are made to appreciate the fact that it is beautiful to be a female. Whatever your aspirations are, whether you aspire to be the president of a country or a medical doctor, the number one thing is, don’t lose your femininity. As a Calabar woman one is taught how to look after oneself; so we age gracefully. The idea is not to look young. I don’t want to be young – the idea is to age gracefully. So for that reason, knowing that my body is very receptive to food, I have a tendency to be fat, all my life, I have battled with weight gain leading me always to watch what I eat and it has turned out well. I made it a routine at the end of every day to find at least one hour where I relax my mind and my body. At the end of the day I enjoy a good dinner, listen to news, watch TV, listen to music and then before I go to bed, I give myself some 30 minutes of pampering.
Do you sometimes feel intimidated by men?
I look at myself as a human being and I don’t allow myself to be intimidated and I don’t go out of my way to intimidate people. I just know that all of us are in the business of nation building. It is for you to show your political strength.
What are your regrets in life?
Absolutely, no regrets. I thank God for every good thing and every bad thing that has happened to me. But I am very grateful because God has compensated me with good things for the bad things that happened to me. If I come back, I will still do it the same way. I have enjoyed everything that came along with what I chose to be in life. From my career as a nurse to venturing into politics, I have enjoyed everything. I have enjoyed it up to the point of still dancing in the street at age 70. It’s all part of it because politics is liberating and so I can dance in front of a crowd of one million people because it is my work. I am totally liberated.
Why have you remained single since the demise of your husband?
I remained single because I live by example. I have brought up children that as soon as they graduated from school, they got married and have their own children. If your environment is rough, when you change partners then your children are likely to grow up rough and to change partners and as such I didn’t want to take a risk of changing partners. However, I am a human being, there is need for me to have a relationship but I decided that at one point I have to be sure. I don’t want to say that I didn’t see anybody that was worth it but I am still sifting through so that I don’t ever change partners. At this stage of my life, if ever there will be a partner, that partner would be my partner for life. Secondly, I live a very busy life and for most part of my life in the last 10 years, I have done some very serious things that I didn’t need that distraction. I had to take care of my business and my service to humanity. I did a lot of things that I was not sure that I could have found a man that will buy into that vision and again there is issue of men feeling intimidated by successful career women and there is no way I would have negotiated my career because I have children. Though I do not intend to ever change my name which has become a brand I am not guaranteeing that I would remain single.
I have amazing friends; I am socially very busy as well but I have friends that respect me and will not take advantage of that friendship. I have very civilised male friends who do not want to take advantage. So if I want to go for dinner I have friends both Nigerian and non-Nigerians that will take me out. I have friends that will travel with me; we have very excellent and decent relationship. However, I cannot guarantee that I would remain single for the rest of my life.
You had a successful working relationship with former President Olusegun
Obasanjo and perhaps, ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua. What did you learn from them?
I think with Obasanjo, initially, we didn’t take off well. While I was at the Senate and he was the President, I think in the course of my struggle for separation of powers I joined the Okadigbo group to fight for separation of powers. To be candid, Obasanjo was a straightforward military man and his desire to get things done at the appropriate time is not negotiable. Eventually, we became very good friends with due respect; because today he is my friend, my father and my mentor. I like him tremendously. I still do not know any human being who is more committed to the success of this democracy and development of this country than Obasanjo. For the four years I worked with him, he refused to go to sleep and I saw that. It was pleasantly and excitingly tiring, because he worked round the clock, and I got to know my country; so that is what he did to my life. I got to know my country and got to know Nigerians. I could make a good president because of what I learnt from him. Obasanjo believes in speed, efficiency and superior arguments and I think till today I am very impatient with anybody that does not apply speed to the things they do.
I love her eyes and the fact that at 70,she is so out together...some of you might come here to yarn dust about her and how she looks but you are not yet 40 but look 80....LOL
Do women still have Libido at this age?Hmmmmmm...Baba God see me oh!