I love shoes and wristwatches -Florence Ita-Giwa
At 67, you still wonder what has kept her going. Money? Good looks? Influence from those in the corridor of power?
'I have had the privilege of being in power in the last 20 years of my political career so I don't need to know people in power to be in power neither do I need money as l have very loyal followers and supporters,' she begins.
Popularly referred to as Mama Bakassi, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa cannot be shoved aside on any issue. 'I am a politician and I have contested four elections which by the grace of God, I won. Power comes from God and He gives it to people He is sure will not misuse it. It is time we corrected this erroneous impression that it is only men that must be in power. Why must women know people in power to be in power? By virtue of my birth, l could never have been confined to a small corner. I am a bona fide princess of the Efik Kingdom on the one hand and the daughter of a historic figure in Nigerian journalism- my late mother, Chief Beatrice Bassey on the other hand. So, there really could never have been a hiding place for me,' she states.
Having been in the limelight for a long time, she admits there are times she craves for her privacy. Even though she has no regrets, she says, 'there are many times that I cherish my privacy. I can't say I regret the limelight, because it is what helped achieve my political goals and my struggle on behalf of my long suffering people of Bakassi. There are times when I get frustrated with my visibility but the benefits far outweigh the downside.'
A former Special Adviser to former President Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters, many are kept in the dark about her political activities lately. Or has she dumped politics?
Now a grandmother, she says amid smiles that she was born a politician. 'Politics is my life,' she reiterates.
'I am not a contractor. I do politics and service to humanity. Politics remains the only platform for me to address the problems confronting the people of Bakassi and other down-trodden people in the world. So, I'm obliged to remain in politics. You must also realise that politics has no retirement age. I am at the most politically active part of my life with my current struggle to resettle my people. However, I am not ruling out the possibility of contesting an election in the future,' she says.
The quintessential Ita-Giwa is blunt, exudes confidence and she is down-to-earth. 'Some people may call me blunt but I would rather say I am assertive,' she says.
'As for my confidence, it is because I am a child of God and God made sure that all my successes in life were achieved without mortgaging my dignity, so I can walk tall at all times. My pedigree also has a part to play, added to the fact that my parents ensured I attended good schools like, the Duke Town School and Edgerly Memorial School, Calabar. I think with all sense of modesty, I have done well in my chosen career, so what reason do I have not to be a confident Nigerian woman?' she adds.
At this juncture, she proffers a piece of advice to women: 'In a society that is predisposed to looking down on women, my advice to women is to work harder than the men around them and to do away with sentiments. To remain relevant in any chosen career requires focus and hard work. Men appear to be ahead of women because of their ability to divorce their actions from emotions and sentiments. I know that as women, this may be difficult because we were created to be more caring and emotional than men, but if success in a chosen career is regarded as important, then women need to emulate men, by being less emotional when it comes to work.'
She celebrated her 67th birthday on February 19. Though ageing gracefully, there were speculations that Ita-Giwa must have had some cosmetic surgeries to still look this good at her age!
'I will not dignify that speculation with a response,' she replies adding that she has her beauty/health routine which makes her look younger than her age.
'For many years, I have been very health conscious and watch what I eat. I also make it a point to exercise and go for long walks. So, if l am looking good and beautiful, it is a result of hard work on my part. The secret of looking good at whatever age demands, that as a woman, you must have a non-negotiable 'Me Time' each day. During that time, you should use good skin products that agree with your skin tone to pamper yourself. Eating well and living a stress-free life also helps to keep a woman looking good. Don't forget that exercise is also very important.'
Her diet? 'I eat a lot of fruits and plenty of vegetables. I have practically erased out oil in my diet as well as all fatty foods. At my age and with my initial training as a nurse, l know what not to eat. I do exercises very regularly too.'
She is one of the fashion icons in the country. Despite her age, she knows what to wear to stand out. Explaining her passion to always look good, the mother of one explains: 'Being fashionable is an innate quality. It is not something you can set your mind to becoming. It is either you have it or you do not. As for me, l am not moved by brands and hype, l look out for timeless pieces- what l call classic fashion. These are what will continue to command admiration three or four years after the piece has been made.
'Also as a role model, I tend to favour styles that flatter the female figure while at the same time, maintaining the dignity of womanhood.'
She is said to spend a lot on clothes and accessories. How true is this?
'I cannot put a price tag on what makes me feel and look good,' she corrects amid laughter.
'Looking good has a cost attached to it and since it is important for me to look good, how much I spend is very personal to me,' she adds.
Any fashion fetish for her?
'I am not sure l have a fashion fetish, but l must admit that l like shoes quite a lot. I also have a thing for good wrist watches particularly my Rolex which I wear on a day-to-day basis, except when l want to really dress up. Then, I wear some more glamorous time piece to match my outfit.'
So, how does she feel at 67? Beaming with smiles, she says, 'This year looks good and promising. I am in good health, sound mind, in high spirits and the future looks bright. From all indications, it's going to be a good year for me. So I have every cause to thank God for His faithfulness towards me.'
She has plans lined up for many years to come. Though she says she wants to be remembered for affecting her generation positively, she believes she will be fulfilled based on this: 'It is my hope that my 20-year struggle for the resolution of the Bakassi issue will be realised in the cause of this year. That is what I crave for,' she adds. (Punch)