TO HELL WITH ZONING â€“ VIVIAN OKADIGBO, HOUSE OF REP ASPIRANT
Mrs. Vivian Okadigbo is the daughter of former attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, late Chief Clement Akpamgbo. Her mother is from the family of the late Chief K.O Mbadiwe. She is married to the younger brother of former President of the Senate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.
In this interview with Daily Sun, the advocate of multi-party system spoke on her political ambition to represent Anambra State in the House of Representatives and the challenges of democratic reforms in Nigeria, zoning formula of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other issues.
You bear the name of the Okadigbo as your surname. Do you have any relationship with the former Senate President, Late Senator Chuba Okadigbo?
The younger brother of the former Senate President Chuba Okadigbo, Mr. Henry Okadigbo is my husband. I'm married into the family of the former Senate President. My father was an encyclopedia of law and a very successful Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). So he worked to instill a lot of discipline in his children, while we were growing up. Because he was highly disciplined, he inculcated the same discipline in us.
My father was someone who got up by 4 or 5 am in the morning to read. When he was up, he wanted his children to be up as well. I still remember what he told us that hardwork doesn't kill. I learnt a lot from him, and I got the stamina to do what I'm doing from what he usually told us that you can be whatever you want to be in life. He used to tell us that if one person does something, another person can do much better. I learnt that from him and it has helped me a lot both in my younger days and adult life.
You are a daughter of a legal luminary and former attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, why did you choose to read another course of study, other than law?
Well, politics has always been my passion. I have always been occupied with how I can make an impact in the country. So I have always had this passion growing up as a child and also had the passion of becoming a lawyer. Initially before I went to the University, I had the intention of becoming an attorney before I finished my first degree and I decided to get married. So I temporarily forgot about the legal profession and went into education. All well and good it has worked out fine because I have really done a lot in the field of education as well.
You were very close to your father before he passed on. What fond memories of your father do you still remember?
My father was a very calm person who as I said had a lot of discipline and this impacted on us a lot. I was very close to my father and during his last days, he spent most of his time receiving his medical treatment in America, because I live in America. I stayed with my father for quite some months, and I was basically the caregiver for him before he passed on in the US. I was very close to him and I will miss him a lot.
What was your relationship with Okadigbo while he lived?
The late Chuba Okadigbo was a prominent person, as you know. We were also close. Chuba Okadigbo would call me any time he came to the US, 'my daughter; I can remember vividly when his wife would say, 'this is not your daughter, this is your brother's wife.' He would say 'no no no, I don't care, this is my daughter and that is what I will call her.' So everybody would laugh. This was the kind of relationship we had.
At what stage in life did it cross your mind you would be involved in active politics like you are doing now?
I would say a lot of things influenced me. A lot of things made me want to go into politics. The country and where our country is going, Anambra State in particular. What do we intend to do with the years 2020 and the 2011 elections. How do we help the people of Oyi local government, which is my local government? How do we make impact in the lives of those people?
Those are the things that inspired me to go into politics. I decided to come home to see how I can make impact in the lives of the people. Also I have done a lot in the US in community service. I'm involved in orphanages, formation of some foundations. I was very involved in Obama's health care reform. So I paused and said to myself why can't I come out and make impact in the lives of people of Nigeria, in the lives of Anambrarians, instead of doing what I'm doing only in the US. I'm not saying that it is a bad thing, what I'm doing in the US, but I am from Nigeria, why can't I bring the same thing I do in the US and impact on the lives of Nigerians.
You are a woman. Do you think you have all it takes to contest for political office in Nigeria especially Anambra State which is regarded as a hot political zone?
Thank you for that question. Of course I know there will be obstacles but one thing I know is that for you to make any move you have to take a step forward. So, I'm not worried about the obstacles. I'm worried about how to go about doing the job that needs to be done to change the lives of Anambrarians positively. Anything one is doing in life there has to be obstacles. Be it running for political office or taking any position. Any thing in life you're going to meet obstacles along the way. But that is not even the issue right now because there will always be obstacles along the way.
What is you position on the on-going electoral reform?
It is a good idea if it is going to be done holistically. For instance, people should be given the opportunity of at least five political parties. Two political parties as some people are canvassing may not be good for the country. Multi party system is still the best for the country to allow people who have different ideological opinions to air their views. The political space should be as open as possible.
But are you satisfied with the way the National Assembly is going about the electoral reform?
Well, I have always talked about the Justice Mohammed Uwais report. I have always said that the Uwais report should be adopted and put in place. If the Uwais report is adopted we can then begin to talk about what follows. I really think that the report should be adopted and implemented. President Goodluck Jonathan has said that Nigerians would have credible election.
I believe him because I think he will do it. The desire of every Nigerian is that we have a credible election come 2011. Nigerians are willing to have a credible election. The international community is also waiting for a credible election in Nigeria and President Jonathan has given his word that there will be credible election. We should all work towards having credible election come 2011 general election.
Let us look at the issue of zoning of the Presidency. Are you an apostle of zoning? Should Jonathan run for 2011 election as President?
Frankly speaking, I don't believe in all that. Every body should be given an opportunity to become whatever he wants to be provided he is qualified and credible. Nigerians are not concerned about zoning. What Nigeria needs is good and quality leadership that would transform the country. What an average Nigerian wants is food, employment, power and security whoever can make these things happen is what Nigerians want, not zoning. Jonathan has the right to contest for any elective positions as any other Nigerian.
You talked about change coming, what exactly do you want to change if elected into the House of Representatives? The wind of change is already blowing around the country or are you not feeling it?
The wind of change is blowing across the world. I think the youth should also be given opportunity. Every one can be whatever he wants to be in life. We have to inspire the youth of this country. We need to tell them what needs to be done to move the country forward.
When I say change, I'm talking about what can be done for the people of Anambra State. What can be done for the people of Nigeria. For example unemployment is at its highest level. Education, a lot of kids are not in school. I went to Oyi Local Government most of the pupils don't even have any thing to write on. I'm an educator and this is my passion. They don't have computers in their schools and most of them are not even able to go to school.
A woman was telling me that there is no money for her to send her children to school. I feel their pain because this is what I have done all my life. I am thinking seriously that we should encourage education in whatever we are doing. We have to think about how to bring the level of unemployment down to the barest minimum. The power sector is another important sector of our national life. We were told that N16 billion was given to fix the power sector in the country but not much was done.
People that are given contracts must be told what is expected of them to do. We need to educate and inform them. Besides, I want to work to improve the standard and quality of life for every man, woman and child in our great nation. I also want to encourage the growth of economic, health; endeavoring to promote government and citizen relations through empowering human rights and freedoms within the sphere of constitutionality.