She’s ruled both the social and political scenes for several decades, and even at 68 years of age, the charming Senator Florence Ita – Giwa hasn’t slowed down one bit! She’s con- tinued to be one of the most interesting female personalities you will ever meet, who is constantly evolving at every stage of her life. Her continued relevance, especially in poli- tics stands her out among her other female political contemporaries. But amidst all of this, the very stylish Politician has found time to make a success of one thing, motherhood. Her effort at being a good mother, even with all of her national portfolios has paid off as once again; she’s giving out in marriage her very pretty daughter, Koko. The mother of the bride shares joy with G&E Publisher, Susan Eyo Honesty, revealing why she chose to celebrate the wedding in grand style. She equally spoke about her style, as well as other things that have given her fulfillment.
The news about your daughter’s wed- ding came as a pleasant surprise to many who heard about it. How did you feel when she told you about the mar- riage proposal?
Koko and I have always had a strong mother and daughter relationship where she is comfortable to tell me anything,
so when she told me about Chimaobi’s proposal my first reaction was one of ap- prehension because of her age. I thought it was a case of puppy love gone too far.
I was aware that they had a very strong friendship almost bordering on brother sister relationship. However, because Koko and I have a habit of talking, over time she convinced me of her resolve to marry the young man, who by the way is a gentleman from a very good family known to me.
Did her choice of groom come as a sur- prise to you, bearing in mind that he is the son of a friend of yours?
Chimaobi’s father of blessed memory was not exactly a close friend of mine. He was however a social acquaintance that I held in high esteem and I also believe he held me in high esteem. If anything though, our children met not knowing that their parents were acquainted. If my memory serves me right, they met at a luncheon party marking Koko’s birthday. Chimaobi was a guest of Koko’s cousin at the party.
How easy was it bringing up Koko, especially during the early years of your involvement in politics, she was quite young.
At the best of times bringing up a girl child is not a tea party. But in my case,
I had a task of bringing up Koko at the peak of my political career, so it wasn’t easy. However, I am grateful for the sup- port structure provided by other members of the family and very close friends. As Koko grew older, the burden was less, however when she was 9, I enrolled her in a boarding school in England, The dis- tance was not such a challenge because I traveled often to see her in England to keep the mother – daughter bond strong. And I thank God that I made it a point to always be there for her, because she has grown up to be a very wholesome young woman.
Were there challenges with managing your time as a politician with the na- tional portfolios you were busy with at that time and being a mother?
Of course there were challenges, be- cause as my political career grew, I got more and more serious national assign- ments that put a huge demand on my time. Whenever and for whatever reason my schedule prevented me from being with her, she stayed in the Folawiyo’s household with my dear friend, Princess Abbah Folawiyo, where there were many children her age. Also in England when for whatever reason I was not available, she spent time with another dear friend of mine, Patti Boulaye. There were times when we would both miss each other and breakdown in tears. This was more so when I worked for the workaholic president Obasanjo, who could go on for 24 hours a day, 7 days of the week. But
I always found a way of compensating Koko with quality time whenever we got together. I advice all parents, regardless of how busy they are to make out time for their kids, especially the girl child.
Not so long ago, she was your little girl and now she is a grown woman, what goes through your mind when you reflect on this?
Whenever I see photographs of her as a child, especially the ones where she was a toddler and she had to accompa- ny me to political and state functions, tears of joy are shed, because what I see of her today is a beautiful young woman with a sense of purpose. I feel so proud of her and thankful to God for the privilege of being her mother.
What are the qualities in her that you admire as her mother?
While Koko might appear to be quiet, the truth is she is rath- er a very calm person. She is slow to make friends, which in many ways makes her a lot like me. Many people are of the erroneous view that I have very many friends. The truth is, I have very few real friends, and most of the people you see me with are social acquaintances or political associates. My true friends are few, one of them being Princess Abbah Fo- lawiyo who, today is more like a sister to me. Koko took after me in that regard, when you consider her very close friend- ship with her fiancé. All told, Koko is a well rounded young lady, who is humble and responsible. She treats everybody with the utmost respect, just like I do.
Your older daughter’s wedding some years back was a huge event in Lagos, what do you have planned for Koko’s wedding?
Koko’s wedding will be an evening affair for my friends, family and well wishers to join us in sharing the joy of what I consider to be a God ordained union. I expect everyone will have a good time in a relaxed and classy atmosphere. My guest list is particularly remarkable as I have invited the crème de la crème.
You are known for going all out for your kids in celebrat- ing them, especially so for Koko. How do you want to give her away in marriage and how involved is she in the whole process?
The Efik Tradition of giving away a daughter in marriage is very complex and exciting and as mother of the Efik King- dom, I have a duty to ensure that Koko is given out properly according to our culture, so that aspect of the wedding is out of her hands. However, for the wedding proper, both of us are hands on. Koko is an extremely creative person and has suggested some unique innovations, which will form part of the ceremonies. As much as a wedding can be a mother’s day of vindication, it is also Koko’s very special day, so both of us are working very well together to make it a memorable day.
Being a Princess, will Koko be observing the whole tra- ditional marital rights, including going into the fattening room?
Most certainly Koko will observe all the traditional rites an Efik princess is expected to observe before marriage. In fact, all the arrangements for her entering the fattening room have been concluded and the traditional Efik engage- ment ceremony will take place on the day she vacates the fattening room.
How easy was it convincing her to accept going into the fattening room, especially as it’s something most educat- ed ladies now shy away from?
Koko did not need to be convinced or cajoled for one sec- ond. She is a proud princess of an ancient civilization and is mindful of her place and indeed my place in the Efik King- dom. Koko’s education and sophistication as a young lady has not beclouded her sense of duty to her tradition as an Efik princess. She understands and accepts the culture of her people, that’s how I brought her up.
In what ways would you say Koko has taken after you?
Like me, Koko has a deep sense of respect for everyone she comes across; she is also humble and holds steadfast- ly to her God, just like me. I am particularly glad that she has taken after me in the area of being elegant and taking good care of her body. We are both mindful to be gracious, because we both know that all the benefits we appear to have are simply by the Grace of God.
You have ruled as one of Nigeria’s style icons, with sev- eral awards to show for it. How have you been able to stay this stylish over the years?
I am highly honoured that you have described me as stay- ing stylish over the years. I must say though that for me, style is inborn. With all sense of humility my style is effort- less because from an early age, style has been a way of life for me.
Many young women will want to know the secret of how you have stayed graceful and young?
I don’t know about being young, I would rather say I have aged gracefully. It is however not a fluke, To age gracefully and stay healthy takes a bit of work. As a rule, I find time to pamper myself and do a bit of working out, no matter how hectic my schedule is. There is no alternative to looking good and ageing gracefully.
Who are the designers you have been impressed by their works, both locally and internationally?
As a life time patron of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), I have taken it upon myself to patron- ize as many good Nigerian Designers as I can. In fact, practically all the well known Nigerian designers are pa- tronized by me. However outside our shores I patronize a gentleman called Ahbed Mafous and another great Mid- dle Eastern designer known as Walid Atalah. However, for shoes I have a great liking for Yves St. Laurent and, Stuart Witsman.
How has your style evolved over time and what has been the major influence for your style evolving each stage of your life?
I am age conscious; I believe that at different stages of one’s life certain things become inappropriate, while other things are not only appropriate but expected of me. So
at every stage of my life, I strive to be appropriately style conscious. As for major style influences, I draw inspiration from women like Jane Fonda and Tina Turner who, in their 70’s still look amazing And so I emulate their active lifestyle to ensure that I never lose my sense of style and maintain a healthy waistline through healthy life style habits. I actu- ally intend to look better and better as I age gracefully. As much as possible, I try to be in absolute control of my mind and body.
What are the ways you would want people to know Florence, besides being a politician and a woman of style?
Simply put, I would like to be known as a caring and humble human being, a philanthropist who has dedicated her life to the service of humanity. In fact, my motto in life is “Service to Hu- manity ”.
You have continued to give of yourself to the development of Nigeria, how has it been for you to ensure that your vision for nation building is actualized at each level you’ve function?
Nigeria is a very complex entity. Serving the nation although a very difficult task has been a privilege for which I am grateful to God. I can safely say I have given Nigeria my best and paid my dues, but it appears that I still have some more dues to pay and I am not complaining. However, I draw some consolation in the fact that I have not brought shame to my name or the nation in all my years of service and for that I thank God.
Being involved in the Confab, how challenging has it been?
First of all to be chosen as one of 496 people in a nation of 170 million plus people is a humbling experience, then to be ap- pointed Chair of a most sensitive Committee like the Committee on the Environment was a major challenge. But I thank God that with the help and cooperation of fellow Confab members, we concluded the assignment creditably. To God be the glory, the Confab which began with Nigerians being very angry has ended rather well, after every section of the country has had a chance to air their views.
You are one beautiful woman at over 60, what is the secret for how you have maintained your youthful- ness?
Youthfulness is not a goal I cherish
at this point in my life. My priority is to age gracefully and by His Grace, that is exactly how I see myself. I be- lieve that my not habouring malice or anxiety have contributed to my gen- eral well being. The fact that I have also paid my dues also has given me a sense of contentment.
Your life has been full of adventure, so, has it been fulfilling so far?
I am a very fulfilled woman on mul- tiple levels. As a politician I have represented my people to the best
of my ability and served the nation creditably. As a community leader,
I have taken a good number of dis- advantaged Bakassi Children out
of despair and today, many of them are in university while others are attending very good schools at my expense. As a mother, my daughters have done well with Koko obtaining masters at age 22 and about to wed at 23. Everywhere I go, the people show me love and respect. Of a truth I am very grateful to God for giving me a fulfilled life.
The Nigeria of your dream, is it achievable in the face of the state of the nation presently?
That is a very difficult question to answer at this time. However, with the success of the recent confab and with a healthy dose of hard work and prayer, I believe Nigeria will prevail. I am also an eternal optimist and unrepentant believer in the unity of Nigeria.
How does Senator Florence Ita Giwa catch her fun, with all the responsibilities you take on?
Unknown to many people, I am a very private person and I cherish
my solitude very much. I like watch- ing movies, listening and dancing to music and spending quality time with my family. Other things to give me pleasure include interacting with the many fashion designers I patronize, watching live shows and most of all, leading the Seagull Carnival band during the Calabar Carnival.
What are the things that give you joy right now?
My greatest joy apart from my love for God is my credo “Service to Humanity”
I’ve learnt the
Art of Generosity from my Mother
Your growing up years as Senator Giwa’s daughter, how was it?
I would say growing up as the daughter of whom I am played a huge role in molding me into the lady
I am today. These were the years where I learnt the art of generosity, sharing and giving. Not only did I notice that I was sharing mummy with almost every- one around her, but I also learnt the you aren’t really successful until you learn to share your success with others, by affecting their life positively. Growing up as a politician’s daughter is never easy, but in my case, it’s given me great exposure. I have learnt to live with just about anybody from any walk of life. Most of my fondest childhood memories were spent in the Folawiyo household, and there I picked up Yoruba and now speak it fluently. This is just one of the many cultures and homes I was privileged to learn from.
At what point did it dawn on you the influence your mother welds in the scheme of things in Nigeria?
I began to realise quite early in my life, We would
be on Oxford streetin London, and a Nigerian family would be going hysterical “she’s the one! She’s not the one” etc. I experienced this severally and I said to myself “ok, my other is special”. I noticed how she was honoured in places, praised and respected. But what struck me most was seeing her in her constitu- ency. Each time we arrive calabar airport, we re- ceive the welcoming of a soldier back from war.
I notice how she was always one of the very few women amongst many men and I just knew that I have a powerful, influential heroine as a mother.
It seems you schooled mostly abroad?
Yes, I left for England at the age of 9 and went straight into boarding school, Prior to that, I went to Busy Bees, Apapa, Corona in Victoria Island, then I went to Abuja community school. Getting to England at the age of a 9, I went to a fantastic Prep School that I would recommend to any parent looking to send their children to a prep school in England. In Between, I came back to Nigeria, and I started sec- ondary school in British international school, Lekki, Lagos. About 3 years later, I went back to the UK to I complete my education. I attended Cambrige, where I studied Law. Then I went to the Univeny of Essex for a degree in International Relations. I was a graduate by 20 and went straight to do my Masters, where I gained myself a degree as an international Develop- ment Practitioner at VEL London.
Being the daughter of such an influential Personality can be a challenge. Is that the case with you?
It is a challenge, but one I’ve learnt to enjoy and make the best of. Being the daughter of such an influential person drove me to mak- ing a decision, which was “you either make it work against you or in your favor”
The beginning of making it work in your fa- vour is actually acknowledging who you are. I try to strike a balance in all that I do.
How would you say that your mum has contributed to shaping you as the woman you are now?
I’ve learnt from my mum lessons that are priceless, they don’t teach you these things in any school, not even etiquette school. Firstly, I have learnt to put God first in all that I do. Without Him, I am nothing, I have learnt what position He has in my life and I don’t compromise that for anything.
Secondly, I have learnt to combine the two; at no time should one overpower the other. Having said that, I have leant to embrace my femininity. You can be the tough cookie out there in the man’s world that we live in, but never loose touch with your femininity.
You obviously have cultivated her taste for looking good how would you describe your style?
Oh yes! And this I cultivated very early. Like most girls, it started with dress up in mom’s closet and that sprung into my love and ap- preciation for the good things of life. Now, my style in comprising to that of my momis dare I say… a bit more outgoing, forward.
I would say I’m adventous in my style and willing to draw the line and won’t fall a fash- ion victim. I strive for comfort and deceny while making a statement whether it be still subtle or daring.
So the social circle is buzzing with the news of your intending nuptial. How did you meet your fiance?
I met him on my birthday through mutual friends. It was the peak of summer holiday in 2008.
What was it about him that convinced you the he was the one of you?
I have met some one I’ve grown with and we are still growing together. Now, that growth is unending in every since of the word. So we didn’t just grow together physically,
but we matured together. And growing up as you know can be the most challenging period of our lives, when you are faced with making decisions that could either make or break you.
Now having someone who you can work with as a team, solve issues and can make challenging decisions with is key.
Having someone who puts God first too makes life so much easier, because you know that you are on the same page. And when all fails you, you can both get on your knees and pray together. For me, sharing your prayer life with someone is most in- timate, it’s like sharing your thoughts with another person. Having someone that you can share this with is priceless. And being with Chimaobi, one of the things I’m most fortunate to have is someone who knows the importance of getting on our knees. It’s a stabilizer of our relations hip.
How did he propose to you, is he the
He proposed to me during summer, about 4 years into our courtship. I had recent- ly graduated from universi- ty. We had been attending graduation dinners, so one of those evenings we went for a graduation dinner, he held my hand and brought the box out and low and behold, he asked for my hand in marriage.
What kind of wedding are you looking forward to having, knowing the callber of person your mum is?
I want to look back on this day 30, 40 years from now and have a big grin on my face. I would like to re- member it for the wonder- ful company we will have. I want to remember this day for the blessing of having such a mother who gave all she could to make it a day not to be forgotten. I’m sincerely humbled by the caliber of people attending and that could take time out of their busy schedule to celebrate with us.
Who would you be wear- ing as your bridal dress?
I’ll be wearing Emage, one of the best haute couture designers in the Middle East.
WHY I FELL INLOVE WITH KOKO – – Chimaobi Obioha
He is good looking. Well educated and any girl’s dream man. But for Chimaobi Obioha, the search for a wife is over, as he has eyes only for Koko, the pretty daughter of Senator Florence Ita- Giwa. This much the businessman and Master’s Degree holder from Coventry University, England revealed in this chat.
Your parents are well known to koko’s mum, is that how you knew each other? Koko and I were friends before we found out our parents knew each other.
How did you perceive her when you first met?
My first impression was that of a beautiful young lady that is nice, warm and friendly, a people person in general.
Knowing whose daughter she is, how easy was it for you to ask her out?
First of all, we became acquainted as friends and everything followed in natural progression, which made it easier for me as we went along.
How long did you both date before you realized that Koko was the girl for you? For a while and I realized how compatible we were with each other and with time, I discovered more of her other lovely quali- ties and good upbringing, which reflected in her manners. I realized I couldn’t stay so long without keeping in touch, and I knew this had to be love and without doubt, that she was the one for me.
How did you realize that you were in love with Koko?
I realized I was in love with kokoeca, when it dawned on me that no day passed with- out me thinking about her,wondering what she was up to or where she was, basically our friendship had grown to us being in- separable. This had never happened to me before,so I knew she was ” The special”.
What were you looking for in the woman you would marry?
It would be dishonest to say physical at- traction wasn’t important, but it wasn’t the deciding factor for me. The important fac- tor for me when looking for who to marry was the person to be God-fearing because, with this all other things fall into place.
So did you find all the qualities you want in a wife in Koko?
Yes I did
How did you propose to her and did you know she would say yes?
It was her graduation period, she had just completed her first degree from the Univer- sity of Essex, England, so we were stil in a celebratory mood in london. We were invit- ed to dinner by a friend at the O2 Arena in london, so after having dinner ,on our way to the car, I kept on joking about proposing like I had done in the past, knowing fully well she won’t take it seriously that’s when
I popped the question. I knew she would say yes, because I saw her reactions in the past when we had such discussions.
So how did your parents receive the news of your marriage proposal to Koko?
My mum was happy about it because she liked koko. For koko’s mum, she wanted her to get her masters degree and some other things to be sorted before marriage.
Kindly share with us a bit about you, schools attended, occupation
I attended Corona Primary School Ikoyi, Lagos. I attended Igbinedion Education Center Benin-city, Edo State and got my first degree was covenant university and my masters degree in International Busi- ness from Coventry University, Coventry, England.
What would you say you and Koko have in common and that delights you?
We can easily relate as we have similar outlook to things and life in general, so it makes things easier and the Love of God.