The verbosity, pomp and carriage of the late Oyi of Oyi, may not be immediately noticeable, but underlining her words are the same intellectual grit, grace and grasp of issues that were characteristic of the late Senator Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo.
In fact, Senator Margery Okadigbo, widow of the late Senate President Chuba Okadigbo could easily be taken as the feminine illustration of the articulation, eloquence and grammatical fecundity of her late husband. Margery has made history as the first woman to sit on the same seat as her husband in the senate.
In an interview following her recent inauguration, she speaks of her initial feelings entering the chamber where the spectacle and substance of her husband radiated to the whole nation. Excerpts:
What was the motivation for your senate bid?
To make a difference or a change in my zone, to make my own contribution.
How do you assess the representation before you?
It is not a fair thing to do because everybody has their own ideas, yardsticks, limitations and various other reasons why they come or why they work the way they do.
Do you agree with the impression that after Senator Joy Emodi that Anambra North was until now virtually absent in the senate?
(Laughs) Like I said I don’t want to run comments on anybody’s achievements or under achievements.
Considering the legacy left behind by your husband, did you feel any sense of trepidation that you were about to step into a very big shoe?
Obviously from the start of the journey, I kind of felt that way, I already knew that the expectations were going to be high and I guess that spirit I shared with him was saying to me, ‘you can do it, you can do it,’ and maybe because I also lived with him, I shared a bit of his vision, so some of it I can try to achieve and its all to do with empowerment.
My husband wasn’t a money politician and he was devoted towards empowering people, placing the zone in the right perspective and bringing as much as possible to the people whatever is considered as the dividends of democracy and I think when you do that, you leave a longer lasting legacy than doling a lot of money to people.
Money is something that burns out but when you empower people, you empower a generation, a family lifeline. So, for me, that is what it is all about. You bring health to them, bring employment to them and generally improve their welfare.
Coming to the senate, I must say it was a welcome thing because, here I was, I never really sat in the red chambers, but I did visit a few times in the gallery to observe when I was visiting and had to wait for one thing or the other.
So, the red chamber is not an unfamiliar surrounding for me. He (Chuba) had been to the senate twice over, so I was quite used to it and being his wife as senate president, that was also an experience and it afforded me the opportunity to interact with people from different parts of the country. So, I have had my own fair share of playing hostess to people.
So coming to the senate for me wasn’t daunting, it wasn’t intimidating and the current senate president is also somebody I had met along the political main road, so I am quite comfortable with him and they (senators) on their own, have been very, very welcoming. Everybody is all nice and cordial, so I am fine, absolutely no problem.
When you entered the chamber the day you were sworn in, what really entered your mind?
It was a mixed feeling even as I walked down there were tears in my eyes. Tears, because the last time I came to the National Assembly was when I brought my husband for the tributes. That was my last visit to the assembly, so when I walked through the foyer, there were intense memories that came with that entry.
Even though the tribute was down in the Green Chamber but as I entered for my inauguration all the memories just came back. As I made the descent to be sworn in, I felt I was doing it for him, I felt I was re-living his dream and there was something like a duty call of a wife that I felt I was doing.
Not just as a wife to him, but even to the Omambala people where he comes from in Anambra North. I felt that the Omambala people were going to have their place back in the senate because out of the seven local governments in Anambra North, Omambala make up four.
I happen to come from Onitsha, and Onitsha makes up two and the other is Ogbaru. So, for me it is a great honour to represent my people from birth and marriage.
Considering the intrigues that characterised the senate during your late husband’s time, did you have a feeling that you were coming into the midst of backstabbers and betrayers?
Well, politics is all about ambition and people being driven by their various ambitions. For instance, my husband for the level of politics he played, one would expect that his level of ambition would be equally high.
But as far as I am concerned, I am a neophyte, I am just coming in. I don’t even have a grasping of what is going on yet for me to know whether my ambition is going to backstab me or me backstab somebody.
Learning the ropes
For now, and I guess for sometime to come, I am going to learning the ropes. We already have lost one year in the zone in the battle in the court, we recently had a court outing which has now been adjourned till March because Igbeke is still in court and for him and what he says, that he is going to keep me in court for as long as that senate is existing.
I think that my main preoccupation is trying to recover what has been lost in the last one year. There are projects that were shared which my zone did not benefit from and everything is measured in what you do, not how long you have been there. Nobody is going to remember that she was in court for one year, the average person doesn’t remember that anymore.
All they see is that she is in the senate and that she has been sworn in. So, if you have lost one year, there is so much you have lost. So, for me, I am too busy trying to see how to settle down, how to recover, so I am not bothered about that backstabbing thing.
What do you consider as the greatest need of your constituency right now?
In the last few months we have been flooded under. Of the six local governments that were flooded in Anambra State, my zone has four. Here you are being sworn in and of all the great ideas and expectations
agreed on was the rotation of the governorship round the senatorial zones, we have the rotation of the presidency round the geopolitical zones. So, fair is fair!
You are about the highest elected political office holder from Anambra State on the platform of the PDP. What is your assessment of the state of affairs of your party in the state?
Well, we have crisis in Anambra PDP and I believe that the leadership of the PDP is fully aware of it and I also want to believe that in no good time that they will address it. Because Anambra State would soon be going for gubernatorial election and if we don’t put our house in order, I don’t think we are going to make good gain in 2014.
Anambra State is predominantly PDP and oftentimes when you have a wrong or alarming result against PDP it is the result of a rebellion. Anambra State for the PDP has to be well positioned, it has to be all-inclusive, you don’t take the party and put in the hands of a few people and expect to get good results and that is always the result. So, the leadership from the top must address it otherwise Anambra State will continue to go the other way.
But how optimistic are you given that in the last ten years you have not had a state executive that is globally recognised?
I am optimistic, but as I said it is a leadership thing. If the PDP from the top make Anambra PDP right, then Anambra PDP will be right.
What legacy do you like to leave in the senate?
Though I am a lawyer by profession, I find in my interaction with my people that two things come to play, agriculture because that is what my people are all about, they are farmers and the other thing is health.
I move around and I see the pathetic structures they call maternity homes and I am alarmed. You have maternity homes without water.
So I find that health and agriculture are the two major things and coincidentally by the grace of God, I happen to be the vice-chairman of the Health Committee in the Senate and I intend to use that very well.