By Dr. Fabian Okoro
One major challenge of post-political office life in Nigeria is the sharp drop in patronage and goodwill.
Given the politics of “eye-service” and fair weather friends that come with political positions, most office holders overrate themselves while it lasts. They build new houses with expansive waiting and living rooms to accommodate their new social status and retinue of visitors.
Sadly, the realities dawn on them once they leave office. A political office holder who is used to seeing swarm of visitors, many of who fawn and genuflect as they seek one favours, wakes up a day after leaving office to meet virtually empty living and waiting rooms.
Multiple phones that used to ring almost every minute thins out drastically. Many people that they thought owed them gratitude wouldn’t even pick, let alone return their calls. The fair-weather associates have all been blown away by the exigent wind of political and economic survival to where it is now happening.
Their events no longer pull quality crowds. Even Governors who single-handedly installed purported stooges as successors soon find out that they certainly can’t continue to call the shots, oaths or no oaths.
In fact, old good times are passed away. Behold all things are new as life in socio-political Siberia begins. These the reasons many suffer from post-public life traumas, while the clever ones, not knowing what to do with their lives, become emergency activists and others set up NGOs in search of relevance.
Each time I see a former Minister now turned good governance and Chibok Girls activist whom chaired the infamous Administrative Panel on Corrupt Politicians, which OBJ nearly used to scuttle the 2007 polls by barring his perceived enemies across the country, starting with Atiku Abubakar, from contesting elections, I just laugh. How time changes things and people.
However, for the former Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator (Dr.) Joy Emodi, she obviously doesn’t need to beg for goodwill or strain herself to remain relevant. She radiates in public and if you have the opportunity to interact with her, all you see is a contented amazon at peace with herself.
Just about six months after national dailies reported how Onitsha was turned to a political Mecca during the traditional marriage of her last daughter, Chibuogu, to Chijioke Ilozue, the recent white wedding of the duo in Abuja, further confirmed that goodwill can actually follow one even after leaving office, if such a person has been able to cultivate the requisite character, integrity, humility, and grace to truly earn and keep it.
Also names also have a way of following people as Senator Joy Emodi radiated with joy in every sense of it. Anyone who attended the wedding would readily agree that the ambience and exoticness of the reception venue bore the imprimaturs of both opulence and exceptional taste and style.
Yet, more importantly, that wedding made a loud statement on her worth- in or outside of government. It was a roll call of who-is-who in the Nigerian political and business circles as the Thisday Dome was virtually busting with quality crowd.
For instance, the legislature, which is her primary constituency, proved that the Anambra-born educationist and lawyer is still the Joy of the Senate, and as the Speaker of the House of Representatives once christened her in 2013, the “Joy of the NASS and Villa”.
It is not at every day that you enjoy the company of over 99 serving and former members of the National Assembly. Led by the Senate President, Senator David Mark; the House Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal; Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba; and House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, the presence of her former colleagues like Senator Iya Abubakar, Senator and Hajiya Sanusi Daggash, Senator Udo Udoma, Senator Stella Omu, Senator and Mrs. Emmanuel Azu-Agboti, Prof. Jubril Aminu, Effiong Bob, to name just a few, was a statement on its own.
Even the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Aloma Muktar whose presence at social events occurs far and in-between like the eclipse of the sun showed her deep respect for the woman. She led an entourage of serving and retired justices, including Hon. Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, Hon. Justice Olufunlola Adekeye (Retd), Hon. Justice James Ogebe (Retd) all of the Supreme Court to show solidarity. Hon. Justice Monica Dongban Mensen of the Appeal Court and Justices Ngozi Ume and Peace Otti of the Anambra State High Court were among the numerous others.
The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan was not only represented by the Minister of State, FCT, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, Alh. Mohammed Shata, and were among serving and former Ministers I personally sighted, while the Anambra political family turned the event to a carnival of sort. Chiefs Chris Uba, Joseph Okonkwo (Ofiadiulu), Celestine Tagbo, and Uchenna Emodi were very much on ground. The CBN Deputy Governor, Kingsley Moghalu and wife were not left out.
Emodi further made a statement as to why she was the first woman to be elected Senator from the South East and indeed from Anambra State, one of the toughest political terrains in Nigeria. The wife of Nigeria’s first President, Prof. Uche Azikiwe; wife of the former Vice Presidents, Mrs. Ifeoma Ekwueme and Mrs. Titi Abubakar; wife of the former Senate President, Mrs. Vivian Enwerem; Mrs. Ireti Kingibe; First Lady of Kogi State, Hajia Farida Wada; PDP National Woman Leader, Amb. Kema Chikwe; Secretary of Sure-P, Hajia Halima Alfa; Acting DG of PENCOM, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, and Dr. Ngozi Etolue of the Federal Civil Service Commission were among the numerous women of substance that made the hall thick.
The business community was not also left out. The likes of Dr. A.B.C. Orjiakor, Dr. Stella Okoli, Chief Patrick Chidolue, Chief Fabian Nwora, and Chief A.C. Okocha, Arc. Fifi Ejindu, Mrs. Christy Mark-Okoye, Mrs. Uju Ifejika, Lady Ngozi Ekeoma, and Dr. Virgy Anohu, were among many that made the role call.
Another thing that was striking was the presence of former Governors/Deputy Governors such as Chief & Mrs. Achike Udenwa (sponsors of the couple), Chief & Mrs. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief & Mrs. Jim Nwobodo, Dame Virgy Etiaba, Chief Mrs. Pallen Tallen, Mrs. Ada Okwuonu, Chief and Hon. Justice Okwy Nwodo, and Mrs Stella Odife, etc. I will explain.
These guests cut across political, ethnic, and religious divides as well as political generations. This does not come as a surprise given her long years in national politics. Not many still remember that unlike the current National Conference, which delegates were appointed, Senator Joy Emodi contested and won election to the 1994/95 National Constitutional Conference.
She once occupied the highest Political Party Offices ever to be attained by any female politician in Nigeria as the National Legal Adviser and later the Deputy National Chairman of the Congress for National Consensus (CNC). She represented the Federal Government in at the 1995 World Women Conference in Beijing China, aka Beijing Conference.
Once described then USAID Country Director as “one of the most dynamic and influential women in Nigeria today” during the visit of then US First Lady, Laura Bush, Emodi was recognised by UNESCO as its Focal Person in Nigerian Parliament. In fact, the former Permanent Delegate/Ambassador of Nigeria to UNESCO, Professor Michael Omolewa, once described her as “radiating the passion and genuine commitment to pushing forward the education agenda for development.”
It suffices to add that but for the crash of the Abacha Transition Programme, she was on her way to becoming the first female Governor in Nigeria at the time. Yet in the midst of Anambra’s political cabals, she remains insuppressible and a cat with more than nine lives because her politics is grassroots-driven.
With the recent wedding event, Emodi has proved that public office is about touching lives of both the high and the low in a way that make you valued for whom you are, not the office you occupy.
It is not about primitive acquisition of property and fat accounts, but attracting and keeping genuine goodwill, friendship, and respect that last a lifetime.
•Okoro lives in Abuja