BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
THE announcement of this year’s national honour’s roll has elicited reactions from a large section of the polity. The national honours system in Nigeria as in many other parts of the world is a way of recognizing individuals and institutions that have over time impacted positively on the community or country.
Like in past exercises, women have continued to trail men in the number of awardees. Of the 364 nominees selected for the 2011 awards, there are only 37 women or 10.16 per cent of those selected.
The chosen few include Justice Aloma Marian Mukhtar (CFR), Mrs Victoria Gowon (CFR), Senator Grace Folashade-Brent (CON), Senator Joy Emodi (CON), Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke (CON), Justice Dorothy N Eyamba-Idem (OFR), Justice Aisha Sani Dahiru (OFR), Justice Hauwa Kulu Aliyu (OFR), Justice Inumidun Enitan Akande (OFR), Prof Grace Alele-Williams (OFR), Mrs Amina Sambo (OFR) and Mrs Cecilia Akanu (OFR).
There are also Ms Arunma Otteh (OON), Dr. Yewande Thorpe (OON), Mrs C.B Ugokwe (OON), Dr. S.N Adukwu Bolujoko (OON), Saudatu Ohinoyi Magajiya Shehu Mahdi (MFR), Mrs Rhoda Nguhemen Tor-Agbidye (MFR), Mrs Monye Rajis-Okpara (MFR), Mrs A.B Iyoha (MFR), Mrs Eniola Ajoke Fadayomi (MFR), Amaka Igwe (MFR), Stephanie Okereke (MFR), Genevive Nnaji (MFR), Hajiya Indo Mohammed (MFR) and Mrs Naomi P. Maiguwa (MFR).
The rest are Mrs Juliet Ohuma Chukkas Onaeko (MFR), Mrs Maryam Uwais (MFR), Mrs. Fatima Abdu Kyari (MFR), Mrs Sherifat Olanbiwonninu Koal-Daisi (MFR), Mrs Georgina Murako (MON), Mrs Nne Kurubo (MON), Mrs Huda Matteded (MON), Mrs Nkechi Obi (MON), Hon. Queen Elizabeth O Bens (MON), Marian Usman (MON) and Mrs Caroline Funmilayo Busari (FRM11)
Among the honourees, Senator Joy Emodi, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly is one of those whose recognition is touching. Senator Emodi’s recognition and award of the Commander of the Order of the Nigeria, CON, is particularly touching because it continues the spate of recovery for a woman, who not to long ago was perceptively denied her mandate to represent her people of Anambra North Senatorial district in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
Unarguably, the first Igbo woman to be elected as Senator in 2003, and the first female senator to be re-elected, Emodi did not assume her mandate in the Senate until after a long legal tussle that lasted for over 20 months.
Upon taking her seat in the Upper House, she quickly made her mark, utilising her vast geographic, educational, legal, political and philanthropic experience.
Aside sponsoring many bills including: A Bill for an Act to Provide for a National Ethics Curriculum in Primary, Secondary Schools and Teacher Training Colleges in all states of the Federation and the FCT; A Bill for an Act to Prevent Discrimination against Graduates and Staff of Polytechnics; A Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of the National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) Nigeria and for matters connected thereto; and
A Bill for an Act to provide for the Establishment of the Federal Scholarship Commission and for matters connected thereto, she carried out or attracted numerous projects to her constituency, state and geo-political zone.
The projects include rehabilitation and strengthening of River Niger Bridge; award of a BOT contract for revitalization of the Onitsha Port Project, re-positioning of agricultural areas to align them with Anambra Imo River Basin Authority for better yields; poverty alleviation programme through micro-credit grants to widows and youths; scholarship award to youths for secondary and tertiary education as well as for ICT and other skill acquisition.
She also attracted provision of portable water and rural roads; youth employment through National Directorate for Employment (NDE.) Programme; state-of-the-art ICT Centre for Federal Government Girls College, Onitsha; Free eye screening and treatment including provision of glasses for 5000 constituents; Annual charity programme for orphans, disabled persons, widows and less privileged; water borehole projects in many communities in her Constituency; and Primary Healthcare Centre at Umuerum in Ayamelum Local Council.
Based on these achievements, Emodi was re-elected into the Senate in 2007 to consolidate on her projects, which she did in style. However, her quest to take her constituency to another level in 2011 was truncated when deep-seated intrigues denied her a third mandate.
As a thorough bred politician, she took the political blow in her strides and before long, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed her as his Special Adviser on National Assembly. The appointment practically returned her to the legislature, where this time, she is playing the special role of guiding the President on courses that would lead to harmonious relations with the lawmakers, which in turn will translate into good governance for the citizenry.
Arguably, she has discharged this function creditably in the last four months, a factor that obviously aided her being selected for the national award that will be conferred on recipients on November 14 in Abuja.
Born in Onitsha, Anambra State, Emodi started her early education at Holy Rosary Primary School, and Queen of the Rosary College, Onitsha. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Geography Education in 1979 and a Bachelor of Law in 1985 both from the University of Nigeria. She was called to the Nigerian bar in 1987 after earning a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island Lagos.
A firm believer in education as a the only means of liberation from the throngs of poverty, Joy Emodi’s working career started as an Education Officer with the Anambra State Schools Board. She went into private legal practice in 1987 first in the Chambers of Chief A.O. Mogbo, SAN and later in her own Chambers. She took up the call for service to the fatherland when she accepted appointment as the Executive Secretary, Anambra State Development Authority.
Emodi’s passion to be an agent of change made her to venture into the murky waters of Nigerian politics in during the Transition to Civil Rule programme of the Abacha Administration. She contested and won election to the 1994/95 National Constitutional Conference. She was later to assume some of the highest Political Party Offices ever to be attained by any female Politician in Nigeria as National Legal Adviser and Deputy National Chairman of the Congress for National Consensus (CNC).
Senator Emodi’s charismatic leadership qualities was manifested in her effort at tackling the many problems that face the education sector through effective legislation and oversight during her tenure as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. She sponsored some Bills and also helped to push through a number of policy reviews for the sector. Professor Michael Omolewa, the former Permanent Delegate/Ambassador of Nigeria to UNESCO described her as “radiating the passion and genuine commitment to pushing forward the education agenda for development.” UNESCO later recognized her as its Focal Person in Nigerian Parliament.
Emodi has had a distinguished career of service to her fatherland and humanity as evident in her many contributions to the development of the country. She has represented the Federal Government of Nigeria at several fora such as the World Women Conference in Beijing China (1995), the Third African-American Summit in Senegal (1995).She also led the National Assembly Study Mission to the US Congress in 2006 and was a member of the National Assembly Delegations to several International Organizations, Conferences and workshops including the 2008 Meeting of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association [CPA] Conference in London, UK, 115th Assembly of the Inter Parliamentary Union (2006) in Geneva Switzerland, Seventh and Eighth Workshops of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians at Wroxton College Oxford shire, UK [2006 and 2008), ECOWAS Parliament (2006-2010), ECOWAS Parliament Election Observer Mission to Sierra Leone , 2008 International Leaders Forum (ILF) and US Democratic Party National Convention in Denver, Colorado USA. She also led a delegation of the Senate Committee on Education on a Study Visit to the Cuban Parliament in April 2008.
Married to Dr. Okey Emodi and has four children and two grand children, the CON award is 49th award, honour or recognition she would be receiving in her illustrious career spanning 28 years.