Interviews

Ita-Giwa eulogises Okoya-Thomas -Launches women empowerment project  

SENATOR Princess Florence Ita-Giwa led a group of celebrities on a condolence visit to the family of late Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas at Sinari Daranijo Street, off Ligali Ayorinde Street, Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday, February 5, 2015.  The group expressed their deep love and sympathy to the bereaved family as they presented flowers, which served as their expression of love for the departed soul.

ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with the leader of the group, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa.  She explained the relevance and importance of Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas.  She talked about the political situation in the country and her plan to sensitise Nigerians about her women development project entitled, The Role of Women in the Sustenance of Democracy and the Achievements of Women in this Dispensation – A Way Forward.

The event held at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Friday, February 6, 2015.

ITA-GIWAWhat do you think the death of Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas mean to Nigeria?

I think Nigeria has lost a great man.  A great man that is like a bridge between the young and old, the rich and poor, the privileged and under privileged and between the male and female.  He was a friend to every individual. Though we are in pains, we need to celebrate him because he was never old.  He was very young in his mind and attitude towards people.  He was never old with the way he carried himself.  He was a sports and music enthusiast, very civilized and gentle.  I don’t think we have anybody like him anymore.  The good thing is that he lived a good life.  May his soul rest in peace.

What can the youths learn from late Chief Okoya-Thomas?

First, is humility and proper upbringing. He was well brought up and it’s in all his children.  But the most important thing is humility that made all of us to converge here today.  This issue of flowers is to show Nigerians that it’s good to be nice, humble and kind and not to look down on anybody.  Molade Okoya-Thomas was selfless.  He never gave up on any human beingbecause no one knows what would happen tomorrow.

He was a great entrepreneur?

Yes, he was an industrious man and he had time to socialize.  What young people can learn from him is that, it is very good to have good education and a good career.  It’s also good to believe in yourself.

Madam, why the choice of flower presentation?

Because we needed to do something different.  In Nigeria, people sign condolence register.  Remember when Princess Diana died, people loved her so much and the only way they could show their love was to drop flowers.  In a civilized world, the only way you could show your love for the departed soul is to drop flowers.  The deceased was accepted worldwide.  He travelled to many places around the globe.  Therefore, many flowers would be presented every day.  Stars and celebrities are still coming.  I brought the teddy bear to show my love for him.

Can you please be explicit about the significance of flower to Nigerians?

Flowers is a show of love and appreciation and support.

Nigerians are about going for the 2015 general elections. What do you have to say about this and your advice to Nigerians?

I think there is an accord that all the presidential candidates signed.  One is to ensure violent free elections and I will expect them to hold on to that.  I think the time has come for Nigerians to accept election results.  I also think about our youths coming up.  We cannot destroy this country because Nigeria will outlive everybody.  So, we can’t destroy the country because somebody did not win an election.  I’m optimistic because I know the plan of my party, PDP.  The president and the party are futuristic.  We’re looking at tomorrow not today and I think if the electorates consider all these, President Jonathan should win the election. I am PDP and I support Goodluck Jonathan.

You talked about women empowerment and you advocate for more women in politics. Please explain more.

In the annals of Nigeria and in area of appointments, no leader, no president has done what GEJ has done for Nigerian women in terms of appointment and you can see it on the chart I placed on the wall.  We have all the areas of government where women have been given very prominent positions.  The question I’m asking is who can do better than this in this area?  We may not have achieved what we wanted but we have sustained democracy and there is no way any man would willingly allow his seat to be negotiated and the only way we can achieve that is to bring in more female in the political structure.  If we have more women in our political structure, they would be able to protect the mandate of women.  We want to bring back female politicians. Not just a female that resigned from her work then jumped into the political scene because of position.  Mrs. Patience Jonathan has been advocating for the sustenance of female politicians and she has really been encouraging female politicians.

With what is on ground now, with what President Goodluck Jonathan has done, who can do better?  Do Nigerian women want to move forward or backward?

No doubt about President Goodluck Jonathan’s soft spot for women in politics, what have you done to persuade women to participate in politics?

That is what we are trying to do.  I did it in my state and now in Lagos. We are telling women to conquer fear, because most of what drives women away from politics is fear and violence.  Once women conquer fear and get into politics, it would be better.  If I can do it, other women can do it.  We want women to become politicians not just to get a mandate or appointment ticket.  Use politics as a platform to work for your people.  Time will soon come when we would be elected as governors, etc.

Would there be a platform like this for women?

Yes, we intend to carry this around the country.

What can we say is the impact of women generally in the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan?

Women have played a very tangible role. For example, Okonjo-Iweala the economy of this country is driven by a woman and the livewire of this country is also under the control of a woman, which is the oil sector.

What are the challenges?

Obviously, you have to be very strong.  Imagine at my age I’m still going up and down to urge women to join politics.

-DAPO ADESEKO

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