Emodi @ 58: Giant Strides in Executive-Legislature Relations

26 May 2013

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Joy Emodi.

Mazi Ikenna Ideagu

There is a saying among Ndigbo that when a man plies his trade in the area of his destiny, it would appear as though he is riding on the crest of magic. Also, when an experienced Dibia (native doctor) performs a sacrificial rite, the speed of the results makes it appear as though he hand-fed the spirits. Both have been true in the life of the Presidential Adviser to President Goodluck on National Assembly Matters, Senator (Dr.) Joy Emodi.

A thoroughbred educationist, lawyer, grassroots politician, renowned philanthropist, and importantly the first Igbo Woman to be elected a senator, everything about her speaks of an amazon who has been plying her trade within the precincts of her destiny, training, and inclination.

Emodi’s long walk to the Senate from Anambra’s peculiar political “wonderland”; her sudden ouster in her second term through one of Alphonsus Igbeke’s now notorious judicial voodoos; the daylight robbery that was the Anambra North Senatorial District election in 2011, and her appointment as Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, all combine to tell the story of a cat with nine lives.

Though christened “Joy of the Senate” by her colleagues, it is interesting to note that Emodi did not cut her political teeth at the Senate. According to one of her interviews, she was a student activist saturated in the great ideals of welfarist and egalitarian society where people would live happily if only the right people could go into politics and take the driver’s seat. A believer in Malam Aminu Kano political philosophy, she ventured into politics during the transition to civil rule programme of the Abacha administration. She won election into the 1994/95 National Constitutional Conference. She later became the National Legal Adviser and Deputy National Chairman of the Congress for National Consensus (CNC), the highest political party Offices ever to be occupied by any Nigerian woman politician as at then. But for the death of General Sani Abacha and the abortion of the transition to civil rule, Emodi already had one leg in Government House Awka as the governor. A tested veteran, she is one politician who has practically fought against the godfather syndrome, especially in Anambra politics. However, she often had to pay the price as all the godfather’s are often against her. In one of the desperate propaganda against her in the 1998 governorship election, they claimed that a woman governor would not be able to break kola nut. To this, she retorted that she would appoint a Commissioner for Breaking of Kolanut, for such propaganda could not break the resolve of a woman who was a member of Nigeria’s Expert Team to the World Women Conference in Beijing China (1995) to fight till the end.

Admissibly, however, it was no doubt at the Senate that she shone even brighter like a million stars in national politics. She is a woman who understands that political office is like a folktale. It is not just about how long. It is about how well. Known for her outspokenness and irrepressibility, Senator Emodi was such a forceful voice for justice and pro-poor policies. She bequeathed a tall record that her successors would require many years of hard work to climb over. She was so effective that the USAID Mission Director to Nigeria described her at an interactive session with visiting US First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush in 2006 as “one of the most dynamic and influential women in Nigeria today”.

Again, Emodi’s great attributes as a people-oriented senator were so pronounced in the education sector as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education that 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 was later to recognize her as UNESCO Focal Person in Nigerian Parliament.

It is against these backdrops that her appointment as Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters was widely hailed across Nigeria as one of the best choices the President has made so far in assembling his team. This is a woman that wields an enormous goodwill and respect at the National Assembly. And for those who might have under-estimated her pedigree in this regards, the fact that the seemingly “heady” House of Representatives adjourned plenary/sitting for one full day (April 25, 2013) to attend the national conference on Executive-Legislature Relations organized by her Office would have put it straight to them that the woman looms larger than life at the National Assembly.

However, this respect and trust could not have dropped from the moon. There is so much to it. 
The social grace and dignity with which she conducts herself and her long-standing integrity speak for her. But of particular mention here is her unpretentious character. She is not the “O yes” or the “Eye service” type that would fawn and tell the President “All correct” even when they are not. Again, since 1999, it seems the standard practice for non-performing or fumbling members of the executive to run to the President and frame up the leadership or members of the National Assembly.

The other is the penchant of succeeding presidential aides to lampoon the legislature in order to please a sitting President. But count Emodi out of it. I recall vividly at a time some Presidential aides were just running their mouth on the National Assembly. Emodi promptly disowned them in a terse press statement, saying that they had no such presidential blessing, hence “on their own”.
This does not mean that the legislature is always right and the executive always wrong or vice versa. No, she apparently subscribes to the school of dialogue where gray areas are ironed out on the table.

Emodi also took an unprecedented step in managing executive-legislature relations when she recently organized a national conference on the matter for legislators and members of the executive arm. The quality of neutral resource persons from other political climes and the topics dissected also earned Emodi more of my respect as a woman on top of her game.

Just shortly after the conference and on the threshold of her birthday, the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously ratified the state of emergency proclaimed by the President in Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno. Even some members of the opposition whose party had publicly opposed the proclamation cooperated with the president on this matter when it came to the floor of both chambers, thereby placing national interest above every other interest. This too’s another  feather to her cap.

Indeed, at 58, Adadioranma truly deserves a standing ovation for taking bridge-building and reengineering of executive-legislature relations to another level.

—Ideagu, Onitsha, Anambra State.

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