By Tony Amadi
Power dressers in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are a small breed of distinguished senators who go the extra mile to mind how they look in the eyes of the discerning public whose task it is to vote them in or out of the National Assembly every four years.
Late Senator Uche Chukwumerije was certainly one of them along with his Abia counterpart Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who not long ago masterminded a successful Aba Fashion festival in Abuja. Also the charismatic Senator Chuba Okadigbo was a leading fashionista. His dressing always exuded power in all its ramifications.
Chukwumerije, once the spin doctor to the military President Ibrahim Babangidaâ€™s government leading up to June 12, 1993 election wore an all-white sparkling Chinese tunic all the time.
Even historically, the first Nigerian Senate President, Rt. Hon Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was a power dresser just like his Northern counterpart Alhaji Ahmadu Bello. It is a fact that Nigerian politicians donâ€™t joke with their dressing as they always mind their image and celebrity status. Ogun state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun makes a fashion statement regularly with his Yoruba dress and the sometimes outrageous cap that has shaped his politics.
The obvious beneficiary of this high fashion awareness, are the tailors to the lawmakers who have made a fortune. One of these visible stylists is Chidi the Tailor. He found his way into the National Assembly right from the very beginning of the Okadigbo senate presidency. A super salesman in his own right, Chidi moves through the corridors of power, armed with his tools of trade, measuring powerful men in the upper chamber as well as the House of Representatives to give them the feel good factor.
Born 38 years ago, Chidiebere Ogbonna hails from Isikwuato in Abia State, just a few kilometres to his key customer in the Upper Chamber, Uche Chukwumerije. â€˜â€™I was his tailor for many years, right from his entry to the senate in 2003â€™â€™ says Chidi. At that time in the 5th Senate, Chidi was making frequent trips to Aba to purchase material for his work, but now with his own factory in the POWA Plaza in Nyanya in the FCT suburb, his output has increased tremendously.
In the process, the young man has built an enviable clientele which include fashion conscious senators like Senator James Manager from the Delta South Senatorial district, his Ogun counterpart Senator Tejuosho and the former governor of Plateau, Senator Joshua Dariye. What drove him into the world of fashion? â€˜â€™I have always been fashion consciousâ€™â€™, he said. â€˜â€™I have always toyed with making clothes in my early years, but the interest grew to the point that I started making my clothes.â€™â€™
What does the future hold for this young man? Chudi is in the process of opening a study account with the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, to study Business Administration and he is already in talks with a foreign partner to distribute abroad, especially in the UK and USA, where many Nigerians are waiting to patronize his brand. The hard work coupled with his stylish designs and aggressive to marketing is obviously witnessing growth in the trade.
I will be least surprised if he spreads his wings outside the country and still maintains his growing brand into the international market place.