By Glam & Essence
She’s ruled both the social and political scenes for several decades, and at 74 years of age, the charming Senator Florence Ita – Giwa hasn’t slowed down one bit! She’s continued to be one of the most interesting female personalities you will ever meet, who is constantly evolving at every stage of her life. Her continued relevance, stands her out among her contemporaries.
This explains why the creme of the Nigeria society from all walks of life came out to celebrate with Mma Bakassi (as she is fondly called ),when she turned 74 last Sunday 23rd February, 2020.The venue of the birthday party was her upscale resturant,Echoes of Calabar Resturant &Bar on Akin Olugbade ,Victoria island,Lagos.The choice of the event venue was also significant,as she was also marking its first year anniversary.On her day, the very stylish Politician / Philantropist and Businesswoman of repute proved just why she remains a force to reckon with.She also has never been found wanting stylewise,as she stunned in her couture styled outfit.Glam& Essence Publisher, Susan Eyo-lkpe shares an interview she had with this amazing calabar Princess,where she talked about her style, as well as other things that have given her fulfillment.
Were there challenges with managing your time as a politician with the national portfolios you were busy with when you were in government,as well as being a mother?
Of course, there were challenges, because as my political career grew, I got more and more serious national assignments that put a huge demand on my time. Whenever and for whatever reason my schedule prevented me from being with my daugther,Koko,she stayed in the Folawiyo’s household with my dear friend, Princess Abbah Folawiyo, where there were many children her age. Also in England ,when for whatever reason I was not available, she spent time with another dear friend of mine, Patti Boulaye. There were times when we would both miss each other and breakdown in tears. This was more so when I worked for the workaholic president Obasanjo, who could go on for 24 hours a day, 7 days of the week. But I always found a way of compensating Koko with quality time whenever we got together. I advice all parents, regardless of how busy they are to make out time for their kids, especially the girl child.
You have ruled as one of Nigeria’s style icons, with several awards to show for it. How have you been able to stay this stylish over the years?
Ans:l am highly honoured that you have described me as staying stylish over the years. I must say though that for me, style is inborn. With all sense of humility, my style is effortless because from an early age, style has been a way of life for me.
Many young women will want to know the secret of how you have stayed graceful and young?
l don’t know about being young, I would rather say I have aged gracefully. It is however not a fluke, To age gracefully and stay healthy takes a bit of work. As a rule, I find time to pamper myself and do a bit of working out, no matter how hectic my schedule is. There is no alternative to looking good and ageing gracefully.
Who are the designers you have been impressed by their works, both locally and internationally?
As a Lifetime Patron of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), I have taken it upon myself to patronize as many good Nigerian designers as I can. In fact, practically all the well known Nigerian designers are patronized by me. However outside our shores I patronize a gentleman called Ahbed Mahfous and another great Middle Eastern designer known as Walid Atalah. However, for shoes, I have a great liking for Yves St. Laurent and, Stuart Weitsman.
How has your style evolved over time and what has been the major influence for your style evolving at each stage of your life?
l am age conscious; I believe that at different stages of your life, certain things become inappropriate, while other things are not only appropriate but expected of me. So at every stage of my life, I strive to be appropriately style conscious. As for major style influences, I draw inspiration from women like Jane Fonda and Tina Turner who, in their 70’s still look amazing. And so I emulate their active lifestyle to ensure that I never lose my sense of style and maintain a healthy waistline through healthy life style habits. I actually intend to look better and better as I age gracefully. As much as possible, I try to be in absolute control of my mind and body.
What are the ways you would want people to know Florence, besides being a politician and a woman of style?
Simply put, I would like to be known as a caring and humble human being, a philanthropist who has dedicated her life to the service of humanity. In fact, my motto in life is “Service to Humanity”.
You have continued to give of yourself to the development of Nigeria, how has it been for you to ensure that your vision for nation building is actualized at each level you’ve function?
Nigeria is a very complex entity. Serving the nation, although a very difficult task has been a privilege for which I am grateful to God. I can safely say I have given Nigeria my best and paid my dues, but it appears that I still have some more dues to pay and I am not complaining. However, I draw some consolation in the fact that I have not brought shame to my name or the nation in all my years of service and for that I thank God.
You are one beautiful woman in your 70s, what is the secret for how you have maintained your youthfulness?
Youthfulness is not a goal I cherish at this point in my life. My priority is to age gracefully and by His Grace, that is exactly how I see myself. I believe that my not habouring malice or anxiety have contributed to my general well being. The fact that I have also paid my dues also has given me a sense of contentment.
Your life has been full of adventure, so, has it been fulfilling so far?
I am a very fulfilled woman on multiple levels. As a politician I have represented my people to the best of my ability and served the nation creditably. As a community leader, I have taken a good number of disadvantaged Bakassi Children out of despair and today, many of them are in university while others are attending very good schools at my expense. As a mother, my daughters have done well. Everywhere I go, the people show me love and respect. Of a truth ,I am very grateful to God for giving me a fulfilled life.
The Nigeria of your dream, is it achievable in the face of the state of the nation presently?
That is a very difficult question to answer at this time. However, with a healthy dose of hard work and prayer, I believe Nigeria will prevail. I am also an eternal optimist and unrepentant believer in the unity of Nigeria.
How does Senator Florence Ita Giwa catch her fun, with all the responsibilities you take on?
Unknown to many people, I am a very private person and I cherish my solitude very much. I like watching movies, listening and dancing to music and spending quality time with my family. Other things to give me pleasure include interacting with the many fashion designers I patronize, watching live shows and most of all, leading the Seagull Carnival band during the Calabar Carnival and establishing the resturant,these have all been fulfilling.
What are the things that give you joy right now?
My greatest joy apart from my love for God is my credo “Service to Humanity”