By Uche Anichukwu
I was caught in a dilemma this week, as Distinguished Senator (Dr.) Joy Emodi clocked 66 on Sunday, May 23, 2021, the same week her mother, Chief (Mrs.) Clementina Ekwutosi Obi (Kwalie Aku), was to be sown back to Mother Earth. Should I pay a deserving tribute to Distinguished Senator Emodi, Adadioramma Anaocha, Ada-Eji-Eje-Mba Aguleri, Kpakpando of Urum, Ada-Igbo-Gburu-Gburu of Umuchu, educationist, lawyer, entrepreneur, politician, and parliamentarian per excellence? Or should I celebrate the tree that begot the good fruit?
In my many years of interacting with political leaders, Senator Emodi is among those who represent everything a principled, disciplined, contented and courageous politician should be like.
She speaks truth, even to power. You may not always agree with every of her opinion, but she is someone, who would tell you her mind, even if you are Mr. President or her closest friend.
Much as she was christened Joy of the Senate in her days in the Red Chamber, she was also the Lioness of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. Unlike the growing culture where it appears an anathema for to criticise the policy or action of the ruling party, which sponsored a lawmaker to office, reporters, who covered the 5th and the 6th Senate would readily recall how Emodi called out successive Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administrations, whenever she felt that they erred.
Again, as a member of the executive arm and Special Adviser to former President, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on National Assembly Matters, she did not hesitate to take stands contrary to prevailing sentiments in the Presidency or among her colleague presidential aides and even ministers. On a particular occasion in October 2012 when some presidential aides ran their mouths on the National Assembly leadership, to the extent that a pained Senator David Mark advised Jonathan in plenary to beware of fifth columnists, Emodi was quick to openly come hard on her reckless colleagues. In a statement she personally signed, Emodi washed her hands and that of her boss off the indiscretion. She said: “Let me state categorically that the alleged statements neither reflect the views of the President… Those to whom the statements were credited were on their own and never spoke the mind of Mr. President…Overzealousness and hasty comments must give way for restraint, maturity and mutual respect.”
Those who play on our political turf know that it is better to deal with people who do not leave you in doubt as to whether or not they stand with you than those who run with the hare and hunt with the hounds; those who dine with you in day time and sell you to the enemy at night. Emodi takes principled stands and doesn’t mind standing alone on a choice she believes to be right.
She has been able to sustain this virtue over the years because she is a very disciplined and content person. She does not have what we call “long throat” in Nigerian parlance. She is neither materialistic nor strives to live above her means. The Emodi I know wouldn’t buy gold because it is in vogue. She would only buy it because she needs and can afford it without sacrificing more important needs. Otherwise, gold gbakwaa oku.
She is an epitome of social grace. As a woman in politics, she knows that Caesar’s wife must be above board. As we say in Igbo, you will first look at the face of a woman emerging from the labour room before you inquire from her the sex of her baby.
Emodi is a very hardworking, enterprising and resilient woman. A perfectionist with an eye for details, she gives her best to whatsoever her hands find to do and does not condone indolence.
From whatever God has given her, she equally cares for the poor and less privileged. She is among the few, who see politics as service, not self-aggrandisement. Beside her scholarship programme, under the Joy Emodi foundation, which has seen many through their educational pursuit, the charity programmes of the Foundation has continued to support orphans, widows, the less privileged, the youth and the physically challenged.
It needs to be added that she is down to earth. She relates freely with the poor and lowly and doesn’t choose her friends on grounds of influence or affluence. As Aminu Kano’s disciple from her school days, she detests injustice; and if she believes in you, poor or rich, she could pluck the moon for you and fight your fights.
For those who have wondered why Senator Joy Emodi is just a rare breed in our political firmament, Madam Clementina Ekwutosi Obi holds the answer. In the Nkanu part of Enugu State where I come from, we say that you don’t ask Mba if he is also Amushi, meaning, Mba and Amushi are one and the same. Ndigbo say that a snake does not beget a short offspring. The English use the expression, a chip off the old block. Even the Holy books teaches in Matthew 8:17 that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Born in 1936 (85 years ago), Mama Clementina Obi, the mother of seven was a renowned businesswoman, multi-entrepreneur, community leader, and philanthropist. Together with her husband, she built many businesses from the scratch. She ran businesses such as bakery, block industry, and school supplies.
If you wonder how Joy Emodi developed the many qualities that stand her out from the crowd, perhaps you only needed to read an excerpt of her moving tribute to Mama. She wrote: “Due to your renowned resourcefulness and discipline, young husbands sent their young wives to you for training in home making preparatory for running their own homes. As a result, our house was always filled with these ladies-in-training. Despite their presence in our house, you still insisted on we your children doing our portion of the domestic chores. Such was the discipline of this highly principled woman who never hesitated to speak the truth at all times notwithstanding who was involved. You remained an epitome of humility and was never proud, despite the material blessings God bestowed on you and our late father.
“Mama, you loathed laziness. You taught me that the only way to make it in life was through hard work, honesty and humility. At the age of 11, I had already started making clothes, a skill I learnt from you. You encouraged me so much and gave me one of your sewing machines that during my College and University undergraduate years, I was making clothes for my family and friends from which I earned small income. That was my great Mother for you. You supported anyone that showed interest in any enterprise whether they are your children or not”.
This is how a good mother begets a good woman. As Mama goes home, it is consoling therefore, that she bequeathed progenies in the mold of Senator Emodi and others through whom all the virtues she represented will continue to shine.
Kwalie Aku, the great daughter of Ichie Okpoko of Okpuifite Village, Agulu in Anambra State and wife of the late Chief Boniface Obi (Ichie Ezeobi), good night as you stroll into your eternal rest in a blaze of glory.
•Anichukwu writes from Abuja