Chiamaka is one of the daughters of a former Governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu. She tells Punch reporter Motunrayo Joel about her father’s life and career.
Briefly introduce yourself .
My name is Chiamaka Igwe. I was fortunate to get good education from various schools. For my secondary education, I attended Igbinedion Education Centre, Oka, Benin State. I later moved to Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States for my tertiary education. At the moment, I run a travel and tours agency, and I also have an interior company. I am happily married with three kids.
How many children does your father have?
I’m the first of my siblings, we are six in number. Everyone is doing well. My sister is married with three kids, she is based in Nigeria. I have a brother who lives abroad, and another runs his own business in Nigeria. The last child is still in primary school.
Can you describe your dad?
He is a kind and loving person. Sometimes, he could look intimidating, but when you get to know him, you would realise he is down-to-earth. My siblings and I discuss anything with him, he is a good listener. He also has a generous heart; he loves to offer help to those in need.
How does he react when he is angry?
Now that we are all grown up, we don’t get to see him angry often. When we were much younger, whenever he got angry, we stayed away from him. He looks changed, but one good thing is that he doesn’t stay angry for too long. He has a free mind, so he lets go of issues easily.
Was he a disciplinarian?
Yes he was, but he was harder on his male children. But that didn’t give us females the opportunity to misbehave, we stayed focused. My mother, on the other hand, was not so hard on us. She is softer emotionally. I’m glad she is not a disciplinarian too; the house would have been too hot.
What values have you imbibed from him?
I have imbibed work ethics. Dad is hard working and time-conscious. If he promises to be at a place at a certain time, he would fulfill his promise. He dislikes people being late for meetings. He is also a family man; he balances work and family very well. I imbibed this value from him.
How has his name opened doors for you?
We weren’t raised to use his name to gain favours. Everything my siblings and I achieved was as a result of hard work. I try to make a name for myself, I don’t like it when people think I use his name to gain favours. When I was in school, he was a governor at the time; I used to tell him not to come with his police escorts. Though, one day, he ignored my pleas and visited me, I was so happy.
While you were abroad, did he constantly visit you?
Yes he did, my father can be over-protective. I guess it is because I’m his first child. Whenever he visited, he would lodge in a hotel close to my school. He usually stayed for a week. It was always nice having him around.
Did any one spot him during his visits to the US, since he was a governor at the time?
It was only during my graduation; quite a few people noticed him, it was a nice experience.
What can you say about his achievements as governor?
I think he did well as a governor, he did extremely well. I know he had the interest of the people in mind. Whenever he came to Lagos and saw indigenes of Ebonyi State hawking or doing menial jobs, he would give them money to relocate back to Ebonyi to start a better business. He also sponsored some graduates abroad to further their studies. Indigenes of Ebonyi State must have liked him enough to make him serve as governor for two terms.
How did his family react when he was made governor?
We were all excited. But we (his children) were not as excited as we should have been; I guess it because we were still kids. His friends and relatives were more excited. We were just happy he contested for an election and won.
Were there times his family was scared for his life?
No, life was normal. That thought never crossed our minds.
What challenges did he face?
He didn’t share his challenges with me. There were times he would come back home worn-out, he always said it was the nature of his job.
If he wasn’t into politics, what would he have loved to become?
He would have been fully dedicated to farming, he has a farm. He started going to the farm at a young age. Today, he has various crops and animals on his farm – poultry, yams, cassava, rice and many more. In fact, he still goes to the farm even at his age.
How often does he go?
Whenever he is in the East, he goes to the farm. He doesn’t joke with farming.
What are the fond memories you have of him while growing up?
He used to take us to different parks and zoos. Time at the zoo was more exciting back then unlike now. There were so many animals, we always loved going to the zoo. We knew he was quite busy, so we always wanted to have a good time with him.
The late former President Umaru Yar’Adua appointed him Federal Minister of Education in December 2008, what can you say about his time in office?
Even though he wasn’t there for long, I think he made an impact. His time was short there.
Would he have loved to continue in the office?
I’m sure he would have loved to be in office longer. He did extremely well as governor; he would have done even better if he served longer as minister in the Ministry of Education. When he became governor, there was free education for children in state and teachers reported early to work. I think he revamped the education sector.
Some people describe him as a rich man…
That word rich is relative; I just think my parents are comfortable. He doesn’t have a private jet neither does he have houses all over the country. He has just one house in the village and another in Abuja. He is comfortable; he is not so rich to the extent that he doesn’t have to work again.
How does he describe the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan?
When it comes to work, he doesn’t really bother us. More so, I’m not into politics, so we don’t discuss politics.
What are his weaknesses?
He is not an extravagant. He wouldn’t spend so much money on designer outfits, even with his political status. He doesn’t splurge money on materialistic things. In fact, his cars are not brand new. He doesn’t just buy cars with the snap of a finger. Things like that don’t excite him.
Are you saying he doesn’t mind driving fairly used cars?
No he doesn’t, you should see the car he is driving now. Flashy cars are not a priority for him. I’m the one that goes all out to buy something nice and expensive for him.
What does he splurge?
He likes lodging in good hotels. He likes to be comfortable. He also spends money on his wife and kids.
What is your mother’s nickname for him?
‘Daddy;’ they are old school, unlike now when couples have so many nicknames for themselves.
Have you enjoyed preferential treatments because you are his daughter?
It depends on where I am. Back home, people know me more, so I get that treatment. But in Lagos, not many know me.
Who are his closest friends?
I don’t think he has close friends; he always has people around him –friends, uncles and relatives. I don’t know if he has close friends.
What does he say about President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration?
I don’t discuss politics with him.
Are any of his kids planning to go into politics?
Surprisingly, none of us is keen on starting a political career. My sister would have been, but her kids are still very young.
Being the first daughter, are you close to him?
I am very close to him, we have a strong bond.
What is his favourite food?
Pounded yam and egusi soup, but he prefers egusi prepared in the native way.
What is his favourite drink?
I know he drinks wine, as long as it is good wine. He doesn’t like cheap wines.
What is his legacy?
That would be his compassion towards his people. He carries so many people’s responsibilities on his shoulders. Sometimes, I get upset with him; I think people take advantage of his kindness. In his farm, he provides accommodation, food and pays salaries of his workers.
Does he read books?
Yes he does, he loves to read.
What is it that people don’t know about him?
He is a strong man. When we were younger he had so much physical strength, he was almost feared. People were always scared of getting close to us or hurting us, because he could literally lift a house; he was that strong. He is also very kind. He is family oriented. He always makes sure his family is doing well.
If he could change things about himself what would it be?
I think he would know best. I don’t think I would want to change anything about him at this point in my life. Back then, when I was 12 or 13, I would have said I wished he never got upset. But now, I see reasons why he had to get upset, I’m glad he did. It helped in shaping us.
While you were growing up, was he overprotective?
He was so overprotective. My mother on the other hand was calm. If any of us fell ill, the next minute the child is in the hospital, he was that protective over us. My mother would prefer to wait a day or two.
Would he have loved to join the All Progressives Congress?
The few times we spoke about politics, I asked him that question. I asked why he wouldn’t want to join the APC. He said if he moves from his party, it indirectly shows he is not trust worthy. He says when the going gets tough; jumping on the other train isn’t the best option. He says no one would take you serious, he is a loyal person. As far as it is a matter of principles, he sticks to his stance. It is about being loyal even when things are tough.
How long is he giving himself in politics?
I don’t know, but he is still young.
How does he handle criticisms?
He takes it in his stride; he says it comes with the job. He doesn’t dwell on negative things. He is reserved, he isn’t loud in nature. He is principled which is rare among politicians. He says everyone can’t like one.
How does he handle misunderstandings?
He just lets it cool off, I don’t see him overreacting.
How does he like to relax?
Surprisingly, he doesn’t always have time for relaxation. People always want to see him one time or the other. The few times he has the opportunity to relax, he loves to read or gist with my mother.