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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 16:36 GMT
Profile: Nigeria's first female governor
By Sola Odunfa
BBC, Lagos

Virginia Etiaba (Photo: Daily Sun)
Mrs Etiaba was a teacher who came to politics late
If ever there was an appropriate title for Dame Virginia Etiaba it is: The reluctant state governor.

Twenty-four hours before she made history as Nigeria's first female state chief executive she was adamant that she would not take the office.

It took a conclave of elders and other leaders of her party in Anambra State nearly five hours to persuade her to accept it in the interest of the party.

Mrs Etiaba is in her late 60s. She had spent all her working life as a school teacher and the latter part as a Christian social worker and school owner.

Loyalty test

Eight months ago, when the incumbent governor of Anambra state was removed from office for election malpractice, his successor invited Mrs Etiaba to be his deputy governor.

Map
She turned out to be a very loyal and self-effacing deputy.

The two were like twins. I remember when I sought to interview the governor at the height of the violent political crisis in the state a few months ago, he would not talk to me until Mrs Etiaba was invited.

I noticed that he turned to her before he answered any question. I concluded that he was drawing his strength from the elegant lady whose son was of his age.

The impeachment saga put her loyalty to the severest test.

The argument that reportedly broke her hard stand against succeeding her boss was that if she did not, her party would lose the office to the ruling party, which was ready to swear in one of its own.

Her party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), had the governorship but the ruling People's Democratic Party dominated the legislature.

Example

Tears rolled down the robust cheeks of Mrs Etiaba immediately after she had taken the oath of office.

She is today a beacon to all Nigerian women.

Having made history in Nigeria's political development, her every move and statement will be closely watched - by women for inspiration, and by her opponents for mistakes.

Mrs Etiaba is the widow of a lawyer, both of them natives of Nnewi, the town which arguably boasts the largest number of wealthy people in any community in south-east Nigeria.

The couple have six adult children, four of whom are lawyers.

She is the author of several books on education and has been conferred with many awards in recognition of her social work.

She is tall and matronly in carriage. Her tenure as governor of Anambra State is seven months.




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