- Meet Virginia Etiaba, one of the impressive women in Nigeria.
- She became the first female governor in Nigeria in 2006.
- She lasted only three months in office before resuming her old position - deputy governor of Anambra state.
Today, we celebrate one of Nigeria’s record breakers, Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba. She is the first female governor in this country. Here is everything you need to know about this impressive woman:
The native of Nnewi in Anambra State was born on November 11, 1942. She had her primary and secondary school education in Kano state, where she was raised by her Uncle, Chief Pius Ejimbe.
This was followed by her Teachers Training programme in Gombe State. Her educational qualifications include the National Certificate of Education, Bachelor of Education (Hon.) and a certificate in Information Technology.
Etiaba worked as a teacher and headmistress for 35 years in several parts of Anambra state. She retired in 1991 and went on to start the Bennet Etiaba Memorial Schools in Nnewi.
In March 2006, the 64-year-old resigned as the proprietress to take the position of the Deputy Governor of Anambra State.
Later that year, she became governor following the impeachment of the previous governor, Peter Obi, for alleged gross misconduct.
Reportedly, she initially refused to take the position saying, “The governor is my boss and he remains my boss.” BBC reports that it took some elders, leaders of her party and nearly five hours to persuade her to change her mind. “The peculiarity of situation that has led me to accept the position,” she later revealed.
Etiaba’s decision to become governor earned her criticism from many local religious and community leaders.
They put out a statement that read, “We are shocked at the alleged summersault of the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dame Virgy Etiaba who we had commended for keeping faith with the people when she rejected the offer to replace her boss and sincerely hope that she was not coerced into accepting to be sworn in as the Governor of Anambra State against her peoples wish.”
She was sworn in on November 3, 2006.
Brief but impactful tenure
Etiaba’s tenure lasted for only three months before she went back to being the deputy governor. The former governor, Obi, was re-instated on February 9, 2007, after the Court of Appeal nullified his impeachment.
Despite having a short reign, she did have some remarkable achievements. She flagged off several road projects and signed Anambra State’s Child Rights Bill into law. She is said to have invested heavily in the state’s Orient Petroleum company.
She also managed to put an end to ‘Suba kwa Igbo’. It was an attempt to stop the Igbo language and culture. These earned her the nickname ‘Mama Anambra.’
Talking about her legacy, she said, “I have always held the belief that if you are kind to history, history will be kind to you. I would want to be remembered as a public officer who served responsibly, compassionately and competently. My training and background as a teacher mandates me to show good examples at all times. So, I would want to pass on, directly or indirectly, a legacy of principled leadership, hard work, commitment to the needs of the people, respect for the feelings of the people, as well as the fear of God.”
Apart from being the the first female governor in Nigeria’s history, she is also a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in Nigeria. It was confirmed at at King’s College London Hospital, Denmark Hill, South East London in 1998.
Descibing one of the scariest moments in her life, she said, “It was cancer of the colon, indeed! The ailment had gotten to a serious stage that only immediate operation was the answer. I was admitted into the private wing of King’s College Hospital London the next day where, after several months of chemotherapy sessions.”
“I made it,” she added. “Thanks to Almighty God. And so, today, I am free from that dreaded illness and I use this opportunity to encourage all cancer patients to hang on there as cancer diagnosis does not amount to a death sentence.”
Etiaba got married to the late Bennet Etiaba of Umudim Nnewi in 1998.
The two lived happily for 24 years until he passed away. She has six children.