As you read this, popular society woman and politician, Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa is in a happy mood. She is 73, but she does not look it at all. She is still as elegant as she was 20 years back. She is still her stylish self. She has remained a fashion icon. She is still as strong as ever, and bubbling too, as she has always been. She has made her mark in Politics and Business.
She is blessed with good skin that glows. The secret of Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa’s good looks is because she likes to spoil herself. She sleeps well. She eats well. And she eats healthily. She lives on vegetables and fruits. She takes a lot of water and has cut off carbohydrates totally. She also works out all the time.
She goes to the Gym regularly. She jogs and takes long Walks and of course she loves dancing. Any time she celebrates, she always creates time to dance. Then, she advocates that all women must create their Me Time, that is a time set out for them to rejuvenate and luxuriate. When City People interviewed her a while back she spoke a lot about her beauty secrets. When she turned 70 a few years back many people had to be asking her if truly she was 70.
This is because this pretty woman does not look like a septuagenarian. She could pass for 55 or even 60, but not 70. Reasons? She has managed to maintain her flawless natural light skin, her slim build and her baby look. There is no aging at all. She does not wear glasses and still bounces round her house. She is still very active, in fact hyper active and she is her bubbly self.
The truth is, Mama Bakassi is 73. She has also had an accomplished career in politics rising up from being a Nurse to being a House of Reps Members, then Senate and then Adviser to the President.
And in her entire career she has always been on the side of her people in Niger Delta, especially the Bakassi. She has also had to battle her way to the top and has had to confront her malefolk who had always wanted to cheat her politically.
She has had the staying power for the past 4 decades or so. Somehow Senator Ita-Giwa had been on the social and political scene since the 70’s and she has never for one faded away. In Cross River State where she hails from all her Governors have come to respect her from Donald Duke to the current Governor.
Even at the centre she served ex-President Obasanjo and late Yar’Adua. As a politician she has won several elections and defeated many of the bigwigs who contested with her. Well, what prepared her for her accomplishments is her mum who was an accomplished no-nonsense journalist who also battled the system in her days.
Ita-Giwa took after her in many respect. At some point in her career, she got married to late Dele Giwa.
At 73, Ita-Giwa has not slowed down. She is still very much in politics but she is not going for elective office. She is into private business and is fully engaged with training her Bakassi children some of whom are in Universities abroad and here in Nigeria. But one thing Senator Ita-Giwa does not joke with is her beautiful body.
She has a great body and she nurtures and nourishes it with good food, and exercise. She loves food, but eats right. She also does not joke with her exercise. But she will readily tell you she is blessed with an ageless body she does not joke with going to the spa to be treated to massage. She has both local and international uniformed chefs who spoils her silly with the very best.
Unlike many woman who don’t have time for themselves, she does. She often creates Me Time. She is her own best company. Despite the fact that she is a politician and leader of the people, she is a politician and leader of the people she creates times for solitude. She lives in an exclusive part of Ikoyi where once she shuts her door, she maybe indoor for a week. She does not receive visitors or unscheduled guests, unless she has given you an appointment. Her house overlooks the sea. She lives well. In her house she lives like a Queen. She has expatriate house-helps and caters to her needs. They have come to study her to enable them knows what she wants at every point. If she sneezes they know what to do.
Ita-Giwa’s philosophy is if she has spent the last 3 decades catering to her people, she deserves to live well. She does not abuse her body in any way and she knows how to relax and rejuvenate.
“I am focused she told City People. “I have my life well laid out and structured. I don’t take nonsense from people. I don’t joke with my rest. I sleep well. I sleep soundly and live a life that has meaning,”
How would she advise other women to manage life as they age gracefully she was asked?
“Well, one the great facts of life is that age is inevitable. Age has to come so I don’t see the big thing about aging. That is basically why you have what is called the evolution of life. The young must grow and the old must continue to grow as well. People just keep growing and so there’s nothing one can do about that but the thing is that one must start early in life.
First of all, try and imbibe the culture of looking after yourself and eating properly. When I say properly I mean eating very healthy foods. Living a very healthy lifestyle. Living in a healthy and nice environment. One does not have to be very rich to live in a healthy environment and most importantly, it is necessary to always have a clear mind. Do not keep malice. If anybody offends you, you take the person on.
Have your arguments and get things sorted out and maybe at the end of the day, a superior argument will win. Also know that in life as long as one believes in God, there is no problem without a solution. Whatever problems one might face, always know that there is a solution to that problem. Don’t just live your life worrying about what you shouldn’t worry about because I don’t. I try to simplify life.
I am a politician and I’ve been in the field of politics for twenty-five years doing nothing and I must say that it has been a very difficult period of my life growing into politics so I had to try and build up all kinds of defense mechanisms and self-preservation because horrible things do happen in politics. It is not for people with feeble heart however you have to work out extra means of surviving it.
So, in my estimation, it will be very easy for Nigerian women who are not into politics. One major thing they must also know is that they must not be scared of age. Whatever you aspire to be, just plan it, put it in prayers and get rid of fear. Go out and get it done.
What is it that really inspires her about life and keeps her staying strong?
“I think my inspiration comes from first of all the environment in which I grew up. I grew up in an environment of very strong women. I grew up amongst my mother and even my fathers’ mother. Also my terms of responsibility helped me. I grew up knowing that I don’t have a choice than to do what I have to do just like the Americans would always say. That alone gives me a lot of strength and courage. Also looking at a lot of people that look up to me really inspires me. There a lot of people that next to God look up to me. That again is indeed inspiring. That again is very energizing.”
“At 73, when would she call your best moments growing into womanhood?
Laughs… Do you mean growing into womanhood as a baby? My best moments in life was discovering myself as a woman, discovering those things that makes a woman, discovering what aspects of career I wanted to pursue at the beginning of my own independence.
Also meeting my husband, falling in love and getting married, having children and most recently would be adopting my children who today are doing amazingly well and remaining my source of pride. Anytime I look at them, I feel many inches taller than I am. All these are the things that makes growing up get really exciting. Discovering yourself and your body has been great and also knowing what you have to do in the midst of all God has created”.
She is one of those who believe that age is not a hindrance to getting a good life and the desire to look good.
What is her advice to women on how to manage life as they age?
“I always tell people that I am a Calabar woman and we are very civilized people from beginning. There is nothing you can do about age except to manage age and not to allow age control your life. I don’t do young things because I don’t want to be young. I can’t remember the last time I did young things because of my life has been full of very profound responsibilities and I was brought up by my mother to think like an adult, to always take responsibility.
I do not dress young because I have grown up children but I do not negotiate and will never negotiate ageing beautifully and gracefully. I will not negotiate ageing with my waistline in place so that I can get into my pants, my jeans and my nice dresses. That is non-negotiable. I have always looked up to women like Jane Fonda, like Meryl Streep, like Tina Turner. Those are the women that inspire me because they have always looked very good despite their age. After looking at them, I don’t want to be young; I just need to appreciate myself”.
Does she have experts who handle her wardrobe and figure or she dictates how she looks?
It is natural. I do them myself. I grew up in an environment where from birth apart from being a journalist, my mother was also a dressmaker and she was naturally gifted. I was fortunate to be her only daughter and so she used to dress me up. I grew up dressing well and also knowing how to take care of my clothes and my things.
I grew up knowing how to come out looking good and so I don’t have need for a wardrobe manager. I know all the thousands of clothes I have because I know the time I take in buying each of them. I don’t just shop off the shelf, I take my time to pick what I want. No matter how many dresses I have, they all have their various sentimental values attached. I manage myself and most importantly, I manage my body.”
She will always tell you “though I am from Calabar, I am a Lagos girl”. She has homes all over the world. In Abuja she lives big. In Calabar she does same. In London, she does same and in Lagos, Senator Ita-Giwa lives like a Queen. For several years now she had lived in Banana Island where she owns a posh apartment that will make other women green with envy. Her sprawling apartment overlooks the sea and she has a full complement of domestic staff.
She has a Calabar Chef and 2 Fillipino female househelps who attend to her needs. She eats right. She lives on vegetables, fruits, and fish. And like she will always tell anybody who cares to listen, “I deserve to live well. I have paid my dues. I have been making money since I was a little girl, buying and selling and even medical equipment I have always been busy since I was in my 20’s”.
How come she has always managed to look far younger than her age at 73?
I have a problem of how Nigerians interpret age and how one should age. I really do not like people who tell me I look young because, old is not ugly. Old is not supposed to be ugly. Age is inevitable.
There is nothing you can do about age. You have to grow old. What you can do about it is to ensure that you age gracefully and you age, looking good. So you make all efforts possible for you to keep your body for as long as you can the way it came to world, minding the fact that changes are taking place.
But those changes can be made less drastic by starting early to look after yourself.
I started early.
At the time that I was a student in England, in my 20’s, I was using Oil of ULAY and my friends then used to say Oil of ULAY was for old people I used to tell them I am using it to prepare myself for old age. That was as early as that. And as early as that I had learnt a lot from my mother.
Through my mother, I had imbibed the culture of finding time for myself at the end of every days hardwork. I have made it mandatory for me to give my body what I call my Me Time. At the end of each day, I give myself 30 to 40 minutes even if I get home at 3am to 4am. One of the process of switching off is the Me Time. That Me Time is giving my body time to look after my body, to soak my body in a good bath, then moisturise it, then eat vegetables and fruits, eat what is good for your system, eat what will keep repairing your damaged system, your damaged cells. I think it is important for women to look after themselves. That way, you won’t be scared of age.
Like I keep telling people. I am a Calabar woman and a Calabar woman is not scared of age because they know how to deal with age. It is very very had to find a Calabar woman who is bent over at any age using walking stick.
No. Because at a very early age Calabar woman will start preparing their body. So, I don’t want to be young. It takes time to grow. You cannot achieve much if you have not aged especially for woman. Its a slower process. A woman's rise is more meteoric.
So, I am actually scared of been young. I don’t want to go back to the days I was growing up.
And I am very very happy in my skin. I am very happy with the way I am today. I am thanking God every minute of my life for turning 70 in good shape, in good health, in good frame of mind.
Looking at your life at 73. It seems impactful. She has packed so many things into it.
How did she accomplish all these in a lifetime?
“I don’t know myself. I am asking myself that question too. I did it and I didn’t realise how much I done till now. I have done a lot. Lately, people have been telling me all I have done. People keep telling me you did this and that.
In my life in the course of growing up, I had lost 3 years in Biafra. Anybody in Biafra would have lost 3 years of their lives. In that 3 years we didn’t do anything. You could not go to school, you didn’t go to work, you lived in fear, I was supposed to be doing my Nursing.
But despite that I left for England for my studies, I came back and I was able to catch up. So now I am telling myself that, in this number of years, and I am saying it with all sense of modesty, though with tremendous pride that I have been a lot of things. In this number of years I have been a successful medical representatives, I have also been a successful career woman. Before I went into politics, I had 2 pharmacies in Lagos, each of them pharmacy downstairs, and medical equipment”.