By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Rewind to 2003. The ecology of the National Assembly exuded the aura of influence. The conclave of the powerful and influential politicians – 109 of them in the Senate and 360 in the House of Representatives –was magnetic. The calibre of the legislators was intimidating.
Meanwhile, the fourth session of the National Assembly (1999-2003) had been rambunctious: the Evan(s) Enwerem-Chuba Okadigbo-Anyim Pius Anyim game of the musical chair that produced them as senate presidents within a period of four years in the senate was, particularly, very interesting, creating some ballyhoo and instability.
Despite the tempers that flared in the senate over leadership control, the ambiance of the upper legislative chamber, in the succeeding fifth session of the National Assembly (2003-2007), under the senate presidency of Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani, at different times though, was particularly more alluring.
Yet, the senate had its shares of the thespian moments that characterised the nation’s political landscape under the suzerainty of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was in the saddle as president at that intersection. He had infiltrated the fourth session of the National Assembly in a desperate plot to subjugate and render it subservient to his whims and caprices.
He continued the agenda in the fifth session of the National Assembly. But he got his hand burnt over his plan to extend his stay in office through a process of constitutional amendment that cloaked the means to push through the infamous third term agenda. The move was defeated in the National Assembly despite the egregious corruptive attempts.
It was in that era that providence smiled on Daisy Ehinare-Danjuma, the beautiful wife of former Chief of Army Staff (from July 1975-October 1979) and Minister of Defence (1999 to 2003), to represent Edo South Senatorial District in the National Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The trained lawyer and graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, never disappointed. Her contributions on the floor of the senate were solid. Not only that, she earned herself a badge of honour with the manner she comported herself in and out of the senate chamber. She was one of the only three women in the senate at the time, the others being Ruquayyah Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara Central) and Iyabo Anisulowo (Ogun West); and, apparently the most respected, given also her pedigree.
As a reporter covering the senate at the time for Vanguard newspapers, I had the opportunity of interacting with senators in the course of my reportage. There was a time when a male senator from Niger state slapped a female senator (not Daisy) who was the chair of a committee over the mismanagement of the committee funds.
But Daisy had no time for inanities. She was simply daisy, yes, excellent in all that she did -on the floor and in the committees- especially the committee on women affairs, which she chaired. She also chaired the ECOWAS Parliament’s Women and Children’s Rights Committee. She was always far from the madding crowd. She had and still has no predilection for the odious and scandalous.
Above all, Daisy earned her respect among her colleagues. Understandably, she never caved in to the pressure of filthy lucre. She never used the instrumentality of the committee for acquisition of dirty money in the ridiculous ways that some legislators did. Rather, she used and has continued to use her privileged position of being at the giving end to define a life of rare philanthropy for which she is her husband’s backbone and adviser.
The brilliant and stylishly gorgeous Edo woman is averse to politics of intimidation, violence and self-perpetuation; otherwise, she would have returned to the senate in the 2007 election. It was also wise not to dig her feet in because a formidable force in the presidency which had an axe to grind with her husband was opposed to her re-election to the senate.
Her exit from the senate was graceful. And she has since returned to the business world where she is the executive vice chairman of South-Atlantic Petroleum with her husband, Theophilus Yakubu (TY), as executive chairman. Interestingly, she was the executive chairman of the oil company from 1999-2003 when her husband was defence minister. Immediately she won election into the senate she resigned and her husband, who was then out of government, returned as chairman. This speaks of their respect for due process and legalism.
Daisy loves her people, always ready to lend a helping hand. This explains why the T.Y. Danjuma Foundation has Taraba (her husband’s home) and Edo states as its immediate coverage areas for funding efforts to alleviate poverty by providing basic amenities, education for children and young adults while also providing free medical care for indigent people, especially afflicted by river blindness and other debilitating illnesses.
Born on August 6, 1952, Daisy began her career as a State Counsel in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice (Department of Public Prosecutions) and was a pioneer Legal Counsel to the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria before working for the investment bank, Nigerian Acceptances Ltd. (NAL). She was to spend the next decade as Company Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) before moving into private practice.
She is an alumna of the Lagos Business School, a member of the International Bar Association (IBA), the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA). This is wishing a woman, who deserves to be described as truly distinguished, Senator Daisy Ehinare Danujma, a happy birthday. Enjoy your day to the fullest, Ma!
- Mr Ojeifo, Editor-in-Chief of The Congresswatchmagazine, sent this tribute via [email protected]