Fred Ezeh, Abuja World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative and Head of Mission in Nigeria, Dr Wondi Alemu, has allayed fears of a possible Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. Ebola resurfaced recently in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and its continued spread has attracted the attention of WHO. Alemu told journalists over the weekend that the Federal…
Chief Christy Ray-Okoye is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Raynes Group of Companies and former president of Committee of friends for humanity. (Coffha). There’s never a dull moment with this amiable grandmum as she takes you into memory lane of her growing up, her lifestyle and why she stood up for the re-election of Governor Obiano.
You are a successful businesswoman. At what point did you veer into politics?
Politics runs in my blood. My late father Hon VC Ikeotuonye was a First and Second Republic politician; he was a member of the Federal Parliament in the 60’s, and chieftain of the Zikist Movement. Then, in the Second Republic he was the state chairman of Nigeria Peoples Party and later the National Party of Nigeria. As a little girl I had always watched him politicking with very keen interest, He had this popular saying, that power belongs to the people and you can only exercise that power by voting. So I learnt as a child that by voting, my voice would always be heard, though the majority would have their way. At the back drop of this, I had always registered, voted and campaigned for a candidate of my choice in every election. As a matter of fact, I was part of the late Prof. Dora Akunyili’s campaign team for the Senate and I noted with regret our areas of failure and that gave me a better insight into Anambra politics. With that experience I brought it to bare during Governor Willy Obiano’s campaign.
Why did you go the extra mile to champion the cause?
As a child, I was an athlete and the spirit of sportsmanship taught me perseverance. I learnt to face challenges as they come, never yielding or backing out from even the most powerful opponents. I also watched my dad’s political career which was built on truth and honesty. The truth here is that Governor Obiano and his deputy, Dr Nkem Okeke, the dynamic, hardworking, true and perfect gentlemen deserve a second term. For so many reasons, I stood solidly behind his re-election because of the remarkable transformation he brought to Anambra State. In his first term, insecurity became a thing of the past in Anambra state. At a point, most Anambranians became very scared of traveling home for events because of the high rate of kidnapping. You had a situation where traditional marriages between our sons’ and daughters’ families began to be celebrated in Lagos, which is not part of our tradition, all because of insecurity…
He also put in place a system where workers received their salaries regularly and before the end of the month, hence he is called “the Alert Governor.” His agricultural revolution has brought down the prices of foodstuff such as rice, yam and other stable food products.
In the South East, Anambra State can boast of having the best road network and this has made a great impact on transportation, trade and commerce. Education has not been left out during his tenure, teachers are regularly paid and schools are well equipped, resulting in the students doing better in external examinations.
The aesthetic beauty has also been improved by streetlights in most parts of the state. Obiano did so well in his first term and therefore deserved to get a second term. Like the popular saying “if it’s not broken, why mend it.”
Who influenced you more while growing up?
Both parents had great influence on me. My dad was a proprietor of Zixton Primary and Secondary school and the motto of the school was “Knowledge for Truth and Goodness.” This implied that we should always stand for what is true and good irrespective of what other people think. That is why I stood firmly and solidly for the APGA governorship candidate, Dr. Willie Obiano because I was convinced that he did well in his first tenure. I learnt from my mum to stand firmly on what you believe in, she stood firmly with my dad during the days of political tumblings. I recall as a little child in the 60’s when my dad stood for a ministerial election and lost. I had never seen my mother as sad as she was that day. Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant to lose an election.
The next day she called us together to break the news that our daddy lost the ministerial election, but at the same time taught us a lesson that there is goodness in taking part but winning is glorious, and that we should imbibe that spirit of sportsmanship. Later the family went over to congratulate daddy’s opponent.
What do you want the governor to do that would benefit Anambra women?
The governor has to a great extent done a lot for the women of Anambra but I would like to see more women put in key positions. Also women should be given softer landing in the political terrain to encourage younger women to vie for key political positions. Anambra women also have made us proud in politics through the likes of Senator Joy Emordi, late Prof. Dora Akunliyi and Iyom Uche Ekwunife, among others. Senator Joy Emordi is my political mentor. This is a woman that has not just distinguished herself as a senator but has distinguished herself in other spheres of life. We need more of such women in Anambra State and they can only emerge if given a chance.
The governor is in the right direction because the Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly has always been a woman and they have proven themselves to be very capable including the current Speaker, Mrs. Rita Maduagwuna, who is a lawyer.
What is the secret of your smashing looks?
Hmm… if you say so. The secret can be unraveled by these few words my last daughter, Brenda Ray Okoye, wrote about me on my last birthday: “Mum, you have a heart that knows love, a soul that knows joy and a spirit that knows giving.” This sums up Christy Ray Okoye in totality. The glamour comes from inside and radiates on the outside. My love, joy, and giving know no bounds. These attributes make me happy and it is all by the special grace of God. On my own part being human I try to take very good care of myself by eating well. I try as much as possible to avoid the carbohydrates and go more on veggies and proteins. I don’t eat after 4pm and I do a one-hour workout everyday excluding Sundays. I also give my body enough rest by having adequate sleep. Above all, I have been married for 36 years to a man that loves me dearly and gives me all the peace of mind which brings out the best in me. He is my one and only Chief Sir Ray Okoye (Owelle Ifitedunu). Hahaha
How do you unwind?
You can describe me as a Lagos socialite. I love good parties with the right crowd. I love dancing.
As a matter of fact I go clubbing with my husband every Friday night. Shopping is my hobby and thank God I work hard and am married to a man that can afford it and understands me. Am crazy about fashion, my friends call me fashionista because I like looking good. Traveling is another thing I enjoy. I love vacations, I have traveled with my husband to almost all parts of the world on vacation. We have gone on cruises to the Caribbeans and Hawaii. We love gambling and so we visit Las Vegas frequently for various shows. Holidays is a part and parcel of our lifestyle. We equally unwind spending time with our grandchildren, Ava and Zozo, and I enjoy playing grandma with them.
Can you share your memorable experience while growing up?
As a little girl, I was very athletic particularly with the long races. I represented my state in the 400 meters, the Anambra State Commissioner of Sports, Hon. Tony Nnacheta can attest to this because he was equally an athlete. We had this school interstate competition and usually I take the last lap of the 400 meters relay race so as to cover up for the shortcomings of my team.
The race started, the person who took the first lap did well and handed over to the second, the second person in turn handed over to the third, somewhere along the line, the baton fell off the hands of the third runner, she picked it up and by the time she handed it over to me I felt the race was over because our team was far behind. I stood confused and was about walking out of the field when my dad shouted from the state box, “Christy pick up that baton and run!” Immediately I picked up the baton and ran the race of my life. I overtook my opponents and came first. The spectators could not believe what happened. My proud daddy came down from the state box, looked at me eyeball-to-eyeball and said to me, “Christy never you drop your baton because someone else dropped theirs.”
Whenever I face challenges in life I can still recall those words he said to me and they give me this strength to carry on. A practical example was during the Obiano re-election campaign. I had mobilized some women from Lagos as a support group for his campaign, majority did not go because they felt it was cumbersome. I was not deterred because I had made up my mind that I was going to fight for the cause I believed in with the support of my husband who encouraged me and here we are today victorious.
Did you at any point in time have butterflies in your stomach during the election?
I had no doubt about his re-election. My only fear was disruption of the election by IPOB or rigging by opponents. I was on ground in Ifitedunu Dunukofia in Anambra State three weeks before the election, mobilizing the women and the youths. Dunukofia was a peculiar local government because we had a strong challenge from the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and we were determined to crush them. The campaign was fierce and we ended up with an APGA road show which I championed with Prince Uche Oduche (Ikenga Dunukofia) standing up on my range rover SUV and it was second to none in Anambra State.
At the end of the campaign, I felt the pulse of the people and I knew that they all wanted our dynamic governor, Dr Willie Obiano. Also the Director General of the Obiano Re-election Campaign Organisation and former chairman of APGA, Senator Victor Umeh, the brain behind the campaign, was an unstoppable force. Three days before the election, his state account was frozen and I became a bit worried but thanks to President Muhammed Buhari, who intervened and his account was reinstated. I knew instantly that the President was bent on a free and fair election and I equally knew that by the grace of God Obiano would surely be re-elected and here we are today.
What is your most cherished fashion accessory?
I love precious stones including diamonds. I have quite a collection that are safely tucked away in the bank. Whenever I travel, I normally buy a jewelry to remind me of that vacation. So I don’t just wear jewelries for the sake of wearing, they bring back beautiful memories of my vacations.
As a little girl I observed that my mom had a lot of jewelries so when I inquired about this, she said jewelries are movable investments and they appreciate over the years. So I can say I borrowed a leaf from my mom. That is why I went into the jewelry business – Raynes Jewelry.
What lessons have you learnt about life?
I have learnt to trust God in all I do. I have lived to see the sun break through the storm and I am glad to be standing here today. I am very lucky to have been brought up by Christian parents. As a little girl, my parents instilled in us that with God all things are possible and without God we can’t do nothing. I am equally lucky to have married a man that has deep faith and trust in God. Our daily routine includes going to mass and receiving the Blessed Sacrament, which is our source of strength. Life is full of ups and downs and we have had our own fair share but we have always stood still knowing that He is God and that He is always there for us. I don’t bother about tomorrow because I know who owns tomorrow. I only do my best today and leave the rest to God and over the years I have found out that His plans for me are always better than whatever plans I have made for myself. When I was younger, if things didn’t work out my way I got worried but as I grew older, I realized that his plans would always supersede whatever plans we have and because of that I don’t bother with so many things. I take life the way I see it knowing that He is always there for me.