*EKAETTE UNOMA AKPABIO:* Undying Hope on the Dais
By Aniekan Umanah
The world is full of heroes and heroines; it is full of people of courage and character. Those who do great things that have significance and salutary impact on the lives of a large number of people are hoisted on the shoulder like a flag on the totem pole. They are held up as a symbol of pride, a symbol of accomplishment, an example worthy of emulation.
But heroism doesn't come easy. It is the by-product of commitment to a goal, a cause, an idea, and an ideal that is accepted by those who celebrate the hero or heroin as worthy. This aptly captures the reality of Mrs Ekaette Unoma Godswill Akpabio's award as Nigeria's Most Supportive First Lady 2013 by The Sun Newspaper.
It was Vince Lombardi, a great American football coach who said, “Winning should not be a sometime thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while. You do them right all the time. It should be an habit.” This is Mrs Akpabio's enduring motto and philosophy in life which marks her out for distinction. She has sustained the culture of doing good all the days of her life, and qualifies her as an authentic resident in the gilded pantheon of heroines.
Evidently, Ekaette Unoma is a pathfinder. She is extravagant with her show of kindness and compassion to the needy, the less-privileged and other disadvantaged in the society especially women and children. This is her course work in her chosen school of touching lives, through her pet project, Family Life Enhancement Initiative. Indeed, with her passion and sheer commitment to the betterment of the society, she deserves more than a footnote in history; she deserves a glittering chapter in the book of posterity.
In the beginning, when she came on board as the ninth First Lady of Akwa Ibom State, multifaceted challenges stared her in the face, and she looked at most of them as surmountable. Then she put on her work tools and benched the status quo. Eka Esit Mbom left the beaten path of retrogressive and myopic sentiments, and carved fresh and tiled path to the den of love, compassion and selfless service. She came and met a role wandering aimlessly in search of a heroin; she put on the costume, perfected the lines and gave life to that role for the benefit of Akwa Ibom people.
She hates seeing the pool of human kindness being stagnant, so she throws her pebble of kindness inside, and makes waves of better life out of it, affecting many lives and touching many heartstrings. The poorest of the poor look up to her and change occurs. She towers as their symbol of undying hope.
Mrs Akpabio has beautifully pitched her tent on the side of the needy and vulnerable groups in the society. Over the years, she has built over 100 houses, furnished and donated them to the poor widows across the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom State. She has also supported more than 1,500 families with business skills, equipment and financial grants.
With a winning combination of charm, a sharp intellect and a fantastic knack for pouring smile on smile-drought faces, the new Mother Teresa, as she is fondly called, has equally, through her not-for-profit organization, undertaken skill acquisition and development, mentored more than 2,000 girls and given scholarships to scores of indigent students. She has sponsored many persons with challenging medical conditions for treatment abroad, repatriated and rehabilitated hundreds of former child labourers and street kids, cared for and supported more than 4,000 indigent multiple birth families and given various assistance to the physically-challenged. Being a twin child herself, she understands the challenges of parents in such condition, and she uses the multiple births programme as a veritable vehicle for empowering and ameliorating the financial burden of the parents.
The medical support programme has delivered those with terminal diseases from their pathways to the graves, and the rehabilitation of children who were formally branded witches and wizards and thrown to the streets, has reconnected the children with the school system take advantage of the free and compulsory education policy of her husband, Governor Godswill Akpabio; a supportive First Lady!
These children now live in the comfort a loving foster home run by Mama Akpabio. It is estimated that over 5,000 children who were living in servitude from various parts of the country and the West African Sub-region have been repatriated back home through Mrs Akpabio's intervention.
She cares for them like her own biological children and causes the Governor's children to interact and share time with them. She even facilitates their traveling to places like South Africa and China to compete in Essay writing and other intellectually-driven competitions. Her light also beams inside the prisons. She mobilizes a legal team to advocate for those who were wrongly incarcerated for lack of financial resources to pursue justice.
Her tap of compassion never runs dry; it keeps gushing out milk of human kindness to waiting beneficiaries. The Lord that widens her load never ever jerks in strengthening her back to carry even more loads. Mrs Akpabio believes that the highest reward that God gives us for good work is the ability to do better work. A devout Christian of Catholic faith, Ekaette Unoma's better works are the best for humanity; a shinning example for Christianity. She has pumped life to overflowing to the dying hope of the hopeless. Mma cries when they cry and laughs when they laugh. Such is the portrait of the Lady with the lamp.
It is therefore, not out of place for her to be singled out for the prestigious award of the Most Supportive First Lady 2013 by The Sun. Her light on the path of humanity has shone to the justifiable admiration of The Sun. It takes brightness to spot brightness.
Of the truth, Her Excellency makes His Excellency tick. Her supports are in diverse ways. In a remarkable sense, she was the fulcrum that Governor Akpabio's 2011 re-election campaign revolved. That earned her the sobriquet, “Campaigner-in-Chief.” With this award, she probably would have earned herself, “Supporter-in-Chief,” and she deserves it.
The Campaigner-in-Chief was in recognition for her mobbing of every support for her husband in that reelection bid like a thirsty sponge. A good mobilizer, she raised a banner for the women to queue behind her husband, and they spilled in a likeable way across all polling stations in Akwa Ibom State. Akwa Ibom women know Mrs Akpabio's by voice and she knows them too.
According to the coordinator of Family Life Enhancement Initiative, Mrs Asuama Sidney, doing good is Mrs Akpabio's life style. It is extremely impossible to separate her from lifting people up. She says the Governor's wife is inextricably linked to service to God and humanity and she is almost identifiable with that. This would be the song on every Akwa Ibom woman's lip as Mrs Akpabio has ensured that they are adequately and enormously rewarded in appointive and elective positions – deputy governor, State Chief Judge, Head of Civil Service, Commissioners, Federal and State Legislators, Minister, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of boards ad parastatals, Council Chairmen, etc.
No doubt, the Governor takes credit but these goals have been scored by his administration because of the unique role of the supportive midfielder first Lady, Mkpouto Akwa Ibom. This Sun's award is not the first for the Mother Teresa though it can be described as a towering feat.
In Mma's gallery of awards and honours, are highly rated ornaments. They include certificate of US Congressional Recognition for her humanitarian work, 2011; Patron, Widows Right Advocacy Network; Grand Patron, Anti-Child Trafficking Club; Patron, Akwa Ibom State Joint Association for the Handicapped; International Women Achievers Award, Ontario, Canada 2011; Mother of Mercy and Pearl of Kindness by Anglican Communion of all Saints, 2012; Lady Susana Wesley Award 2012 by Methodist Church Nigeria; Akwa Ibom Woman of the Year 2009 and only recently Most Valuable Governor's wife 2013/2014 award by an Abuja-based Non-Governmental Organisation.
With the new entrant award by The Sun, Levi Munford's words that “Every goal a person reaches provides a new starting point, and that “the sum of all human's days is just the beginning” fits Mrs Akpabio like her name. She has just begun.
When, therefore, tonight the light shall shine Unoma's path to the dais and fade into her infectious smile, let it be echoed beyond Eko Hotel that a heroin with undeterred determination in walking hope on two legs is on the dais. Don't let your light dim; keep it aglow!