By Nseobong Okon-Ekong
In some way, the recent gathering of women in Ikot Abasi brings back memories of landmark incident generally known as Aba Women’s Riot, which has since been properly situated in history to have started and gained momentum in Ikot Abasi.
As the 2019 general elections draw closer, different interest groups are getting set for a showdown of sorts. In Akwa Ibom, a kaladeiscope of women organisations who favour the governorship ambition of Obong Nsima Ekere, otherwise known as ONE have deployed all kinds of gimmicks to show they are battle ready.
Led by the delectable wife of `The One`, Efe ,the women stormed Ekere’s homestead to wage spiritual warfare with the understanding that since the spiritual is believed to control the physical, they needed to position their principal’s ambition properly in the celestial. The `prayer warriors` in evanescent spirit enthralled the sedate sleepy community of Ikot Abasi, the home of the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the 2019 governorship election in the state, Obong Nsima Ekere. Memories were made, excitement reinforced and confidence strengthened.
Some daintily clad, others adorned in uniforms that evoked their prime political averments, they sprawled before the governorship hopeful’s magnificent edifice, arms clasped, eyes misty and watching God, teeth cracking, and in total submission and humility laid down their burden to the creator of the universe in supplication for divine benevolence in the `war` to come. They sang songs of mirth and unity as one of his opponents in the party primaries surrendered, complete with all the arsenals and appurtenances of battle. It was the wife of Bishop Sam Akpan, in royalty and splendor that led the party of capitulation. And with an aura showing gratitude and love, Efe in subdued gallantry and jubilation, together with a large ensemble of female party `big guns` welcomed them to their fold and enjoined them to keep their eyes firmly on `The One` for the much anticipated vanquishing of their common foe, Governor Udom Emmanuel, the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It was victory and defeat in tow, magnanimity and sport. It resonated, piercing the eerie woods of village setting. It pulsated with pomp. It engendered a fresh dawn. The burgeoning governorship journey of N
Ekere had just bagged a tumultuous hilt in unity of purpose. Joy swept through the hearts of men and women in his train.
More soothing accoutrement and human infrastructure were yet to join forces to add more pep. Senator John Akpan Udoedeghe, a veteran political titan and governorship aspirant assembled his women armada the following day at his residence, Afaha –Oku near Uyo to give vent to the cyst of unity. His wife, Justina led the forces. It was a roll call of who -is -who in the political tapestry of the state. Wife of the immediate past governor of the state Mrs Ekaette Uloma Akpabio, flanked by a former minister of women Affairs Obongawan Rita Akpan, former deputy governor of the state, Mrs Valerie Ebe, Mrs Amadu Atah, wife of the deputy governorship candidate in the 2019 elections, Mrs Idorenyin Okopido; (state party chairman`s wife,) Magdalene Akpabio, Uduak Ufot,Dora Ebong, Irene Inyang, Nene Essien, and Nana Usang, director of women affairs, Udoedeghe Campaign Organization, among other crème de- la- crème, the orchestra of reunion and avant- garde began. A former chairman of Uyo Local Government Area, Pastor (Mrs) Stella Effiong powered out the rain of prayers. Fast on the heels of the prayers came the formal surrender of the female forces of Udoedeghe by his wife, Justina. Again, Efe stepped forward to receive the valiant women of `war`.
It was interspersed with a deluge of requests to which she benevolently acquiesced. Among other promises in the unwritten Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, Mrs Ekere promised a non- discriminatory atmosphere for all, full accommodation for all, and accentuated incentives for all the women in her welfare package. She said ‘ I want you to trust me. I will walk and work with you. If Mrs Akpabio did you well, I promise I will do you better. Put your trust in me and leave the rest for God.” Earlier, Mrs Akpabio had foretold Ekere`s victory in the elections saying that the angels whispered to her.” Women talk to women, women understand. Efe Ekere will give you houses, send your children to school, and give you money for trading. All you need to do now is to go back to your units and begin to campaign for the husband. We have prayed, and I know that those who hear the voice of God have heard from Him. I have heard from Him.”
The group moved to the Nsima Ekere Campaign headquarters in Uyo, where before a select crème of women leaders in the state, Efe Ekere formally unfolded the husband`s vision for the state and called for support.“ You know him very well. He was a deputy governor of this state under Akpabio. Nsima would like to take this state to the next level. That`s why it is important to come together, know each other, work together for the realization of this goal.
“I always say I am approachable. I want to be with you always. Always fell free to engage me on whatever issues that troubles you. Send (SMS) Short Message Services. When I get your messages and support, it will embolden me to work for you” In their solidarity speeches to her, most of the women who spoke assured her of their unalloyed support and unstinted loyalty. Specifically, Rita Akpan canvassed the need for all the women in the gathering to adopt her as their daughter.” We have learnt from the mistakes of the past. We keep learning. Before now, we never heard that a wife of a governor or governorship candidate called women leaders from each local government area together. This is the first time it is happening and it shows the primacy of women in the heart of the Ekeres. They understand that women are the springboard of development.
“We have to adopt her and mother her. She is respectful, unassuming, humble, gentle and lovely. We have to advise and support her. Women are the neck, men are the head. If that neck doesn`t move, the head is useless. Wherever you go, pray for her”
The sermons were backed by a hail of prayers and songs of praises to God.
The next day, Thursday, non- indigenes living in the state gathered for yet another prayer session. She took the floor to formally introduce herself to them and called for their support in the governorship challenge of her husband ahead. She described herself as a detribalised Nigerian, having lived in the north, Igboland and the west. She decried the non- recognition of non- indigenes in the scheme of things in the state and promised a change.” At the dying minute, they are running around dropping money for you. Take that money and chop it. It is your money.” In their responses, the respective leaders of the ethno- cultural groups lauded her vision for women and the state. They assured her of their support and prayers for the success of her husband describing her as “humility personified”
To round off the prayer meetings`, a robust meeting of women from the Ekeres homestead of Ikot Abasi held in their palatial home . She called on the women to “support your brother”. She said amidst a staccato of prayers, songs and dances, “ It is your brother’s turn. This is your own. We must start working now, down to the units. Tell everyone that it is time for your brother to govern Akwa Ibom state. Pray for him. In your early morning prayers call his name to God.”
She thereafter inaugurated a women support group drawn from all the local governments of the state and charged them to go back to the grassroots and spread the good message because Ekere is poised to win the election.