Gov Emmanuel Ranks Best in Women Inclusion in Governance in Nigeria

0
305

By Ini Adiakpan, PhD

It cannot be over-emphasized the benevolence and commitment Governor Udom Emmanuel has shown in the matter of women inclusion in governance. Arguably, record shows that no Governor or State in the country comes close to matching the standard that Governor Udom Emmanuel has set.

This, of course, cannot be surprising. Recall that during his governorship electioneering campaigns both in 2015 and 2019, the Governor had vented his displeasure against the societal stereotypes and stigmatization women in the State had been made to pass through, whether in the family, society, the corporate world and in government.

As such, one of his memorable promises to women was that when he assumes office as Governor, there was going to be a paradigm shift and a rewriting of history. As a man of his words, the Governor has in a way, unprecedented in the history of governance in the State, fulfilled that promise and raised the bar so high that whoever shall come after him will have the tall record to struggle with. The testimonies from women quarters are deafening.

It could be recalled that in my speech as the Honourable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare during the 2022 International Women Day, observed globally on March 8, 2022, I had passionately appealed to the Governor to use his good office and magnanimity in ensuring that more and more women were engaged in elective and appointive positions.

Part of my speech at the event read: His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel, through his good governance template, has contributed his quota to gender equilibrium by not creating any valley between the way he treats women and men in his leadership trajectory and policies. He has empowered women and included them as critical partners and stakeholders in governance and leadership roles.

“Today, like never before in terms of numbers, we have women Judges, commissioners, Board Chairmen, Special Advisers, Honourable Members in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Local Government Chairmen, Vice Chairmen, Councilors, Supervisors and Council Secretaries, and Special Assistants and Personal Assistants to the Governor. However, Akwa Ibom women will be happier to see His Excellency expedite action on some pending women-related bills passed into Law by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly by assenting to them; increase support to women welfare programmes and encourage the election and appointment of more Women into strategic positions in governance”.

I am glad to say that His Excellency’s commitment to women inclusion in governance has been observed beyond the shores of Nigeria. During the 21st Regular National Council Meeting on Women Affairs, held at Ibom Hall, IBB Way, Uyo, on Thursday, August 26, 2021, the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline K. Tallen, had echoed the same sentiments more glowingly, pouring encomiums on Governor Udom Emmanuel for his towering record of Women inclusion in governance.l
My gratuitous words and appeal therefore were concerned statements of clairvoyance, considering that by the time the said event was held, the momentum for the 2023 election was already gathering and, expectedly, there were many women on queue to aspire for one political office or the other.

Good enough, Akwa Ibom State has not been in short supply of great women across all strata. The State is blessed with highly educated, resourceful and patriotic women who can stand on their own in any platform of service delivery or office of responsibility.

Like in the past seven years, apart from having it as a matter of policy, Governor Udom Emmanuel has always responded proactively to such appeals with promptitude and pragmatism in such a way that even the women sometimes have been short of words in expressing their gratitude to His Excellency.

Apparently moved by his genuine concern for Akwa Ibom women, and in progressive redemption of his campaign promises of inclusion, the statistics today has seen Akwa Ibom stand tallest in the comity of States in this connection. No doubts, the women are happy.

Today, in spite of the intensity and competition that characterize our politics, Akwa Ibom is one State in Nigeria that has women spread across all elective and appointive positions of strategic mention.

To start with, the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, His Lordship, Honourable Justice Francisca Ekaette Obot, is a woman of substance and highly celebrated professional who has risen from the ranks in the Civil Service to her present position. With her as the Chief Judge of State are other women of great standings.
Rt. Hon. (Princess) Felicia Bassey is the present Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly and Member representing Okobo State Constituency.

She is not only a two-term Member but has served and is still serving as Deputy Speaker of the 7th Assembly of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. With her in the Assembly is Dr. Charity Ido, Member representing Ukanafun State Constituency, who also has not been cheated in the allocation of strategic roles in the Parliament.

I am pleased to note that in response to the request I made on-behalf of Akwa Ibom Women during the 2022 International Women Day, His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel, has encouraged and graciously supported five(5) Akwa Ibom Women with proven track-records of dedicated Service to contest and win Primaries for House of Assembly and House of Representatives respectively under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), and are now warming up to contest and win the 2023 general elections.

The Women are: Hon. Kenim Onofiok for Oron/Udung Uko State Constituency; Hon. Precious Selong for Urueoffong/ Oruko State Constituency; Mrs. Itoro Etim for Uruan State Constituency. Others are Hon. Selina Isotuk Ukpatu for Ikot Abasi/ Eastern Obolo State Constituency and Dr. Glory Edet for Ikono/ Ini Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.

Of prominence placement also is distinguished Senator (Dr.) Akon Eyakenyi who has been nominated as the PDP Deputy Governorship Candidate for the 2023 Gubernatorial elections.

It is of great interest to observe that four women are presently serving as Chairmen of Local Government Areas. These include Deaconess (Mrs). Agnes Udoewenwen (Ika); Rt. Hon. Lady Emem Ibanga (Nsit Atai); Mrs Akon Michael (Ibesikpo); and Rt. Hon. Precious Selong (Urueoffong/Oruko). This huge gesture and benevolence from a governor has never happended in the history of governance in Akwa Ibom State since the advent of democracy in Nigeria. We also have women serving either as Board Chairmen or Members in State Secondary Education Board, EARCOM, Adult and Non- Formal Education, among others.

Presently, at the last count, Akwa Ibom State local government system has 99 women serving as Councillors; 18 Female Vice Chairmen; 8 Council Secretaries; and in the State Executive Council, we have four Commissioners. In the State PDP Structure, we have women as Deputy Chapter and Ward Chairmen across the 31 Local Government Areas and other offices assigned to Women. Indeed, this is the first time this would happen in the history of governance in the State, a bold and distinctive signature of the leadership mindset of His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel.

It cannot be argued to the contrary that, although the Governor does not stamp his choice of candidates in the political processes in the State on stakeholders and the electorate, he has created a level playing ground where women could freely contest for offices without prejudice or intimidation from the male folks, unlike before where women were relegated to the background politically.

In addition to political inclusion, Governor Emmanuel has also developed utilitarian empowerment models and created initiatives targeted essentially on women emancipation. This is seen in the area of agriculture, SMEs, grants, and soft loans.

Besides the many primary and secondary healthcare facilities that the governor has put in place, he has also helped in meeting the needs of women, especially mothers and pregnant women. The special attention the administration has given to health concerns of women can also be noticed in the many bill-free treatments women have received, even having some with critical cases sponsored for overseas attention.

Within the year, the Governor had authorized the release of One Hundred Million Naira (N100,000,000) for widows of legionnaires in the State to help boost their businesses.

The women are also very happy about the State Government’s relationship with donor agencies and in particular the Governor’s international diplomacy that has attracted World Bank funding. It is no more news that, through the World Bank – Nigeria for Women Project, about Fifty Four Thousand (54,000) of Akwa Ibom State will be enhanced with various empowerment packages and therefore be alleviated from poverty through business support- Scheme. A gesture Akwa Ibom women are ready to reciprocate by participating effectively in the 2023 general election. Again, a foremost socio-political group in the state that champions the cause of the succession plan of the governor through massive mobilization of women across 31 Local Government Areas of the state is taking the message of continuity for good governance, peace and prosperity to the length and breadth of the state.

Appreciated greatly also is the direct and indirect role that Her Excellency, Wife of the Governor, Her Excellency, Dr.(Mrs) Martha Udom Emmanuel has deliberately played in giving women stronger voice in the scheme of things in the governance of the State and women emancipation and empowerment.

The biggest and most inclusive of such platforms is the Family Empowerment and Youth Re-orientation Path Initiative (FEYReP), a socio-economic instrument conceived by Her Excellency to touch and change lives for the better.

Established in September 2015, FEYReP was hinged on a 5-Point Agenda – Empowering women to provide economic and emotional support to their families; Advocacy for the prevention of teenage pregnancies; Education for the girl-child; Promotion of moral values and economic excellence; and Provision of support to government efforts towards development.

For instance, through the Shelter of Hope initiative, primarily targeted at widows, record shows that no fewer than 56 houses has been built from scratched, furnished and handed over, in gratis, to selected widows and families across the three senatorial districts of the State. Through FEYReP, Her Excellency has sponsored the Skin Cancer treatment of Five Members of Association of Albinism Network in Akwa Ibom State, sponsorship of deworming exercise and giving out of Some Vitamins to Children, sponsorship of Back to School Programme for Akwa Ibom Children, capacity building and empowerment of male and female youths and provision of interest- free loans to Women.

Whereas, all credit goes to the governor for his hiring acumen, I can say with a sense of humility and appreciation of His Excellency that, I have been privileged to be a utility player and one of the choices Governor Udom Emmanuel has made with regards to who deserves to serve on his cabinet.

From the first day of my appointment, my action plan was to turn the Ministry into a beehive of meaningful and impactful activities in complementary capacity to the Governor’s efforts, with regards to the terms of preference of my engagement. Of course, with directives from His Excellency, I have played the catalyst in the engine room of advocacy and implementation of government policies for women. I cherish this opportunity and benevolence from His Excellency.

Through what the media have chosen to call resourcefulness and innovativeness, the Ministry has brought Akwa Ibom women closer and closer to government, making them identify with policies, programmes and sense of direction of the governor.

The Ministry has encouraged financial inclusion for the Women, empowered some of them with dedicated phone lines and handsets for their entrepreneurial engagements, assisted them to open and run bank accounts with some of them becoming POS Operators.

As a Ministry, we have increased and strengthened clusters in persons with disabilities from four to five to include deaf/dumb, blind, leprosy, the physically challenged and the Albinis.

Put simply, when it matters, as it matters at the moment, the Ministry has been a platform to effectively and pragmatically express and convey the goodwill of the Governor and his amiable wife as well as the dividends of democracy from government to Akwa Ibom women. Some of them have been exposed to internet engagement,especially in ICT related skills.

For instance, in support of the Succession Plan of His Excellency, it was under the aegis of the Ministry that Akwa Ibom women from the 31 Local Government Areas of the State were assembled to officially welcome and endorse Pastor Umo Eno as the Governor-in-waiting in 2023. It was a massive event with immediate and residual effects.

Presently, for this very purpose, like it has been done in the past, through support from Her Excellency, Dr. Martha Emmanuel, the Ministry has been able to re-jig over 500 women political groups to be exposed to capacity building trainings, reawakening and directing entrepreneurial spirit through group savings. Again, which women in the metropolis and at the grassroots have been sensitized on the need to get involved in the ongoing voters registration and to ensure that they have their PVCs intact. I have provided some of them with uniform. The ultimate target is to ensure they all cast their votes for Pastor Umo Eno/Akon Eyakenyi and the PDP when the time arrives.

Commenting during one of my outings in that regards on why I had taken these steps, I had observed:

“His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel, having done so well after seven years, must be supported to land well by giving Akwa Ibom someone whom he trusts to sustain the legacies. I have no regrets and it is incumbent upon me to support His Excellency’s Completion Agenda and Succession Plan. Pastor Umo Eno is a no-option to me – and Akwa Ibom women should follow his lead.

“His Excellency brought me to where I am today. So both my conscience and necessity demand that I reciprocate that gesture from a leader who has changed the story of Akwa Ibom women in all ramifications. Pastor Umo Eno is a deal”.

The grandest summary is that Akwa Ibom women are pleased with Governor Udom Emmanuel for the quality of leadership he has brought to the State and the generous and massive inclusion of women in that narrative.

To say the least, their verdict is that Governor Udom Emmanuel has overshot the limits of the 35% Affirmative Action. Hence, they are ever ready to go with the Governor on the matter at hand – Pastor Umo Eno becoming the next Governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2023.

Ini Adiakpan PhD, is the Honourable Commissioner in the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare,Akwa Ibom State.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here