Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wanted: A New Akwa Ibom Woman BY: DAVID BENSON

Predictably, Akwa Ibom women this week; lived to prove its character both in the fashion and manner it was written about them last week, especially concerning the Chibok 276 global outrage. The #BringBackourGirls protest have yet to be ended as it is increasingly drawing more participants, more advocates and more support from an expanding circle of the international campaigners.

As at last count, the sign-up is reported to have received 3.3million tweets world-wide and the count keeps tolling without showing any indication of abating. Yet, the Akwa Ibom woman's voice and despite the wider shift of concern from expressing a basically local indignation to emphasizing a global condemnation of the dastardly act of the abduction of the Chibok girls, is yet to add its voice to the popular outcry.

Their silence does not in anyway strip them of their womanhood. It does not infact make them no more to be mothers, of which principal role they still exhibit in their natural capacity despite their seeming docility on the matter at hand.

Interestingly, the second citizen of the state is both woman and a mother. At a point, she had led one of the most vibrant gender forces in the state. But that was then. In the days, way back when Akwa Ibom Women Liberation League or Akwol, as it was popularly known, was known for firebrand gender advocacy before recapitulation on its select position. Today, there has been a certain give-up from the playing of that critical role. It has become drowned in the 'Uyai Iban' sycophantic symphony; typicalising a dire state of helplessness and the final stages of a debilitating emasculation of the Akwa Ibom woman from exhibiting any sense of individuality other than that of an abhorrent herd mentality. This is quite pitiable.

Added to this, never mind that they won't come out now, be they Catholics, Protestants, Penticostalist or Orthodox faithful. Never mind that in their midst are former ministers, former first-ladies, former commissioners, former law-makers or council chairpersons. Never also mind that some of them are distinguished professionals in the field of law, humanities, medicine, etc. But they will not be the Oby Ezekwesilis or the Joe Odumakins.

They will never be part or characters exhibited in the various governor's wives, deputy governors, catholic women association or sundry Islamic women who have all added their shrill and clear voices of condemnation in protestations of the abduction and hostage keeping of our girls and our daughters, growing up to become women and mothers like them; but are unfortunately caught and held in the vicious brutality and senselessness of Boko Haram insurgents.

Never mind that Akwa Ibom State teachers have marched in solidarity for their 173 slain colleagues up-north and for the beautiful pupils they were supposed to teach, but who are now held in bondage. Ironically, a few days from now, the body and faces of Akwa Ibom women will come out and parade themselves shamelessly. They will file out as individuals or groups in arrays of uniforms like butterflies left to the sun.

First, on Children's Day and again on Democracy Day; their bottoms will warm the seats at various celebration centres. Ranging from the backwoods of local government councils, where some of them will even mount the rostrum and take salutes to the quick beat of drums urging the marching feet of young school children like the Chibok 276 girls, but these will not be privileged to march along with other Nigerian children on a day dedicated wholly to them.

The Chibok 276 are holed up in Sambisa Forest or in some desert wilderness in Chad, where no one can tell what becomes of their fate or lives. Yet, the question of their fate and future continues to remain quite meaningless to the Akwa Ibom woman, who unlike Michelle Obama, has failed to see “in these girls… [her] own daughters,” or “perceive their [wasted and forlon] hopes and dreams” or significantly weigh and “imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now” while she will be chuckling to some inanities shouted to appease or sooth the vanities of a blinded and a clearly adrift power class.

Of such inanities that ignorantly mock the sensibilities of the people and rub on the whims and caprices of those whose regular dosage, messages their vain ego, there will be no end. But there should be an end to a people's continuous misdirection, to a people's celebrated lack of purpose; of choice; of a voice, of decision and a vision to be and define themselves. There should be an end to a people's continuous lack of the ability to think away from the crowd or a herd mentality. There should be a beginning to self assertion, to group freedom, to gender independence, to a right to think and act differently.

 Actually though; it may yet occur to the sensibility of the Akwa Ibom woman that there ought be a time, [and the moment, which may be now], to exert her right to gender self-determination. But unfortunately again; the Akwa Ibom woman will still be caught helpless, unfocused, blank and still playing or acting a 19th century character on the global stage of 21st century. She still wishes to directed, coerced, coaxed, intimidated, thought for, violated and abrogated from all considered rights and liberties; all because she should be seen and not heard. When spoken to, she should listen and answer yes. If at all she must speak, she must only repeat those things she has been carefully tutored and approved to say. For the regimented being she is, she is only primed to take the order; and which comes watered down from the top. She has no voice of her own. No mentality of her own. No being of her own or something to bring her some form of respect.

The Akwa Ibom woman is a pathetic picture of make-believe. She is an embodiment of a freed-slave, whom, though freed from the babarities of the cruel institution, is still mentally locked up in the absurdities of her mind;  insisting she must be guided and directed, be determined for; much as, she can not determine or express her true state of self freedom. The quagmire that the Akwa Ibom woman is found in will be well replicated in her role on Democracy Day. On a day she should be viewing her life in retrospect, the Akwa Ibom woman will throw herself into the role of a circus character – one, simply paid to entertain a watching audience. In a host of costumes, that is provided free but acquired with public funds, she will be converted to a parade marcher, the dancer, singer, cheer- leader, entertainer and applause provider – to hollow and empty speeches of the day.

But were Democracy Day to mark a watershed in the Akwa Ibom woman's life, she should reassess her role for the future, reinvent herself and seize her own opportunities for sake of attaining the requisite relevance and greatness. The mentality of the Akwa Ibom women must therefore be reformed, rearranged and reharnessed from that of its present herd posture. The chorusing role of Iban e-dey? Iban e-fine? Iban e-see? Iban any complain? And all those unserious stuff of misrepresentation must be gone and done away with.

The era of subservience to a few representatives of no significant character must practically be jettisoned. A new embodiment of the Akwa Ibom woman, firm, calculated, respectable, armed with poise and voice, sensible and articulate; must step out of the bandwagon traffic and travel the road of distinction and honor other than walk the constant paths which has for so long been noted of a rag-tag constituency.

Out there, there are a lot of Akwa Ibom women who have made the mark both in academics and the professions. And having been so distinguished; they should not allow for themselves that some unfounded and uninformed charlatans hijack the stage and unguidedly misrepresent the standing of their gender in society.
In the circumstance, it is time a new awareness become built and holistically made to reflect in the society what authentically represents the face and conscience of a new Akwa Ibom woman. One that has meticulously worked and fought to earned her right of place in the 15 years of Nigeria's fledgling democracy.

That pride of place will not be earned with the present crop of fair weather charlatans and unfocused individuals pampered solely to pecuniary benefits dripping from the honeywell of the state. Such had only been prompted for the sake of providing a clan of feet stamping, hand clapping and voice cheering crowds at government functions or such other social ceremonies. The pride of the new Akwa Ibom woman must come from the articulation and practicalisation of a well defined and respectable role that does not depend on hand-me-downs or hand-outs for playing caricaturing parts that only ends up diminishing the respect of womanhood in the context of an ever socio-politically dynamic global stage. It must come through an orchestrated presentation of a cultured and highly characterized Akwa Ibom woman and one devoid of her present idiosyncrasies and highly ridiculous foibles.

Essentially, to attack the problem of an eroding personality, the Akwa Ibom woman must ask as a necessity; begin to ask why and how is it that she being found indifferent when her counterpart across the country and the whole world are taking it up upon themselves to campaign for the freedom of the abducted Nigerian school girls? The how and why she is not being given a responsible role on the political stage of the state. Why and how she is constantly not being taken serious but relegated to the background even in matters affecting them? How and why she cannot come up with credible and authentic representation? Why it is always some other voices and not their own which often speaks and bargain for those rights and privileges of hers including globally endorsed actions such as the 35% affirmation? These are some of the reasons it has therefore become very imperative that the Akwa Ibom woman reinforces her image even as 2015 draws near and the fate or destiny of her gender hangs on the balance.

With this comes an urgency and a need for the leadership of Akwa Ibom women to rise up, carve out a role and inspire the finding of the right solutions to the problems of identity crises militating against the image and character of her degrading social brand.

As a required guide for the needed self re-invention, May 27 and 29 should be used for a sober reflection by the Akwa Ibom woman instead of the fun-fare, herd-mentality jamboree she is often noted for. If truth be told, there is actually nothing to celebrate on these set days – whether on the sanctity or right of the girl-child to education or the dignity and franchise of the Akwa Ibom woman to legitimately participate in the democratic process of her society or political environment. The conscience or moral cords of Akwa Ibom woman must be significantly struck as the state comes to the threshold of 2015 and demands that she ought be a true representative and a democratic symbol of liberation both for her gender and the people in direct proportion of her sheer strength of force.

For an effective launch-pad, the rights of the people to freely participate in the process of producing the right and acceptable candidate for the 2015 gubernatorial race in the state is a critical challenge that will require the collective effort and resolution of Akwa Ibom women to stand up against the planned injustice on some of her children and one of their own, including Senator Helen Esuene, Obong Umana Okon Umana, Mr. Nsima Ekere, Bishop Samuel Akpan, Barr. Effiong Abia and Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan among others ostensibly segregated against by the machinations of a clearly partisan party administration in strong collaboration with the state authorities from participating in the party selection process. As it appears, the state needs a collective action including Akwa Ibom State women to effectively roll-back the threat of dictatorial impunity lodged in the planned imposition of a hand-picked individual against the constitutionally provided role for a clear choice of the people.

Therefore, for the Akwa Ibom woman to actively and credibly regain her position and right of place in her society, it must however, be insisted that unspared efforts be actually seen as being made on her part to unleash vibrant and well coordinated protest everywhere in the attempt by PDP and the Akwa Ibom authorities to bar some qualified citizens of the state from freely participating in the 2015 democratic process.

Again, this gender co-ordination must be critically informed as a united action of women against political imposition, and the abuse of the democratic process as an outright stand-off against the evils of unmitigated and flagrant godfatherism. It must begin in the bed-rooms, extended into the palours and emptied into the streets of Akwa Ibom cities and villages as a mass action expressing a peoples' contempt and angst for contemptuous exercise of unbridled political power.

In the envisaged evolution of a deserving role for the Akwa Ibom woman, the need to carve a credible responsibility emerges as a clear task confronting a new generation of this long abused and over-used gender.

The Akwa Ibom woman as a concerned symbol of motherhood and moral discipline must retrace her steps from the ridiculous misrepresentation of her gender and mount proactive pressure to ensure that ethics and values are wholesomely brought to bear on the standards of enhancing the strict delivery of our hard won democracy. And the challenge as it presents itself begins now. Akwa Ibom women must come together and kick against PDP and government's deliberate plan to stop some people from participating in the democratic process. If they cannot rise up for Chibok 276, at least they can stand up for themselves.

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