By Koko Udonquak

The family is unarguably the sole of society. It is so because this God ordained unit which comprises the man, woman and children, who have distinctive roles and functions as stipulated by God himself is that which keeps the machinery of society moving.

The quality and formation of these individuals, (the man, the woman and the Child) which make up a family unit determines how good or effective that family is, and how such a family may contribute to the wider society, howbeit positively or negatively. Suffice to say, in our clime, several families make a community and several communities make a local Government area just as the local Government areas form the component of the state. Meanwhile, the states of the federation form the component of our dear country Nigeria.

So it won’t be logically wrong to assert that where there are well built and virile families, there definitely would be a well built and viral formation of communities with strong family units; and with well built families in the Local Government areas, one would be assured of a great state. Of course with virile economically empowered, educated and morally sound families across all states of our country, our society would be better and Nigeria would always stand out as a flourishing, and strong nation.

This probably formed the philosophy and inner thought of Dr. Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, wife of the Governor of Akwa Ibom state. As a passionate mother and a devout Christian imbued with a humble disposition and a down to earth passion to make society better by ensuring that the family unit stands firm, right and effective; she fashioned out a programme to actualize her vision and passion for humanity.

At the inauguration of her husband’s administration in 2015 and the subsequent re-election in 2019, she stood beside him while he took the oath of office. Being a co-beneficiary of the mandate that was freely given by Akwa Ibom people, Her Excellency Dr. Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel knew a rare opportunity had come her way for the realization of her age-long dream of wanting to touch lives on a broader spectrum. And so precisely on the 21st of September, 2015, she voluntarily moved out of her comfortable abode to enter into a pact with the susceptible Akwa Ibom families to always stand in the gap for their needs. Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path-initiative (FEYReP), was birthed to provide a positive trajectory for the weak.

Predicated on the core objectives of showcasing successful indigent families through innovative alliances, this novel project has gone on to win the hearts of many within few years of operation.
From illuminating the minds of the young ones and infusing in them a new sense of faith through well marshaled out mentorship programmes such as ‘Girls Uphold Your Dignity’, and “Bright future for Responsible Boys” for secondary school students across the state, FEYReP in recent years has shown a rare capacity to navigate the younger generation through a dystopian path of yesterday to a future prosperous society anchored on moralistic ethos.

FEYReP visitation to secondary schools is often characterized by pep talks on career paths, hygiene for self dignity and counseling where established individuals serve as role models to the students. Divided into clusters, the students are usually given the leeway by the resource persons to express themselves wholly without any element of fear so as to be able to get the desired answers they have been begging for. It’s on record that this ‘catch-them-young’ program has significantly contributed to the drastic drop in rates of teenage pregnancy and cultism in our secondary schools especially in rural areas.

Another area of interest for Dr. Emmanuel’s FEYReP has been the fight against gender based violence. 2019 saw FEYReP up the ante in the struggle by forging partnership with a group of women Journalists in the state to publicly shame culprits of rape / other social vices, and as well the synergy with the United Nations Population Fund which birthed a 24-hour GBV response centre in the state.

Pressing further, apart from the various seminars held for stakeholders to interface and proffer solutions and road walks to create the necessary awareness; the governor’s wife in collaboration with Federation of Female Lawyers also took the campaign to the traditional institution where she sought their help to tackle the menace. At the Palace of the Oku Ibom Ibibio, Dr. Emmanuel posited that the monstrous acts of defilement, rape, sodomy, incest and battery were on the increase hence the need for intervention from the traditional fathers. According to her, “the campaign against all forms of gender based violence is one that requires all hands to be on deck to curb the surge in the act.” Indeed, FEYReP has been brutal in its fight against an anomaly that was gradually tearing the family unit apart.

Added to FEYReP’s intervention is its signature ‘shelter of hope’ programme. Abraham Maslow, a great management theorist in his postulation of man’s hierarchy of needs identified shelter as a key economic need. Indeed, the governor’s wife has driven her vision of seeing every Akwa Ibom indigent family have a decent abode to greater heights. ‘Shelter of Hope’ as the name implies has provided a ray of hope for many families who were lost in despair.

As at the last count, 34 well-furnished houses have been delivered not just to widows, but to other economically disadvantaged men and women. Hear her: “the programme was initiated out of the urgent need to provide the poorest of the poor among us with roofs over their head. When I think of where I live and where my children live and then you see a family that can’t afford a decent life living in a very precarious situation, you can’t but shade tears. Through this initiative, I’m proud to say that we have built and delivered many houses for many indigent families.”

Health they say is wealth and so Martha’s FEYReP has secured health interventions for families within these years. From the partnership with the MTN foundation for eye outreach where over 5000 people each representing a family benefited, to the yearly de-worming programs for school children and yearly surgical outreaches in partnership with national and International bodies, FEYReP believes that a healthy family population invariably translates into a wealthy society.

Another very popular programme of FEYReP which is very dear to Dr. Emmanuel is the Martha’s pregnacare outreach. This very health intervention was strategically implemented to address the rising case of infant morbidity and maternal mortality in the state. Through this event which has held in five phases, a total number of 3500 expectant mothers especially rural dwellers have been educated on the need for proper medical attention during pregnancy, child birth, while also receiving baby kits and cash for businesses.

Women empowerment also occupies the front burner in the governor’s wife pet project. She is of the opinion that “when women have something doing, they will always give back to their respective families”. So in achieving this, thousands of rural women have been empowered through a cash conditional transfer scheme where they have been able to grow their businesses to support their families. Recently to add to that number, no fewer than 400 rural women gathered at the Judiciary multipurpose hall where they were handed grants to help kickstart various small scale businesses.

Also, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize that development will only be achievable if it is inclusive of all ages. Empowering older persons in all dimensions of development, including promoting their active participation in the social, economic and political lives is one way to ensure their inclusiveness and reduce inequalities.

In the light of this, Dr. Emmanuel aside her yearly hosting and empowering of widows, also takes it upon herself to yearly reach out to the senior citizens in our midst. One of such was on Tuesday, 17th December, 2019, when over 400 elderly persons across the state were lavishly hosted by the governor’s wife at the Banquet hall of Government House to a Christmas party. As part of the celebration, free medical tests were carried out with medication given, while they also received health talk and freebies courtesy of FEYReP.

In summary, it would be superfluous to state that many Akwa Ibom families are indeed better off today through FEYReP. Dr Emmanuel through her deep Christian and compassionate spirit, her unbridled sense of altruism and an acute appreciation of the inherent faith and belief in the goodness of the human condition, has used her Office to advance the cause of the poor, the sick, the handicapped and the infirmed.

With many sunny dispositions brought to the hapless and the forlorn over the years, 2020 is just another year that is pregnant with different packages that will further stamp FEYReP’s towering heights on the sands of time because it has always been Her Excellency’s utmost desire to leave the stage in 2023 better than she met it.

Koko Udonquak writes from Afaha Ikot Akpan Nkpe, Awa Afaha in ONNA LGA.

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