DR. MRS. MARTHA UDOM EMMANUEL – Voice for the oppressed
For six years now, she has waged relentless war against the twin evil silently but deadly devastating the female gender: rape and violence against women, girl child and vulnerable persons in Akwa Ibom State. If you ask her, she would brace up to tell you the war has not been easy. You trap and apprehend one culprit today, the next day another assault happens, just a few metres away. It is a war fought uphill, no retreat, no surrender until “every foe is vanquished” the banner of victory flown at full mast.
But this Deborah of Akwa Ibom State is much more than determined to rid the layers of the state of this monster, in spite of pockets of reported cases here and there but the struggles have yielded tangible success, as vulnerable persons are much more confident to break the circle of silence and speak up, many have also reported their traumatic experiences, arrests of suspects and many convictions in law courts secured, while rehabilitation of vulnerable persons has also been made.
Fighting the menace of rape in Akwa Ibom communities is a crusade that has culminated into a multilateral force as all institutions have bought into the struggles. Samuel Smiles once said, “The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor. If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.”
Credit must be accorded Dr. Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel for unmasking this monster and creating widespread awareness over the dangers of rape – the physical pains, social and psychological agonies victims go through. Although rapedemic has engulfed the entire nation, Akwa Ibom State has recorded significant success in the fight to stemming the tide of rape. In June 2020, the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, signed into law, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill 2020, which has enabled the prosecution and conviction of suspects. If found guilty, the convict can serve nearly all his life in prison; the stiffness of the penalty on rape underscores the seriousness in which Akwa Ibom State places on the war against rape.
Now, women have a voice. The girl-child and the oppressed have a voice, backed up with the law, with all the machinery of the state wielded against whoever the perpetrators of rape, violence, and other forms of abuse against both gender. Courtesy of the dogged fight of this woman of indescribable abilities, foresight and ingenuity, Dr. Martha Emmanuel. Vocal but forthright, her major weapons have been advocating and courting strong partnerships with local and international organizations, mounting enlightenment campaigns across the State through Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path – Initiative (FEYReP).
WHAT MAKES HER TICK –
Having watched her carry on with unbroken zeal towards ridding the state of rapists, we found some sterling leadership qualities in Dr. Martha Emmanuel that make her tick.
Stepping into the trenches to fight a war against faceless perpetrators of rape and violators of the rights of the vulnerable requires a lot of courage, especially when the occurrence becomes sporadic. Yet she folded her long sleeves and waded into the gray to wrestle the souls of the girl-child and women from rampaging beasts called rapists.
The spirit of courage said to her, ‘Unless you lead the fight yourself, victory will be hard won’ and like the Deborah of old who sat under her palm tree to lead battle against the enslavement of her people, she dared all odds to mobilize against rape and other social vices affecting the womenfolk. Today, she has proved right the thinking of philosopher Seneca who said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
Resonating on the courage that led to the birth of FEYReP, Her Excellency, Martha Udom Emmanuel explained that it was “born out of increase in crime rate from youths traced down to dysfunctional family…God impressed upon me to work on raising responsible youths and successful family. When a family is successful, the tendency to train or educate, advise and watch over their children will be high. Children that are properly raised will not constitute nuisance to the society.”
It takes a courageous spirit to fight age-long social issues like dysfunctional family, like the Mary Slessor who fought and brought to a stop the killing of twins. The ever smiling governor wife said: “About dysfunctional homes I am still hammering that parents go back to their responsibilities to train their children well,” she advocated.
Aside from taking the fight against rape and violence on women and girl-child to global awareness, she has taken on other social issues like rehabilitation of victims of abuse and raising shelter for the homeless in the state. She’s also interested in the general wellbeing of the womenfolk and the state in general. This is why she is involved in massive cassava cultivation to support the food security and food sufficiency policy of her husband. Her perspective on food sufficiency is about encouraging local farmers, especially the women to grow nearly all foods eaten in the state.
She said: “We realize that the common staple food in Akwa Ibom State is garri. And the price was so exorbitant for the poor…to afford. So we had to look for a solution and that solution was to launch out into cassava planting, massive cassava planting by FEYReP and as the outcome of that, we entered the market with our product, and the price of garri was crashed.”
However, one very outstanding quality of her impactful life is the grace of God she epitomizes through her unceasing exercise of faith, prayer and a life of praise. This has remarkably made a huge difference in her life and that of her husband. Both are lovers of God and freely express their convictions publicly, not minding their status as the Governor and first lady of Akwa Ibom State.
Like Timothy in the Bible whose unfained faith spoken of by Apostle Paul, was linked to the faith in his grandmother, Lois, Mrs. Martha Emmanuel has enjoyed the same grace. She grew up early, observing her grandmother showing great faith in God. Her close association with her grandmother imparted the same vibrancy of faith into her life quite very early.
Hear her recollects those experiences, as obtained by Akwa Ibom Impact: “It started from my grandmother’s time. I was seven years old when I heard my grandmother speak in tongues, I think she was the first woman that spoke in tongues (in my family) and she was a woman of God.”
She attributed her robust faith and service to the kingdom of God to her grandmother, adding: “It could have influenced me; I will give it to her.”