I have seen the current threads on the unfortunate trend of stereotyping persons from Akwa Ibom, especially women. I think, as someone who has been in the trenches promoting and supporting women’s course in a coarse world like today’s, I should lend my perspective, born from direct experience as an indigene of my great Akwa Ibom and the son of an Akwa Ibom woman who successfully raised six children of note. My perspective will definitely dilate the matter beyond any outsider’s doubts.
One thing I know about stereotypes and stereotyping is that it’s similar to the tradition of naming. Other people name us. Our parents named us at birth. Our friends give us nicknames and our marriage partners give us pet names. However, to those who believe that certain vices and tendencies can be easily attributed to women of Akwa Ibom extraction, I will say that such assumptions cannot be left at the doorstep of mere stereotyping, often explained away in facile and insincere arguments.
Every culture has its own share of great personalities who are strong role models as well as its share of straying sociopaths. While people are free to choose who they want to be at individual levels, it’s not a yardstick to stigmatize an entire culture. There are only good and bad people in the world, not good or bad cultures.
As Nigerians, history provides us a useful template from where I can glean examples of Akwa Ibom women who had contributed and still contribute to national discourse that enrich our Nigerian history and economy. The great Margret Ekpo needs no introduction where political agitation and women emancipation is concerned. She is an Akwa Ibom woman whose legacy continues to speak after her. In the Nigerian film industry, I am forever proud of my sister Emem Isong who continues to raise the bar and created standards for those coming behind.
More examples will include great contemporary Akwa Ibom women such as Prof. Uduak Archibong MBE who is a Professor of Nursing and Director of the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity at the University of Bradford, UK. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing. Dr. Udy Okon Ph.D., who is an awareness campaigner and an ICT4D Researcher, Training Consultant and a Development Practitioner with over 15 years’ experience in development practice. Mrs. Mfon Usoro, an internationally acclaimed expert in transport laws and project finance. Peace Obott is a champion of advocacy against cancer in women.
The list is not ended. Aniebiet Francis is an actor who has climbed the ladder of success in the film industry. A graduate of Genetics and Biotechnology and a scriptwriter/film producer, she organizes the first Orange Film Boot Camp. Her #EverySecondCountsNigeria is an awareness campaign for rapid and effective response for accident victims and other hazards. She did this via her debt production, a short film titled ‘One Bright Morning’. This was followed by #BrideNotCommodity, a campaign to save the girl child from the claws of exploitative traditions that encourages exorbitant marriage lists from the bride’s family. Kufre Nicholas hosts the Brain Dash podcast and the Campus Rush Show on inspiration FM, Uyo and was a co-compere for TEDx Calabar in 2018. Her newly rebranded podcast ‘The Konverse Show’ streams on frontrunner digital platforms such as Sound Cloud and iTunes. And the list is endless.
Indeed, anyone might further search out names like Emem Ette, Esq., Udeme Etibensi, Mary Akpan also known as ‘Remarkable Mary’, Regina Askia, Edima Imara, Magistrate Helen Umana, Mary Godwin, and so many others who cut across different generations.
All of these women are from Akwa Ibom and I remain in constant surprise about how these examples never seem to be seen by outsiders to our State as worthy standards to judge our women by. For anyone who has bought into the negative narrative about and around Akwa Ibom women, remember that Nigeria as a country equally has a notorious image as the ‘den of untrustworthy people’, yet, not all of us will like to associate with this stereotype or accept this description of our country from outside. Think about this!
Founder/President, African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO)