Martha, a Life of Service

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 | News

By Emem Nkereuwem

In the Beginning

It is often said that most successful men have great women behind them. This truth is easily discernable in Her Excellency Martha Udom Emmanuel, the First Lady of Akwa Ibom State who has stood by her husband, the governor in their pursuit of transforming the State and improving the lives of the people.

She has translated the biblical injunction of a good wife as a helpmate to inspire enduring lessons in humility, peace and faith in God. She has shown that true leadership could be harnessed in justice and empathy, particularly for the less privileged.

No wonder, she is referred to as ‘Eka Uwana’. The didactically meaning of Uwana (Light) is embedded in the very nature of light as the source of life and progress. God himself embraced the empowering essence of light, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, and it was good…” Both at the literal and figurative levels, light is essential.

Martha as ‘Eka Uwana Akwa Ibom’ is yet unmatched in her passion for building strong bonds of hope for the despaired. Since her assumption of office as the First Lady of Akwa Ibom State, she has given her time, energy and resources to better the lives of the poor and hitherto excluded groups in the State. This passion led to the establishment of Family Empowerment and Youth Re-orientation Path-Initiative (FEYReP).

Dr James Russell Miller, a teacher of the gospel and writer once declared that, “Nothing else in all life is such a maker of joy and cheer as the privilege of doing good.” To serve and do good constituted the essence of creation before the fall of man. The admonition subsists till date. The bible itself advises us that no one truly loves if he does not love his neighbour. To love is to give of ourselves, time and resources for the good of another.

And truly we can all give of ourselves if we tried. Eka Uwana Akwa Ibom has charted the path to sharing in the travails and triumphs of our fellow humans. She knows very well that the ultimate test of a man’s conscience is his willingness to sacrifice something today for the future generations whose words of thanks we may never hear.

Her consuming passion for the holistic stability of families and a value based social structure is the very reason Family Empowerment and Youth Re-orientation Path-Initiative (FEYReP) became the signpost of hope for people even beyond the shores of Akwa Ibom State.

This did not come by accident. Destiny had crested the often trying but rewarding emblem of service in her soul. Deaconess Martha Udom Emmanuel was born to serve. Therefore FEYReP is rooted in service to those the world left behind.

“I have always wanted to touch lives. By God’s special grace, with FEYReP, lives will be transformed while smiles and happiness will return to homes that never believed it will”, she intoned during FEYReP’s launch on September 21, 2015 to serve as the crystallization of a dream come true.

No society can thrive if its people shut their eyes against decay and human suffering. Not much progress can be made if domestic violence with its attendant evil is not curbed. There can be no real development if girls, women and youth are not provided the opportunities that can enable them harness their talents for the common good. Indeed, these concerns are clearly what inspired Her Excellency. “FEYReP is initiated to improve family life and prevent homes from disintegration through a well thought out plan of Empowerment. Our intention is to also help stem the tide of teenage pregnancy and encourage the girl child education while empowering women to impact positively on the society”, Martha stated in one of her outings.

A vision encapsulated in passion and faith is often actualised by a shared purpose. Governor Emmanuel is an apostle of faith and shares in our collective wish for an egalitarian society. He has variously described FEYReP as the soothing balm to different homes particularly as the organization is focused on touching the lives of youths and women of all ages and gender. At a time when Government is faced with the enormous task of infrastructural development, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have become the pillars of the society in the pursuit of social interventions.

FEYReP…Three Years On

Family Empowerment and Youth Re-Orientation Path-Initiative (FEYReP) in three years has charted the path of a holistic social intervention for people from all strata of society to communities beyond the shores of Akwa Ibom State.

The girl-child is at the heart of Her Excellency’s work. FEYReP’s campaign tagged ‘Girls Uphold Your Dignity’ periodically sensitizes teenage girls in Secondary Schools on the benefits of abstinence from premarital sex. The programme has ensured that girls are given the right social tools to help stay safe and in and out of school. While poverty has been identified as one of the biggest cause of teenage pregnancies in the state, FEYReP has designed a number of interventions to build capacity amongst young girls like Martha Cares for Young Women, counselling, scholarships and economic empowerment programme to inspire and support indigent young girls.

The success of a family is often directly proportional to the all-round stability of the woman in that family. This is largely due to their roles as guardians, mentors and counsellors. Women often provide the necessary safety nets for their families and by extension their communities. FEYReP’s multi-layered programmes has aligned itself with building capacities through trainings, grants and providing basic starter packs to its over Two Thousand, Five Hundred and Twenty Eight (2528) beneficiaries.

Some Bread and a Shelter
A family without dignified shelter is an open vista to social calamity. Jesus in one of his treatise while he was on earth made reference to shelter as an important need of all creations when a certain scribe proposed to follow him “whither so ever thou goest.” Jesus was quick to point out the risk and perhaps the dangers of living the life of a gypsy, without the physical convenience and comfort. Then Jesus observed, “foxes have holes, and birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” This underscores the importance of shelter as a source of comfort and protection for both man and animals.

Therefore, FEYReP’s Shelter of Hope is hinged on providing the beneficiaries and their families with convenience and peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that the earthly man and his family need a decent home to lay their heads. The tastefully furnished two-bedroom home for indigent families is meant to shield the benefitting families from the backlash of indignities and insecurity that come from not having a decent home to live in.

So far Twenty Six (26) families spread across the three senatorial districts of the state have benefitted from this programme. The common thread for this intervention is anchored on helping the neediest amongst the needy. As all fingers are not equal, so are the poor not on equal levels. The family of George Effiong Udofia of Etip Ediene in Ikono Local Government Area may have lived a quiet and obscure life, content that it was their lot to merely be spectators of fortune. But sometimes the patron of fate can choose its day and its recipient. Fate chose Udofia’s family with nine children for a new beginning. “It is still like I am dreaming. I would never have thought that I, George Udofia would live in a house like this in my life time. I am so grateful to Mma Martha”, the elated George narrated. Such joyous outbursts of gratitude by beneficiaries trail all FEYReP’s projects.

The beneficiaries are also given cash grants to enable them grow their businesses. Such a combination of some bread and a shelter for these families are some of the enduring strategies FEYReP adopts to build sustainable family units.

With Good Health, All Else are Possible
At a time when access to health care is the preserve of the bourgeoisies, FEYReP became the harbinger of good health in Akwa Ibom State to over thirty thousand, six hundred and seventy two (30,672) persons. These beneficiaries range from eye care intervention, deworming, surgical care and other surgeries both within and outside of Nigeria.

Let the Children and the Elderly Come
People have often wondered what goes on in the mind of Her Excellency, Martha Udom Emmanuel whenever she stares in awe at new born children and the elderly. It would be safe to hazard a guess here – the wonder at creation and the inevitable human transformation; or perhaps, the mysteries of God and His ways! FEYReP’s grants and support to multiple birth families and the elderly highlight the premium placed in sustaining and empowering family units.

Let even the lost, the lepers, the forsaken come
FEYReP’s objective is anchored on helping those the society left behind. These ones often face the double tragedy of trudging the rough path without the hope of expecting light at the end of the tunnel. This sort of troubling uncertainty can activate discontent and rebellion. However, part of FEYReP’s goal is to bring succour to persons and even organizations in dire straits. When Her Excellency, Mrs Martha Emmanuel visited Uyo Prisons and discovered that their kitchen was in a deplorable state, she built a befitting one for them. And she has extended the same support to both Eket and Ikot Ekpene Prisons by setting up skills’ acquisition centres in both prisons.

From ancient times to even now, those who are struck by leprosy are excluded from society as outcasts. The Leprosy Hospital in Ekpene Obom in Etinan Local Government Area is home to persons ostracised from society due to the infection and children whose parent (s) suffered from leprosy. Many of those despite being cured of the disease are not allowed back into their communities. Children are therefore constrained by the circumstances of their birth to live in the community as they endure lifelong stigmatization without access to the least possible opportunities.

But Her Excellency re-constructed the sour narrative. Standing beside Mrs Offiong Edet Bassey, the President of Joint Association of Persons with Disability, she said “today I want us to know that these our brothers and sisters are human. We should love and respect them. They have been cured of their ailment and should be accorded the right to go back to their communities to start a new life. They are part of us”. And then she spontaneously gave Mrs Offiong a hug. They crowd held their breath in astonishment. It was another display of love unencumbered by class, stature or disability. Perhaps shocked by Her Excellency’s action to one considered a social burden, a man exclaimed “utó eti owo emi iwákáá”, translated loosely as “good people like her are rare to find”.

Only good people would spare their time to ponder over the troubles of others when they also have theirs to contend with. Only extraordinarily good people can stare in the eye of a hungry child and know that he needs bread and not ask what social class the mother belongs. Only Martha can stop by hospitals across the state to pay bills of the very indigent sick. She has progressively and steadily challenged all and sundry to step back and appraise the true meaning of being our neighbour’s keeper.

Her adoption of orphans and vulnerable children across the state would stem the tide of crime homeless children are exposed to. FEYReP’s Divine Children’s Home has given several orphans a new lease of life. These children who otherwise would have been left on the streets are provided with care and education that would make them great members of our society.

There cannot be a Martha without mercy. Goodness is her genetics. She exudes it. She lives it. It is very apparent that Martha’s magnanimity is grounded in the truism that leadership ought not to be defined by self-aggrandisement and eulogies that soon morph into transient bubbles of forgetfulness but by the common understanding of our shared humanity. Like David Cawthon observed in his essay on Aristotelian Leadership, “leaders ought to be men of courage, temperance and compassion, seeking the ultimate good, not for themselves but for all”. Her Excellency has demonstrated these sterling qualities in moments of her encounter with the most extra-ordinary circumstances of human frailty. She has consistently shown that leadership that is not targeted at alleviating the needs of its people is a labour in vain. Indeed the totality of Martha’s life is service in godly grace.

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