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« An Open Letter to a Fellow Nigerian | Main | The Struggle for Nigeria's Soul »

September 27, 2006

Margaret Ekpo: an Agent of Change: 1914 to 2006

by Carlisle U.O. Umunnah (New York, USA) --- She was born to Okoroafor Obiasulor family a native of Agulu-Uzo-Igbo, close to Awka Anambra State—and, Inyang Eyo Aniemewue of King Eyo dynasty of Creek Town in today’s Cross Rivers State.

Her political career was by accident. She got married to a medical practitioner, Dr. John Ekpo in 1938. Dr. Ekpo had great reservations for British colonial administrators but as a civil servant his hands were tired and as such could not participate in the populace-movement then, in their quest for freedom and end British colonialism. For this reason, Dr. Ekpo delegated his wife to represent him in these political actions as it were. Margaret Ekpo did not disappoint.

Margaret Ekpo began to participate in only male rallies with the support of her husband. Albeit in the beginning, she struggled to fit-in into the political mainstream, mostly dominated by male activists and politicians. She was the only women in the early days of her political career. She observed the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awolowo, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, M. I. Okpara, Jaja Nwachukwu, and Malam Aminu Kano, etc, confront foreign-occupiers with fiery speeches relentlessly and, relentlessly, putting their lives on the line. She allied herself with Flora Azikiwe, wife to Nnamdi Azikiwe, Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti and others.

By early 40s or mid-fifties, she had made her mark. She was appointed to the House of Chiefs, alongside Olufunmilayo Bansome Kuti to the Western and the Eastern Houses of Chiefs respectively. By 1964, she has been nominated to represent Nigeria at the Inter-Parliamentary Conferences; represented Nigeria—in World Women’s International Domestic Federation conference in 1963; served as member of the parliament in 1960-66. She also served in many other consultative conferences on constitutional matters in the 50s and 60s and served in many other capacities.

She also assisted in forming many women organization for example: Aba Market Women Organization in Aba-Ngwa North; while, the husband worked in the famous Aba General Hospital.

As the British imperial-criminal-colonialism intensified across our frontiers so did rallies and protests matches intensified across the country against the British infamous policies against our peoples. There were many new carved out mottoes from the NCNC party Stewarts led by the likes: Nnamdi Azikiwe, Herbart Macaulay, Mbonu Ojike and others who championed the freedom causes using different mechanisms and tactics including: “Boycott the boycottables” etc. Margaret Ekpo had little education according to records. She made it to standard six. However, due to her love for learning by 1948, with this enthusiasm for education, she obtained her Diploma from Dublin Ireland on Domestic Economics.

She was detained for three [3] years by the authorities of Peoples Republic of Biafra [PRB] for unspecified reasons. According to insiders report, she was detained for security reasons. It was gathered that she campaigned for the Balkanization of Biafra, calling for the creation of Calabar and Ogoja States respectively from the former Eastern Region.

But her greatest accomplishment was the formation of Women’s organization using salt as a weapon to make women register into women’s associations. The idea if that, if a woman registers with women organization, she automatically had access to salt to make food for her family. Salt monopoly by women’s organization was effective because women controlled and managed marketplace. Equally relevant to remember about salt tactic was the Salt-boycott deployed during Gandhi’s movement against the British aggressions/oppressions against Indians. Salt was Key to dislodge the British. Its fallouts precipitated into granting the Indians its independence in 1949 by the British authorities.

Margaret Ekpo showed resiliency and doggedness in her political career in the face of many challenges. In her words: “Campaigning around the country as a woman was not easy. Sometimes, our opponents would send thugs to throw stones, bottles and sticks at us. Some of us ended up in hospitals, severely traumatized, and with injuries. Sometimes, we were inconvenienced by having to sleep on floors or in the open air. It was not as at all easy, but we had to do it so that women cold begin to enjoy some of their entitlements today. Additionally, she contested elections and won.

“I faced seven men in that election, including late Barrister Anyiam Osigwe. I won the election, thus becoming the first woman to be so elected in Aba. I held that post until 1967 when the war [Nigeria civil war] broke out. I tabled many motions, argued, and got some of them passed into laws. My accomplishments paved the way for women who were interested in pursuing political careers, and motivated them to do so with greater confidence.”

Today many facilities and complexes have been named after Margaret Ekpo including, Margaret Ekpo International Airport—Calabar, Cross-River State.

Margaret Ekpo was a pace setter. Margaret Ekpo an agent of change has passed on to our ancestors. She will be remembered for her great contributions. She is survived by family members. May her soul rests in perfect peace, Amen!

Carlisle U. O. Umunnah
Is New York Based Freelance writer

All Copyrights Reserved………….

Posted by Administrator at September 27, 2006 10:45 AM


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