The Human Face of Governance

Ekaette Unoma Akpabio’s Heart of Gold

Like husband, like wife! Mrs Ekaette Unoma Akpabio, the First Lady of Akwa Ibom State, is as passionate about the welfare of the less privileged as is her husband, Governor Akipabio. Since 2007, she has demonstrated this passion through the Family Life Enhancement Initiative, FLEI, a non-governmental organisation she set up with a mission “to link disadvantaged individuals and groups with the tools and opportunities they need to overcome social disadvantage and unlock their potential.” She has carried on her self-less mission of giving hope to the hopeless; giving a new meaning to the lives of those to whom life had ceased to have meaning, especially women and children, and earning, in the process, the sobriquet of Mother Teresa of Akwa Ibom, from an appreciative state that sees in her the same attributes of the legendary Nobel Prize winner who left her footprints in the sands of time. Her passion and commitment to the uplift of the lives of widows and children have also earned for her the titles of Mkpouto Akwa Ibom, Eka Esit Mbom, etc.

Mrs. Akpabio has saved widows from the pangs of homelessness by providing them with new and furnished houses. She has rescued vulnerable children from ostracisation and given a new life to the physically challenged. Under the first phase of the FLEI, she gave over 50 houses to widows, the disabled and the elderly. Among those who benefitted were; Mrs Mercy King, a mother of four in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area; Mrs Grace Henry of Ikot Akpaenin in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area; Mrs Mercy Etukete of Mkpaeto in Onna Local Government Area; Mrs. Sarah Okon Eco of Ikot Idem Idiam in Esit Eket Local Government Area and Mrs Promise Christopher Jonah of Ikot Idem Nsit in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area. Others are Mrs Etukudo Moffat of Ikot Eket Nsit in Nsit Atai Local Government Area; Mrs Akon Effiong Anwana of Eyoinwenag in Udung Uko Local Government Area; Mrs Iniobong Bernard Udoudo of Nkop Ikot Ebok in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area and Mrs Mercy Emem Akpan of Idua in Eket Local Government Area. The list also includes Mrs Arit Okon Effiong of Eyofai Enwang in Mbo Local Government Area; Mrs Enyinne Eseme Moses of Ikpe Annang, Etim Ekpo Local Government Area and Mrs. Grace Ini Ekpo of Ikot Akpan Itam, Itu Local Government Area.

Although the primary targets of the FLEI housing programme are widows, men have also had a taste of the milk of human kindness that flows from Mrs. Akpabio’s heart of gold. Mr. Noah Jonah is one of them. He made a dream move with his family of nine from a mud house to a decent twobedroom apartment, courtesy of FLEI. Beneficiaries in the second phase of the programme include; Mrs. Idongesit Emmanuel Ibanga, a 35-year old widow with six children from Ukanafun Local Government Area; Mrs Ufot Sam, a 52- year old widow and mother of four children in Onna Local Government Area and Mrs. Affiong Moses Nketa, 40 years and a mother of four, from Itu Local Government Area.

Mrs. Akpabio is a child rights advocate. It took one visit to an orphanage for this part of her to become manifest. That visit brought her face to face with the inhuman conditions in which some children live. Not able to bear the hurt the children felt during her interactions with them, Mother Terasa initiated the building of a befitting orphanage for homeless kids, now known as Turai Yar’Adua Reform Centre. The centre was built with money from corporate and individual donations, and is equipped with an administrative block, classrooms, computer studio, sick bay, craft workshop, play areas and vocational training units, with capacity to comfortably accommodate 1,000 children.

Mrs Akpabio has, since becoming the First Lady of Akwa Ibom, remained a pillar of support to the Special School for the Deaf and Dumb, Ifuho, in Ikot Ekpene and other children centres across the state. She routinely visits the centres, to ensure their needs and supplies are provided regularly. More than 20 families have enjoyed financial assistance from the multiple-birth support programme of the FLEI. Under the programme, parents of new born twins, triplets or quadruplets get financial assistance for the upkeep of their new babies. She also offers assistance to others who are afflicted. She was there for Mrs. Josephine Inyang, a widow and victim of severe fire burn, whom she gave enough financial assistance to start a business. Miss Ekaette Anthony Joseph was empowered to start a beauty parlour and hair salon business. Mrs. Aniekpeno Ofonime Daniel and Mrs. Eyak Monday Akpan Unang, both from Ukanafun, received oil palm milling presses and financial assistance. Mrs Idongesit Udo Akpan of Essien Udim, Miss Uduak Effiong Udo and Mrs. Christiana Udom of Mkpat Enin received equipment and cash to start Hair dressing salons.

Others who will live with the memory of Mrs Akpabio’s large heartedness include; Otobong Innocent of Essien Udim who got equipment and money to start his own business; a cripple shoe mender, Rufus Eyo Okon, who received financial assistance to enhance his business, as well as Mrs. Emem Vincent Essien and Mr. John Asuquo Ntak Oron, who also got equipment and money to start their businesses.

To the people of Akwa Ibom, Mrs. Akpabio is a first lady like no other. Never in the history of the state has a first lady touched the lives of the less privileged as she has done. They wonder if the state will be blessed with another first lady in the mould of Ekaette Unoma Akpabio, when she leaves office in a blaze of glory in 2015.