…Wonders why a man with four wives would defile a nine – year – old girl
BY Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo
THE wife of the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Deaconess Martha Udom Emmanuel, speaks on her pet project, Family Empowerment and Youths Reorientation Path-Initiative (FEYRep).
Your pet project, FEYRep, what is it all about?
Let me start with empowerment. In two years, I can proudly say that we have empowered more than 2,000 women. We have built 20 houses for widows and widowers, and empowered scores of youths. I cannot remember how many students whose school fees we have paid. In the medical area, many people have benefitted from FEYRep.
We helped several people to go to India for surgeries that could not be handled in Nigeria. We also arranged surgical operations for indigent people with severe eye ailments. Some of the victims were almost going blind but through the intervention of FEYRep, in collaboration with MTN, they can now see. FEYRep has done a lot in two years by the grace of God.
What motivated you to reach out to families with multiple births?
You can imagine somebody who has only one child, how difficult it is to take care of that child not to talk of a mother that gave birth to two or three. So, in my passionate way, I extend my hand of help to them. From time to time, I call the women out and talk to them on how to take care of their children and themselves.
At the end of it all, we empower them because they need to be able to take care of their children. It is not enough to say ‘take this and buy food’. It is better to teach people how to fish than to give them fish.
Are the physically challenged/disabled persons also benefiting from your programmes?
FEYRep is all-encompassing. The physically challenged persons are not left out. We also interacte with them, and so many of them have been empowered by FEYRep. For some of them who had acquired skills and needed assistance to enable them establish businesses, we have done that. We have given help to some who are in school.
Even some that needed wheel chair, we have them. There was one that was into shoe mending and I was so impressed with the fact that he had focus. But he didn’t have tools, so we gave him wheel chair and provided him with what he needed to succeed in his career.
Youths are major beneficiaries of FEYRep programmes. What message do you have for them?
My concern about today’s youths is that they want things fast. They want quick things. Many of them do not want to go through the stages of development. If you see somebody coming out of school, he wants to compete with somebody in a certain position without knowing how that person got to that position. It is worrisome. And everybody now wants to make it through politics. But I keep telling them that politics is not a profession. You can be in a profession and still do politics so that, at the end of the day, you will have something to fall back on. My advice to youths is that they should not lose focus, and try to attain their potentials.
They should use their heads to work instead of looking for quick money. When you want something very fast, you may get it but it will come to an end very fast. But when you take your time and labour to do something, it will last. So I encourage our youths, ‘Rise and do something with your heads. Don’t allow anybody to deceive you’.
What is your response to the seeming increase in rape cases in the state?
There is no society that is devoid of crime. You cannot eradicate crime, but you can reduce the level. And I can tell you that there is a reduction in the level of crime in Akwa Ibom. Before now, women were not talking about rape cases. So a child will be raped, and the mother will not allow the child to talk about it because of stigmatisation or intimidation by the person that raped the child. But we have been sensitising women, talking about it, telling them to voice out, going around schools, emphasising our theme, ‘Girl, uphold your dignity’.
I can confidently tell you that when a girl is raped now, she will pick up the telephone and call FEYRep that ‘this is what has happened’. The mother will pick up the telephone and call FEYRep that her daughter has been raped. We have some cases we are handling now.
The culprits will be put behind bars while the victims will be taken to hospital for treatment. Very soon we are going to do a walk against rape so that the whole state will know that we frown at the heinous act. And I know it will come to an end because by the time we start dealing with the culprits the way they should, prospective rapists will learn and stay away from the crime.
Has your office secured any convictions?
Yes. In the last three months, the cases we had were so pathetic because of the people that were involved. I don’t know why a man will rape a six-year-old girl; I don’t know why a man will rape a three-year-old girl. I don’t know why a man with four wives will rape a 9-year-old girl. I want to assume these people are animals and they have been convicted as I speak because we followed them till the end. And I told my staff that very soon we are going to show them on television for everybody to see. All the while they have been hiding. This time we are going to show them the way they are because it is getting out of hand.
These are people that have children; some have grandchildren. Why do you defile a young girl? What pleasure are you looking for? If I have my way, I know what I can do to such people, but I cannot take the law into my hands. But I want to assure that more rapists will be convicted and rape must come to an end in this state.
Considering the difficult times we are in, what is the source of funding for these life touching projects?
People support this organisation voluntarily. We have so many bodies, when they see our work, will call us and say they are supporting FEYRep. Some even help in kind. So many organisations support FEYRep because they have seen that we are genuine. So we are doing what we are doing through the support of philanthropists and non-governmental organisations. There is no budget for FEYRep; there is no budget for the office of the wife of the governor, so I survive by the mercy and love of the people that have seen the good work that we do.