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A Fighter Falls - Margaret Ekpo

Posted by Modupe Ogunbayo on 2006/10/09 | Views: 2187 |

A Fighter Falls - Margaret Ekpo

Margaret Ekpo, an icon of human rights activism, dies at 92

Margaret Ekpo, an icon of human rights activism, dies at 92

An icon has fallen. Margaret Ekpo, a frontline woman activist and politician, died Thursday September 21, 2006, at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital. She was aged 92.

Ekpo was born in 1914 in Creek Town in present day Cross River State to Okoroafor Obiasulor, a native of Agulu-Uzo-Igbo near Awka in Anambra State, and Inyang Eyo Aniemewue from the royal stock of King Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town. After obtaining her standard six certificate in 1934, she was unable to proceed further education due to her father's demise. She decided to take to teaching stint. During this time, she met her husband, John Udo Ekpo, a doctor. She consequently obtained a diploma in Domestic Economics in 1948 at the Rathmine School of Domestic Economics in Dublin Ireland, during the period her husband was taken there for medical attention. When the couple returned to Nigeria, Margaret Ekpo established a Domestic Science Institute where she trained young girls in dress making and home economics.

Her husband spurred her into activism. In 1945, her late husband, Dr. Ekpo, was unhappy about the discriminatory practices of the colonial administrators at the Aba General Hospital. Being a civil servant, he could not attend protest rallies against such practices, so he sent his wife.

Soon afterwards, members of a nascent political party, the National Council of Nigerian and Cameroon, NCNC, addressed a political rally in Aba, with Ekpo in attendance. After listening to fiery speeches by Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Mazi Mbonu Ojike urging Nigerians to claim their independence from Great Britain, Ekpo was converted to the nationalist struggle. She was the only woman at the rally and many wondered why she was there when she should be at home, attending to her family. Undeterred, Ekpo trudged on with her late husband's support.

Through this, Ekpo was able to organise women into a formidable campaign team for NCNC. On the challenges of leading Nigerian women often described as not united, Ekpo said: "There were difficulties, no doubt. You will always have trouble makers who are out for their own selfish-interests; however, if the women know that you are truly working on their behalf, they will support you; they will cooperate with you."

Indeed, she enjoyed a good relationship with Flora Azikiwe and Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti. After reading about Ransome Kuti, an intrigued Ekpo traveled from Aba to Abeokuta to discuss the need for women's involvement in politics. Consequently, Ransome-Kuti accepted Ekpo's invitation to tour the South Eastern region to awaken their political consciousness.

Onyeka Onwenu, actress, musician writes about Ekpo this way: With grace of carriage, she stood her ground as an equal of men, representing women resolutely and with great dignity in multiple capacities."

In these multiple capacities, she succeeded in distinguishing herself. Ekpo was one of the three women appointed to the House of Chiefs, in the 1950s. She had earlier represented her constituency in the pre-independence constitutional conferences. She was a delegate to the several constitutional conferences. In addition, she was the Women's Interest Representative to the Eastern House of Chiefs, Nigeria between 1954 and 1958 and Member of the Eastern House of Chiefs, from 1948 to 1966.

Her efforts were appreciated. Her name graces the Calabar International Airport a refectory is also named after her at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

In Breaking Barriers, her biography, Ekpo likened her father to Okonkwo, the great warrior and wrestler in Things Fall Apart, the classic by Chinua Achebe. No wonder she was an Amazon.

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Comments (3)

Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.