It was at the reception venue of a child dedication. The day was Sunday. The date was 31st July, 2016. The place was Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo.
Someone ran to where I was seated and said he got a text message that the former first Lady of the state, Mrs Ekaete Unoma Akpabio, was dead. Cold shiver ran down my spines. The dead of any human being diminishes me. He told two other people and like wild fire, the whole area I was seated, went into a free for all discussion on the matter. Some said she deserved to die detailing what they called her sins against life. Some said it was the husband, Senator Godswill Akpabio, that should have died in her stead. Others blamed former All Progressive Congress, APC, gubernatorial candidate, Mr Umana Okon Umana, for causing the death through means more metaphysical than physical.
While the discussion was going on, I was saying a prayer for her: “Lord, let it not be true”. I also left them, went outside the venue, called people in the Senate Minority Leader’s Abuja “planet”. “Chief of Staff” Emmanuel Inyangetor’s number did not go through. Anietie Ekong did not pick my call. Dr. Iniobong’s line didn’t go. The last person I called picked and told me there was no such news.
Excited, I went back to break the news and the tone of conversation changed. People left Mrs Akpabio alone and faced their food and drink.
The prayer I said was not from the political angle. It had more to do with the experience I and members of my family had about three years ago.
Having heard that Mrs. Akpabio’s current health status came as a result of complications during the delivery of their last child, Ubong-Abasi, I knew I needed to be on the same page with her and pray for her recovery.
My immediate senior sister (May peace be on her soul) had only one child at a point and craved for some more. She went on fertility pills and, as we later found out, some of the pills were contra-indicated for cancer. But she did not mind as far as she was going to have more children. She did have another one, but five years after, complications sets in and she was diagnosed of cancer. The next two years were spent between hospitals in Nigeria and United Kingdom, in between her work as a civil servant.
In 2012, she died. It wasn’t about the lack of care. She had one. We also prayed for her. But she died. God’s ways are not man’s ways-so, we accepted the shocking reality.
Shortly after that, my wife was delivered of our last baby but she started bleeding immediately after. The only option was to operate on her to stop bleeding. Our bundle of joy was on the delivery panel they kept her, while I signed for her to be wheeled into the theatre. I held her hands, prayed with her and told her she will be back.
She wanted to see her baby but experienced nurses advised against it. I am told she got unconscious while inside the theatre and oxygen was used to rejig her breath for the operation. I left for church and laid on the altar praying for her while the operation was going on. Those in the theatre told me the next day that they prayed more than operate on her because the case was “tough”.
God rescued her from the clutches of dead and when she came out the next day, every nurse and doctor who read her file, came to find her. Her case became a reference point. They told her to thank God-that some cases were nothing close to hers and they lost the person.
So you see why I am praying for Mrs. Akpabio. Dead should not be a thing of joy. It should make us sad. Whoever wishes that someone else dies is a sadist and should live in outer space. I believe Mrs. Akpabio is no devil. Even in her politics, I believe she was no devil. When you are the wife of a politician, you tend to see what your husband doesn’t see. Some of the things you see are naked masquerades dancing with, around and about your husband. What do you do? You cover the nakedness of the masquerade if you love their dance steps. If you don’t like their dance steps, you make them stop dancing. I guess this is what Mrs. Akpabio did courageously often during her tenure. Others wives do same. Whether she was right all the time she did them is a matter of conjecture.
Beyond politics, Mrs. Akpabio was a good first lady. She supported her husband through her pet project, The Family Life Enhancement Initiative, which she used to enhance the living conditions of widows, mothers and other women. It was because of Mrs. Akpabio’s assertiveness that women got more than a fair share from the then administration.
As at the last count, on her leaving office, we had more to than five female chairmen; female ministers; a female deputy governor; female deputy chairmen; lots of female councilors and female transition committee members. Those were through politics only. You could also count hundreds of families that benefited from other support schemes for farming, trading and other incentives.
For Mrs. Akpabio to be sick, it calls us to reflect on life soberly, by possibly saying “so life could be as well cruel to someone like Unoma”. Well, it is a reality of life. It rains on all roofs. The sun shines also on all roofs. It is Mrs. Akpabios turn today. It might be any other person’s turn tomorrow.
In all the turns, we need a return to the prayer table. It is only God that heals. For Mrs. Akpabio, we need to pray for her recovery. In saner climes, a prayer summit for her recovery should have been convened by the hordes of church leaders who were her “emergency” friends in the years she was in the office; members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, should also be praying for the recovery of the wife of their party leader at the senate and my people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District should do the same for the wife of their senator- a senator who, while governor, touched the life of the district in more ways than one. Those of them who ply the Ikot Ekpene-Abak road; Etim Ekpo-Iwukem road and others, should join their counterparts across the state who ply Stadium road, fly through Ibom International Airport and pass through Aka Nung Udoe road, to say a silent prayer for Mrs. Akpabio’s recovery
I see Mrs. Akpabio recovering. When she does, in thanking God, I admonish her to thank God and forget enemies. Only God keeps alive. The enemy only wishes one dead and should not be glorified at the thanksgiving service which I know will come soon. It should rather be a time of sober reflection on life and lessons taught from various experiences including that on a sickbed where a once ebullient being could lie helpless. It should be a time to try to mend fences with the hordes of enemies she and her husband made on their way to successfully making Governor Udom Emmanuel succeed in the 2015 elections. Their perceived enemies were once great friends, who could take any risk for Senator Akpabio and his family.
I don’t know how much risk Governor Udom Emmanuel has taken or is taking for Senator Akpabio and his family-both filial and political.
Before the recovery and subsequent thanksgiving, however, I join others to say a prayer for Unoma on sick bed: ”Immortal, invisible, everlasting, omnipotent, omnipresence God. Jehovah Rapha, the one who heals our diseases, I pray for your daughter, Mrs. Ekaete Uloma Akpabio. Have mercy on her and heal her of her illness. We will give you thanks in the great congregation. Thank you Lord because we know you will answer us. Blessed be your holy name. In Jesus’ mighty name we have prayed.Amen”