Female Youth! Committed and Useful. Committed and Useful! For a Better Tomorrow. I bet if you will forget this slogan in a hurry especially for those who followed closely on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP campaigns in 2019 across the 31 local government areas in the state.
During the campaigns, young women adorned in purple T-shirts, white trousers or skirts were
conspicuously stationed around the podium of political campaigns. These young women running into thousands were seen under the rain or sun, flagging up their purple scarfs and cheering speakers at different rallies in the state. A beautiful sight that added extra colour and radiance!
The cheers and excitement on the faces of these young women who posed with charisma and confidence while cheering known and unknown speaker was another great delight.
These unbothered women made up 60% if not 70% of the population
Who is Lady Edna Edwin?
My name is Lady Edna Edwin Daniel and I’m from Nsit Ibom local government Area, Akwa Ibom State.
Why Female Youth?
Beautiful! I want to tell you in brief how it started. In 2013, I came up with a group called, the EKEMINI-IBAN Akwa Ibom women. They are women, our mothers and older women. I noticed in my local government then, that the women did not have a forum. Not just a forum, a forum to believe in, a forum where you can find at any time. Not a forum where you find at a season. So I had the calling from the Holy Spirit and then I decided to answer by going back to Nsit Ibom LGA to start the EKEMINI-IBAN Akwa Ibom registered also and then I cut across the ten wards we had then. I noticed that I had 100 women per ward who were ready to stand by me, who understood and had longed for this kind of family and so it was easy.
As an NGO, we tried to assist them, then I was working as one of the aides to the speaker, Rt. Hon. Sam Ikon then. Then I used my little pay and I noticed these women never needed so much. All they needed was someone who they believe in and at every time they see you, no police to stop them or security and it was beautiful. We had meetings every month and decided to pray every second Saturdays and worked.
So we went on and on, I used my little funds to give them soft loans without interest and it was
working well and then I said fine, if it’s working like this then it’s beautiful. I moved on.
In December 2015, when EKEMINI-IBAN was just few years from 2013, my cousin came to my house to visit me. When he left my house, he mistakenly left with my house key because I had stepped out. He locked my door and left out with my key. When I came in, I asked him to bring the key, he asked me to come to Barracks road.
I went to Barracks road, CKS by Brooks street to be précised. When I entered that place, the place was blocked, I had to turn and find my way…it took me a long time to find my way to CKS and I saw youth, the male counterparts and I asked what was happening. I saw trailer loads of rice, people were running up and down and someone asked, you mean you’ve been in this state and you don’t know that the governor gives Christmas to youth here every December.
I asked since when, and he told me since Governor Godswill Akpabio’s regime, He went further to say, he gives us a date and we come here. He gives money and then rice and I saw guys; some of them were running up and down carrying bags of rice to the gate, selling to the women.
I saw some women hawking around, they were buying bag of rice for N2000, some of them were fighting, tearing the bag of rice. And asked my cousin, where are the girls? And he said, what will a girl be doing here? Coming here as a youth, she can’t survive it except she’s coming to see her friend.
And I said what! Do you know a girl child will not sell this rice? She will trek to wherever she stays and take the rice home and do you know even the ones on the floor, she’ll pack them and get home because she wants to make sure there’s food? And I stood there and told him, next
year December which will be 2016, I promise you, girls will enter this place and I left. That was the first time I thought of this and that was December, 2015.
The first December of Governor Udom Emmanuel as a governor. 2016, I started this job. How did I start? I just went to Ekemini women and told them, each of you bring your daughters who are 18-35years. The first day, I had more than 100 girls from Nsit Ibom and I said, wow, this is it! And I asked them, do you know you’re a female youth? And they said they don’t know.
Then I said, who are you because most of them can’t tie wrappers like their mothers to say they’re women and can’t join the guys because they’re not boys. So, where are you? I noticed something was happening and because the Holy Spirit was there, it was just too easy for me because the Holy Spirit was just guiding me and I was really following Him. At every point, He gave me what to say and how to do it.
So, I started with the female youth of Nsit Ibom because their mothers were already my members in EKEMINI-IBAN and then I increased the number every month and had so many of them and we came up with this name. The first time I called the, EKEMINI-IBAN Youth wing that was the name I gave them because I saw them coming from Ekemini women alone.
After a while, the Holy Spirit told me, some of this your women, their sisters are married outside Nsit Ibom; tell them to get to their sisters outside this place and I just went one day and said, if you know your sister is married in Ibesikpo, ask her of her daughter who’s from Ibesikpo. If your sister is married in Esit Eket, ask her of her daughter who’s from Esit Eket and that was how it happened. Before I knew it, they were calling me, can you come to this place? We have 50 girls here. We have 20 girls here and I was touring round the 31 LGA. 8 th April, to be précised 2016, four months after that incident I saw, I was able to inaugurate Akwa Ibom Female Youth Association.
Was there at any point you got financial backings when you birthed the idea?
At that point, I had to do it alone, understand what I was doing, and look at it well. I was listening; the Holy Spirit was telling me on what to do and how to put it. So I had to wait. I did it alone. At that point I needed to understand what I was doing better because I am from Akwa Ibom and I know what it means to run after people too early. I needed to allow the Holy Spirit plant it well and cement it for me. What I’m trying to say now is, for everything you want to do, allow the Holy Spirit help you out. It gets to a point your own help will mean nothing. I remember I took it to the SA to the governor then, now SSA on Youth Matters. I went to him and I spoke to him about it that this is the dream I had had and I wish he can support. He said okay that we can come on a courtesy call and we visited him and he said it was beautiful and encouraged me and I left.
The beautiful thing now is, that December came again, that December I made a promise to my
brother and I was able to go with 1000girls into CKS in purple and white that morning. And
without even telling the governor, everybody knew something was happening, and for the first time in the history of Akwa Ibom, they saw the gathering of girls in one uniform, looking alike and then the Holy Spirit gave me this handkerchief and called it mantle and so I go with it. Just to add that beauty, when we shake it like this (demonstrating), it attracts that view and you look at us.
We went in there 1000 of us and there was no seat for us and we noticed all the canopies were tagged with the local government and the guys were seated. So I told me girls, let’s move to the podium and we moved to the podium and that podium has been our place till today. For every function you attend you’ll see us behind the podium and that was how we started. So we went in there because we needed to have a place for ourselves but there was no place and we created on beside the podium.
When the governor entered, we started shaking our mantle and he said, wow, beautiful. Who are these people here and they sent for me? At a point they said who is the leader? And I was called upon. That day we left with 300 bags of rice and governor gave us 2million naira. It was not the money but I just won that war. I felt like I won and I went to my cousin and I said, did I not tell you?
That winning motivated those girls not the money because at the point where we paid for the buses and shared the money, nobody left with 1000naira but they were so happy that they
couldn’t even look at the amount of money. Also, the governor asked me, what’s your name and I said, FEMALE YOUTH. So when he cheers us, FEMALE YOUTH, COMMITTED AND USEFUL,
COMMITTED AND USEFUL, FOR A BETTER TOMORROW. And that was beautiful and we were the only ones that made the place lively, added colour and everything was going on well. So that was a breakthrough and that was the point we started well. And the governor knows us. I started noticing that for every event, they’ll call me and tell me the governor wants to see you people there. Can you come around? Now we’re almost everywhere.
At the Point you visited the SA on Youth Matters then, was the name still EKEMINI-IBAN YOUTH WING or you had changed it to Akwa Ibom Female Youth?
At that point, I had changed it. I started like a month or two with the EKEMINI-IBAN Youth Wing but when the Holy Spirit asked me to begin to look out for other local government, I had changed that name to Akwa Ibom Female Youth Association. And then, I had the inauguration done on 8th April, 2016. The SA to the governor on Youth then was present and the inauguration was done at the small field beside New Birth road, by Four lanes (Edet Akpan Avenue). Then we had Engr. Ufot Ebong, SSA to governor on Technical Matters and Due Process and then I brought the number
that I had then and we inaugurated that group.
When I left that place, I decided to see how I can register the group with Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC. With God on my side, I was able to register that group. Today, this association is registered with CAC as an NGO. That was how we started and then I worked from my house then and meet them.
The Holy Spirit was directing me, you have to get the leaders, the local government, do this, do that! I call them supervisors, overall leaders one per local government. That’s my name I gave them, I didn’t want to give them chapter woman leader, I sounds too political and then for every ward I had what we call ward coordinator and per village; for every village, I have one person I call village protocol.
During the election, I had to go down to the unit and I have one person I call unit commander. That means if I drop a message here in Uyo, the supervisor will take it to the ward coordinator, the coordinator takes it to the village protocol and the village protocol takes it to the unit commander. So at every point, my message gets to the last point at the grass-root.
There’s this thing about people in Akwa Ibom state particularly those who flaunt socio-political groups. You see people choosing colours that represent the state, like orange, green and white… so why did you settle for purple and white. Something out of the normal colours in the state?
The Holy Spirit! Like I just said, for everything, I am doing here, it is the Holy Spirit. I don’t have
any strength of my own. I can’t even control 1000girls and nobody fights but I take 10000 girls out and nobody fights. No stampeding, no fight…that can only be done by the Holy Spirit. He’s the perfect finisher! That colour came from the Holy Spirit.
This particular question will lead us into the challenges you faced while birthing the group. Now you said, when you arrived at CKS, there were seat arrangements for your girls but you choose the podium, was there any challenge from the security apparatus of the governor to bully you. You shouldn’t be here, you’re not recognized. How was it?
Hmmmm, you’re asking me about it. Well till now, there’s still that bullying. In life nothing good comes easy and then you know we the women, the young girls, we must break the glass ceiling. So we’re working every minute of the day. It’s a normal thing! I got in there and the guy, you know the guys, they’ll want to have the whole day and place to themselves. Not all the guys. There are good guys, I tell you. I have friends who have become brothers in this association that I am today but I cannot tell you the success story without mentioning their names.
So, I got in there and I saw the ones who would not want to see their sisters coming out. They believe they should go home and wash, cook and clean…what are you doing here. This girl is going to come here and see, I saw people like that but because I said the Holy Spirit is always there to direct. If you’re a leader or the Holy Spirit makes you a leader, He deposits something in you. Every time you see a mere person that’s trying to make himself a leader, there’s something about that person. And I noticed it within me. I recognized it!
There’s something about me when I recognize something, I know that’s the Holy Spirit. I also
noticed that among 20000 guys who would want to harass us, we see two who are nice and the two who are nice will be the leaders of the group. So there will be able to tell them, leave them alone.
There are guys who love their sisters so much at home. I see them come to me, they
encourage me and they are some who don’t want it but we’re still working on their mentality that they must accept us because we have come to stay, in as much as they love their mothers, sisters and love them, they will equally transfer that love to us.
If you see a guy begin to behave like that, those are the guys who don’t understand womanhood and what it means. So I saw things like that and have been through such challenges but in all of it, anytime I see such challenges among them, God is always placing one of them who come to me and say, don’t bother. Stand here, I’ll protect you people. Don’t push them but for pushing, I see challenges like that. They come around, push us here and there. It’s a new thing and now they’re beginning to understand that we’re here and we are not going to run away and I’m equally saying that for every time a girl wants to do anything, she should be determined to do it.
That self-determination will take you very far because by the time you meet all the challenges, like some could give you pressure of hope, come to meet me somewhere. I want to sleep with you, I want to do this, I want to do that. If you’re that person that isn’t determined, you’ll fall into a lot of trap and then that quest for power is what I don’t want women to have.
Don’t think it should be a do or die thing! I have to tell myself that it’s going to slow and steady but there are some girls who want to get there now. That’s the challenge I see. I see a lot of my young ladies, they ask me questions and I tell them, it can’t happen immediately. I put in a lot of my time and run it as a full time job, that’s the first thing you must do and then don’t look at the gain. It’s just like building a foundation of a house, if you see a 10-storey building, so much is inside, the foundation alone has taken more than what you see out there so the women that are looking for immediate result, they won’t have because if you go today, they push or hit you…you will run away.
Something can happen and then you run and if you beg them, they will tell you to come see the somewhere and you resort to selling yourself because you want to get popular in the society. At that point, what happens to your followers? Once, a leader does that, you open the door to your people. They’ll start telling you give us two girls, give us three girls. I see that as an insult.
When I take my girls out, any girl who gives a man phone number at that point you leave the group. It’s a rule and I have my form (female youth), behind the form is the rules and regulations, When you wear my uniform, you don’t chew gum…it’s not because gum is not good. I just noticed that chewing gum has a spirit and it will disgrace you.
When I sit at home and watch programme and I see women who chew gum on TV, …it’s a total
mess up and you can’t control your mouth but you can chew sweet because it will dissolve but
gum, it’s a NO because the camera can be on you and you don’t know who will watch that
So I make chewing gum same time as giving out phone numbers a taboo. Even when
you see your brother, you don’t go to him, you just wave and pass because somebody can capture you on phone and use that against us. Whenever you see girls gather, the first thing that crosses our mind is, ‘prostitute’. It’s from the bible and we can’t change that, we can only work on that but it was recorded that’s why that mind-set is there.
So we have to change that gradually and people will begin to say, this group don’t go to them, they’re like cultist. Even if you ask them for number, they’ll say they don’t have a phone but truthfully, they have a phone. They’re scared of leaving the group and I have told them that every responsible man who wants a woman must trace that woman to where she stays and that’s the truth.
If a man wants you, he will stay on this street to know where you live. It will rain and sun will come and he will not leave there. He wants to see your last point of that day, where you will end. The next morning, he wakes up and starts with you to know whether you live there sincerely. For every man who wants them because I believe God that as they’re coming up with me, they should be married responsibly. I don’t do it, so it’s a rule in my group.
Still on the challenges, you’ve built this group to this formidable stage now, there should probably be some or a group eyeing to overtake the structure from you or something close to that. Don’t you have such challenges and how have you been able to overcome that?
Well, I don’t want to discuss about that because if I do, it will distract me. To everyone who wants to bring me down, the Holy Spirit is present and whenever God does a thing, no man stops it. So if any group wants to copy me, it means I’m up there. My own group is registered with CAC, I have my certificates and a trademark too. So if you use my name and I ignore you, I think it’s because I – love you and I want to show you that I love you by ignoring you because if you’re learned enough to know that a group registered with CAC and has a trademark, that name should not be used but if you go far and use it, I’ll just sow a seed of love into your life that you can only take the name and not the vision. The vision lies with me and in Nigeria CAC knows me as the owner of the group So why distract me with whatever that you’re doing? I’m too busy with what I am doing to notice anyone because I feel they’re trying to distract me. So if you have found anyone, you can preach this gospel to the person that Lady Edna loves that person.
What Sustainability Plan Do you have on ground to ensure the Akwa Ibom Female Association doesn’t go extinct like other socio-political (seasonal) groups we’ve seen in the state?
Well, I will like to bring in the Holy Spirit here. The Holy Spirit has done a great job here and dwells here. If He goes to any other group, He visits them and returns here because every minute of the day when I’m back, He gives me ideas, divine ideas which are written down and each time I bring it out, it becomes a style and you want to copy?
The Holy Spirit asked me to groom children and I have a group called FUTURE FEMALE YOUTH. And these children I am grooming in every local government will be the one to take after us. Now, this is how this is going to go, if you come in as a child, from 6years old, you become a future female and I groom and work on you, lead you to Christ which is the most important thing. I teach you what is right and help your parents put you together as a woman that you’re growing to become. I initially take them from the aged of six.
So from 18years, that future female youth becomes a female youth proper. Once she becomes 18years, she fills the form and becomes a female youth and she stays with me. She goes to school, gets married or pursues whatever dream she has. Her status will change but her age will change.
Now at the age of 35-40, she moves in and becomes EKEMINI-IBAN. So it’s a lifetime programme and in EKEMINI-IBAN, I have EKEMINI-IBAN ELDERS FORUM. I have a woman who is 100years, the oldest woman, a childless widow. So, when God called her to Himself, she won’t even need any guest because the number of female youth alone is enough to fill the venue. So if you grow older and older, you get into the elders forum and then you die there…so it’s a lifetime project which I am putting in all my resources because I am building an empire.
Even when you get married in Eket or any local government area, she joins the group in that local government she marries from. Now I am not spreading EKEMINI-IBAN because we have female youth in all the 31 LGA and if you see any EKEMINI-IBAN 10-15years from today, that EKEMINI-IBAN was a female youth. I have EKEMINI-IBAN only in Nsit Ibom LGA. The Holy Spirit helped me and naturally in the next few years, you will find EKEMINI-IBAN everywhere.
What roles do the EKEMINI-IBAN play in this association?
Like I said earlier, I started with them because the women needed a forum where they can hear and listen to themselves. You’ll see a woman who has suffered right from her birth and has suffered so much that when you look at her, you see poverty written all over her. She has been a slave all her life, she goes to weed in people’s farms and at the end of weeding for one or two days, they pay her 500 or 1000naira that can’t even buy medication for the pain she’s going to incur from.
Like in Nsit Ibom LGA, we have palm fruits and they do a lot of palm fruit processing
there. They don’t have their own palm fruits so people bring in their palm fruits and these women will process and go through all the stress and heat and at the end of the day, the owner of the palm fruits takes the oil and this poor woman takes only the kernel and she goes back to break this kernel and still incurs that pain. How will she make 1000naira? So, what I do is, I give them 10,000naira each because we have heaps of palm fruits for 5000naira in my place and if she has 10,000naira she can buy two for herself, she owns the oil and kernel; the mere knowledge that what she’s doing is her own gives her that satisfaction; so I give them soft loans without interest. I have done that for 8years now and EKEMINI-IBAN became 8years December last year.
How do you monitor the progress of these women?
I monitor them through the leaders. There are hierarchies – just like the female youth, I have done that for eight years now. The leaders tell me who is good and hardworking who deserves to be given the loan. For example, a woman who sells akara who needs a little boost as she gets the required ingredients from someone and at the end of the sells, her gain is just little and she returns the money.
If she has 10,000naira to herself and in three months she buys her needed ingredients, produce, sells the akara and joins osusu to save some money for herself; before three months, she will refund my money whilst using what she saved to continue with the business. Therefore, she no longer remains a slave to anybody.
These women are quite reliable and honest that they refund this loan on time. Sometimes, I do
not even get this money from them anymore; I sow the money into their lives as a way of
encouraging others too. I have put in more than a million naira in EKEMINI-IBAN to achieve this and the money remains here too as it revolves round the women. They trust each other and it is the Holy Spirit that has helped me in getting all of these. That is why it is good to start something right and every member I have is brought to me by the Holy Spirit.
What are the criteria for membership in Akwa Ibom Female Youth Association?
I am looking for a-nobody. In fact, someone, a girl who cannot even tell me her name; she can’t
look into my face; if I see her, she is not well dressed, who does not know what roll-on means and other items; those are the kinds of girls that I look out for but I take from 18years. That is why I go to the rural areas to pick them. This is because, I don’t have slots to share to the big people here.
They don’t bring people to recommend them to me. I do my selections myself through the help of my executives. I take them just the way they are from the interior, bring them here and clean
them up and make them understand the essence of womanhood, then lead them to Christ and we work from there. To ascertain whom to take, I pick those who behave like they have known me before just on our first meeting.
Therefore, what qualifies them is that, they must first attain the age of 18 and must be Akwa Ibom daughters. For now, I don’t want to bring in other states but I will soon do so. I equally have this group in Cross River and River States; I had brought them in during the States last anniversary.
They are Akwa Ibom daughters as well who are based in those states. I have not accepted girls of other origins yet; I am not done with those from my state, so, why should I take others? So, I want to touch Akwa Ibom daughters who are everywhere to let them know that there is a place for them in their home.
Like in Cross River State, I have so many of them whom their parents went there as housemaids, grew up there and marry themselves to procreate these children; these children have never been here before but during 2019 election, I brought in 500 of them who registered and got their Permanent Voters Card, PVC here in Akwa Ibom State. This was easy through the network of my girls who gained admissions to study at UNICAL and who in turn, looked out for their sisters, gather themselves and I go there to drop the message of our visions which now spreads to all of them When they come, we groom them into the kind of girls that they should be.
What disciplinary Measures do you have on ground to checkmate the girls conformity to the organization’s principles?
Well, we have people. I’m taking them from 18years, girls who have been groomed by her parents, who know so much about her environment and how it is affecting her, her kind of family and background; such a girl coming into Female Youth and then she sees that this place is not the kind of place to behave anyhow, such a girl will have to make her decision. We have had such girls who came in but couldn’t cope. Some of them, I send them away because I do not want bad eggs. But, I can be patient with them, try to see how I can change them, try to attach them to another female youth that was worse than them that has changed and has even become leaders of this group.
I even go as far as educating them academically because education is everything and if I don’t do these, then I have missed it. Amongst them, I see those who are sincerely in need of academic training but do not have that push, so I give them that little push. I sponsor them myself using everything that I have worked for in my life. I decided to this on my own because each time I meet someone for assistance, they keep giving me conditions that will affect the future of these girls.
So, I rather put in what I have worked for since God has equally made out a way for me. Well, as of now, I have had some people come to assist now but most of the funding comes from me. I do believe this is why God has continued to be giving me one appointment after the other through the governor, His Excellency, Udom Emmanuel which has continued to sustain this organization.
Do you have partners or you’re operating solely on your own?
None for now but I am believing God that they will come. I am looking out for them too. Like I
keep saying, politics has overtaken everything in Akwa Ibom State and that is the truth. That for everything that are you are doing, everyone wants to politicize it and I refuse to politicize this vision. This is a vision that is driven by passion and it is beyond politics. So I can’t politicize this because at a point, it will be realized that politics comes and goes; so, what happens after the elections?
Like what I am doing now, I have graduated the last batch and recruited new ones. I am starting
the new set and I want to see how I can touch a good number of them before the next elections
because what they went through the last election shouldn’t take place again; I can’t allow them stay like that and then next elections come to meet them the same way considering that age is not really friendly with them. You will see a lady of 25 and she looks 40 while that of 40 looks like 60. So, if I don’t touch them in no time, they could become older women in no time with no benefit of what they have worked for.
That I have asked them to support the government; I am not a political group but because it is our place to choose our political leaders, elect who we want, so, I have told every member of my group that they must have a voter’s card and that is one of the criteria to be a member of this group because a point will come that we will say we do not need this leader, we need the other; and because of our number, we could chose who we want.
What if your benefactor presents someone whom under your assessment cannot interpret the vision of such office, will you be bold to reject such person?
Oh! I will tell the person again and again. That is why I have to start this alone. Most times, people don’t say the truth because of how far they have gone and what they have eaten. Whatever the governor has given to me is not just because it is my right but I want to believe that it is because I have worked for it. I have worked so hard that he wants to appreciate hard-work. I didn’t just go to sleep and the governor gave me this appointment. He sees me as a hardworking lady to encourage other ladies out there. He does this by appointing me into this office, so I should be able to tell the person the truth. But I want to believe that with our prayers here, for everybody who comes to identify with us, that person will always bring up the right person.
Choosing a leader is by the Holy Spirit and that is the truth. As my benefactor, you could think that person but because the Holy Spirit is with us and wants to tell us, will make you drop this person and pick this person. That is why we always pray to God to help us choose a leader as we do not know who the right person is. So, he will always guide whoever that will take over, to be the right person not only for us but for all Akwa Ibomites.
Therefore, we are not bothered about that. Nobody will come and impose a leader on us because we are not political groups, we are an Association. If you come to consult us, our door is open, you present us with your manifesto, we pray about it and hand it over to God because it is God who chooses leaders not us. Whoever God gives the mantle, we will support.
Can you please offer more insights into the training you’re doing for the girls
and why you decided to set up a training academy after the election?
Before I talk about the training academy, I’ll love to talk about Iniubong, the girl that just lost her
life. May her soul rest in peace! It’s so unfortunate that she had to go. I felt so bad that that girl had to go, I wished I had met he. I’m trying to see how I can stop things like that from happening or reoccurrence of things like that. Each time I hear of things like that or hear them, it motivates me to do more of what I am doing. Most of my girls would have been outside looking for jobs but because of what I have created for the here and they believe in me and they’re here.
So, I have saved a lot of lives. Also, I’m doing this because I have realized that this white collar jobs we can’t find them anymore and then if you find one, you must have a godfather. If you must have one then you must have long legs out there. Those young girls who do not have anybody and their parents do not know anyone, they cannot help themselves.
All they could was, if their mother is a trader or farmer, is trade or fry akara and send her to school and then at the end of the suffering, she believes this girl should have a job, come back and serve us. You see that most of these young girls are beginning to get fed up. Some of they are beginning go through depression or commit suicide here and there.
When a young girl begins to tow this path and then you ask her and she says she’s frustrated and needs a job. This motivates and pushes me to do more. I have a lot girls that are graduates or have gone for NYSC and came back to tell me they want to continue.
Some will have a position and guide it jealously when they’re leaving, by bringing someone to
stand in for one year. As they’re leaving their mind is here and that gives them hope. There’s no reason that girl would contemplate suicide because she knows when she comes back, she return to the academy and get trained as a fashion designer, hair dresser or other skills in the school.
I’m training because this is the only way out and also the governor has charged to do so. I’m equally diversifying into agriculture, and the criteria to be enrolled in the academy does not require one coming from a rich home or be highly connected anywhere. The only access is a full knowledge that one is a female youth and a member of this family (purple girls, because this help is limited only registered members of my association.
I have 50 girls per ward and you multiply that number by 329 wards then in the state, you will realize that I had 16,450 girls then. Now new 40 wards were created recently by AKISIEC, now 369 plus 50 makes it how many? We have 18,450, and that’s the number I had before and I’m increasing the number by 10 by telling all my girls to bring on person. Now we have a lot of from people who want to join the association. So one female youth is entitled to bring one person. Now 16,450 multiplied by 2 will give you 36,900…I want shut down this place, I won’t bring new intake again from August so we can concentrate on the 36,900. Now why I mentioned this number is because, this is the number I have as my voting strength as
Now if I can train this number I mentioned here, I have gone a long way. Even if I can’t train this
number at once, the thought of letting them know there’s a place for them, there’s hope because I do batch for batch and I’m believing God for partners because we need to acquire a land. The facility we’re currently occupying is so small and can’t accommodate all of us.
Now, I have about 50 girls who want to come for fashion and designing . How about other departments? After this batch, the next set will be like 100 per department, so at this point I need a bigger and comfortable facility that can start this girls in large number and we’re doing this trainings for free.
Both the form for enrolment into the group is free and that’s my own sacrifice. I am a daughter of Akwa Ibom and I know how tired our mothers are filling and paying for forms to join one or two organizations in the state. So I had to step in and close that gap of taxing them to make the enrolment process free and for that form, if humans can be happy for me then God is smiling down at me. He will bless and protect it because the poorest of the poor finds their way into this place.
For the purpose of record, can you highlight some of the departments in the female youth academy?
We have the fashion and designing, hair-making (wigging, treatment, maintenance), ICT,
Videography/photography, catering, cosmetology, make-over, business class/entrepreneurship training, the brass band (purple brass) and ushering. The business class, we teach our girls how to start a small business, identifying the environment and right business idea to work with.
You know we have like some 18years old girls who are already mothers who feel written off and cannot go back to school. So for girls like this, I use the business class to encourage them to come. We have had case of a young girl who came in as a business student. After a year, she came back and told me she wanted to go back to school and I clapped for myself. When I enquired why she wanted to return to school, I discovered that the challenges of writing even while doing business was necessary.
Apart from the business class, I have been able to enroll some of our girls for evening school and this cost nothing. So I just pray the Lord will lay it in the hearts of rich politicians and highly placed Akwa Ibomites to help this girls. These girls are ready and it’s so unfortunate that if a girl like Iniubong was given a job, she wouldn’t have died.
We also have the purple brass which serves as an entertainment platform for members who are getting weekly. We’ve has several calls from other brass band people who feel threatened that we’re going to take over their space.
I had to assure them that the population of female youth who are either getting married or celebrating one event or the other weekly wasn’t even enough for us to cover…we have enough because if four female youth are getting married in a month, it means there’s no week we would have event to cover, so why would we struggle with others.
Also, we have AREA FEMALE YOUTH MANAGERS, who are trained on how to use lawn mowers to cut grass. The former commissioner for Works then, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen encouraged
us by giving us ASAN IBIBIO to cut and I can tell you the proceed from there went a long way to
secure JAMB forms for the girls in that area. And they save too from there to pay their school fees.
We equally have FEMALE YOUTH BARBERS who are trained on how to cut hair. We have USHERS and HOUSEKEEPERS too who are trained on how to clean people’s houses.
For now these are the divine ideas the Holy Spirit has given me but we would have done more if we have enough space and facility. But we’re not limited by the space, we run shift to ensure everyone is accommodated.
Also, we have a free hostel for these girls at 23 Johnson street, Uyo and the criteria to stay there is, you have to come from a LGA far from the state capital like Eastern obolo or Ikot Abasi. The hostel is a three bedroom flat given to them to manage but before any girl is allowed to live in our hostel, she has to bring her parents who would sign our guarantor’s form before the girl is taken. There are stern rules and regulations there and we have an hostel captain who reports to me what happens there. We have a time frame for all the students to retire to bed. We have a booklet where students sign out and sign in. So it is a school that’s why it is called FEMALE YOUTH ACADEMY.
Judging from your speech, you’ve reeled out a lot of programmes you are doing for the girls and also open up on the limitations of expansion. Having this in mind, if you had options of being given bigger spaces, what other ideas would you infuse into the academy?
Amazing! If I have a bigger space, what I will do would beat the imagination of human beings.
What the Holy Spirit has deposited inside of me, no man has it. The FEMALE YOUTH ACADEMY is registered under the FEMALE YOUTH ASSOCIATION and we’re working out modalities to ensure it comes a full institution where the female youth will become teachers. In no time, the young girls will grow to become 18years and be fully absolved into the association which will serve as an umbrella where girls come in and find shelter.
What is your advice for highly placed Akwa Ibomites and politicians who hardly support the girls unlike the male counterpart who receive monthly stipend from government and politicians?
Well, first of all it is the mindset like I said. No man gives to a man if God does not lay in your heart to give. So my advice to the men of Akwa Ibom state will be, they should allow the Holy Spirit use them. It’s very pathetic that when people walk into rich men’s office, only they think about is that the person wants to beg them for money. Can’t you hear the person out?
You go to a function and see armed policemen that are following and scaring people away from this rich men. A young guy who wants to tell you one idea that he has can’t have access to you because of the inaccessibility created. That’s not the case for me! I give out my contact and my doors are always open.
I believe a lot can change if these men begin to allow people have access to them. The most nauseating part of this situation is the ones elected, they should understand that someone voted for them and also it’s high time the masses are given the opportunity to elect their leaders because if I choose someone, there’s a reason why I want to choose that person and from day 1 that person knows that I choose him/her and owes me a lot but the time we believe that the vote has no meaning, it then means that these men will think their money got them there. They were asked to pay millions of naira and they got tickets, so they owe no one and can tell you to your face.
I bought a form and wanted to contest for election and something happened. For the first time in Akwa Ibom state forms were sold to women. I know forms are always given free to women but that form was sold for one million naira and I gathered money and bought the form. Not just for myself but for this girls that I have touched. If I can do this as a nobody, then if I have a position, I will help millions of them.
The day I bought my Chairmanship form to contest, it was like these girls saw God. Every local government was like I was contesting for presidency. Something told me I have been able to work on their mindset. How will a girl in Eastern Obolo be rejoicing for me that
a bought a chairmanship form in Nsit Ibom, she’s not from Nsit Ibom but something told her that her president is getting into a place of position and I bought form for one million naira. The day I got that form, my leaders of my group followed me to party office to see for themselves. This is our success, we’ve made it!
At least I should have been allowed to go to the field and failed but what did I get? I was screened perfectly, my name was published, cleared and pasted and I was ready. I started consulting and campaigning with the little resources I would have used to touch the lives of my girls. Two days to the election, the same party who cleared me brought out another list and my name was no more there.
Now I am telling you because I feel angry at the party because they say the party is supreme
and I respect the party a lot but I’m telling you that that act was a message sent to the hearts of 36,900 people. Now you may understand that you were called and explained what went wrong
which the party has not done till today. For a mature mind, I have served the speaker as an aide, an appointee as a supervisory councilor and now as an appointee of the governor, so I’m mature in mind but what happens to this young girls who I met once in 2019 and told that ‘’this your voting strength is what we need to take whoever we want to rule this state’’.
Now it was their turn to use it for me, they could not! What do I tell them?
They said I was no more cleared and they came up with a panel where candidates who had same experience like mine went to clarify when their names were dropped. When I went to the panel to ask why my name was dropped, all I heard from the panel was, ‘’please Edna don’t leave the party’’. Nobody was able to tell me I was dropped or this is why I was screened out. So does it mean, the first time the party didn’t screen me well? Did you find out anything? What happened?
I was supposed to come back and address my supporters so that next time it doesn’t affect my political career but I wasn’t allowed to go to the field. I should have been allowed to go to the field to face the electorates because I was actually contesting against the incumbent. And if you’re an incumbent who has done well, you should be bold to face the electorates.
My final word will be, people vying for elective offices should be allowed to face the electorates because this is the only way our votes can make meaning. At that point, they will recognize the voters and for every boy who used to be a thug for you during election and after election, he comes to knock on your door
or car and then he is sent away…’’you’ve ended up using this boy and then you see him resort to
armed robbery, touting and others’’ because most of them cannot find what to do but if you look at the campaign videos, you will see these boys walking very close to these politicians and I’m asking, is it that these people don’t watch the videos again or do they throw this videos away?
These are men and women with dead conscience. I’m equally sending this message to the supporters too, video the people you’re walking/working with. When they get into office, send the videos to them at least we all have conscience. Most times, Facebook reminds me of my work like when I organized the solidarity movement to the governor before election, I pulled like 10,000 to the governor with all of me appearing with their PVCs. When the governor saw his votes right there, he gave us a bus because I told him, ‘’I am supporting you.’’
Like I tell this girls, go to your various LGAs, wards and units; no amount of money should be given to you to make you change your mind. ‘’this is who I’m asking you to vote and that was final and you can’t buy them anywhere.’’ Once I finish with them, I tell them why we need to work with this person and no amount of money can buy them. So, let the elected officers help those who elected them into that office and to the electorates, if you voted for someone once and that person doesn’t come back for you, please don’t vote that person again.
You saw what happened during the #ENDSARSPROTEST, they had to use the youth against the youth. If not for that formula, we would have gotten it. I know we were counting the days for United Nations to come and they knew what that 30 days meant and that we were going to get it.
So, if we can tell ourselves the truth that nobody will use us again. Now someone who used you
eight years ago will not meet you where he left you. You must have gotten something doing or
become a parent. That guy will no longer be the guy he met eight years ago, so why won’t you
help him after he has put his youthful strength to follow you, steps on toes, get bullets for you?
This is why this association is neutral and open to everyone. So, I’m still looking out to see how
many of these big men will come here and inquire how they can help these girls. So these girls deserve more. For me to take them to function and have them stand there without water, food, or seat and all they do is cheer someone and now the person is given an office; nothing is enough for them. I will continue to do more and I have told my girls that anybody who doesn’t help them, when they come back, they shouldn’t vote for such person.
Because of the orientation we have given to our girls, today we have six councilors who are
members of this association.