• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Meghan Markle’s visit to Nigeria: Woman educationist from Rivers gives insight


…Advises govts to boost youth energy with opportunities

Ekama Emilia Akpan, an education investor and entrepreneur, who is the only woman from Port Harcourt with 13 other notable women to meet with Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has called for policies to reduce exodus of Nigeria’s youths.

She has also has opened up on the significance of the meeting and what governments especially in the south-south must do to the girlchild.

Read also: Harry and Meghan Markle arrive Nigeria today in support of wounded soldiers

Speaking with BusinessDay in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, south-south Nigeria, Akpan, founder and CEO of Showers Group, urged governments in the region to wake up and explore the huge resources in the youth populace and in women.

She said like Meghan, many Nigerians flooding western worlds may face challenges that would remind them that home is best. She blamed governments for not creating opportunities for Nigeria’s young people to find opportunities, safety, and fulfilment at home.

She said Meghan left many hints on what can be done to help the young people, but said any society that still treated women like the leg instead of huge chest of resources would miss the point.

Akpan, the onetime chairperson of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (Rivers/Bayelsa), insisted that governments must craft youth policies that would help them to find their bearing in life. “That is the only way we can build this country like the likes of Margaret Ekpo and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. “The men think women want to take their place. God gave man a helpmate. That is what we need to build a greater Nigeria.”

She insisted that government policy must change so that the woman does not continue to think she is the leg instead of someone with capabilities.

Recalling glimpses from the meeting which focused on challenges women face in developing countries to succeed in business, she recalled that those selected were from manufacturing, the creatives, and other entrepreneurs. She mentioned famous names that participated in the meeting to play host to the royal guests in Abuja on May 11, 2024.

She said the focus of discussions was the girlchild and the Nigerian woman. She said the girl child is now going to be very import, and that if they are enhanced and empowered, they would put in their bits.

She stated that the meeting revealed the fact that any effort to change the next generation must include women. “Government action must change to enable the 40 – 49% that the government needs to build up the economy. The gross domestic product (GDP) from the creative industry grew from a little above one per cent to over 4.2%. So, every parent is counting on this now.”

Akpan, who was board member of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), reminded Nigerians that Meghan too is an actress and came with her husband to talk about all this. She said one of the Chibok kidnap survivors that participated was so proud to say that some of them eventually were packaged to study in Sanford and Harvard. “So, policy on women must change because environment makes women look like they are the leg and not equal on the table, and people not worthy to be invested on. This is a wrong notion. God created women with abilities, too. It’s for each gender to work on their own opportunities and make use of what they have.”

One of the things she said they agreed was to try and mentor younger women because they are going to take over. “Let them see their own self-worth. The family is important. The first mentor is from the home. If the attitude of the father toward the girl-child is not positive, or the mother is not learned enough to realise the importance of teaching the girlchild, that child is already doomed.

“Government policy must also change. They should give space for things to happen. They should make it compulsory that every unit of government must support women, not because they are women, but there is what they call indirect discrimination. Women should be supported by all units in government because they have unique things to offer.”

She said most young women now look up to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and she the one that packaged the Meghan visit despite her crushing schedule in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). “That is a woman. If not her access, Meghan would not come.”

She added that the visit by the royal family attracted huge publicity and that it made the lady feel very much at home, going by her smiles, genuine smiles. “The clothing was made by a Nigerian. So, the creative industry is making waves. Young people are also making Nigeria a force. The ratio of young people is high in Nigeria. Many other countries have more of old people. There is a second wave of emasculation. The youths are being lured to Europe to work. We must find way to keep our young people to develop the country.

“Why are we making anti-young people policies? Education is a key issue. Without education, a woman may not understand her role and rights. If a man does not have, the woman can support from what is in her hands.”

She said some women making waves did not go to the university but that their talents are making them lead.

She expressed worry over exodus abroad and said: “Let Nigeria look inward and stop looking outside for people to help us. Nigeria has the capacity to help itself. We are still well preserved and regarded. Most of the topmost billionaires in the world look to Nigeria.

“Meghan was named Ifeoma that day. Most of the top blacks are coming back home to Africa. There can never be anywhere they will welcome you and appreciate you than home. As long as you have black skin, you will never be fully accepted. So, our people must remember that and think more of home.”

As the one from Port Harcourt at the rare meeting, Akpan said she would increase her youth advocacy drive. “I will go on telling the youths and young people to open their eyes to possibilities so that they will realise that if God is with you, there would be no need to run far. Even God told Isaac not to go to Egypt but to stay back and make it and he made it even in the era of famine.”