By Assam Abia.
The trouble started when Mrs Philomena Etim, one of the 220 widows shed tears. She drenched her white kerchief with tears but didn’t want others to notice her. The celebrant, Senator Akon Eyakenyi caught her in the act. She drew closer to her and tenderly lifted her bowed head with exploring inquisitive eyes.
“My dear sister, what’s the matter, I called you people here to come celebrate with me on this special occasion of my 60th birthday, why the tears”.
As if the cloudy zone of her heart was waiting for such close contact and question, mma Etim busted into uncontrollable tears. Very infectious was her tears to the extent that other women got infected with the emotional moment. She was taken aside and pampered with soothing words, to calm down. Having reverted her reminisced mood to capture the mood of celebration, she opened up and told her story.
Mrs Philomena Etim was married to one Etim Asuquo from Mbo local government area. Her husband died of a treatable illness, five years ago. He died because there was no money to buy the needed “out of pocket treatment”. In Nigeria, money is life. You must deposit some money in the hospital before any treatment is commenced. She had gone out searching for who to borrow money to save her husband’s life who was in a state of coma at Iquita hospital Oron but on her return, the man who was left unattended to at the emergency Ward of the hospital had died. The man died, leaving behind four children and his young wife. This is a country that is supposed to run a medical insurance trust fund for indigent people. A country so blessed with vast human and natural resources but whose stupendous wealth has been stolen and stored away in foreign lands. A country mired in corruption. Our hospitals are mere consulting clinics. Our very rich and government functionaries fly out of the country for the treatment of mere malaria. Our very best doctors are in Europe, America and Asia building the economy of those countries through the health sector with their expertise. Mr Asuquo had died unattended to in the evening of that fateful August because his country made him poor. He was not a lazy Nigerian but the hazy economic climate of his father land made him a dreg of the society.
It has been pain and sorrow since that painful day in August 2015 for mma Philomena. The hapless widow had been left alone to fend for herself and the children. Thank God for the free and compulsory education policy of Akwa Ibom State government. The children are in school but suffering. The free education is not totally free. Something is missing. The missing thing is the reason why rich parents send their wards to private schools both within and outside the country.
Like most widows in the country, Philomena suffered without any assistance from any quarters. The people she met for help demanded her body in return. Being a virtuous woman and principled by her religion, she looked into God for help. The help finally came.
On the 3rd of May 2019, few months after the general elections, fate brought her face to face with Senator Akon Eyakenyi. From that day, the burden of the window became someone’s burden. The distinguished Senator extended her kindness and magnanimity to soothing the four year pain of the family. God took notice of the Senator’s act and recorded it for her.
So when on Monday February 24, 2020, the Senator representing the good people of Akwa Ibom South (Eket Senatorial District) Mrs Akon Eyakenyi celebrated her 60th birthday with some widows in the State, Philomena was among the 220 women that graced the occasion. She was also a beneficiary of the empowerment packages that came with the birthday batch. It was a batch because sixty years is not sixty days, especially in this wicked world of uncertainties.
Why did mma Philo cry ?. She knew no other way to express her gratitude to God and Senator Akon. You may give it a name. Call it tears of joy. Call it symbolic veneration. Call it magnified gratitude, you are not far from the language of the woman’s heart. She was praying for Akon.
At the end of the day, after the usual clicking of glasses and clatter of plates, cake shared and eaten, the women prayed for Akon. They opened their hearts unto the Lord and asked for blessings upon their benefactor. A Senator who shares in the pains of her kind. A Senator whose knack to touch lives positively is legendary. A selfless woman gunning to repair the broken structures of the past five years in Eket Senatorial District. A patriot who aims at repositioning the political and economic story of her constituents. Her name is, distinguished Senator Akon Eyakenyi.
Happy birthday madam. The Pen Oracle wishes you more wisdom and vim to prove to the world that Nigeria is in dire need of a woman President.