Margaret Ekpo: Nigeria’s Modern Day Yaa Asentewaa

Margaret Ekpo

Describing Margaret Ekpo as Nigeria’s Yaw Asentewaa can be deemed as misleading to a certain extent – partly due to differences in fact about their lives and their political roles but not the substance of those facts.

They were both against colonialism and the oppression of people of Nigeria.

In Nigeria’s fight for independence from the British, Margaret would not allow the voices of Nigerian women to be silenced. This year will be 60 years since Nigeria won its independence.

Just as Yaa Asentewaa urged and mobilized men for war against oppression, Margaret had an army of women who were ready to follow her.

She was a women’s rights activist and social mobilizer who was a pioneering female politician in the country’s First Republic.

She played major roles as a grassroots and nationalist politician in the Eastern Nigerian city of Aba, in the era of a hierarchical and male-dominated movement towards independence, with her rise not the least helped by the socialization of women’s role into that of helpmates or appendages to the careers of males.

It all started when her husband, Dr John Ekpo could not attend anti colonial meetings because he was a civil servant.

Margaret volunteered to attend those meetings on his behalf where they discussed the discriminatory practices of the colonial administration in the city and to fight cultural and racial imbalance in administrative promotions.

She later attended a political rally and was the only woman at the rally, realizing that women were being sidelined she started mobilizing them.

She organized the Market Women Association in Aba to unionize market women in the city. She used the association to promote women solidarity as a platform to fight for the economic rights of women, economic protections and expansionary political rights of women.

In 1954 she established the Aba Township Women’s Association. As leader of the new market group, she was able to garner the trust of a large number of women in the township and turn it into a political pressure group.

Margaret Ekpo

By 1955, women in Aba had outnumbered men voters in a citywide election.

Margaret Ekpo won a seat to the Eastern Regional House of Assembly in 1961, a position that allowed her to fight for issues affecting women at the time.

Ekpo’s political career ended with the commencement of the Nigerian civil war. At that time, she was detained by Biafran authorities for three years in prison with adequate feeding.

After a military coup ended the First Republic, she took a less prominent approach to politics.

In 2001, Calabar Airport was renamed Margaret Ekpo International Airport.

She passed away 5 years later in 2006 at the age of 92.

Source: Africa World Press||

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