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EUNICE THOMAS
By Otobong Sampson

We began the scheduled interview almost an hour after I arrived. A young man led me up the stairway and I met her in one of the interior lobbies. She had the company of a big-sized friend. She smiled warmly to welcome me. Her friend didn’t, she only fixed a gaze at me. I could tell the former commissioner had intimated her about my mission. People, in twos and threes were trooping in and out.

This could be interpretative of one conjecture; Eunice may be out of public office but she isn’t out of public service, and she hasn’t disconnected from the people. We began with informal discussions and chatted like old buddies. The session was halted briefly by the arrival of someone I would define as a budding, yet popular politician and prominent leader. The informal session became enlarged to accommodate him. The guy was good company; he intermittently swam in self-adulation but had the friendly rebukes of his host to contend with.
As I later spoke exclusively with her, my opinion of her went up by a hundred more degrees. Highly cerebral, it is hard not to be seduced by her brilliance on issues. A former Commissioner for Education and Women Affairs respectively, she was a top performer in both capacities whose initiatives recorded high-yielding gains notably in the areas of youth transformation and women empowerment. In the devouring game of politics where she has made obvious strides, Eunice lives in the mould of top women leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj, both have proved their mettle in Indian politics. Dexterous in multi-tasking, she is one of the very few Akwa Ibom female politicians who add both intelligence and glamour quotient to politics. Yet, her political assertiveness and astuteness fixes her within the sphere of global leader-figures like Benazir Bhutto.

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Famed for her charismatic authority and mobilizing skill, Eunice drove several steps for better living standards for Akwa Ibom women through agro-based initiatives erected on the concept of Ujamaa – an African socialist system. Instructively, it was she, probably more than anyone else who fragranced the Akpabio brand and made it so appealing among Akwa Ibom women, especially the rural ones during the former governor’s first term. As she would later reveal, “in 2007, I supported Nsima Ekere but once I joined Akpabio’s government, I knew I had a duty to make it succeed”.

Away from public office, the former Akwa Ibom Youth Caucus member remains a ghost-influencer, yet largely ubiquitous. She leads a decent army of impressive followership. Her street cred makes her thick, perhaps. She slots in among each social and gender category of her followers with seamless ease, thereby making her a darling of all. Largely through her efforts, Akwa Ibom women in the interior became active participants in political issues than ever before as a result of political reawakening, sustained awareness and gradual but purposeful political integration.

Without doubt, Eunice has successfully stepped beyond the discriminatory confines of women participation in politics in a chauvinistic society like ours, pulling down the barriers of limited support and resources to emerge a rising Amazon and one of the finest few in the politics of Akwa Ibom today. Proofs of her charm and growing public affection are evidenced in the way all swirl around her like lodestone to iron.

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