Former Public Affairs Officer of the United States Embassy in Nigeria, Dr. (Mrs.) Atim Eneida George has sensitised dwellers of Makoko community in Lagos State on their rights to vote and participate in the electoral process, emphasising the importance of education for the youths especially the girl child.
George who also holds a chieftaincy title in Nigeria made her first visit to the country in 1979, also talked about women empowerment during her recent visit in part of her activities to commemorate the Black History Month and Women’s History Month.
The visit of the former envoy was facilitated by the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a non-governmental organisation working with people in marginalised communities with a base in Makoko.
Encouraging the audience, George said Nigerians especially women who have influence on the communities should participate in the electoral process. She however stressed that it may not be easy initially but with time things would take better shape.
Recalling the pre-civil rights era in the United States when African Americans were marginalised from participating in the country’s electoral process, she said the situation has changed tremendously and still changing through several agitations.
Meanwhile with huge voting population of the African Americans in the United States however, there are still challenges due to low literacy level, she advised young people to equip themselves with adequate education.
“Democracy, governance and education are interwoven. To the young ones, your education is your key to anywhere you want to go,” she said.
“Regardless of your situation now, focus on your studies, regardless of the barriers, do not be discouraged, you can change the world and you can raise a wonderful institution like CEE-HOPE and make impact in the lives of several others,” she encouraged.
Encouraging the girls as well, she said educating the girl child means a lot because it is tantamount to educating a whole nation. “Education is essential because if you educate a boy, you educate an individual, when you educate a woman you educate a nation,” she affirmed, adding that, “Governance is too important to be left in the hands of a selected few, all and sundry should play effective roles in governance either by voting or by being voted for.”
In his remark, a member of the Board of Trustees of CEE-HOPE Nigeria and former Editor at The Nation newspaper, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin appreciated George for taking time to visit a lowly community in Nigeria.
According to the Executive Director of the Media Career Development Network, Otufodunrin, the meeting is one with the hope of empowering participants.
Enjoining the people to participate in happenings in their immediate community, he said, “When you think participating in community activities doesn’t matter, it is not true because your participation would count later. We have seen people who were back stage people but in the end they are in the fore front.
*Dr. Atim Eneida George with Makoko community chiefs, journalists and CEE-HOPE staffers at the event
“Some of those we call godfathers today were not godfathers in the beginning but because they got involved. So the connection is that your right is very important, your voting right is very important and your demanding for good governance is very important as well,” he said.
Talking about the guest’s visit, Otufodunrin said, “She is able to paint the picture of the struggle even in America where people think there are no challenges.
“She was able to tell us the challenges people still go through, if we can see that even in an America that we adore as a perfect society, she is painting the picture of what the people are going through, then it means whatever challenges we are facing are insignificance. She has also encouraged us to strive to get to the Eldorado that we are looking forward to.
“She said we would look back someday to celebrate those people who fought. The people who are fighting now may not be the beneficiaries but the young ones. If the children are empowered, they would be able to take the people out of the poverty they are struggling with,” he said.
Also at the event, founder of Makoko Dream School, Emmanuel Agunze who is also a Nelson Mandela Washington Fellow said one thing discouraging people at the grassroots from participating in the electoral process is the rigorous process involved in participation.
According to Agunze, obtaining the voters’ card is a major discouragement without which people cannot exercise their franchise.
Local chiefs, women leaders, school teachers and other stakeholders in the community at the event took turns to express themselves.
Chief Albert Ayide (aka Baale Jeje), appreciated CEE-HOPE for staging the event and commended the organisation headed by Betty Abah for always educating the community.
He however asked for more enlightenment programs necessary in emancipating the people of Makoko from ignorance and poverty.