Dr. Chief (Mrs.) Atim Eneida George served as the Public Affairs Officer at the United States Embassy in Nigeria. Today she has seen Nigeria as her second home having visited several states. Recently she visited Makoko, a Lagos local community in commemoration of the Black History Month and Women History Month during which visit she sensitised people especially women from the grassroots on their right to participate in the electoral process. The event facilitated by The Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a non-governmental organisation with a bias for education of the girl child and enlightenment for people in the rural communities, was attended by community leaders, women groups, youths, teachers and pupils in the area. George, who holds a chieftaincy; Yeye Araba of Ile Ife Nigeria, entertained questions from journalists and boasted of traveling within Nigeria more than most nationals. DAYO EMMANUEL was there and here reports. Excerpts:
What is your take from this meeting today?
People expressed their frustration about the process for selecting people for offices and even the baale expressed his frustration for supporting a candidate he hasn’t seen since he took office. So people want more expressive government. I am not saying it’s going to be easy but I will say Nigerians would make calls to people of good will where you are to give the best leadership to the community to raise exemplary leaders who seek to serve the community.
Nigeria is just going to be 60 and she is a relatively young democracy, don’t you think the nation has made tremendous attempt at good governance when we compare with the United States which is well over 200 years old?
Nigeria has made some progress but it is for Nigerians to make the assessment how well the country is doing and what changes the country wants to make. Clearly this is Africa’s giant; this is a power house not only on this continent but also in international affairs. So Nigeria has incredible untapped potentials but the question is do you have exemplary leadership to formerly establish this country in the 21st century as a leader? We know you have the talent, we know you have the brain, we know you have the energy but do you have the political will to shape up your system to get government to respond to the need of the people?
A lot of people have negative impression about the country. Are there similarities about the African American culture and the Nigerian culture you saw while you were here as you were really able to connect so much so you got a chieftaincy title here? What is your take about Nigeria?
I think I am unique in that my first visit to Nigeria was before all of you were born. I came here for the first time in 1979 as Iyawo Atata. I returned in 1982 as mama Dotun. I came back in 1990 as a diplomat and at the end of 2002 to 2009 I lived among you; first in Lagos and later Abuja. I can say I have traveled more in this country than most Nigerians; from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt to Umuahia to Kano to Kaduna, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Gombe, Gusau, Yola, FCT. I have lived among you and I keep coming back. In fact I am a little vexed with myself, I said is there no other country in the world beside Nigeria? I love this country, I love the people, I love the generosity of the culture and obviously I’m optimistic I will keep coming back. God bless Nigeria and the people who live within her.
Looking at you, you actually look like an Igbo woman. People are tracing their history these days, have you ever traced yours?
I did a DNA test with the African DNA and I was not convinced about the result because they have the nerve to tell me they couldn’t find any African DNA in my system and I know that is not correct. They found Native American and not African but I think that is the mother side. I’ll ask my senior brother to do the test and capture the father’s side; there is clearly African content here.
What is the unique meeting point of the Black History Month and the Woman History Month? What is the importance in celebrating it?
There are different marginalised groups and this year we have a convergence along voting rights. Both Black History Month and Women History Month focus on voting right. It is to recognise and to embrace those who are excluded and I think that is good.
Today you came talking about the Black History Month and Black Women History to Makoko people, what is the take home point?
My take away message is that government is more sensitive to be left to the government alone; citizens must get involve and stay involved anywhere on the continent.