Margaret Ekpo; first Nigerian woman to be elected a Member of Parliament in 1961. She contested on the platform of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, and won a seat to the Eastern House of Assembly. As a member of the House, Ekpo was elected as part of the delegation to the constitutional conference held in Lancaster House in London in 1958; the conference which ushered Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Ekpo started her political career in 1944 when she joined the NCNC. A foremost nationalist, she was part of the processes for Nigeria’s independence, especially the various constitutional conferences where she was the only woman delegate in London between 1953 and 1958. She founded a dress-making and sewing institute in 1948 in Lagos [i]. However, the civil war caught her up in the eastern part of the country in 1967 and she was detained for almost the period of the war. Ekpo, who had a good place in the Nigerian history, later retired to her Calabar home. Margaret Ekpo died 2006, aged 92[ii].
Place of Growth
Ekpo was born July 27,1914 in Creek Town Calabar present capital of Cross River State to Okoroafor Obiasulor, a native of Agulu-Uzo Igbo, near Awka, capital of Anambra state, and Iriyang Byo Aniemewue from the royal family of king Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town in Calabar. She earned her standard six-school certificate in 1931. When Margaret lost her father at the age of 20 her teaching career plans was temporarily put on hold.
Ekpo attended Esin Ufot Mission School and the Girls’ Institute, in Calabar where she later taught as a Grade III teacher. Shortly after wedding she went to Dublin, Ireland, to study Home Economics.
Ekpo worked as a tutor in elementary schools until she got married in 1938 to a Lagos Yaba Higher School trained physician, John Udo Ekpo, with whom she raised two sons, Edward and Winston who gave her 12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
Ekpo visited the United Kingdom in 1948 when her husband fell ill and was taken there for medical attention. She seized the opportunity to advance her education by obtaining a diploma in Domestic Economics at the Rat famine school of Domestic Economics in Dublin Ireland. When the couple returned to Nigeria Ekpo established a Domestic Science in dressmaking and home economics.
In 1954 Ekpo met in Abeokuta with Funmilayo Ransome Kuti who had challenged the Alake of Egba on issues of taxation of Egba women. Together the two women toured the entire eastern region sensitizing the women to be politically conscious. Impressed by the size of her audience, Sir Louis Ojukwu nominated her as a special member of the House, a gesture which opened the door for women from other backgrounds.
Ekpo was motivated in 1945 into activism by Funmilayo Ransorne-Kuti, a frontline female politician, and she in her words, learnt from Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano and Sam Ikoku[iii].
[i] Westerner August 31, 2009
[ii] Insider October 9, 2006
[iii] Tell January 5, 1998