The Iron Lady – Someone else was once known by that nickname. The first female leader of a major British political party and then the British Prime Minister, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Like her, our own Iron Lady is known for her uncompromising politics and leadership style.
A public speaker, writer, politician, feminist and founder of the Mary Remarkable foundation, a Non-governmental Organization geared towards nation building and adding value to humanity, Miss Remarkable Mary Akpan carries herself with regal authority and sense of self-worth that belies her age.
Her philosophies, albeit a bit controversial, are ones that if shared by even a fraction of the population, would push the nation towards the point where all patriots wish it already was.
A final year student of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Uyo, Miss Remarkable actually started out as a saxophonist. (Funny right, I couldn’t believe it myself.) This was at about when she was thirteen. By age fifteen, she had discovered in herself a very rare gift. The ability to inspire. This, added to her intense desire to help the needy and a great disdain for injustice, pushed her slowly but surely towards the path she’s on now.
“I wanted to be a lawyer when I was younger,” our Iron lady confessed. (I don’t think that should surprise anyone really. Margaret Thatcher was a lawyer. Crazy right?)
This wasn’t just born out of a desire to correct injustice though. She had gotten fascinated with the uniform of the legal profession. The black skirts and white shirts. It held a special place in her heart. Unfortunately, however, that childhood dream never came to pass. She was not accepted into Law school when she tried.
“I just hate to see people suffer. I just hate to see people treated in a way that ought not to be so…” She’s quoted as saying in an interview in 2018.
“I’m fulfilling that dream (of less suffering and more justice). Not as a lawyer, as a humanist. As a philanthropist.”
After her effort to get into Law school had failed, she didn’t try much harder for it. Another path now called to her. One of public service. It’s the path she’s now on.
Before all of these began to happen, she was already establishing herself as a public speaker. One worth her weight in gold. She got her first big break during a birthday celebration for the Head Pastor of her church, Salvation Ministries. Pastor David Ibiyeome. (She doesn’t say when.) Getting a chance to get up on that big stage in a massive auditorium and deliver her piece shot her farther up than she’d expected to be at that stage.
As she went on, however, she began to realize something about life.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” She repeats these words to herself and to everyone who cares to listen. They’re words she lives by.
Mary Remarkable Foundation was established and registered in 2015. It currently supplies rural areas with educational supplies and has twenty pupils (and counting) on full scholarships. The foundation also recently held a medical outreach which was able to care for 204 people. Sensitization programmes are also being held for young girls against teenage pregnancy.
The Foundation’s biggest project, however (as at the time of writing) is the building of two classroom blocks in Eastern Obolo L.G.A of Akwa Ibom state for internally displaced school children. These are massive projects for one so young, but she hasn’t been fazed in the least.
“My first challenge was not knowing how to. When I knew how to, the challenge I began to face was lack of funds. But then, I’m not desperate for anything. If I can do something, I’ll do it. If I cannot do it, I’ll stay back.”
And do something she has.
“One of the things I hope to do is make sure our educational system is of standard. Nigeria is where we are because of our educational system…
“If you look at developed countries today, it’s not that they have the resources more than we do. If you look at their educational system, the platform that educates their mind, that prepares them for the future, it is well equipped. So one of the things I hope to do through my NGO is to create more educational opportunities for young people.”
Miss Remarkable has gotten to speak at youth seminars all across Africa. In July 2018, she was invited by the United Nations to represent Nigeria at the International Human Rights Summit in New York. An opportunity she had worked hard to get. Failure to get a visa, however, stopped her from fulfilling a long time dream. After some time of sulking, she is now looking forward and has applied for the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
A proud self-proclaimed feminist who believes feminism is “a struggle for equal opportunities between the male and the female, politically, economically, socially and legally.” She believes that the view of feminism shared by the majority of the populace is warped and wrong.
“Feminism should be a fight for all humans. Not just women.”
She also believes that feminism should in no way affect submission in marriage as this is a God instituted institution.
Miss Mary loves animations. Listening to her talk about Coco and Moana, for instance, reminds you that in more ways than one, she still retains her childlike spirit. She is also very private and prefers to spend her “alone time” alone.
She preaches sexual purity and, according to her, she has never dated. That would seem surprising to most (I can’t lie, it does to me) but at twenty two, she believes she is still in the process of finding herself. She believes relationships are for when that process is complete for both parties involved. According to her, relationships are not for fun. They are for people who are getting ready to build a life together. This, along with abstinence is what she teaches to young people. Most in the 21st century may not agree with her, but this writer does. Completely.
Our Iron Lady has risen through adversity, in a Third World country filled with injustice, ineffective administration, and unequal opportunities. She has stood head and shoulders above her peers. Will her star keep shining even brighter?
Maybe one day our Iron Lady will reach heights unimaginable. Heights that the great Margaret Thatcher only dreamed of. The whole world watches and waits.