A U.K-based Nigerian women group, Arewa Women’s League United Kingdom (AWLUK) last week condemned the killings in the recent Owo attack, which it described as cowardly and gruesome. Its president, Engr. Joyce Maagbe, in this interview with Christian Benefits, says most Nigerians in the Diaspora are traumatized and worried at the lackadaisical attitude of Nigeria’s leaders towards addressing the insecurity challenges in the country. She also shares with the magazine how AWLUK is lending its voice to the advocates for peace and unity in Nigeria. Excerpts.
Please, can we meet you ma?
My name is Joyce Maagbe; a mother of four beautiful children and a grandmother to a very handsome boy.
Briefly share with us about your upbringing and background
I was born out of wedlock by a young naive teenager from the Midwest in the late sixties. Thought rejected by my very own, I was blessed to receive love and affection from numerous families. My mother married an amazing man from Benue, Rt. Captain Dennis Aernan, who adopted me and lavished me with love and affection. I am grateful to God for my family. I know we do not choose our families but given the chance I would choose him as my father over all others. Life is full of ups and downs and I had my fair share of both. I went through the university of life and can confirm that indeed, experience is the best teacher. Suffice to say I learnt a lot along the journey of life. God always made my crooked ways straight.
Since when have you been in the United Kingdom, and tell us your experience in that country
I have lived in the United Kingdom for almost 3 decades. I have enjoyed the facilities and amenities in the United Kingdom that I wish were available to all of my fellow human beings in the third world countries; especially Nigeria. No nation is without its flaws. When the good outweighs the bad, then we define such a nation as good. However, when bad is the norm and good an abstruse philosophy, then what can be said of such a nation?
You are renowned for your Christian charity ministry. Please share with us how the Arewa Women’s league United Kingdom (AWLUK) appeared in the picture of your ministry.
Arewa Women’s League (AWLUK) fell into my lap early this year. I was invited to join a group of women from the Arewa region of Nigeria living in the UK at a pioneer meeting. There I was voted unopposed as the President of the organization. AWLUK is neither a religious nor political organization. It is a voice of the voiceless, both home and abroad, for women of the nineteen (19) States of Nigeria that constitute the Arewa Region.
Specifically, what is the vision, aims and objectives of the league?
Arewa Women’s League UK’s vision is to be the voice of the voiceless. Our key interest is in the issues that affect women from the Arewa region of Nigeria both home and abroad. For instance, the leagues advocate against early child marriages, which are detrimental to health and also the relegation of women to the status of second class partners, parents, colleagues, and so on.
Tell us about the activities, functions and programmes of the league
Arewa Women’s League UK is in its formative stages. Over 72 women & counting of the 19 states of the Arewa region of Nigeria came together in February this year to stand for one another’s interest following a hard nudge from the Chairman of the Central Association of Nigerians in the UK (CANUK); Hon. Ayo Akinfe. Consequently, we are still gathering members all over the United Kingdom. We have since inception lost two sisters to the cruel hands of death. To answer your question, we are yet to embark on any activity worth mentioning because we are busy planning the launch of the group on October 1st, this year. Ask me again after the launch and I will be in a better position to respond in a more concrete manner.
The league recently released a press statement condemning the recent killing of some worshippers in a Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo state, Nigeria by suspected terrorists. Please, share with us the concerns of the league on the state of insecurity generally in Nigeria?
Borrowing from the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I am sorry for the man who can’t feel the whip when it is laid on the other man’s back.” We may represent hope for the Arewa women but cannot afford to be indifferent to what is going on in other regions of our great nation. So, we owe a duty of responsibility to all Nigerians. Hence, we condemn all acts of violence against all Nigerians. These acts of violence are indicators of the state of insecurity in our country, Nigeria. Our major concern is for the safety of all Nigerians, especially in the vulnerable regions where the likes of Owo, Jos, Kwande, Southern Kaduna, etc. attacks are happening. It makes one wonder what the security agencies are doing to change the narrative. If I may be so bold to ask, what are the security agencies, at all levels and affected regions, doing? What are the leaders at the federal government level doing? What are the state government leaders doing? What measures are the Local authorities, chieftains etc doing? The lackadaisical attitude of our leaders towards security matters leave most in the Diaspora wondering if it is worth investing resources and or talents back home. This is because we are not only disappointed in the leadership but also afraid for our lives and properties. If security levels were great, it would have attracted patriots in the Diaspora to return home and contribute to the development of our great country, Nigeria. But as it stands now, I doubt it’s worth the risk.
How is the state of insecurity challenges in Nigeria affecting the Nigerians in the Diaspora, particularly in the U.K?
Most Nigerians in the Diaspora are traumatized by the insecurity challenges back home in Nigeria. Many are unsure of the fate of Nigeria. Opinions are divided. Some are praying earnestly for peace and unity to be restored to the nation, while some are for self-determination. However, there is a third category who are unsure of what is best as the political systems in the country are far from the usual diplomatic tools employed by democratic leaders. So, I dare to say that we are all living on the edge due to uncertainties surrounding the insecurity in the country as our families and loved ones seem to be trapped back home.
How does your League engage or coordinate Nigerians in the U.K to assist in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria?
AWLUK members lend their voices to support all advocates fighting for peace and unity in the country via social media platforms, signing petitions (addressed to our various MPs) to raise and address the matter of insecurity in Nigeria in parliament. Additionally, we issue press releases to express our dissatisfaction with the seemingly inactive security Agencies, as well as condemn the inhuman treatment of Nigerians in their own country by a selected few.
Going by the name Arewa, is the league exclusively for only Nigerian women of northern extraction residents in the U.K?
Membership of Arewa Women’s League UK is for all women resident in the United Kingdom that are from the 19 states of the Arewa Region and or all women married to men from any of the 19 states in question. In other words, AWLUK membership is by descent or marriage and geographical location.
When was the league founded, and what are its impact both in Nigeria and the U.K since its formation?
Arewa Women’s League UK was founded in February of 2022. In the few months it has been in existence, it is already proving to be a home away from home to Arewa women in the United Kingdom who truly appreciate the unique opportunity of coming together and supporting one another. We all know that life can be challenging for all, including those of us living in the Diaspora. Just because we are fortunate enough to be outside Nigeria is not a guarantee that things are always rosy. In fact, in the short time of our existence, we have sadly lost two of our Arewa sisters. While grieving, we have turned to our organization’s constitution, which clearly outlines the steps we are to follow collectively in terms of paying our respect to the fallen, collaborating with their loved ones & honoring them among other things. This is just the beginning, in terms of the impact we are making to the AWLUK members. We are in the process of planning our formal launch to announce our presence in the United Kingdom with the hope of propelling us to our next level. All roads lead to London on the 01/10/2022. Thank you.
As a female group, how is the league addressing or intend to address the major challenges confronting most Nigerian women like window hood, forced marriage of underage girls in the north, spousal abuses, poverty and unemployment etc
Our organization is comprised of members who are well acquainted with these major challenges facing a large proportion of Nigerian women, particularly those of Arewa extraction. The systems currently in place that deny the girl child an education, a good knowledge of the world and blocks her access to the acquisition of her own skills has the knock-on effect of rendering that girl child completely financially dependent on her partner and trapped in poverty. She in turn gives birth to girl children that face the same fate that has befallen her that include getting married off in childhood, falling victim to birthing injuries such as vesico-vaginal fistula- VVF that causes lifelong health problems if left unaddressed, economic unproductive and so on. Raising awareness of these issues is the key to undoing this plague. AWLUK is in a position to use its platform and everything at its disposal to shine a light on the plight of our Arewa sisters who cannot draw attention to themselves on the world stage. Lending our voice to the voiceless will ensure that they get the effective assistance and uplifting they need and deserve. Education and skills acquisition (in all its forms) is also essential, as is medical outreach. These measures and much more in terms of special projects are what we have in the pipeline.