•Attendance scanty in many places
•Politicians still graced the ceremonies to sell themselves
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Steve Oko, Ikechukwu Odu & Emmanuel Iheaka
Sequel to the biting insecurity across Nigeria in general and the South-East in particular, the observance of this year’s August Meeting was held with caution in many communities. The month of August every year is usually busy for Igbo women.
It is the month they set aside to converge on their various communities to brainstorm on the positive things they could do to move their communities forward. Through this, they had embarked on different development projects. However, this year’s outing was low key unlike in previous years as most women did not return due to the prevailing insecurity in the region.
Fight against mkpurimiri, other hard drugs among youths, major issue
In Anambra State, most communities have concluded their August meeting for 2022. However, this year’s gathering was overshadowed by the insecurity that has enveloped most parts of the South-East spearheaded by the notorious unknown gunmen.
But in the past, in Anambra State, women had executed legacy projects such as halls, markets, school buildings and church projects. Addressing the various women leaders in Awka where she flaged off the meeting, the wife of the state governor, Mrs. Nonye Soludo, set specific agenda for them to focus on during their deliberations.
Noting the importance of the annual August return, Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Paul Nwosu, observed that the meeting has grown beyond supporting the churches, into a veritable means of trans-communal development.
“These gatherings of women can no longer be neglected by power wielders and leaders at the state and even the national levels. It is a time marked on our annual calendar by governments and decisionmakers to communicate important policies targeted at women and family units. Politicians have also come to cash in on this gender-specific yearly occasion to sell themselves to these women whose influences on their family units and principled positions on issues cannot be underestimated.
“Undoubtedly, the women congresses have morphed into hands-on instruments for self-help, rural uplift programmes, community development, conflict resolution, community peace-making and human capital development in diverse ways. August meeting is to all intents and purposes, a unique demonstration of the resourcefulness of Igbo womenfolk not just contributing to Christianity but equally adding crucial positive values to family life and communal fusion. The shared knowledge of women from different fields of endeavour and varied spheres of locale, does a world of good to the local aspirations across the vast canvas of Igbo land,” the commissioner said.
He added: “Our women are indeed increasing their roles as joint stakeholders in the improvement of the affairs of the community instead of perennially playing the regressive roles as just housewives. They have progressed from being Oliaku (enjoying wealth) to Okpataku (wealth creator) and Odoziaku (keeper of wealth).
“Since these influential women served the inimitable purpose of having carried the present youth population in their wombs for nine months, they are definitely in a prime position to address the societal ills affecting the land such as the scourge of mkpulumiri and other ill-assorted drugs destroying the youths. The issue of dangerous drug abuse should deeply command the attention of the women at the August Meeting.
“Home training is a natural turf for the women, and a well-brought-up child can hardly ever go the way of taking mind-bending drugs that induce the so-called Unknown Gunmen to kill, kidnap and behead people. It goes without saying that these evil ones come from homes.
“The women should compel each other to bear fundamental searchlight on their homes to extirpate the drug scourge from the source. The women would be offering the government a great social service by ensuring that the erstwhile unknown marauders are made known and shamed.”
Enugu: women as home makers
In Enugu, the theme for this year’s August Meeting was: Women, the home, Peace and Bridge builders.
Addressing the women before they dispersed to their various communities for their meeting, wife of the governor, Mrs. Monica Ugochi Ugwuanyi, urged them to among other issues, stress on the need for peace and unity in the state.
Disclosing the theme of the August meeting to them, Mrs. Ugwuanyi reminded them that the annual event “in Igbo land represents the socio-economic and cultural development initiative of women to deliberate and proffer solutions to developmental issues concerning their homes, communities and the state,” charging them to also “take home all they have learnt from the event and focus on capacity-building, skills acquisition, income generating engagements and participating in financial contributions such as Isusu that would boost their businesses and other sources of livelihood.
Mrs. Ugwuanyi, who appreciated the great love she shares with women of the state, advised them to love themselves, embrace peace, practice forgiveness, share gifts and positive ideas as they go home for the annual event and urged them to “let the people in the rural areas feel your presence in a positive way and appreciate your coming home during this August return.”
Mrs. Ugwuanyi used the occasion to empower indigent women financially, through her pet project, Ugo’s Touch of Life Foundation.
Identify, expose peddlers of mpkurumiri, other hard drugs destroying youths—Ziks’s wife
Professor Emeritus, Uche Azikiwe, the wife of Nigeria’s first President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, charged the women to use this year’s August Meeting to identify and expose peddlers of mpkurumiri and other hard drugs destroying the lives of youth across Igbo communities.
Describing women as the backbone of every society, Prof. Azikiwe said that they have always contributed ideas that guided the menfolk in fighting vices such as drug addiction in Igbo societies, and challenged them to compile names of mkpurumiri dealers in their villages and take to the Presidents-General of their communities in order to nip the problem of drug addiction in the bud.
“Women are the back bone of any society because they always work at home and know the nitty-gritty of things happening in the society. They are always well informed in every society.
“I break down every other day seeing youths who are lost to drug abuse. I don’t understand whether it is the love of money or the urge to get-rich-quick that push our children into drug abuse. I saw a little boy on social media, who kidnapped another little boy to go and sell for money. I don’t understand where we are going with this craze for money. I want our women to discuss the issue of drug abuse during this year’s August meeting.
“I know that they know those who sell mpkurumiri and other hard drugs in the villages. Let them identify and expose them to relevant authorities. In Afikpo, Ebonyi State, where I came from, whenever there is an issue, the women will come together and discuss the problem with the men at the village square. The women use the forum to voice their opinion, and in most cases, their decision helps the men to arrive at a conclusion in solving the problem.
“So, I am sure that if they come together and look into this case of drug addiction among our youths, they must definitely find a solution to it. Let them take their decision to the Presidents-General of their communities for action against mpkurumiri. I am not happy when I see the devastating effects of mpkurumiri on our children. I shed tears,” she said.
We support Health Centres; we intend to build a Hall—Agbani Women Assembly
The Vice-President of Agbani General Women Assembly in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State, Dr. Hope Nwoga said during the 2021 meeting, the women contributed money to support health centres in the community where they donated medical materials such as beds, power generating sets and other hospital equipment.
“We did that because when you go to some health centres, you will find out that when women want to deliver, they do that on bare floor and so we had to get beds for them. We also dug wells for some other health centres where they can draw water from to perform sanitary functions in the hospital. This is just a way of giving back to the society and that is the much we have done because the projects are determined based on our finances. We have other proposals.”
Abia: August meeting in full swing in communities as politicians take centre stage
The 2022 Women August meeting has kicked off in many communities in the 17 council areas with various activities. A feature of the 2022 August meeting is the presence of politicians who are running for elective positions in the 2023 general elections in the state.
With the 2022 August meeting theme being: Women in Abia: engineering development and creating legacies, the State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, National Council of Women Societies, NCWS and women groups from the 17 council areas were involved.
Addressing the women wing of Ibeku Egwu Asaa Development Association, during their meeting, in Umuahia, with the theme; Godly women in the time of economic challenges, Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Chief Chinedum Orji, described the annual August meeting as a unifying event for women and encouraged them with the donation of vehicle to the association.
However, the current spate of insecurity in Umunneochi Council Area of Abia State forced the Otu Udoka Women Group, Lokpaukwu to cancel this year’s home and abroad August meeting. Umunneochi axis is currently the theatre of operation by Fulani herdsmen who on daily basis, kidnap people for ransom with the Abia State Government watching helplessly.
A statement from the executive committee of the general body circulated to all the branches, including Otu Ifunanya Group in Onitsha branch said the members should not bother to return home for the meeting to avoid ugly incidence of kidnapping for ransom or ritual by both unknown gunmen and Fulani herdsmen.
Specifically, the statement warned that any indigene of Lokpaukwu who must visit home for any personal programme during this period, should avoid passing through Owerre-Ezukala/Isuochi/Leru to Lokpaukwu because “kidnapping, robbery and other incidents are perpetrated along this particular road which is the shortest route linking Anambra and Abia states.”
The statement further described as very unfortunate, a situation where these incidents are more pronounced along this road where there is currently a military base at Isuochi.
Dwindling economy, insecurity mar August Meeting at
This year’s August Meeting of women of Akanu Item in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State was marred by the dwindling economy and rising insecurity in the South-East. Unlike in the previous years, women in the community did not return in good numbers. Many who reside outside the South-East did not return for the meeting.
The leader of the women, Mrs. Beatrice Ndubueze who said she returned from Lagos, blamed the poor turnout in this year’s outing on economic hardship and insecurity. She said that most of the women in far places including those in Onitsha and Aba could not return due to economic hardship and insecurity. According to her, majority of those in attendance were the folks at home and Umuahia, the state capital.
Nonetheless, the women were not deterred from continuing with their on-going building project of a classroom block which they intend to hand over to Akanu Item Schools housing both primary and secondary schools in the community which lack adequate classrooms.
In Imo State, precisely, the women of Umuebie Community, Isiala Mbano Local Government Area, held their meeting with pomp and pageantry as Guinness Breweries organised the meeting for them. It was in fact, more than an annual event to the community.
Guinness Nigeria PLC which organised the event, decided to give the women a treat at the Umuebie Central School playground. They also empowered 50 of them with mobile bars. In a welcome address, the President of the Umuebie Aladinma Women, Mrs. Gertrude Onuoha, noted that it was the first time they were experiencing such an elaborate and scintillating August meeting.
She commended Guinness for choosing to sponsor the community’s August Meeting, and called for more support for the development of the community. She lamented that the market in the area was in shambles and the community’s hall dilapidated.
There was a march past among the five villages that make up the community and a brief health talk, an action which added colour to the ceremony.
The hunger in Nigeria was clearly manifested as most of the women were not interested in the health lecture, as they rather jostled for food and drinks while the talk lasted.
Highlight of the ceremony was a free-for-all dance which ignited the venue more. As the Disc Jockey opted for hot beat songs, the women appeared all out to prove that what the younger generation could do, the older could do too.
Later, legendary songstress, Onyeka Onwenu stepped into the venue; when she mounted the podium to cheers and admiration, thrilling the audience. It was obviously the first time most of the women would meet the music icon, though she hails from the state. Their joy, therefore, knew no bounds as they danced out their sorrows, worries and uncertainties.
In a remark, Marketing and Innovation Director, Guinness Nigeria PLC, Mark Mugisha, said the company was committed to celebrating women, hence the event.
“The August meeting is beyond an event, it is an experience that Guinness feels strongly and passionate about. It allowed us to be part of long lasting impact for the betterment of their community.
“As a brand, we are committed to supporting, empowering and celebrating women in ways most natural to them,” he stated.
Renowned monarch and traditional ruler of Ogbor Autonomous Community, Eze Matthew Onweni, in his remarks, commended Guinness for such show of love and enjoined the women to sustain the drive for community development.