Magna Faith is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Magna Faith International, Co-founder and producer of War Desk, Executive Director of African Global Center and the Vice President of Global Progressive Women Network (GPWN). In this interview by OLASUNKANMI OSO, she speaks on why she is involved in humanitarian and advocacy issues.
YOU are one of the people that have been calling for the release of Leah Sharibu. What gave birth to the zeal in you?
I discovered that American citizens with no direct connection to Nigeria are more deeply concerned about the massacres in Nigeria than Nigerians in diaspora. That was a teaching moment for me. I thought to myself; why are hundreds of white Americans from Washington to San Francisco agitating more protection for Nigerian victims than Nigerians themselves? American activists have seminars on Capitol Hill. They formed groups educating the public aggressively. I called to help out. Mr. Burton, an American journalist and I founded War Desk to fill the gaping hole in mainstream media coverage of the unfolding tragedy of wanton murders. I just made a decision not to be one of those who are part of the conspiracy of silence.
What has the reception been like in the diaspora and what are your projections concerning to this project?
The good news is that the Diaspora is waking up. War Desk supported the tour of five living witnesses to genocide who testified tirelessly for three weeks from Washington to Dallas Texas. They were hosted by the International Committee on Nigeria, a savvy NGO. A Nigerian mega church near Washington rose to their feet for the delegation when we visited June 23rd. But more important than that is that concerned Diaspora not beholden to embassy officials are meeting at the grassroots level to raise consciousness.
What was growing up in Nigeria like before leaving the shore of the country and what inspired your humanitarian and advocacy activities?
I grew up in Katsina, a northwestern state carved out of old Kaduna State. I am a follower of Christ Jesus and you know Katsina is predominantly Muslim and Sharia valid. I attended Katsina Capital School and have great memories of my siblings and I playing on my dad’s farmland. Yes, my dad was a farmer and a police officer. I can’t forget that I was almost always the only Christian girl in my classroom then. I went to high school in Abuja and subsequently attended schools in Jos, Plateau State and Ibadan before I relocated to the United States. I found that girls are perceived to be vulnerable, hence our social space was greatly reduced. I remember we couldn’t be seen with boys as it was misconstrued as being in a sexual or romantic relationship. The very core of me was formed in Katsina where I learnt traditional Hausa values to include but not limited to trust, loyalty, kindness, generosity and modesty.
What other projects are you working on besides advocating for Leah Sharibu and other women?
I am actively engaged in citizen journalism using digital media to shorten the distance between citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. It is imperative to note that new media technology has further made citizen journalism more accessible to people worldwide. Also, In the capacity of a duty bearer and ambassador, I amplify the voices of vulnerable people. I actively advocate for an inclusive, peaceful, democratic and resilient society void of denial of education for the girl-child, sexual exploitation, discrimination, child marriage and other injustices.
You have been exposed to both sides of the coin as regards environment, what would you say Nigeria is not doing right in creating safe space for her talents?
Truth is Nigerians are succeeding in America. 29% of Nigerian Americans over the age of 25 hold graduate degrees from public health, sports, entertainment, to technology. Nigerian-Americans have emerged one of the most successful immigrant communities in the United States. America’s gain seems to be Nigeria’s permanent loss. Nigerians need to understand the importance of electing educated people to lead. Nigeria has to be proud of its women as much as their menfolk, especially in northern Nigeria where girls are being held back. Only one third are in schools, partly because of Boko Haram kidnappings. This is a disgrace for a nation that prides itself on being a pace setter in Africa. I must say that Nigeria has everything she needs to be a great country, a very great one.
As a woman with many sides, how do you incorporate your work schedule with the home front?
I find balance when I delegate functions. I work with my team both at the home front and at work. This ensures I have adequate time to plan with less stress and improved efficiency. A great leader does not do everything himself.
You are a fellow in economics, where do you think Nigeria is missing it out in its economic development and projection?
Nigeria has the potential to be a super power rivaling the United States. What’s the chief obstacle? No rule of law. Elected elites are not accountable to the voters, as illustrated in the flawed and still disputed elections of 2019. No equality before the law. See the difference in how Nigerian security forces handled the kidnapping of the mother of billionaire banker Tony Elumelu in 2013 and the kidnapping of Leah Sharibu. Elumelu’s mother was located and rescued in four days. Rebecca Sharibu is my friend. She told me that since her daughter was taken prisoner Feb. 19, 2018 no policeman or federal official has visited her or even contacted her in Dapchi. The claims of the PR machine in Abuja are belied by the callousness of the government. Infrastructure is slowly being paralysed by the lawlessness on the highways. People are afraid to drive 50 miles.
Nigeria is lagging in the management of human resources, how do you think Nigeria can turn the hand in leveraging human resources like China?
China is no friend to Nigeria. It is buying its mineral rights and granting loans they know the government will never repay. Wake up Abuja. Donald Trump has turned around the US economy by renegotiating bad trade deals with China.
You are from the Northeastern part of the country where terrorism and illicit killing have been on the rise, even recently. Did this influence your decision on anti-terrorism advocacy?
Recently, hundreds of women in Taraba State (your state of origin) took to the streets protesting killings by herders. As one of Nigeria’s popular and leading advocate who lends her voice against illicit killing, what are the punitive measures you think the government can put in place to check this excesses?
First, stop swallowing the disinformation campaign from Abuja. It’s not a two-sided conflict and never has been. Where are the photos of Middle belt farmers brandishing their AK 47s?
That’s right: there are none. Is there Islamisation and Fulanisation happening? Absolutely. Stop allowing the regime to put journalists in jail for saying the obvious.
What is your driving force?
My source of inspiration is God, my strength comes from God and like I said earlier, I am an optimistic Northern Nigerian woman committed to using her western education, experiences and voice for the empowerment and emancipation of women, authentic women’s leadership, violence against women and justice for all amongst other vulnerabilities. I took after my dad as he is an upright and an honorably retired Deputy Inspector General of Police who served Nigeria sacrificially.
How do you unwind?
I read books and swim.