Report by Mercy Francis
On 26th of July 2019, at the headquarters of the United Nations in London, Africans from all over the globe gathered for the 7th African Ambassadors and Diaspora Interactive Forum (AAIF) which was organised by the International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO). First Lady of Nigeria, Dr Aisha Buhari wife to President Buhari of Nigeria made her surprise appearance at the well-attended event, where a great number of African countries were represented from Ghana to Zambia and from outside the continent including USA, Canada and United Kingdom.
The First Lady was accompanied by a delegation of Nigeria’s most influential women, these included wife of Kebbi State Governor, Dr Zainab Shikafi Bagudu, Mrs Florence Ahimobi, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK, Justice George Adesola Oguntade (Red) and his wife Modupeola, Senior Specialist Assistant (SSA) to the First Lady, Mrs Hajo Sani, Mrs Abeke Dabiri-Erawa, SSA to the President of Foreign Diaspora Affairs and Mrs Adejoke Oralope Adefulire, Chair of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission. Also in attendance were leading business people from Nigeria.
The event commenced with a speech from Professor Gabriel Faal from Senegal, of the renowned London school of Economics. His message called for Africans in the diaspora to assist those on the lower part of the employment ladder to climb up.
First Lady, Mrs Buhari commended the organisers of the forum for forging strong bonds and bridging much needed unity within the African continent. Dr Mrs Buhari also pleaded with foreign media to be transparent and accurate in the reporting and representation of Nigeria.
First Lady, Dr Mrs Aisha Buhari, expressed the need for Africans to pull together in representing Africa in a positive light wherever they are situated and to be good ambassadors of their respective countries. She said, “As Africans, we must see the need to restore our pride in our own nations. We must reclaim our self-respect and honour. As Africans we must seek to change the narrative. Let us bring back the love and mutual respect and trust we once shared with Great Britain and the United Kingdom”.
The entertainment included rich cultural displays of Zulu dancers, music and a fashion show on “the positive runway” founded by Justine Mutale, a Zambian residing in London.
Charles Khiran, the MC for the evening, read out the recipients of the I.A.A.F Awards for Excellence, recognising key personalities whom have made significant contributions in their respective countries.
Recipients included founders of the Nigerian TV station: Ben TV; Alistair Soyode , CEO of Ben TV Company, Baroness Nartha Osanor (first Nigerian woman to be appointed to the House of Lords), Dr Claire Curtis, British Board of Agrement and CEO of the Bank of Industries, Yinka Fayomi, the wife of the Nigerian former Ambassador to France who received the award for promoting leadership and excellence in the area of social-economic progress ; Mrs Aisha Ahmad Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria . The prestigious Pan-African Award for the Change Agent in the Entertainment and Landscape category went to Prince Bisi Olotilo, which was collected by Alistair Soyode, CEO of Ben TV, London.
The First Lady of Nigeria, Dr Mrs Aisha Buhari received an honorary award for her tremendous initiative introducing and supporting women’s soccer and her programme supporting children in soccer in Nigeria.
In closing, Chief Uzo Owunne, looked forward to the creation of the Yemisi, African Town in London, which is still in the discussion phase. It aims to showcase African culture and heritage on its streets of London, promoting cuisine, goods and services, much like China Town in London’s West End. Chief Uzo Owunne called for Africans in the diaspora to help raise funds and create a lasting legacy.