Pratt is a second home for Houston man with a heart for Nigerian reform

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Pratt Lions Club members (from left) Ike Agwu, Grady Stultz, Garey West, Andy Lee and Denis Rasmussen wait to start their weekly meeting on May 26 as more members continue to arrive to join them at the Club D'Est Restaurant in Pratt.

What's happening in Nigeria could happen in any nation, especially one in which citizens lose their way to protect themselves (their guns), government officials are untrustworthy and Muslim militants overrun Christianity. And when those things happen, it is the children and families who suffer the most. If the larger world continues to ignore the current religious-based conquest in Nigeria, many will suffer needlessly.

That is the message Ike and Edith Agwu of Houston shared, along with their despair over violence and killing that is currently taking place in their native country of Nigeria, with their friends in the Pratt Lions Club last Wednesday in Pratt. At the heart of the matter are 18 children the Agwu family sponsors for education in the southeast part of the country.

The Agwus are American citizens who have lived in the United States for 14 years where their own three children were born. But Ike and Edith still have many extended family members held captive in Nigeria as no one can leave the country now except by lottery visa or as refugees. Their family members live in fear as militants get ever closer in their conquest from the north to the southern parts of Nigeria. Hundreds of native Nigerians have been killed in the past few weeks as they are confronted by invading Senegalies who are looking for land to settle and, backed by militant Muslims and the Fulanisation movement, demand that natives join them as Muslims, or die as Christians.

For the past several years, Ike Agwu has often traveled through Pratt, sometimes monthly, sometimes staying for several days as he completes work orders in the area as a gasline inspector for Northern Natural Gas. He visits so often that he has made many close friends in the area and often goes fishing at Pratt County Lake where he has met several members of the Pratt Lions Club. With shared interests and a deep Christian faith, Agwu decided to join the club earlier this year when he attended a meeting at the invitation of Harold Stultz, a club member he happened to be fishing with that day. He, and his wife Edith, who has also decided to join the Pratt Lions Club, attend meetings on Zoom when they can't make them in person.

It was only natural for Ike and Edith to share with their Pratt friends the deep concerns they have for the children of Nigeria on May 26 when Ike was in town and attending the Pratt Lions Club meeting in person. Edith joined online.

"Nigeria is being taken over by militant Muslims who are moving in from the north and destroying farms and families as they push through the African nation in a conquest to control the whole country and gain access to the trade routes of the Atlantic Ocean on the southern edge," Agwu said. "Nigeria as we once knew it has ceased to exist. The Fulanise control local police chiefs and send them out to kill their own people. The supposed president of Nigeria hasn't been seen in person since 2017. He is dead, but Muslim-backed militants continue to present to the world that he is alive, but he is not. There is no more Nigeria and the rest of the world needs to wake up. The take-over there could happen anywhere when leadership does not have the courage to turn down money and greed."

The message brought was a sobering one, shared among friends who cared enough to ask questions, to wonder - what keeps something like that from happening in the United States, why does the United States government not intervene, what can be done to help?

The Pratt Lions Club, like other clubs in the international organization has a mission to serve others in need. It was that mission, plus the Christian-based mantra, that attracted Ike and Edith Agwu to join in a place that has become like a second home to them. Much of their own lives have been devoted to service as they support education for the poorer children of their home country with hopes it will propel them to better opportunities for life. The Agwus own land in the southeast section of Nigeria and are establishing a plantain farm near an orphanage and education center they support, with hopes that the farm will provide a livelihood for the people who live there. 

"I am blown away by the generosity Ika and Edith have shown to the students in Nigeria. The fruits of their labors are already showing in such a short period of time," said Pratt Lions Club President Andy Lee. "God has blessed the work of their hands. The spirit of service is something dear to us as Lions Club members. We feel blessed that they wanted to join our little club here in Pratt. We love having them."

For Ike and Edith, joining the Pratt Lions Club and sharing their distress and hopes with members has been a blessing.

"These are good friends, good people. They listen, they take good care of me when I am here," Ike said. "The burden is not so heavy when you are not alone."

For Pratt Lions Club member Harold Stultz, hearing about the militant Muslim invasions in Nigeria is not something to take lightly. He made several calls to U.S Congressman Ron Estes from Kansas and received some troubling answers in return.

Letter to the President:Letter to the Editor: Prayers for the President regarding violence in Nigeria

"I was told by a staff member for the U.S. Congress that we currently have an administration that is afraid to upset Muslims in different regimes and those seated in Congress to the extent that they would rather turn a blind eye when Christians are being persecuted, as in Nigeria, than risk dealing with flashback of taking a stand," Stultz said. "I think it is very important for all of us, especially rural Americans and those who have been considered the silent majority, to start speaking up and demanding that our elected officials represent our values and morals in Congress and in the Senate, and not just sit back and hope things don't get worse."

Ike and Edith said that their only hope for Nigeria, shared by other natives whom they keep in close contact with, would be to call for a referendum of Nigerian states, a move that has happened in past history and met with success but was overthrown by corruption in the past decade.

"The eastern side of Nigeria is mostly Christian, the north where all the violence and killing is taking place is now populated Muslims filtrated in from other countries, there are mixed populations in the west," Ike said. "In the southeast education is still important. Christianity is practiced. To protect that, the regions must separate and be allowed to protect themselves. There is no trust whatsoever in a unified government anymore. Elections are corrupt."

Many Nigerian people are well-educated and have come to America in the past to gain employment as doctors, nurses, educators, engineers and more. The invasion of militants from the north has shut down many educational institutions and sent many native Nigerians reeling into poverty and despair. Jobs are only now available to people from the north as economic pressure is being applied in the Muslim conquest.

Brittish Nigerian activist Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been trying unsuccessfully to gain an audience with the United States Congress and Senate to speak on a peaceful solution for Nigeria, but he has not been given that chance, Ike said.

"It saddens my heart so much that these people cannot help themselves," Edith Agwu said. "A referendum is needed. This is the only way to set the world free. This is not just about Nigeria, is has ties to Israel too."

Stultz said he had googled Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and watched his speeches on YouTube as well as checked into other facts about the violence taking place in Nigeria. He said writing letters to congressmen and making phone calls takes little time but could have the effect of letting representatives know that the real people care about what is going on in the world.

"Call our Congressman Ron Estes office at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 or write to the President of the United States at the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500, and demand that our government stand up for what is right and not just turn a blind eye," Stultz said. "I am a veteran. I care about human rights. I care about my friends and what they are facing with their families."

One letter might not make much difference, but many letters could cause a shift in an otherwise hopeless situation, Ike Agwu said.

For Lee, learning about world situations and making connections with the Agwu family is something he said he was glad to be a part of, and to have the opportunity to do so through the Pratt Lions Club.

"It's easy for us to become wrapped up in our own lives, in our own safe little corner," Lee said. "Now, more than ever, we have so many things going on that taking time to help others has become an afterthought. I believe any opportunity to help someone, in whatever capacity, is something worth investing in."

Like many other civic clubs in Kansas, and in Pratt, increasing club members is not easy, so when the Pratt Lions Club added a Zoom option for meetings, it not only broadened their appeal but also their boundaries for membership.

"I am elated to have Ike and Edith in our club," Lee said. "We've had a harder time sparking interest in membership in recent years, so increasing the meaning of who are our neighbors has been good for all of us."