In South Africa, a convergence of voices, as Nigerian community weighs options

By Ben-Benson Okoli, Executive Editor, Johannesburg on 12/12/2018

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Ogbe presenting certificate of authority to NICASA Okoli, while the Mrs Ochendo, looks on

For many Nigerians in South Africa, the dictum different strokes for different folks cannot be more germane at this time, for the simple reason that each person has a different story to tell about their personal experience.

From the sweet to the bitter-sweet and to the outright pains offered by the vagaries of the society, the imperative has become more demanding than ever that something must be done so that at the end of the day, the benefits of travelling the 4,644kilometres six-hour flight might be realised.
It was for this reason that Nigerians of all hues and endeavours converged in downtown Johannesburg to jaw-jaw and take deep introspection into their affairs and come up with critical solutions to the problems that have made their stay in the country less eventful as well as improve on what they already have going for them.

Date was Sunday, December 9, venue, Gauteng Legislative Building, Johannesburg, occasion, National Convention of all Nigerians in South Africa. The venue was agog and a kaleidoscope of colours and concepts as the event drew all Nigerians, from the nine provinces of South Africa.

Organised and hosted by the Nigerian Citizens Association of South Africa (NICASA), an umbrella group of all Nigerians in the country, it was the first edition of what is now going to be a regular event. 

Assembling under the theme: Rebranding, the parley got a lot of Nigerian speakers examining different issues regarding the living conditions, welfare and businesses of Nigerians in the country from all angles.

Welcoming the guests, its President, Benjamin Okoli, who said that changing the face of Nigeria and Nigerians in South Africa was not only important but urgent, saw no reason why the gains made over the years could not be properly harnessed and translated into profit.

For him the disadvantages posed by the image crises trailing Nigerians in the country, had reached a level and assumed a nature that ought to be declared an emergency.

He said the conference had become necessary, so as to properly educate Nigerians on how to live incident-free in the country and become good ambassadors adding that it was for this reason the that the topics of the discussion and speakers were carefully selected to address the perennial problems, including immigration, drug trafficking and abuse, cultism and women and child abuse, that Nigerians are daily confronted with, as well as some other unhelpful perceptions and unlawful activities of few Nigerians.

The President expressed happiness at the innovations introduced by the new CG, Mr Gowin Adama and the High Commission in Pretoria, which, he said, was already imparting positively in the lives of Nigerians in the country.

His words: “Our Missions in the past, were like Alaba Market in Lagos and Ariara Market in Aba, where trade and commerce flourished. We thank the Missions for the halt. We promised to partner with the Missions for overall good of Nigerians and to put necessary checks and balances.

Okoli, who also spoke to, expressed his desire to see more cooperative activities between the host and Nigerians, as such interactions had potentials to promote greater understanding and reduce friction.

He wanted a more integrated and coordinated approach at resolving the abuses on Nigerians rather than fire-brigade approach, often employed, while calling for a diplomatic pressure to be intensified on the South African government so as to eliminate the incidences of loss of lives, destruction of properties and hate crimes.

In his speech, renowned international motivational speaker, Dr Richie Achukwu, who spoke on Image Laundry, Ethics & Reorientation, canvassed on the imperatives for good citizenship and the urgency to seek new ways of living.

Another speaker, Dr. Soji Soogun, who dwelt on Contact Crime (Drugs, Cultism and Fraud), exposed the dangers the habit and the trade posed, while calling for attitudes and lifestyle change as a more practical and enduring solution to the epidemic.

Pastor Musa Ali, who spoke on xenophobia, expressed bitterness at the negative publicity that the South African media give Nigeria and Nigerians, saying the media in the country, represented one of the greatest enemies that must be confronted by the missions through planned and sustained effort.

He was emphatic that American citizens could not die the way Nigerians were allowed to die in South Africa and pleaded with the missions to halt trial of Nigerians by the media and to insist that suspects be tried and convicted by the courts as the only option.

A political scientist and the former President of the Nigerians in South Africa, Jason Osuafor, who was also present, spoke of the need for Nigerians to collaborate and watch over themselves in unity as one of the workable options of staying afloat in the country.

Speaking on the theme, Nigeria Community in SA: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, he x-rayed the Nigeria incursion into South Africa that dated three decades and the many missed opportunities, lamenting how others succeeded where their counterparts failed.

He narrated, for instance how the Jews, the Indians and the Portuguese were able to penetrate the South African hostile business environment to becoming big traders in the country’s stock market and admonished Nigerians to shun overdependence on self or individualism in what he called “one man limited.”

He wants NICASA to encourage entrance into big businesses by causing Nigeria Investment Corporation to happen through the utilisation of the excess capacity that resided in the domain.

For instance, he was particularly peeved over the millions of rands individual Nigerian wasted annually in conducting end of the year activities, when such funds could have been pooled together for the same purpose with obvious greater impact and cost effectiveness.

In his speech, the Minister in charge of Immigration & Consular matters in the Nigerian Consulate, Mr Anthony Ogbe, who represented the Consul General, charged Nigerians to be good ambassadors.

He thanked the leadership of the Nigerian Citizens Association of South Africa (NICASA) for the great effort and encouraged them to be independent and constructive in their engagements with the missions. 

He further charged the group not to fall into the same pit that the Nigerian union fell into and which ultimately led to the severance of relations with it, adding that the missions would not tolerate confrontations but would welcome robust engagement.

He then called on Nigerians, corporate groups and organisations to support NICASA in their vision. Mrs Chituru Ochendo, the Minister for Consular affairs in the High Commission, Pretoria and who represented the Acting High Commissioner, also spoke along same lines.

Highlights of the occasion included the unveiling of the association’s logo and presentation of certificates to the executive and the Board of Trustees. 

The event was witnessed by Nigerians across the spectrum, including the Ohanaeze President, Chief Julius Aghaeriosa; Anambra State President, Mark Onwurolu; the traditional prime minister of Ndigbo, Chief Jonas Udeji; PDP chairman, Sam Iweka; Igwe Gauteng, Igwe Igwilo; Chief Austin Ibeabuchi, a Community leader; Pastor Charles Okereke and Arch Bishop Benson Uwah and host of others.




Posted on December, 12 2018

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