Ndigbo: Fresh campaign for self-discovery, reintegration in South Africa

By Ben Benson Okoli, Executive Editor, Johannesburg on 18/10/2020

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Bugane, Nwobi, Adama, Ezeali Udeji and Ejimadu

That Ndigbo have been acknowledged as not only one of the most dispersed but one of the most successful black groups on the surface of the earth, if not the the most successful, has become an established reality to a great extent. The statistics in their native Nigera and as far away as the US, Europe and Africa have confirmed this.

But achieving this feat has also not been a walk in the park. It comes with a lot of drawbacks and consequences. Both at home and abroad these snags are so evident that sometimes, they even come with blood on the floor.

That they not only trudge on but continue to thrive in the face of these daunting odds, is a product of hard work itself, captured not only in uncommon resilience, but in their ability to study and understand their environment, while selling themelves to the hosts, the philosophy being the popular saying that it is with a smooth tongue that the snail is able to navigate through thorns to its destination.

Nowhere has this attempt been put in place in recent times as in South Africa, where agitations in recent years, has led to them being victims of xenophobic attacks by the native South Africans.

Since the attacks on their persons and businesses, some of them quite fatal, deliberate and sustained attempts have been made to redeem the situation through rapproachment and troubleshooting, using every opportunity.  

Two of such opportunities presented themselves recently, where attempts to change the narratives about Nigeria in general and the Igbo in particular regarding their perception in certain quarters in South Africa came to the fore, with some very influential and prominent Igbo leading the campaign.

One of the events was the farewell lunch in the honour of the outgoing Consul General of the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, Ambassador Godwin Adekunle Adama.

It was an event where Ndigbo in South Africa, the organisers, tried to use one stone to kill several birds, by first honouring the accomplished envoy, who had done a lot in advancing the interest of the Nigerian community in the country, and in addition, promote the Nigerian identity to the country.



It was actually a day, Adama’s stint in the country was crowned with two awards, one, from the King of Embo Nation, HRM Chancellor Bungane and the other, from the Igbo group.

Packaged by the highest cultural and traditional organ of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo South Africa, the  Supreme Eze in Council, the event was used also as a launchpad for what would appear the strongest case made in favour of Nigerians in South Africa.

Chidozie Ejimadu, a lawyer and secretary of the organisation, delivered a powerfully packed but direct words to the monarch, aimed at striking at the heart of the issue regarding the place of Ndigbo in the country.

Making a passionate appeal to the Bungane for greater acceptance of Nigerians, he emphasised the gains both parties could make through a robust and thriving symbiotic relationship, stressing that such gains were far greater than the negative side of the presence of Nigerians in the country.

He xrayed the history of migrants across the globe and their struggle for self survival and acceptance and pleaded with the king to convey to his subjects the message that Africans and Nigerians in particular were a people inseparably bonded by one humanity and shared history.

“Whatever be our circumstances today, my king, in this country, whatever be our shortcomings, that does not represent our collective existence as a people.

“Everywhere in history, the first generation of migrants have always faced difficulties of integration into the main stream of the economy and socio-political dynamics of that country and that is what our people are facing,” he said. 

Ejimadu, who is also a clergyman, used elements of philosophy to further the group’s case, quoting copiously from the works of Aristotle and his first law of nature, to strengthen his case against those who want Nigerians out of the country.

Hear him: “Messages of love and peaceful coexistence must not be allowed to yield to the messages of hatred that fill the streets and airwaves. Please help us tell our South African brothers and sisters, especially those who are in dire need of enlightenment, that every South African child that is injured, is an African child that is injured. Tell them to be a little  bit patient with us as we are working inwardly to transform, to get to that level that every South African will be proud of every Nigerian that live in this country.”

But the message was not to the monarch alone, but also an opportunity for self examination, which the cleric also used to admonish Ndigbo and by extension, Nigerians, to aim to become good ambassadors through positive acts and learn from the good examples of others. Hear him: “Many have walked that we may run and that we may run for our children to fly.”

It would be recalled that the call and the campaign for Nigerians to leave the country have increased in momentum. Not long ago, a group that called itself Put South Africa First was captured in front of the Nigeria High Commission Pretoria, where a memorandum was handed over to the Nigerian High Commissioner, Ambassador Kabiru, where they claimed that Nigeria was behind the anti-social vices and wanted them out of of the country.

The Nigerian envoy, however quick rejected the tag, which he described it as “shameful.”

The highlights of the occasion was the conferment of a chieftancy title of Omeroha Ndigbo to the outgoing Adama for the job well done and a certificate of recognition of good works from King Bungane.

The Prime Minister of Ndigbo in South Africa, Ezeali Jonas Udeji also received similar certificate.

In his appreciation speech, the outgoing diplomat who thanked the council for finding him worthy gave the credit to God who made him a tool adding that he would wear the cap symbolising his recognition with honour and dignity and pleaded with the Eze in Council to extend the same hand of friendship to his successor. 

The event was well attended by the cream of the Nigerian society, including leaders of Igbo & Nigerian formations; Defence Adviser to the Nigerian High Commission, Navy Commodore Abubakar Mustapha; HRM Godwin Nwobu, Members Enugu state Council of Ndi Eze; HRH King Lukheleni, member South African Congress of Traditional Leaders; Ministers from the Nigerian Missions, Nigerian Women Group and an army of academics and University professors.

Penultimate week, the occasion of New Yam (Iri Ji) powered by the same group had presented an opportunity for one of Africa’s leading Neurosurgeon, Dr Ben Okoli to lead a campaign to rouse Ndigbo towards turning the handle in making themselves not only valuable, but indeed, indispensible in the South African environment and beyond by promoting good citizenship and healthy competition amongst themselves wherever they find themselves in any part of the world.

Reminding them of the new wave of antagonism targetted against them in virtually all parts of the globe, he warned that the only way they could continue to keep their heads above the waters was to ensure that they become so useful to their host communities to the extent that they become indispensible.

“Wherever the borders are closing in the world, it is a push against the Igbos” and that “the Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to a new mantra of nationalism and era of globalism is taking the back seat,” he said, appealing to his audience on the urgency to look for alternative way of living. “We have to start acting differently. It cannot be the same way we met it,” he added.

Okoli who holds the traditional title Ugwumba (the pride of a people) reminded Ndigbo that times were changing so rapidly that adapting to the new methods  was no longer an option, citing an example with South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC).

“The ANC government is gradually beginning to bow down to the pressure by their people to secure their borders,” he said, urging Ndigbo to reinvent the culture of enterprise for which they were known.

To underscore the importance he attached to the campaign, he instituted  Dr Ben Okoli Annual Igbo Heritage Excellence Award with a three-man adjudicators that included Prof Francis Nwonwu, Emeritus Professor of Agro Economics as head; Dr Rita Ozoemena, doctor of law and Mr Jason Osuafor, a political scientist and former President of the Nigerian Union.

The mandate was to meticulously select annually “our best and brightest” for recognition, accompanied by a cash award which would be reviewed progressively, he said, adding that the project was intended to set a new agenda for Ndigbo “so that each of us must find something to do and excel in that.

“You have a free hand in the choices you will make, but you must avoid the noisy and the loud because they are a vexation to the spirit and soul of the land. Let the person be somebody who recognises the heritage of his fathers.”

Ugwumba,  whose philanthropic work has become a household name in South Africa, said he was particularly perturbed by the plight of indigent Nigerian students who were facing various forms of challenges, in the country.

For this reason, he mandated the adjudicators to single out such group of students for assistance. “I have come to understand that there are some of our students that are struggling in schools. I don’t know how widespread it is but we have to make provision for them, so that on the same day they can identify such students in the university that we can help that year.”

Jeff Azubuike, a lawyer and Ben onwurolu, the Anambra State President pledged to support the assistance to the indigent students.




Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on October, 18 2020

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