NIGERIAN PROFESSIONALS IN SOUTH AFRICA; Impact to National Unity in South Africa

Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 Under: Our Headline Articles


In a speech recently made by the Nigerian Consul-General Okey Emuchey at a dinner he organized for Nigeria’s Minster of Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu in Johannesburg at the Nigeria Consulate in South Africa, the Nigerian envoy puts the  population of Nigerians in South Africa at estimated figure of 400,000.“Though I am not sure of the figure, some people say the population of Nigerians in South Africa is between 350,000 and 400,000 people, with more still coming”.


``Nigerians are contributing to the development of every sector of the South African economy, in fact if Nigerian medical doctors pull out of the South African hospitals the country will collapse.

``And there is hardly any South Africa university that you don’t have ten Nigerian professors,’’ Emuchay said.


Despite the huge presence of Nigerian professionals and a large Nigerian community in South Africa, the Nigerian image is worrisome and its community very dysfunctional. Most worrisome is the aloofness and ‘I don’t care attitude’ of many Nigerian professionals and other well-meaning Nigerians in South Africa.  It is high time that the decent and honest Nigerians came together to give meaningful and effective leadership to the Nigerian community in South Africa. It is a known fact that the economic potential that lay within the Nigerian community is enormous given its dynamic population of more than 400,000 people. Some quarters estimate Nigeria’s population in South Africa to be close to two Million people.  According to an online post on Nairaland Forum website, it is stated that “at least 20 million Nigerians [are] living outside of Nigeria. This figure includes those that only have one Nigerian parent. Of course, I am basing this entirely off shady estimates. I know about Nigerian population in Ghana (about 2 million), Ivory coast (a little more than a Million), South Africa (About 2 million) and then at least 5 million in UK and 4-6 million in America and then the rest would come from other countries. This figure might be way off the mark. But in all honesty, even the Federal Government of Nigeria couldn't give you an honest estimate”.

The Nigerian community needs to take a cue from other organized communities in South Africa to project a good image for itself. As a concerned community member, it is so obvious that a lot is not right with the Nigerian Community and there is need to be worried.  The negative image has overshadowed the positive ones. Yet, the positive impacts (as exemplified by the Nigerian professionals) far outweigh the negative ones. As thing stands, it is as if it is a crime to be a Nigerian and to carry the Green passport. The question is: what are the professionals and well-meaning Nigerians in South Africa doing about it? Do we continue to allow our image to be shaped, our identities to be determined and our personalities to be judged by the few ‘bad eggs’ who have continued to bastardize the Nigerian image?

There are so many reasons why the community needs to be worried about its image. First, as a Nigerian, it is extremely difficult to rent an apartment in Pretoria and some other suburbs. Most housing agents like Hurkkor, Fitzzane and others have blacklisted the Nigerian green passport. Once you are identified as a Nigerian, you are automatically regarded as a drug dealer. Perhaps, you are considered, you will have to provide three months advance payment as deposit and a whole lot of other documentation with exorbitant administrative charges.

Also, it is almost impossible for Nigerians to rent halls for events. For instance, most facilities owners in Pretoria will not rent out their facilities for Nigerian events. Facilities such as the National Cultural Museum hall, Pretoria City central hall, Coliseum Hotel hall and Pretoria show grounds etc.  This is because of the attitude of some Nigerians who have misused such opportunities in the past and this is now used against every other Nigerian regardless of his or her status. It is one cap fits all for all Nigerians in South Africa.

In addition, there are many Nigerian associations in South Africa, from National associations to geo-political associations, state unions, town unions, village associations, religious organizations and students associations, yet we find it impossible to protect the Nigerian integrity, we find it difficult to build our community. The question is; what are the aims and objectives of these organizations? What have they done to justify their existence? And what do their members benefit for being part of them? The proliferation of Nigerian associations without vision of a united and better Nigerian community in South Africa is nothing but vehicle of disunity and dysfunctionality. 

Everyday, Nigerians are falling victims on the streets of South Africa to injustice, brutality, daylight robbery with huge amount of money taken off them forcefully without anything been done. Nigerians are killing each other on the streets of South Africa for flimsy and crude reasons. Nigerians are scattered all around roaming the streets like headless chickens without directions. Yet, the Nigerian community in South Africa boasts of the highest number of pastors and highest number of churches in South Africa and as such, morals, decent and honest living should be high within our community, unfortunately the community is dysfunctional. A visit to nightclubs across the cities will show how much Nigerians spend on a weekly basis on women and alcohol. Yet, the next Nigerian beside them is jobless, homeless and unable to eat the next meal, but they careless.

The Nigerian Community needs to take a cue from a few other communities in South Africa, such as the Ethiopian and Somalia communities. How many of them do we see roaming aimlessly on the streets of South Africa? Have we ever imagined how they manage to establish shops all around the cities and locations? The reason is because they have a very effective system that allows them to get loans at next to nothing interest rate to start businesses. They trust each other, they stand by each other, they love each other and they live together. A good example of their unity was revealed in how organized and corporative they were during the 2013 African nations Cup in South Africa. That’s a big example for the Nigerian community.

To be frank, it is expected that Nigerian professionals, pastors and well meaning Nigerians should provide leadership or create a support structure or system for the Nigerian community in areas of employment, establishment of businesses, protection of individual rights and properties as well as mentorship and orientation for new arrivals etc, towards establishing a positive image and a better life for Nigeria and Nigerians in South Africa.

There is no better therefore than now for us to come together and build an effective and successful Nigerian community here in South Africa. This is a clarion call to every single Nigerian, especially the professionals in South Africa. It is not a call to our Government to come and save us. It is call to help ourselves, to use our human resources to support and celebrate ourselves. Remember, no one will do it for us, and anything that affects Nigeria in South Africa affects every Nigerian.  “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country”- John F. Kennedy


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