Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN). “Save Nigerians in South Africa!!”

Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Your Excellencies; President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN)!!

First and foremost, I must congratulate you for the bold steps you are taking to fight corruption in our dear nation, Nigeria. It is a well-known fact that corruption is one of the greatest problems in Nigeria, and as such we need to fight it collectively if we must succeed as a nation. I stand bold to say that your stand on corruption is highly encouraging and therefore it must be supported by Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora. It is high time we tackled this menace called corruption head-on because if we fail, our future and that of our unborn generation is at risk. I also understand the responsibility which is upon us as citizens to assist in the fight against corruption, hence my open letter to you.

It will also be unfair of me not to commend your effort on the ongoing process in building a solid foundation for our dear country Nigeria, a few may not understand the importance of what it means to have a solid foundation upon which to build, but the truth is that many of us have a full understanding of its importance and advantages. Great institutions and countries succeed based on their solid foundation. Without a doubt Nigeria is on the path of greatness once again under your watch.

Your Excellencies, three (3) reasons made my open letter important and a must to write. I list them below:

1. I am an agent of change and a voice for a lot of Nigerians in South Africa.

2. The level of bureaucracy and the total disregard for Nigerians in South Africa at the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg has reached unacceptable peak.

3. I have received a number of threats and intimidations which make me a target of attack from different quarters based on my outspokenness and fight against the injustice on my fellow Nigerians, therefore I want it to be on record if anything happens.

Sirs, against all odds, some of us stood firm because we believed in the change agenda and in the leadership quality of President Buhari, we did all what was possible within us to see that change is actualized simply because we want a country we can be proud of. I desire and yarn for Nigeria to be great again; I am desperate for a country that works perfectly, I want a country where hard work will be rewarded on the true face value irrespective of family names or who they know. As a Nigerian, I want equal opportunity and a level playing ground for everyone to develop as citizens. Our records and achievements should speak for us and be our reference, not who we know.

Your Excellencies, it is saddening to let you know that the crusade against corruption led by your administration may suffer some setbacks from a Diaspora angle, because many Nigerians in South Africa are hypocrites and can be best described using the great Nigerian music legend FELA ANIKULAPO’S music where he referred to Nigerians as “Suffering and smiling”. Religion, ethnicity, greed, poverty and lack of knowledge on the fundamental human rights have negatively changed the psychic and decision making abilities of so many Nigerians

There is another worrisome concern about the lethargic attitudes of my fellow Nigerians. We seem to all agree that corruption and bureaucracy is killing our country and depriving us of our rights, yet we are not angry enough to fight it, we only pay lip services. There is crime, we all seem to agree, but there should be no punishment because we say our dirty linen shouldn’t be washed in public. We seem to agree that we deserve better infrastructure, good governance and better life, but when those who deny us these basic by pillaging our commonwealth are called to account, those who have evidences and proofs, for some reasons, begin to stammer and refuse to talk. We as Nigerians need to begin to ask those entrusted to manage our welfare key questions “Did you steal our money or not?”, “Are we getting the services we deserve?” Rather we talk about “persecution” and “selective justice”. We favor selective, religious and ethnic sentiments, yet we are all victims of mindless corruption and bad governance. We must all understand that for each cent of Nigeria’s money missing or mismanaged, a Nigerian is deprived in one way or the other.

Your Excellencies, the example of the Nigeria Consul General to South Africa Mrs. Uche Ajulu-Okeke is a case in study of what is wrong with Nigeria and Nigerians. From when the Consul General Mrs. Uche Ajulu-Okeke set foot on South Africa soil, it was very glaring that ethnicity was top on her agenda. This is very evident going by the cries of the three (3) other geo-political associations as stated during an exclusive interview published in the July edition of The Nigerian Voice Newspaper in an article titled “One (1) can never be greater than three (3) – Regional Organizations warns Consul-General”. In the article the leaders of National Association of Yoruba Descendants of Southern Africa, Niger Delta Association of South Africa and the Network of Arewa in Diaspora collectively cried out on how the Consul-General have marginalizing their members.

Secondly, going by the employments and internal posting that have been made so far at the consulate, it is very glaring that ethnicity is at play. The records are there and so very glaring to see.
Another stand out factor towards ethnicity bias is her continued romance of the Union despite the cries that the Union is an extension of a particular ethnic association and does not represent the generality of Nigerians in South Africa. Nigerians have requested for a reform of the union so that it will be all encompassing and it will have a national character that will reflect true nationalism. Nigerians in South Africa have declared that if any union is to be recognized as a national association meant to protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians then “Rotational Clause” must be included in its constitution so as to give every Nigerian the sense of belonging because previous gentleman agreements have never been respected. Nigerians have insisted that it is unacceptable that since the inception of the union only one ethnic group have always been the national president and all provincial chairmen has also been from the same ethnic group except for one (Northern Cape) which is of recent.

As the Consul-General and a mother to all Nigerians in South Africa she is expected not to align with any ethnic association or national association with ethnic in-balance. If she notices any ethnic in-balance she is expected to invite or delegate senior consulate officers to find solutions and deal with issues been raised by Nigerians, but instead she has continued to romance the union as evident when she tried to outsource some process of passport issuance to the union, if not for the timely intervention and strong worded letter dated Tuesday 23rd of December 2014 written by the National Association of Yoruba Descendants of Southern Africa (NAYDSA) informing her of the responsibilities of the state to her citizens and the fundamental human rights of citizens to freedom of associations and that the issue of passport to is citizens is solely a state responsibility. NAYDSA further advised that the directive should be withdrawn and measures should rather be put in place to ease the sufferings of Nigerians in South Africa in accessing consular services at the consulate. They maintained that going forward the National Executive Council of NAYDSA has resolved to use every legal means and channels to resist any attempt to foist the one sided ethnic union on Nigerians living in South Africa without a reform.
Mr. President and Vice-President, the biggest issue affecting Nigerians in South Africa is the issue of e-passport; the bureaucracy, never ending queue and extortion is unacceptable and in return this encourages corruption because of the desperation and urgency at which people require their passports. Many at times innocent Nigerians have been deprived of re-issue of lost passport and they’ve been directed to fly to Abuja solely for that reason, while those willing to pay huge amount of money get their lost passports re-issued.

Amidst difficult periods for Nigerians in South Africa where majority of our citizens are unemployed and are in search of jobs, the consulate have continued to compound our problems by monetizing every single services it renders to Nigerians even where the Federal Government of Nigeria have stated otherwise, example of such instances is the e-passport, Emergency Travel certificates, etc.

Sirs, asides the authorized official fee for e-passports from the Federal Government of Nigeria the Consulate office are charging an additional One hundred and twenty Rands (R120) about One thousand eight hundred Naira (N1, 800 at exchange rate R1 – N15) for every e-passport application; yet it takes so much time for the passport to be ready, if service is charged on efficiency then certain cost can be justified but that is not the case. No other Consul-General in the history of South Africa has ever introduced such fee on citizens passport, no other Nigeria Consulate charges Nigerians additional fees for e-passport aside the official government fee, what then is so different in South Africa that every services rendered to Nigerians at the Consulate comes with a price even though funding the missions is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government of Nigeria. We need a justification for the fees collected from Nigerians. We need not discuss the extra charges that have been introduced on Visas knowing too well that only few Nigerian citizens are affected by that except those who are married to other Nationals which is fair enough considering what Nigerians go through at other embassies trying to get visas.

Dear Mr. President and Vice President, on a final note I have received threats via phone calls because of my stand on good services and fight against corruption especially during the last xenophobic incident in South Africa.

I have also been threatened by different legal means one of such letters was dated 8th of May, 2015 from Du Pre Le Roux Attorneys representing Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA) to stop me from fighting what I perceived as being wrong and unjust. The letter heading reads “NUSA AND ITS EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS/THE NIGERIAN VOICE NEWSPAPER”. The legal letter stated that I had published articles that contain various wrongful and defamatory statements of and concerning NUSA and its executive’s committee members. After highlighting few statements they deemed wrong.

It continued “ Our instructions are to demand that you withdraw all the defamatory statements made in the aforementioned article by printing a written withdrawal thereof together with an apology for making untrue, wrongful and defamatory statements in respect of NUSA and its executive members in the next edition of the Nigerian Voice and on all social media sites where it has been published and send to all emails addresses to which The Nigerian Voice Newspaper is forwarded by way of bulk email or otherwise”.

In continuation, the letter further went on “Our instruction are further that should you fail and/or refuse to withdraw the defamatory statements in writing and print an apology in the next edition of The Nigerian Voice and on all social media sites where it has been published and send to all emails addresses to which The Nigerian Voice Newspaper is forwarded by way of bulk email or otherwise with 5 (FIVE) days hereof, that our clients will have no alternative but institute action against you and claim compensation for the damage done to the reputation of NUSA and its executive committee members”
The letter then concluded by stating that “You are hereby warned that should any further articles containing defamatory statements about our clients be printed and published by yourself or caused to be published by yourself in whatsoever forum, be it The Nigerian Voice Newspaper or on Social Media sites or by email, that our instruction are to proceed to obtain an order from the High Court interdicting you from doing so on an urgent basis, together with an appropriate cost order”.

In response to the legal threat letter I received; a counter letter was written and addressed to their legal representations on the 13th, May 2015 through my legal representative “OGBORO ATTORNEYS”. His reply reads “Ogboro Attorneys is the authorized legal representative of The Nigerian Voice Newspaper and Olaniyi Abodedele (Our Clients) at whose instance and instruction we address this letter to you”. It continues “Our clients have provided us with copies of the correspondence which you have addressed to them individually dated 8th May 2015 pertaining to your client NUSA and its executive committee members. At this stage, we do not intend on dealing with every aspect thereof, however, our clients’ right to address the allegations concerned at a later stage in an appropriate forum remains strictly reserved. It is our clients’ instruction that they are not prepared to tender any apology and/or retraction at this stage. Your clients are thus welcome to proceed with action they deem fit”.

Your Excellencies, it is also important to inform you that one of the intimidation I received was during the visit of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari to the Consulate to meet with the Nigerian Community in June 2015 while attending the AU Summit in Johannesburg. Before the scheduled day on a phone call conversation with the head of Chancery Consulate General of Johannesburg Mr. K. Nasidi, he informed me that the consulate does not want me to attend the meeting of President Buhari with the Nigerian community because of what I wrote about the consulate services, but I knew their fear was that I would stand to address various issues with Mr. President concerning the consulate services to Nigerians. The intimidation got to me that I had feared to re-new my expired passport at the consulate and I had to fly all the way to Nigeria to get my e-passport renewed for fear that my passport may end up deliberately missing or a purposeful delay as punishment for request for a better service.

Sirs, I hope the cries of Nigerians in South Africa will be given urgent attention, this cry to you is because we believe in your fight for change and better services for Nigerians everywhere we may be around the world.

Yours Sincerely,
Olaniyi Thevoice Abodedele,
Nigerian Citizen and Publisher,
The Nigerian Voice Newspaper, South Africa

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