* Says Nigeria has a lot to learn from Dutch politics
By Emma Amaize, Reporting from the Hague in Netherlands
A Nigerian from Mbaise in Imo State, Chief T. Osuji,Â isÂ on the verge of making historyÂ in The Hague, Netherlands as the first black AfricanÂ electedÂ councilor. He is contesting the March 3 election in The Hague onÂ the platform of the Unie van Democraten (Union of Democrats) and is the toast of blacks and Dutch citizens.
Sunday Vanguard metÂ Osuji at The Hague in the thick of his campaign and he took time off to speak on his mission:Â Excerpts:
So, what are you into here in Netherlands?
I have an organization here, Reach Africa Foundation, and we are into trying to mobilizing financial and material resources to assist the less privilegedÂ in Netherlands and Africa too and that graduated me to the political arena where I am today. I am contesting election on the platform ofÂ Unie van Democrten, meaning Union of Democrats in English and I am contesting as a councilor in the city of The Hague.
The election will be on 3Â March.Â I hope I will win because I have a lot of people behind me and, if I win, I will automatically be the first black African in the city of The Hague to become a councilor.
How long have you been here?
I have been here for 10 to 11 years.
Have you been involved in politics here?
Yes, I started from my organization and then I started writing papers, policy papers to the various governments here from the European level.Â I organized a lot of conferences and seminars at different levels and places around Europe.
And then, I was called by my mentor, a Syrian man, Ehepmed Daskapan,Â and he is the chairperson of the former party, called Green-link and then he is now the chairperson of the party I am in now. I have been in the party for six years. I wanted to contest election,Â four years ago, but I said let me shuttle down a little bit because I needed to know more about the language and other things that are involved.
What kind of discrimination doÂ blacks faceÂ here?
Well, I will think that in politics, I do not see what I donâ€™t see inÂ any other place here. Everywhere, there is discrimination and racism.Â But I think that this country is one of the best countries in Europe as far as politics is concerned. I know that if I am living in Germany , it is not possible that I will contest this election but here itâ€™s a very good multi-cultural country. I wonâ€™t say it is an overstatement to say there is no discrimination but itâ€™s not significant.
Is there anything happening in Dutch politics that Nigeria should learn from?
A lot, in fact, that is one of my objectives. I actually want to be used to the Dutch system of politics, it is very clear and transparent. This is a country where whatever they want to do, it is tabled. For example now,Â if I win as a councilor, I will be under two persons, two offices really, the Office of the Mayor of the Hague and the second is the immediate Office of the Mayor, we call them Burger Master.
The councillorship office is the third position in hierarchy and they are the leader, but, our job is to say no whenever they feel that we control them. We will control them when they give instruction and we say no when we feel itâ€™s not good. It will be debated if we disagree and it is when we say itâ€™s good they will adopt it.Â Itâ€™s good for our country to learn it. I know people will say Nigeria is a democratic country but here is pure democracy and we have a lot to learn.
Are you hopefulÂ you will win this election?
IÂ think I have a lot of support from the African community living in The Hague. My organization has been doing a lot of things for Africans living here. We share food items because sometimes there is poverty here for Africans who do not have homes and jobs. We try to give them food every week, which carries them toÂ the other week. We give those who do not have houses accommodation to lay their heads. We have been doing this for a very long time and this is what gave me popularity inÂ the African community here. I have their support, and even the other migrants and the Dutch society. People want a change and some of us have contributed a lot to the community.
My party is a new party carved out of the old party â€“ that is aÂ challenge for me and,Â again, we have the issue of not speaking very fluent Dutch because you know,Â as foreigners, we cannot be very fluent in the language. That is a little bit ofÂ handicap but, at the same time, we are doing our best. My slogan is that experience has shown that things are difficult and it is not easy to go by but it is always possible. I am aÂ person who believeÂ that threats can be changed to opportunities and that is how I feel.