By Bilesanmi Olalekan
HE is one of theÂ many stories around the worldÂ re-brandingÂ Nigeria. Like the typical desperate Nigerian seeking greener pasture, he was sick and tired of the country as there was little or no job opportunities. He gotÂ in touch with one or two persons who could be of assistance to travel abroad.
He managed to secure a visa and had to also struggle to get ticket money.Â That is usually the end of the story because, most of the time, these Nigerians are either lost to their host countries or get involved in shady activities to survive which ultimately would lead to their deportation when caught.Â Obi Ochije Modilim is one of the Nigerians in Holland raising the green, white, green colours high.
Rather than join the bandwagon, he settled down for a low profile but decent job. In no time, he gathered enough money to set up a business and be on his own. Like the typical Igbo he is, he went into automobiles which he started importing into Nigeria even as he was also involved in selling of Nigerian foods in Holland.
However, there was a snag even in the midst of his success. The issue of the few bad eggs was not only denting the image of Nigeria but also constituting but alsoÂ hindrance to other Nigerians activities in Holland.Â He sought the support of other decent Nigerians with a view to doing something about the activitiesÂ of the few bad ones among them.Â A door to door awareness on the need to be good Nigerians to their host country was initiated.
Thereafter, he formed and became the president ofÂ Awka Development Union, ADUN, and later with some friends formed the Anambra Youth Reform of which he is the spokesman.Â These associations, according to him, were to help the people of Anambra and by extension Nigerians generally. One of such areas of assistance in 2007 when a popular Nollywood actor visited Holland.Â In one of his performances, he was said to have made some un-complimentary remarks which led to deportation of some Nigerians.
His words: â€œThe actorÂ is a crowd puller whenever he comes to Holland. He is loved by Nigerians there. He had earlier come in 2005 and sang the praise of Nigerians who were smart in the course of earning a living. We didn’t know that the Netherlands authorities were taking note until he returned in 2007 and he started singing again. Not only that he was stopped, returned to Nigeria afterwards but some Nigerians were also deported. It was that serious at that time. We had to rally round each other and made representations to the authorities to apologize for all that happened.Â The truth of the matter is that Holland is a peaceful country.
The authorities thereÂ even call us for meetings once in a while on issues relating to us. If you are a law abiding and contented person, there is no doubt that you will enjoy the country”.
Ask him about the perception of Nigerians and Nigeria outside there and he would begin to reel out tales of their jaundiced views. He however says things are beginning to improve particularly with the visit of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to America early this month. ” Sometimes you feel sorry for your country when they start talking about Nigeria. They talk as if they once visited here.
But again, you cannot really blame them for such uninformed commentaries because there are still few bad eggs among us who unfortunately are the ones they often see. Yes, we talkÂ and enlighten them once in a while that Nigeria is not as bad as it is being painted. There are a number of good ones amongÂ us but the visit of the Nigerian acting president to United States of America recently changed a lot of things about us. I can tell you that for free. I have been accosted a number of times by the Dutch people asking and wanting to know more about Dr. Jonathan. I think that is a good omen for us and the country. Those enquiries do not come so often. I wish he could do more of such visits, they will definitelyÂ change their perception of us. I know what I am talking about. I just hope and pray that he continues the way he has started because he appears to have a lot of promises for the country.”
Nigerian food is good but only few Nigerians in Holland eat it because it is expensive. With five euro, Obi said you can buy a lot of the food produced in Netherlands but notÂ Nigeria’s. “Nigerian foods are expensive. That is expected because they are not produced there but here. The cost of transportation I think made it a little bitÂ higher than the Netherlands foods. With five euro, you can buy a lot of foods, you dare not do that with Nigerian foods. Even then, people still prefer Nigerian food. It is just that the patronage is not as much as the European foods”, he stated.
Despite the comfort of Holland, Nigeria, Obi says, is still a place to be as most Nigerians want to return home but for the socio-economic problems in of the country. ” A lot of Nigerians living in Holland want to return home but there is a lot of things that are not right going on in the country at the moment.
Take the issue of power and crime. If these two can be taken care of, I think a lot of Nigerians would return home because there is really nothing spectacular in these developed countries except that their system is programmed to work. Ours is different. Things are not that rosy in these countries for Nigerians but they prefer to be there than to come home and that is because things are not properly put in place such that with or without anybody, it works. The system there is on auto pilot.
But,Â in Nigeria, everything revolves around personality instead of institutions. But my consolation is that things are improving, we shall get there one day. There is no place here like home however bad it may be. You cannot be president in a country that is not your own.Â However nice you may be there, you are still and will always beÂ a second class citizen. But your country is your own, you don’t need any passport to move around but you dare not do that in other lands. I am not a lost person in a foreign land, I come home every quarter to see my family. I have been doing this for the past 10 years.Â I also try to make one or two contributions particularly in my AwkaÂ district whenever I am home”.
On reflection, there are certain days Obi says he does not like remembering. May 1, 1990 is one of them and which has remained his saddest moment till date. He lost his father in an accident in Agbor, Delta State. He had barely finished secondary education then.
The death made life miserable for Obi. ” That is life. Life is a teacher, the more you live the more you learn. Until he died, he was everything I had but I have since learned that such incidents make you stronger and better”. While he lost his father in 1990, he also gained it by the birth of his first daughter nine years later and this he says was more like a turning point in his life. ” The joy was something else. I was overwhelmed by it. It was the beginning of new things in my life. It erased that sadness in my life”.