GO HOME AND TELL THEM, FOR THEIR TOMORROW I DIE FOR TODAY – Austin Okeke Writes From Johannesburg.
GO HOME AND TELL THEM, FOR THEIR TOMORROW I DIE FOR TODAY.
Austin Okeke Writes From Johannesburg.
4 August 2019
In 1995, as the leader of the Nigerian community in South Africa, I rose to the occasion as expected of a leader.
I demonstrated leadership by leading the Nigerian community to the Nigerian consulate in protest; for the release of the late MKO Abiola, political prisoners, the release of Obasanjo, and the killing of late Ken Saro Wiwa and 9 others.
They were Nigerians. Humanity is one irrespective of your geographical inclination. We are first of all humans before we may be identified with a tribe, religion or creed.
I invited both local and international media like CNN, BBC, UN TV, South African TV, SKY NEWS, print and electronic media.
This action amongst others prompted Nelson Mandela to campaign for sanctions against the late General Sani Abacha’s regime after the leadership of South Africa organized its own protest match after ours. I was invited by the African National Congress “the ANC” to join in their protest march.
Other nations then joined, and we achieved our goal. Abacha was sanctioned for 4 years by the UN, Commonwealth, OAU, etc.
As a consequence I survived assassination attempts, my picture was displayed amongst the wanted Nigerians at the International wing of the Murtala International airport in Lagos; Abacha had sent mercenaries after me.
Thanks to the Catholic Church and the government of South Africa for protecting me. God used them as instruments to save my life.
This is one of the imperatives of leadership, it challenges one to act in situations like where there is a gross abuse of power.
What is the essence of life without freedom? Freedom to arrest a volatile situation such as a riot or the right to secure the sovereignty of a nation and the freedom to agitate for self-determination are primarily one and the same thing.
We all are entitled to self-determination in our individual capacity. It is a God-given right.
Soon after I had led the protest march against the late Abacha regime in 1995, soon after President Mandela and other World leaders had joined in the campaign, remarkable events unfolded.
The Government of Nigeria led by the late Military Junta, General Abacha was sanctioned by the UN, EU, OAU, COMMONWEALTH, ETC.
Moses and the Israelites needed to cross the Red Sea before they could experienced Mana from Heaven.
Jesus Christ had to die in order to secure our salvation.
Mandela and Desmond Tutu are today recipients of the Nobel Peace price. Wole Soyinka is a Nobel Laurette as well.
God does reward selfless and true sacrifices.
The Dalila Lama is a Nobel Laurette, likewise a host of other people that have given their lives for the sake of humanity.
Greatest amongst men are those who benefit mankind.
Your spirit will not germinate until you die.
“Go home and tell them, for their tomorrow I die for today”
This was what I told the United Nations’ TV journalist during my interview session with him in Johannesburg.
The late Abacha was looking to kill to me, he wanted to silence the voice of reason, the next voice of reason after that of the late Nelson Mandela was mine.
Abacha had placed my picture they had downloaded at the Murtala International airport in Lagos as one of the wanted persons. Hoping to seize me the moment I return to Nigeria. Saul in the Bible did a similar thing when he amongst all his futile plans, even visited a sorcerer (evil medium); all in a bid to truncated King David’s destiny. Saul died in the process.
Jesus Christ, in dying, has destroyed our death, in rising restored our lives. He who wants to save his life will lose it, and he who is prepared to lose his life will gain it. – Sounds familiar?
NIGERIANS AS ASYLUM SEEKERS- EXODUS
Nigerians trooping into South Africa were hitherto not recognized as asylum seekers, most obtained their asylum papers as either from Ghana, Liberia or any African country of their choice.
We fought to have South Africa grant Nigerians asylum status. Our point was, how come the Home
Abraham Adesanya, [04.08.19 19:05]
Affairs policy on Nigeria is not in line with their Foreign Affairs policy on the late Abacha regime? We won by simple logic.
1995, I stood alone in the queue with Nigerian flag at the Home Affairs in Johannesburg, dared the authorities to detain me or deport me should they refuse to grant me asylum as a Nigerian.
The Lion of Judah does not cower.
Fellow Nigerians had queued under other countries’ flags. The moment I came out with a temporary residence paper granted me as a Nigerian, and I had proudly displayed it to Nigerians who were under the flag of other countries, to the surprise of the Home Affairs officials, they rushed en masse to queue under the Nigerian flag. Rightly and proudly so, we are Nigerians.
Greater love has no man than he that laid down his own life for his people. This is what Jesus Christ taught me.
Till date, some Nigerians are currently finding it difficult to amend their residential permits to reflect Nigeria as their country of origin.
In 1999, when Obasanjo became the democratic President of Nigeria after his release from detention, the South African Government withdrew the asylum status granted to Nigerians. They were dishing out same letters to Nigerians to return to Nigeria.
We again fought against it based on discrimination, in that they cannot have a policy that excluded Nigerians from applying for permanent residence permits based on their marriages to citizens of South Africa.
We took our battle to the Parliament in Capetown. Today all Nigerians may now apply like everyone does. The Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution is in love with the word “everyone has the right”
My decision to study Law in South Africa was, partly to participate henceforth in policy discussions that shall be beneficial to all, including my people.
THE SOUTH AFRICA-NIGERIA DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT GROUP.
This was established as a joint effort between South Africa and the Nigerian Pro-Democracy group stationed in South Africa at the time: campaigning against the late Abacha regime, campaigning for the release of Buhari, Obasanjo and others who were detained by the Abacha regime, pleading for the lives of Ken Saro Wiwa and others, rallying support for sanctions against the late Abacha regime, campaigned for Nigerians to be recognized and granted Asylum status in South Africa, and it served as a platform on which President Mandela, my humble self, and Arch Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu voiced their support for the release of Abiola and all political prisoners in Nigeria.
I was NADECO in South Africa. The reason the late Abacha unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate me.
May his soul and that of his first son rest in peace. Goliath couldn’t see that David had an Angel taller and mightier than he was until he was hit by a tiny stone.
At some point, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu was sent to go plead with Abacha in Abuja, almost at the same period the late (Saint Pope John Paul) had pleaded for the lives of political prisoners, Ken Saro Wiwa, and others. All fell on deaf ears just like with Pharaoh versus Moses. Pharaoh only realized later that “There is only one God” They all do.
Prof Wole Soyinka, exiled by Abacha, was the NADECO Ambassador at Large, at the time. He flew in from Europe to address one of our meetings held in Johannesburg.
The late Gani Fawehinmi gave me a morale-boosting phone call.
Meetings were geared toward the democratization of same Nigeria that has now been militarized by the same Buhari that we had labored and fought for his freedom. Irony.
Under international laws, I was recognized as the De Facto Ambassador of Nigeria. I was only 27 years, straight and fresh from the Seminary school, studying to become a Catholic priest.
I really didn’t know what it meant to be recognized as the De Facto Ambassador of a country until I became a lawyer. All I knew was that I was occupying “a position of service and not a position of status”
I conducted myself having that in mind, and with God in view.
The manager at the Johannesburg international airport at the time got to know me better a
Abraham Adesanya, [04.08.19 19:05]
fter we had fought and argued vociferously at the airport, I wanted him to release my people who were detained there for lack of entry permits. After that fateful day, the same manager became my ally. Any time a Nigerian is detained at the airport, he would call and politely ask me where inside the city of Johannesburg he would transport them to, he did pay for their transportation out of his own pocket.
Most of the police stations in South Africa would immediately release any Nigerian just by the mention of my name. I need not be present at the police station, I did send fellow Nigerians sometimes. I knew it wasn’t my name, but God’s.
We accommodated our fellow brothers and sisters from Ghana, Liberia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and West Africans under the Nigerian Association. I was always invited by the Red Cross office in Johannesburg for meetings and discussions on matters that concerned Nigerians and West Africans alike.
It was God, I was simply a willing vessel and channel of His Divine Grace.
NIGERIAN CATHOLIC COMMUNITY IN SOUTH AFRICA
This was established out of gratitude to God for His care and protection over us.
I remember when we would have two, four or more dead Nigerians, who had died from either police brutality or killed by street muggers.
We had no money, no personal bank account, the Nigerian Association had no bank account, yet we were able to repatriate our fallen heroes back to Nigeria. So that their families would find closure, more so, for them to rest in peace at home.
I have lost count of the number of the dead Nigerians I had repatriated to Nigeria.
We needed to serve God in holiness, truth and with our hearts full of gratitude.
This is the only reason, and not for financial and/or selfish gains we are witnessing today, that the Nigerian Catholic Community in South Africa was established under my stewardship and with the support of the Parish Pastoral Council in the Cathedral of Johannesburg at the time under the administration of the late Fr Lionel Sham. We are servants and instruments of God.
Jesus Christ is the founder.
We introduced the Nigerian Mass, Thanksgiving and Bazaar, Family Thanksgiving, supported the Soup kitchen ran by the cathedral of Johannesburg, and the rest is history.
NIGERIAN ALL STARS FOOTBALL CLUB
We establish a football cub in Johannesburg, this was borne out of the soccer tournament we organized around the Nigeria independence day celebration in Johannesburg.
As the Defacto Ambassador of Nigeria to South Africa, I hosted Nigerian Independence Day Anniversary Celebrations for the 4 years I was in office.
Some of our team members proceeded from our club to bigger clubs in Africa and Europe where they had successfully plied their trade.
HISTORY SHALL REPEAT ITSELF
Now that Buhari has provoked our fighting spirits by his atrocious actions, we shall repeat the above feat.
We will prevail.