The London Borough of Southwark recently organised an event to celebrate Nigeria’s 63rd independence anniversary, during which the immediate past Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola was honoured.
The event, which occurred on Sunday, October 1st, 2023 at the Council Headquarters in Tooley Street, London, was organised at the instance of the Mayor of the London Borough of Southwark, His Worshipful, Michael Situ.
The celebration was to reflect on the image of Nigeria and roles of Nigerians in the British Society.
The event tagged, “Integration and the Nigerian Perspective”, had different speakers to highlight the challenges of Nigerians in Britain.
The Mayor used the occasion to appreciate the role of Ambassador Isola in improving the image of Nigeria and honoured him with an award for his outstanding services during his tour of duty.
While presenting the award, Mayor Situ said: “It is sad that the community will potentially be losing the High Commissioner soon”, using the platform to recognise the Ambassador’s proactive approach as the High Commissioner of Nigeria.
He said: “His Excellency, Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola interacted and engaged very well with the British and Nigerian communities in the United Kingdom.”
Sunshine Sisters International with Ambassador Sarafa Isola. From L-R: Bola Ojo, Lara Daniel, Bola Alausa and Juliana Abiade.
While presenting Ambassador Isola with an Excellent Stewardship Award, for his remarkable and dedicated service to the Nigerian community in the United Kingdom, Mayor Situ said the award is a parting gift from the community to the High Commissioner in appreciation of his excellent accomplishments, his support and his strong voice during his brief tenure.
He said: “Southwark Council takes pride in recognising those who have contributed to the development of both the area and its people” while presenting Ambassador Isola with the Southwark Council plaque of Excellence and a selection of other memorabilias consisting of the Southwark flag, tie, lapels, scarf and umbrella.
“Wherever you go in this world Your Excellency, we want you to remember us and also fly the Southwark flag.” the Mayor enthused.
Ambassador Isola in his response, acknowledged the Mayor for organising the forum to discuss issues around integration and the Nigerian perspective on the occasion of the 63rd Independence anniversary of Nigeria.
In his reactions to the issues raised during the panel discussion, Ambassador Isola encouraged the community in the UK to forge a common Nigerian objective. He appealed to Nigerians to see diversity as an asset, and not a liability.
Noting that patriotism, bonding, networking and oneness are important in a renewed relationship, Isola cited the example of India with 51 ethnic groups, saying once they are in Britain, they become one group and the result is that a British-Indian is the current Prime Minister of Britain.
He challenged the seven Members of Parliament of Nigerian descent, Mayors, Councillors, Professionals, Captains in the private sector and other strategic stakeholders to meet at least quarterly to discuss strategies of addressing common concerns.
L-R: Hon. Ayo Akinfe present Chair (2021 – Date), CANUK, Dr. Mark Abani Chair, CANUK (2005 – 2011), Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola OFR with wife Dr (Mrs) Bolanle Isola, Otunba Bimbo Folayan (2011 – 2015) and Dr. Boma Douglas (2017 – 2021).
The diplomat advised the Diaspora to educate Nigerians at home not to leave Nigeria just for the sake of travelling abroad, insisting that the British Society runs on skilled professionals and those without required skills should stay at home to engage in numerous viable enterprises.
“Nigeria is still the most profitable country to do business”, Ambassador Isola affirmed, querying why some Nigerians would save five million naira only to cross to Britain and start living on the streets..
Referring to the Japa syndrome, he lamented that bankers are leaving employment to move to the ‘Island of fantasy’ thinking it is Eldorado in the UK.
He further advised the Diaspora community to avoid dwelling on negative narratives through the WhatsApp and other social media platforms, explaining that other nationals in Britain use such platforms to promote business activities and positive networking.
“If you promote negative narratives about Nigeria, other people in United Kingdom will use the same microscope to profile Nigerians in the UK. Obviously, such profiling turns around to impact negatively on the Nigerian community in the UK”, he said.
He advised Nigerians that it was time to have a change of attitude, and move from social gathering to networking and platforms to dialogue on issues affecting Nigerians in the Diaspora.
“We have the intellectual and human capacity but it appears we are not optimising our potentials,” he said while
revealing that he is leaving the UK soon but hopes that the Mayor and other Nigerians in the UK will continue to make the UK a better place for Nigerians.
The event was attended by UK politicians, members of parliament, community leaders, past and present chairmen of the Central Association of Nigerians in the UK (CANUK) and a large gathering of Nigerians across the UK represented by leaders of different professional organisations, like the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), British Nigerian Law Forum (BNLF) and many others.