A town hall meeting convened by Nigerians resident in Minnesota heard many voices from a number of their community leaders endorsing the desire for Nigerians to build a “Nigeria House” to promote economic and cultural endeavors of the immigrant population. The meeting took place over the weekend at the Center for Families in North Minneapolis. The President of Minnesota Institute for Nigerian Development (MIND), Dr Richard Oni using MIND as an umbrella organization to unite Nigerian immigrants in the US issued a strong plea for contributions towards the setting up of a cultural and development center for Nigerians.
It is estimated that there are 10,000 Nigerians living in the US. “As the saying goes, you bloom where you are planted. Nigerians in America need a house where we can meet to discuss issues closest to our hearts and display our development events and cultural heritage.” The town hall meeting invited the Nigerian Consular General from New York to engage in a dialogue with them about their country. The town hall encounter reminded Nigerians of the introduction of new electronic passports that were issued since June 2008 to replace the old ones which were easily misused by fraudulent individuals. Nigerians were advised to take advantage of the visit of their embassy staff to process their new passports. According to sources from the Nigerian embassy, the fee for passport renewal is $ 110 with an additional $ 20 processing fee.
Old passports that were renewable as they had not completed their 10-year life span could be extended for a fee of $ 45. Children under 16 renewing passports needed letters of endorsement from their parents. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has had a checkered political history of civil war with military coups replacing democratically elected governments. Various leaders of Nigerian churches, ethnic groups, and non-profits called for unity among the various ethnic groups and emphasized their national identity first instead of belonging to some tribe. “When Nigeria entered World Cup soccer finals, all the ethnic groups of Nigeria forgot their tribal differences and were jubilantly celebrating a Nigerian winning outfit,” one of their elders reminded the audience, “why can we not be one Nigeria?
There is power in numbers.” Another speaker lamented that Nigerians who were blessed with high academic excellence in such professions as engineering, law, medicine, architecture, business and other disciplines have not been able to establish a Community Bank or even elect a Senator or Congressman in politics! “Look at the Hmong, the Somalis, our good friends from Ethiopian, what is wrong with us? Nigerians must be serious and rise to the challenge to do all do-able things so that our children can learn from our example. We must unite as one people,” he emphasized. Speaker after speaker including Rev. Moses O. Fasanya of Good Image Family Services called on Nigerians to respect time as it was a valuable commodity. “We must use time wisely. When we are supposed to hold a meeting at 5.00 pm, we have to be at the appointed place on time, otherwise our invited friends who may wish to assist us will see us as lacking in credibility if we are late for our own events.” “We must stop preaching to the choir, our nation has celebrated 48 years of independence, what can we show to our children as our achievement? What is a man or woman of 48 years supposed to have accomplished in life?” echoed a speaker with strong patriotic feelings.
Nigerians were upbeat about “doing something to make a difference at home. We must ask ourselves what we can do for Nigeria, not vice versa,” echoed a Nigerian lady, adding “even if we had a Sarah Palin to energize the base, nothing will work as long as the fundamentals are wrong!” Nigerians have been very good at complaining, “but we cannot change things by complaining, we must come together to find solutions for our problems,” warned the lady. “If we do not act now, we will be celebrating 100 years of independence with nothing to be proud of.” The town hall meeting for Nigerians on Friday was followed by an all-day community collaborative awareness day on Saturday. The consensus of the two day event was for Nigerians to unite for the good of their country and “stop putting tribalism ahead of nation.”