Immigrant Community

Visit by Nigerian official capped by tragedy at home

By , July 1, 2012 | 7:00 am | 0 Comment

Visit by Nigerian official capped by tragedy at home

ONUMBA.COM For those in the Nigerian Community in Columbus, it was a great visit by a government minister from their homeland. 

But sadly, reminiscences of that June 2 jaunt were drowned out by a deadly tragedy back home that left them reeling in a collective grief.

Recently, a cabal of Nigerians in the United States by the name ‘Nigerians in Diaspora Organization America’ (NIDOA) inaugurated its Ohio chapter in Columbus. The event played out at the Aladdin Shrine on Stelzter Road where festivities included music, food, speeches, panel discussion and a few tamed outbursts of weird tantrums.

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communications Labaran Maku was at the clambake and participated in a panel discussion entitled ‘Nigeria: A New Frontier.’  He spoke at length and took questions from the audience. 

The minister, who was accompanied on the trip by the presidential consigliere on ethics and values Dr. Sarah Jibril, told Nigerians that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is focused on addressing the smorgasbord of problems bedeviling the oil rich West African country, battering the Nigerian society and ravaging lives. 

He conceded that Nigeria is indeed mired deep in a monumental mess, social squalor and apocalyptic economic morose, but he blamed most of it on eons of neglect going back to the military era, and then assured the community that candid efforts are being made by the current People Democratic Party government to pull the economically moribund country out of ravine of despair and into a path of prosperity. He said that the government is growing the economy, promoting technological advancement, working to provide electricity and to improve security.

Frustrated Nigerians have heard it all before and yet not much progress has really been achieved.  But while Maku left them with that nice package of reassuring and hopeful messages on his way back to Nigeria, it turned out it was a trip back with a heavy heart after the tragic news of a Nigerian plane crash in the bustling commercial city of Lagos located in western Nigeria. 

Apparently, the doomed Dana Air flight, which was traveling from the capital city of Abuja to Lagos, went down with “153” passengers on board. Reportedly, the American pilot radioed trouble with two engines of the aircraft just before its catastrophic rappel. It was reported in the media that the plane crashed in a densely populated district of Lagos, slamming into a two-story building that instantly erupted in an inferno.

Rescue workers rummaged through the mangled wreckage of humans and shards of what was left of the aircraft and found no survivor. A visibly lugubrious President Jonathan visited the glum site of the crash, calling the tragedy a “setback” for the country and vowed to improve aviation security. 

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2012 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).  

Editor's Choice , Featured , Immigrant Community

Pony up Halliburton: Oil giant to pay Nigeria $35 million to settle bribery case

By , January 23, 2011 | 7:08 am | 0 Comment

Pony up Halliburton:  Oil giant to pay Nigeria $35 million to settle bribery case

ONUMBA.COM – When Nigeria filed a lawsuit on December 7 against former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney and oil company Halliburton, some probably dismissed the move as an ostentatious pursuit of the impossible.

Well – it wasn’t.    

Rather, it was pay-up time. 

Halliburton has agreed to pay the West African nation the sum of $35 million to settle a bribery scandal which Nigerian officials said occurred when Cheney was the Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton.

Cheney, 69, and ailing, was with the company before being elected vice-president of the United States under President George W. Bush in 2000.

Nigeria accepted the deal even though a settlement of $250 million was sought.

By accepting the deal, Nigeria agreed to rescind the lawsuit and all charges filed against Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) and all entities and persons named in the case. 

This saga escalated after Nigeria’s anti graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, deepened its investigation of Halliburton activities in the country, probing Cheney’s role in the bribery scandal.       

Cheney, arguably the most powerful vice-president in the history of the United States, was the leader of Halliburton when a suspicious gas plant popped up in the Delta region of Southern Nigeria, prompting questions by Nigerian officials over whether Cheney and other Halliburton officials paid Nigerian government officials $180 million in “cash for contract” bribery to secure $6 billion contracts for the construction of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.

Nigeria’s lawsuit probably piggy-backed on a pair of investigations in the U.S where federal agencies brought similar charges against Halliburton which later negotiated a combined settlement of $579 million.

Nigeria is one of the world’s major oil producers, but because of massive level of corruption and mismanagement, the country is ravaging deep in squalor, its citizens toiling in apocalyptic despair and bone-crushing poverty. 

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Commentary , Featured , Immigrant Community , Uncategorized

Fraudulent Nigerian physician sentenced to prison

By , January 19, 2011 | 2:06 am | 1 Comments

Fraudulent Nigerian physician sentenced to prison

ONUMBA.COM – Dr. Charles C. Njoku, 61, the Nigerian-born physician who pleaded guilty to charges of committing medical fraud and having his office assistant, Veronica Scott-Guiler, practice medicine, will spend a year and a day in federal prison for his shenanigans.

That was the sentence handed down last week by the U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley. 

Njoku, who owned The People’s Family Medical Center, with offices in two locations, Akron and Columbus, including one at 1279 E. Dublin-Granville Road, could have received 30 years in prison plus a fine of $1.5 million.

His package of punishment includes three years probation, including one year of house confinement, and 416 hours of community service. 

What’s more, he and Scott-Guiler will reimburse the government the $131,995 paid to People’s Family Medical Center as a result of these fraudulent billings.

Prosecutors had pressed for a three year sentence for Njoku.  But his attorney Walter Madison argued otherwise, contending that his client should have been spared of any prison time, noting Njoku’s “exceptional life.”

Indeed, Njoku has had that kind of life.

But it all came to an abrupt end after his arrest in January, setting off a saga that belied the storied career of a man whose impressive resume helped him build a thriving medical practice after earning his medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., in 1979. 

In 1983, Njoku was licensed to practice medicine in Ohio.

In his practice, he allowed Scott-Guiler from Orient – who is not a physician – to see patients in his absence.  Needless to say, it was an ill-advised decision that spiraled into a slippery slope to his eventual doom.

He pleaded guilty on Sept. 28 to health care fraud involving numerous instances where he billed government health care programs for Medicaid and Medicare visits and services that were never provided to patients.

In some instances, some of the services were provided, but not by him.

Rather, they were provided by his 42-year old assistant filling in for him as the physician tasked to perform such duties as prescribing medications to patients, including controlled narcotics – using pre-signed pads.

Njoku, whose former address was Valley Run Place in Powell, billed the government for these services as though they were provided by a physician.

Similarly, he submitted bills for patient visits that took place while he was out of the country, essentially falsely claiming that he provided care to these patients when in fact they were seen by his assistant.

Njoku’s wave of fraudulent indulgencies occurred from 2005 to 2009 and involved a pattern of falsified billing for services that were not provided, tests that were not necessary and patients that he did not see.

Meanwhile, Scott-Guiler also pleaded guilty for her role in all of this on Aug. 13.  However, she received a lenient punishment of three years probation because according to Marbley, she was a “gullible” woman who was used by Njoku.

Her punishment includes one year of house confinement and 104 hours of community services. 

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Immigrant Community , News

Somalis rally to support candidate for homeland president

By , December 19, 2010 | 4:41 am | 0 Comment

Somalis rally to support candidate for homeland president

ONUMBA.COM – The treacherous road to peace and stability in the East African nation of Somalia could pass through Columbus where Abdulkadir “Fish” Ali officially kicked off his candidacy for the president of his war-battered homeland.

Ali, who was the Chairman of the Somali Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, made his candidacy official last week at a rally held in Days Inn on E. Dublin Granville Road. 

Before a group of friends and supporters, at an event bunting with Somali flags and patriotic songs, Ali urged his fellow Somalis in their native tongue to rally around his candidacy under the mantra:  “2011 New Hope for Somalia.”

If he prevails in his bid, he vowed to establish an effective government rooted in “honesty, integrity and accountability.”

In his speech, Ali outlined some of his plans to steer Somalia out of the crippling conflict that has robbed it of an effective government for nearly two decades. 

That conflict has shredded Somalia into a wreckage of despair, leaving its war-fatigued citizens dangling in brutal hostilities, which started in 1991 after the demise of strongman Siad Barre’s regime.

“It’s time for a new leadership,” said Ali.

“We cannot wait for another 20 years for something to happen,” he said.  “We want to take back our country from corrupt politicians.”

And when that happens, he would pattern the Somali governmental structure after the U.S. federal presidential system.

Ali unveiled a few of his plans.

Baffled that the United States, as big as it is, has only 435 members of the House of Representatives, he questioned why Somalia should have more than that, and said he would dissolve the “550″ member Somali parliament, to make room for a radically smaller chamber with no more than 120 members.

But he would establish a generous salary scale of $5,000 a month for members to “help eliminate corruption.”

What’s more, there would be no more than 25 federal ministers in his government, he said, adding that he would raise the pay of soldiers to $700 a month and that of police officers to $500.

He said he would create a force of “30, 000″ well-trained, well-paid Somali military, which is part of his agenda to “build a strong Somali army” to rid the nation of meddlesome foreign forces, bring security to the country and “stop the senseless bloodshed.”

Ali, though not in agreement with the independent minded Somaliland, said that he “approve of the way they have handled their affairs.”  He said he would initiate a dialogue with them as part of his comprehensive plan to unite Somalia. 

“I will talk to the leaders of the Somaliland,” he said, which will be a striking departure from the approach of the current regime.

Of course, none of this would be easy, and Ali is not oblivious to the potential danger involved in this massive orb, but he said he is not “worried about death” as long as he is convinced he is doing the right thing for his war-torn homeland.

That “right thing,” said Ali, is to rescue his crumbling country from the mean-spirited grip of politicians he characterized as “inhumane, unwise and heartless.”

In an interview last week, the 52-year old Ali told the Call & Post why he decided to embark on this endeavor.

“I came to the conclusion that I can no more be an indifferent spectator of the calamity that has befallen on my beloved country of Somalia,” he said. 

He described the existing political arrangements and behavior of current crop of Somali politicians as “unacceptable.”

In the Diaspora, war-fatigued Somalis residing in the United States and elsewhere are swooning for a leader that will rescue their torn-up homeland from war to make room for peace and stability. 

But they are clinging on to barely a thread of hope that it will happen.

Ali, though frustrated, remains optimistic.

“I am not one of those who gave up hope on Somalia, because I love my people and I love my country,” he said.  “I believe our good days are ahead of us, all we need is to make the right choice this time around.”

In his eyes, Somalia’s current leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed is not up to the job of delivering peace and stability to Somalia.

Ali’s candidacy may face a hurdle given that the United States and the international community are reportedly rooting for Somalia’s current regime of Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed to succeed. 

Ali is aware of that, but he is forging ahead believing that, “The U.S. is supporting the wrong leadership in Mogadishu.” 

Currently, Somalia is ungovernable.  The conflict in the impoverished Muslim nation has forced thousands to flee to neighboring countries, the United States and elsewhere.

At the height of the conflict, a stampede of warlords scrimmaging for power littered the scene of a ruptured country carved up into hostile clan-based fiefdoms.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Featured , Immigrant Community

Ministry promotes healthy marriages at anniversary clambake

By , December 5, 2010 | 8:24 am | 0 Comment

Ministry promotes healthy marriages at anniversary clambake

ONUMBA.COM – When Rev. Comfort Kalu was planning the third anniversary celebration of the Fountain of Living Water Ministries International, she decided to gear the occasion in part towards an issue that’s hugely dear to her heart:  ‘marriage.’

So she invited an expert all the way from the State of Washington, author Dr. Asopuru Okemgbo, to come and speak on the subject. 

And Okemgbo didn’t disappoint. 

Navigating through some of the biggest pitfalls of marriage, he identified a menu of factors he blame for weakening the pillars of an institution that has come under assault from a barrage of salvos.

It has even come to a cusp where folks don’t even bother to get married anymore.  They bypass it altogether, preferring instead to shack-up.

What’s worse, society, even as it dangles morality as its foundational virtues, doesn’t even frown at that anymore because it has grown into an acceptable vogue.

Apparently, the sense is, why say “I do” when many of the intrinsic bounties of marriage are also available to those who might as well be saying ‘I don’t.’  Single folks in relationships can do everything that married couples do:  live together, have sex, bear children and raise a family, all while reserving the right to walk away from it all without any costly legal brouhaha which is often part of a typical divorce saga.

Obviously, going that route makes the issue of divorce a mute point.

But for those who still say “I do”, divorce has become quite rampant, to say the very least. 

Now, folks scoot to divorce court faster than you can say, “I want out.”  Reportedly, about 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.

In his lecture, Okemgbo urged his audience to strive to save their marriages.  Basing his remarks nearly entirely on his new book, “Pop the Question, Get Yes, Get Married,” he decried the high divorce rate, telling his listeners that it doesn’t always have to be the route out, because “there’s God’s miraculous intervention” to the rescue.

He made a distinction between “marriage” and “mirage” and explained that “mirage” is an illusion of marriage laden with problems.

“God turns “our mirage into marriage” he said.

God performs that role, because according to Okemgbo, “there’s no school for marriage.”  He said that engineers and doctors go to school to hone their skills to practice their vocation, but “you don’t go to school to qualify to become a ‘husband’ or a ‘wife.’  That’s why marriages fracture and fail, he said.

But he offered this advice:  If your marriage is in trouble, talk to somebody.  And it’s not just anybody, either.  “We need Bible-based counselors,” he said.

He spoke about “agape” and said that it is the only type of love that can sustain marriage.  It’s the kind of love that’s not based on “physical appearance, wealth, social status, fame, kind gestures and emotional feelings,” he said.

Money is always a big issue, he noted.  “Declare your assets,” “share information,” and “be open” to each other.

Communication is the key, he said.  But it works best when conveyed in “sweetened words.” 

“Sex” is important too, but he noted that it must be devoid of “selfish gratification” or deployed for a glib mix of retribution, maliciousness and ‘gotcha’ purposes. 

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Immigrant Community

Columbus man is seeking to lead warring Somalia

By , December 5, 2010 | 2:29 am | 0 Comment

Columbus man is seeking to lead warring Somalia

ONUMBA.COM – Mahatma Ghandi’s words that we should be the “change we want to see in the world,” is probably no more than just a lofty cliché for a lot of people.

But for one Columbus resident, it has become much more than that. 

It’s also a call to action.

Abdulkadir “Fish” Ali said that it’s time to rescue his war-battered homeland from the mean-spirited grip of politicians he characterized as “inhumane, unwise and heartless.”  These folks, he said, have for years fanned the flame of a vicious conflict that has brought Somalia to its knees. 

Yet, through it all, Ali, like other Somalis, paced the sideline with hands folded as their troubled homeland ravaged in deepening squalor.

But that was then.

In an interview last week, the 52-year old Ali told the Call & Post that he has seen enough.

“I came to the conclusion that I can no more be an indifferent spectator of the calamity that has befallen on my beloved country of Somalia,” said Ali.  That conflict has shredded Somalia into rubbles of despair, leaving its hapless citizens dangling in endless brutal hostilities, which started in 1991 after the collapse of Siad Barre’s government. 

Ali, who was the Chairman of the Somali Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, announced last week that he is a candidate for president of Somalia in the upcoming 2011 election under the mantra:  “2011 New Hope for Somalia.”   

He described the existing political arrangements and behavior of current crop of Somali politicians as “unacceptable.”

Most Somalis would certainly agree with that assessment.  The East African nation is currently ripping itself apart in a conflict that has robbed it of an effective government for nearly 20 years. 

What’s worse, there appears to be no end to the anarchy in sight.

In the Diaspora, war-fatigued Somalis residing in the United States and elsewhere pray for a leader capable of rescuing their torn-up homeland from lawlessness to make room for peace and stability. 

But they are clinging on to very little hope that it would happen.

Ali, though frustrated, remains optimistic.

 ”I am not one of those who gave up hope on Somalia, because I love my people and I love my country,” he said.  “I believe our good days are ahead of us, all we need is to make the right choice this time around.”

That right choice is his candidacy.  “I have a plan,” he said.

The linchpin of that plan is to “restore our statehood and rebuild our country,” he said, promising “to build a strong Somali army” to rid the nation of meddlesome foreign forces. 

Ali vowed to “stop and eliminate the senseless bloodshed.”

“It is very painful,” he said, decrying the mindless destruction playing out in Somalia today.

A major part of the country’s woes, said Ali, is caused by the current Somali leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.  In his eyes, Ahmed is simply not up to the job of delivering peace and stability to the country.

However, Ali wasn’t always against Ahmed. 

When Ahmed visited Columbus in 2009, Ali wholeheartedly supported him.  He even gave an inspiring speech at Ahmed’s welcoming clambake held at Villa Milano where he expressed the view that “he is our best chance to lead Somalia to peace and stability.”

Well, Ahmed is yet to do that, and Ali now doesn’t think he is going to.

“It’s time for a new leadership,” he said, promising to run a government rooted in “honesty, integrity and accountability.”

“We cannot wait for another 20 years for something to happen,” he said.  “We want to take back our country from corrupt politicians.”

Asked why he turned against President Ahmed, Ali replied, “Reality.  The president had enough time to show leadership, but he has not.”

As for why he supported Ahmed before, Ali said it was largely because of his background, alluding to the fact that Ahmed was part of the Islamic Court regime that was generally lauded for ruling Mogadishu “peacefully.”

“We thought he would show leadership,” said Ali.

But Ali’s candidacy may run into a hurdle from the fact that the United States and the international community are reportedly rooting for Somalia’s current regime to succeed.  It remains unclear whether such support will translate into a policy to have Ahmed remain as president. 

Either way, Ali is forging ahead believing that, “The U.S. is supporting the wrong leadership in Mogadishu.”  Despite all that support, the government is still unable to fend off its formidable foe, al-Shabaab, which reportedly has ties to al-Qaeda.

Currently, Somalia is ungovernable.  A mix of sustained hostilities and sporadic flare-ups has engulfed the impoverished Muslim nation, forcing thousands to flee to neighboring countries, the United States and elsewhere.

At the height of Somali conflict, a stampede of warlords scrimmaging for power littered the scene of a ruptured country carved up into hostile clan-based fiefdoms.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Editor's Choice , Featured , Immigrant Community , People , Politics

Somali community celebrates education excellence

By , August 27, 2010 | 12:50 am | 0 Comment

Somali community celebrates education excellence

Onumba.com – When Fartun Farah, Huda Hashi and Mohammed Mahmud graduated from school recently, it was an exciting moment that each one of them celebrated with their respective families and close friends.

But little did the trio know that they would also be celebrating their achievements with the rest of the Columbus Somali community and that Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and a bevy of other elected officials would be there to celebrate with them.  And that President Barack Obama would send a shout-out all the way from the White House in recognition of their accomplishments.

Thanks to Jibril Hirsi, President of SomaliCAN, who in collaboration with the Somali Education Association, made it all happen after he decided to organize the event to celebrate educational excellence in the entire Somali community.

The event, titled the First Annual Ohio Somali Graduation ceremony involving high School, college, and university graduates, took place at the Hilton Easton.  It was themed, ‘celebrating academic excellence.’  The keynote speaker was Professor Steve Howard of the Center for African Studies at Ohio University.

Evidently, this kind of community clambake is an obvious departure from the norm.  Typically, each family would hold separate events to celebrate the graduation of a family member.  But Hirsi decided to change that.  He told the Call & Post that holding an amalgamated event is much more productive, not only because it celebrates collective community accomplishments, but also it brings the community together, even as it helps debunk the constant association of Somali youth to “terrorism” and “pirates.”

Besides, that’s how it’s done back in Somalia, recalled Hirsi.

“People who do well in school are recognized by the community, not individually, said Hirsi.

Why?

“So that others are motivated to do well also, because they would see the community recognizing and celebrating the achievement of those that are doing well,” said Hirsi.

Ohio State Professor of African Studies Kelechi Kalu agreed.

Kalu, who was recognized for his contributions to academic excellence in the Somali community at the gathering, applauded the accomplishments of Somalis in Columbus, saying, “even those displaced can decide to regroup as a nation.”

Asked if this should be an emulous model for other African communities, such as the Nigerian community, his homeland?

It should, replied Kalu, who is also the Director of the Center for African Studies at Ohio State.

“Even we can build on a collective foundation to begin to re-envision our homeland,” he said.  He expressed the view that part of what needs to happen is to “make sure everybody is on the same page and on the same platform.”

Coleman applauded SomaliCAN for its dedication to service to the Somali community in Columbus with certificate of recognition.  He praised the young graduates for their achievements.

“Jibril, we all know that education is the key to success, to our advancement.  It’s important that we focus on education,” said Coleman.

Coleman urged the young graduates to “respect your elders, respect your families because they brought you to Columbus and gave you the education you have.”

The President of Franklin County Board of Commissioners John O’Grady congratulated the students, telling a story of his grandparent’s journey to the United States from Ireland and reminding them that “this is a nation of immigrants.”

It’s less about who you are today, and more about what these students will become tomorrow, O’Grady told the graduates.

O’Grady also praised the organizers of the event.

“Sometimes you have to stop and celebrate your success and recognize the hard work that people are putting in,” said O’Grady, about the event.  He described it as “a wonderful event for the community.”

Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy spoke.

“This is a very happy occasion for all of us tonight,” she said.  She praised the community unity that the event inspired.

“I have attended a lot of graduation ceremonies, but this one is very special, because we have the whole community coming together to celebrate educational accomplishments.”

In that spirit, Kilroy presented SomaliCAN with a certificate of special congressional recognition for outstanding and invaluable services to the Somali community.

President Obama gave 5 presidential service awards to Somali activists to recognize their “outstanding service” to the community, including Khadra Mohamed, a social worker, and Adan O’hirsi, Director of Programs for SomaliCAN.

Keynote speaker Howard hopes “that the event continues in the future.”

It will, assured Hirsi.

“It’s an annual event.  We will be holding it next year again,” said Hirsi.

And hopefully by that time, Farah and Hashi would be in graduate school and Mahmud in college pursuing their academic dreams.

Farah, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The Ohio State University, said she plans to go to grad school to become a physician assistant.  She would like to attend the University of Toledo.

Hashi, bagged a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marietta College.  She plans to study international law and international relations in grad school.

Mahmud, who graduated from Beechcroft High School is planning to attend law school and wants to work in the field of intelligence, possibly with the FBI.  But above all, he is passionate about school because “I want my country to be a better country.”

Ike Mgbatogu can be reached by email at: editor@onumba.com

Immigrant Community , News

Quit complaining about the Somalis, get involved

By , August 25, 2010 | 1:53 am | 2 Comments

Quit complaining about the Somalis, get involved

Onumba.com — Pouting, whining, caterwauling, kvetching and scowling all over the place with long faces isn’t the solution.  It won’t help non-Somali African immigrants in Columbus get through the doors of government opportunities.

Understand one thing, please:  ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease.’   And that’s pretty much what’s playing out here.

Of course, it is abundantly clear, unless one has been camping out in a cave, that the Somalis, for what it is worth, are soaking up all the oxygen of attention from governments and community groups compared to other African immigrant communities?

But why?

For one thing, a stampede of them arrived here as hapless refugees needing a smorgasbord of government assistance to settle in a strange land.

But let’s be clear, that’s hardly the only reason.  Part of it, I think, is also that Somali groups have for years labored in the trenches of social activism capitalizing on a plethora of issues in their community as a springboard to engage the political process and chummy up with local politicians.  Many of them have been able to articulate their once scattered orb into viable, focused and visible pockets of communal advocacy now being championed by a rash of pushy cabals constantly dangling their pain before swooning government officials.

But in contrast, other African communities, especially West African communities, have not been able to match the Somalis in this fundamental regard.  Yet, many refugees also arrived from Sierra Leone, Liberia and other places, and very much like the Somalis are also facing a catalogue of difficult challenges.

To be fair though, it is not as though West Africans are a bevy of clueless naifs wallowing in their lack of desire to form groups.  No – they form groups, too.

But the question is, to what ends?

Seemingly, the kind of associations emerging out of West African immigrant communities often take the form of esoteric social clubs, the kind we have back home, that cater only to the interests of their uppity members.  Far too often, the leaders of these groups are quite boffo at promoting dancehall shindigs than the interest of their community before government officials, which in a way, easily explains why they are blasé about the communal ululations tormenting the poor in their communities.

True, not all West African organizations are woeful culprits, but far too many of them suffer from this contagious prodrome.  Much of it, I think, is because some of these groups sprouted out of a restless and cavorting phalanx of elitist leaning folks united in their phalangeal seclusion from the concerns of the puisnes among them.

That’s why, these inchoate camarillas are inherently not agents of community mitzvah.

How often do you see a West African organization representative before a committee of the city council or the Franklin County Board of Commissioners trumpeting community issues?

The fact is, West African groups have a woeful track record regarding this.   But in contrast, Somalis do it all the time.

To be clear though, I’m not knocking non-activist groups.  It’s OK to form groups allowing restricted membership, by a swashing bunch craving uppity hobnobbing with no interest in social activism.  It is entirely OK.  But if that’s how you want it, then for heaven’s sake, get off the back of the Somalis if you are unwilling to get involved in community work. You just can’t have it both ways.

West African hoipolloi, many of them toiling in dual jobs as nursing aides, babysitters, store cashiers, factory workers, and restaurant factotums, constantly grumble about their plight being ignored by government leaders they say often cater to Somalis’ every tantrum.

Some have questioned the veracity of this claim.  But those making it uncompromisingly believe that the Somalis are lopsidedly being coshered with love while  they receive shabby treatment.

To resolve this indaba here would amount to a lofty orb, and I won’t even try.  Yet if there’s any dram of truth to this raging claim, then a hefty dose of the blame should be dumped right at the doorstep of those tone-deaf government officials who for some nutty reason just would not quit treating the Somalis as though they are non-Africans.  It only deepens the rift.

But having said all of that, constantly being on a rampage caviling, brickbating and begrudging the Somalis won’t help.  It is a copout.

What to do?

Quickly get off the dead horse and mount the farm cart of social advocacy, instead.  While on the wagon, swiftly purge the old, stale, lethargic order by organizing and pushing to reform and refocus these hedonistic and feckless West African cabals littered all over the city for a noble role in social activism.  That is essentially how the Somalis have been able to establish a noteworthy presence deep in central Ohio’s political scene.

One gallant effort to form an activist West African organization took place a couple of years ago, but the group, which was called African Women Empowerment Network (AWEN), despite the initial euphoria touting all the great things it wanted to do for the community, limped through a tide of debilitating hurdles before it ultimately died on the vine for lack of support from both the government and the community it was swooning to help.

But truth be told, that wasn’t really the only reason it collapsed.  It was also because its founders failed to sustain their initial gusto and commitment to the project.  And that’s not too far from the linchpin of all this, which is that folks in the West African communities often prefer to tackle their issues solo and outside of the integrated communal solutions.  Yet while communal spirit is also evident in these communities, the problem is that narcissistic socializing often trumps the noble idea of being ‘my brother’s keeper.’

Many of them regard being involved in community work as fundamentally counterproductive, a mindset rooted in the recognition that having superior college education, skills, experience, and deeper connectedness to the system are enough to assure them desired economic sufficiency.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com.

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Commentary , Editor's Choice , Immigrant Community