FEATURE ARTICLE

Emmanuel Nweke OkaforMonday, April 12, 2010
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Thailand

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WHY ARE NIGERIANS IN THAILAND? (PART 1) - THE POSITIVE OUTLOOK

Introduction:

he question why are Nigerians in Thailand, can be answered by so many people in so many ways. To some people, Nigerians are in Thailand for drug business as shown in various Thai newspapers (The Nation, 2010-03-24) and on the TV shows. On the other part, some will argue that Nigerians are in Thailand for scamming business a.k.a 419 (www.personalthailand.com). Some will argue that Nigerians are in Thailand for fake dollar business (https://www.thaivisa.com/forum/Nigerians-Thailand). However, in all these positions something is greatly missing namely; that many Nigerians are actually living in Thailand for a genuine business and that many Nigerians have contributed positively to the Thailand economy in a manner that motivates an average Thai businessmen and women to invest in Nigeria. We are aware that many Thais are very comfortable going to Nigeria for business investments (https://farmlandgrab.org) It is not an overstatement that about 200 Nigerians are studying in Thai universities and that they are doing very well (www.iis.ru.ac.th). Some Nigerians are also missionaries while some are in Thailand for sports and other activities and events that will give them international experience. I know fairly correctly that no one will question the individual's fundamental human right to mobility not only across states but across nations for freedom of movement (https://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/).


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This article therefore will tend to inform all and sundry that many Nigerians in Thailand are very responsible, hardworking, sincere, honest, and law-abiding and as such deserve to be respected. However, my position remains my personal approach after due observation. Let the websites that take glory in condemning Nigerians in Thailand review their positions if they so wish and accept the fact that Nigerians like every other human beings have their weak points and strength as well. Therefore, any attempt to categorize every Nigerian in Thailand based on "odd activities" of a few is not acceptable. It is an argument based on naked manipulation of realities on ground to serve unidentified agenda. I hereby argue that Nigerians have excelled through education, business, sports, religion and other spheres of life in Thailand.

Limitations of this article, intention and methods: This article intends to answer the question why Nigerians are in Thailand from the perspective of a positive outlook which from the writer's opinion has much to do with empowering and energizing Nigerians living in Thailand. This article observes that it is Nigerians' strengths and not their weakness that help them move forward. The writer intends to keep the energy level of Nigerians living in Thailand very high despite all odds. With a positive outlook, Nigerians living in Thailand can cheer themselves up, celebrate success and then be able to overcome the information that can distract them from a bright vision of the future. This article is also limited because it should be seen as merely a personal evaluation of Nigerians in Thailand by the writer, who is also living and studying in Thailand. Thus, it is an attempt to demonstrate that Nigerians living in Thailand are also responsible, gentle and law-abiding. It would have been better to call this write-up a rejoinder to various internet write-ups concerning Nigerians in Thailand. The writer interviewed many Nigerians living in Thailand in the course of this writing.

Education: The word education comes from two Latin words: "Educere" and "Educare". "Educere" means "to draw out," "to lead out from", "to bring out of" or "to drill", presumably from ignorance. It is a household term. "Educare" on the other hand means "to teach" (Longman Latin Course, Vocabularies 51-55,137 319a). It was the advent of industries, technology and the demand for knowledge and skill, that may have led education to be associated with schools and instructions that go on in institutions. Thus, education refers to any process through which man is shaped and led, toward fulfillment. In Thailand many Nigerians have also decided to go to school to do things and live in a community which gave them real, guided experiences which fostered their capacity to contribute to the society. It is my view that many Nigerians in Thailand are also students studying in various Thai universities such as ABAC, SIAM, IIS, CHULA, THAMMASSAT, BANGKOK, AIT, to mention but a view (www.au.edu, www.siam.edu, www.ait.ac.th). Some Nigerians are also teachers in various Thai schools. About six Nigerians are lecturers and as such are contributing greatly to what should be seen as the Thailand's "Man-Power" which every responsible country needs desperately (UDHR, 26). Therefore to remove this very important contribution to the life of Nigerians in Thailand is not only unjust but insane. We have well known Nigerian lecturers/teachers in various Thailand universities/schools who have contributed immensely to the Thai educational system; few of them are:

  • Professor S. O. Ogunlana who has taught for over 10 years in Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani Thailand. He is presently lecturing in United Kingdom.
  • Dr. Christopher Chukwumaijem Anyadubalu is presently lecturing in Faculty of Arts and Science, Dusit Thani Intl. College, Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Mr. Emmanuel Nweke Okafor is presently a lecturer/the Supervisor of the English Language Laboratory Center , Siam University , Bangkok , Thailand .
  • Mr. Soko has taught in Thailand for nearly 9 years and presently teaching in Kornpitacksuksa School, Bangkok, Thailand.

Education both formal and informal can play a vital role in any nation on earth. Thailand recognizes the impart that intellectuals, academics, teachers, and lecturers play in the growth of their children and I think that Thai government has accorded some respect to the various sectors that give the befitting knowledge to their kids of which Nigerian lecturers are among those respected and as such should be seen as a good point for Nigerians in Thailand. There is an oral report in most Thai schools where Nigerians have taught, stating that Nigerian teachers in Thailand are lovely, friendly and hardworking. The case of Mr. Soko who has taught in a particular school for nearly 7 years is not common to African teachers. He is loved by his students and the school so much so that they do not want to release him. Mr. Soko remains my model in Thailand for his outstanding good life. Therefore most Nigerians are in Thailand to teach, to lecture and to study.

Business: There is no country on earth that will survive alone without any form of commercial transactions. There is conventionally acceptable need for the economic system of exchanging goods and services which are conducted between individuals and businesses in different countries. Nigerians in Thailand are not in any way left behind. Most Nigerians in Thailand do not only engage legally in business activities in Thailand but that they also have Cargos, Factories, Stores, Shops, Restaurants and so on and so forth. I have not heard of any Nigerian businessmen or women in Prutanm being held for not paying his or her taxes. It is a known fact that Nigerians doing legitimate business in both Pratunam and Sukumvit also invite their fellow Nigerians to come and buy Thai products which are mostly preferable than Chinese/Japanese products by some Nigerians. In all, it is Thailand that gains a lot from this kind gesture of Nigerians. Hence, where is justice and sound reasoning if a particular group decides to ignore these known economic contributions to Thailand's economy (GDP) by noble Nigerians in Thailand? It really calls for a fundament attention. It calls for an attitudinal change in order to amend that wrong impression about Nigerians in Thailand. Granted that few Nigerians have not done well, then, can a part be used to judge the whole? There is need to be objective and present information bearing in mind that hasty generalization is a fallacy. From my personal opinion, presenting issues about Nigerians in Thailand in a negative light is simply landing into being guilty of intellectual dishonesty. Permit me to state that some Nigerians are also involved in this propaganda. In the course of this writing, I paid a visit to few famous and well known Nigerians in business field here in Thailand and I was informed that Nigerian businessmen (who are seriously doing business in Thailand) also invite other countries to come and invest in Thailand. I had an interview with some Nigerian businessmen on Tuesday 6th April, 2010. I was told by:

  • Mr. Facon who is a dealer on shoes that he does not only have a shoe factories in Thailand but that he also invites people from China, Japan, Malaysia and Africans to invest in Thailand. Mr. Facon also invites his fellow Nigerians and regularly sends goods from Thailand to Nigeria within a legal limit.
  • Mr. Nnamdi popularly known as ND has been in Thailand for years on a very clean record. He purchases and exports a variety of Thai made products to Nigeria. He has an African Restaurant. ND remains the best African Restaurant in Thailand.
  • Mr. Sam Philip is also another well known Nigerian man. His antecedent speaks for him.

There are so many other Nigerians I interviewed and from all indication, some of them are well grounded in Thailand with their Thai wives and kids. Many of them found Thailand market interesting. I expected to hear the word discrimination but it looks as if such word is not easily seen in the dictionary of Nigerian businessmen and women in Thailand. However, their lamentation was that most of their contributions were scantly reported. Most of them appeared to be sad when they read from the newspapers or internet that Nigerians in Thailand are all drug dealers or scammers. In all, an average Thai in business areas such as Pratunam and Sukumvit are all familiar with 'Levi Cargo', 'Fenco Cargo', Livis Cargo', Ifinity Cargo, etc. These cargoes are all owned by some prominent Nigerians in Thailand. They are well known and recognized and as such are legally established otherwise they would not have been allowed to be in existence.

Sports: I have also noticed that of resent many Nigerians have joined different football clubs in Thailand, though not with "good pay". But then, Thai Football Clubs recognize that Nigerians are good footballers. They believe that Nigerian footballers have the agility and power to play for a long period of time which some other countries do not possess. So far we have not been presented with any story of drug related activities among the well known Nigerian footballers in Thailand owing to the fact that they are committed and engaged in their club activities. Therefore, it could be argued that the idea of claiming that Nigerians in Thailand are for drug dealings is not only unfair but could be revisited to reflect the true position of Nigerians residing in Thailand for good. Of course, my aim is not to present Nigerians as "saints" but then it is also unacceptable when Nigerians in Thailand are being seen as drug dealers or scammers. Please we are not all drug dealers. We are also footballers. Is it immoral to be a footballer? NO!

Religion: Ordinarily, there is no yardstick to decide when a preacher satisfies the people since the job belongs to the Holy Spirit. I could still recall that the Catholic Church maintains that the "voice of people is voice of God". Presently, there is one Catholic Church in Bangkok which most foreigners love to attend. I have tried to ask some of the foreigners why they prefer to attend Ruan Rudee Holy Redeemer Catholic Church to other churches, most of them told me that they enjoy the way the two Nigerian priests in the church handle their homily. For them, the two Nigerian priests are not only "Men of God" but prophet of the "Living God". It is good to note that these two ordained Catholic priests from Redeptorist Community in Ibandan, Nigeria came to Thailand primarily for their missionary work of which the testimony on the ground shows that they are outstanding. We also have other "Men of God" in Thailand who do not only attend to the people's spiritual needs but are outstanding in their daily contribution to the Thai society. There are 5 main churches in Bangkok administered by Nigerian pastors:

  • Hebron International Ministry at Ekkemai Road 23, Bangkok
  • Throne of Grace International at Sukumvit Soi 10, Bangkok.
  • Redeemed Christian Church of God in Phram Kao road, Bangkok.
  • New Life Prayer Ministry at Onnut 44, Bangkok.
  • Bride of Christ Internationl Ministry, Srinakarin Road, Bangkok.

These churches are all taken care of by Nigerian pastors who have distinguished themselves in Thailand and have contributed immensely to the pastoral care of the people of God. Many of these churches have been in existence for years with good records and many of the faithful are satisfied.

International Exposure: Many Nigerians come to enhance their global partnerships, awareness and personal development in Thailand. In Thailand, some universities, business companies and government agencies sometimes deliver a wide range of programs providing an international experience for children, young leaders, students, graduates, teachers, business professionals and employers. Some operations in Thailand can also offer unrivalled help to find partners and provide support to develop longtime mutual beneficial relationships. Some Nigerians are also in Thailand to gain practical work experience, participate in cultural exchanges and broaden their horizons and cultural understanding. As the number of Thais in Nigeria keep on increasing, number of Nigerians in Thailand has also grown remarkable. Interestingly, many of these Nigerians that ply Thailand for international experiences come and go and do not stay for long time in Thailand. The relationship between Thai people and Nigerian people has always been cordial given the diplomatic relationship between the two countries Therefore; it is not justifiable to accept the misleading internet information that Nigerians in Thailand patrol Sukumvit Soi 3 at night. As a matter of fact, Sukumvit Soi 3 is one of the tourist zones and as such Nigerians should not be excluded from going there to enjoy their money, Nigerian food and other African related activities such as head cut, music, songs and shows. Granted that many Nigerians are seen in Sukumvit Soi 3 passing about but my concern is: does it mean that all Nigerians are in Sukumvit Soi 3? Is this enough argument to conclude that Nigerians in Thailand are all drug dealers/scammers? Definitely, that answer is NO! Many Nigerians do not even know where Sukumvit Soi 3 is located.

Better lifestyle: In Thailand, many Nigerians are married to Thai ladies with kids well taken care of and most of them studying in the intentional schools in Thailand. Thai ladies whose life would have not been so brightened have got life by marrying Nigerian guys who are not only good in bed but also in taking good care of women. In all, both Thai ladies have got better lifestyles by legally marrying to Nigerians, and Nigerian guys who may have failed, gained a lot by marrying to Thai ladies. In all, there is a kind of symbiotic relationship here. I do hope that my readers will agree with me that global awareness has indeed encouraged international marriage. As every marriage requires commitment, dedication and hard work, an international/intercultural marriage requires even more attention because of the many obstacles that a couple faces yet Nigerians in Thailand have been able to handle all these obstacles from family, friends, personal values, expectations, and bureaucratic procedures. Nigerians are able to handle the problems such as language barrier, differences in values, religious conflicts, and was able to live in peace with their Thai wives.

Diplomatic Mission: In Thailand, Nigeria has embassy whose duty has much to do with conducting negotiations between representatives of the two countries. The embassy also takes care of Nigerian citizens residing in Thailand. This year's cerebration of Nigerian Independent Day drew many Thai governments' officials, ambassadors from different countries and people from all spheres of life. The Independence Day that welcomed people with high profile is another indication that all is well with Nigerians in Thailand diplomatically speaking. Those who want to enter Nigeria from Thailand are insured visa accordingly from the Consular Office Visa Section in Nigerian embassy. The embassy is situated at 412 Sukhumvit 71 Prakanong, 10110, Bangkok. The Nigerian embassy in Bangkok also helps Nigerians who may be involved in one problem or another when contacted. All the Nigerians working at the Nigerian embassy in Thailand are all responsible individuals and as such should be respected by not insinuating that they are also drug dealers/scammers. Besides, Thai government loves Nigerian people and has not discriminated against Nigerians for now. The Nigerian embassy among other things coordinates with Thai government to send Nigerian offenders home in a manner that is in line with international laws and regulations.

Conclusion and suggestions: It is obvious that many Nigerians in Thailand are doing very well. It is a well known fact that some Nigerians have lived in Thailand for years on a clean record. However, as some internets reporters have done although with much exaggeration and hasty conclusion, it is still true that some Nigerians have not only disgraced themselves, (their families and the entire nation by their attitude towards money) but that they have brought image of the country to a pitiable condition. My PART 2 will mainly focus on how Nigerians have imprisoned their fellow Nigerians in Thailand through various means and intentionally luring their fellow Nigerians to Thailand with the promise of giving them teaching jobs and/or university education. In fact, some Nigerians were even told that as soon as they get to Thailand, they will be able to enter BUS No 2 heading to any of the European countries. Some were told that at the street of Bangkok they will collect used electronics, clothes and then ship them to Nigeria for sell. Unfortunately, these (innocent Nigerian) guys who easily believe their 'dupers', may have borrowed and even sold lands to get to Thailand for a better lifestyle; when they arrived they got frustrated and eventually end up in "odd businesses" and finally some of them end up in jail. Can we then say that all Nigerians are doing the same? What a stereotype? I do hope that my fellow Nigerians will do well in joining me to re-position our image in the internet and in our every day life.

We have no choice but to believe in ourselves as Nigerians. I believe that the reason for all this pessimism about Nigerians in Thailand is that Nigerians really do not believe in our abilities as a country. There is no doubt that Thailand and Nigeria has enjoyed the best cordiality. Why then should we (Nigerians) live with fear in Thailand? Even, some other African countries in Thailand have benefited from our fear. Most of the bad actions recorded by other Africans are mostly attributed to Nigeria. Algeria is often believed to be Nigeria by some people. Liberia is also seen as Nigeria by some people. In fact, it looks as if you are from Africa and you happen to comment any offence and your country's name ends with ria, ian, lia, bia, etc then you are automatically a Nigerian.

Besides, the issue is like watching a football match. There is nobody that watches football and will not see the mistakes that the players are making. But if you are put on that same pitch, you will suddenly realize you can't even play half as much as those people you are condemning. I do not intend to shortlist the activities of other countries compared to Nigerians (https://teakdoor.com) but I wish to call on my fellow Nigerians in Thailand to be strong and move with vigor and when we take decisions, we should take decision cognizant of the stability of the mutual relationship between the two countries (Thailand and Nigeria). Hence the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in Section 21, states: "The state shall protect, preserve and promote the Nigerian cultures which enhance human dignity. Again, if you look at Section 15 of the constitution, it states that the motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be 'Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.' It further states that national integration should actively be encouraged. Therefore let us come together and rebuild, reposition and re-brand our image in Thailand. We can successfully achieve it in our daily lives and activities. Let us prove to those who see only bad things in Nigeria and Nigerian people that they are simply being economical with the truth and that their position is not only chaotic and callous but that their argument is also a naked manipulation of evidence (of many other good things about Nigerians in Thailand) and context to serve personal agenda and make cheap publicity.

Emmanuel Nweke Okafor is a PhD Student in Graduate School of Philosophy/Religion, Assumption University Thailand. He is presently a lecturer and the Supervisor in English Language Laboratory Center, Siam University Thailand.

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