Mr. Osa Osifo is the current President of Edo People Association of Montreal, Quebec, Canada and past President of the Nigeria Canadian Association of Montreal. He spoke to Ima’ Ero of www.themidwestjournal.com recently; touching on a range of issues including his assessment of Governor Oshiomhole’s administration and his preferred candidate in the race to Osadebey Avenue.
How did the Organization start?
Let me first and foremost commend you for creating this online journalism platform,www.themidwestjournal.com. As you know the world is gradually shifting from paper to online publications, it is trendy to have journal platforms like yours to bring to the larger audience news and information that could not have gone beyond its source.
The Edo People Association of Montreal, Quebec, Canada is a non-profit organization founded on the 24th of October 2004 when a general assembly of all Edo indigenes residing in Montreal and its surrounding boroughs was called to decide if it is worthy and noble to have an organization that will champion the Cultural and Social affairs of the Edo Community within the mainstream of Montreal society.
The following individuals: Andrew Uzamere, Osa Osifo, Denis Irabor, Eric Osagie, Dr. Osman Momoh, Austin Omoruyi, Efe Aghatise, Godspower Aigbokhan, Franklin Odiase, Edebiri Eweka, Morgan Iyare, Peterson Igiebor, Caroline Momoh, Antonia Odiase, Abies Guobadia, Esther Salami, Itohan Okoeboh, and Stella Omiwe were very instrumental in making sure that the initial gathering and turn-out of Edo people residing in the Island of Montreal and its environ was a success; and, it is this gathering that gave birth to “Edo People Association of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
What are the aims and objectives of the organization?
The primary aim of the organization is to help immigrants of Edo background who arrive in Montreal to better integrate into Quebec society.However the association does not limit this gesture to only the Edos; the doors of the organization is also open to any immigrant who seek its assistance. Other objectives include propagating Edo Cultural heritage within the mainstream of Canada’s unique cultural system; harnessing the collective efforts and goodwill of Edo people in the Province of Quebec; promoting unity and fostering interaction, mutual understanding and cooperation among Edo people and other Communities in Canada.
What is your relationship with other Edo and/or Nigerian Groups in Canada?
Let me concentrate on Montreal metropolis for now. The Edo People Association of Montreal, Quebec, Canada has intertwined relationship with other Edo and Nigerian groups in Montreal. This organization is the umbrella of all other Edo groups in Montreal and the Province of Quebec. Some of these groups are the Esan Community of Montreal; Oghomwen Ladies club of Montreal; Supreme Mothers of Canada, and the Orhionwmon Association.
Edo People Association of Montreal, Quebec, Canada is also a Satellite organization of the Nigeria Canadian Association of Montreal. Other satellite affiliates of the Nigeria Canadian Association of Montreal includes: Egbe Omo Yoruba and Otu Ndi Igbo Quebec. The Nigeria Community in Montreal is structured in this format to strengthen the Community. The Edos, Igbos and Yorubas are the dominant Nigerian ethnic group in Montreal; this is however not undermining the presence of other Nigeria ethnic groups. Let me also mentioned here that I was once the President of the Nigerian Canadian Association of Montreal and I mention this for you to understand that the entire Nigeria Community in Montreal is in one accord.
What are the challenges you encountered pulling Edo People together?
Some of the challenges of having a viable Edo people organization include among other factors personality conflict and lack of finances. You know, the cow that everybody feeds always go to sleep hungry because each person will say ‘oh I thought the other person already fed the cow so I didn’t bother’. To further throw more light on these challenges, I would like to draw your attention to the philosophical animal pet of Edo Nation, the leopard. One of the characteristics of a leopard is that it is a solo animal. When you relate this quality of a leopard to trying to gather Edo people together, you will understand the uphill challenges one encounter in this endeavor. It is not an easy task because we are all wired differently as human being. However someone has to do it; and the act of gathering people together, I would say hang on a scale of simplicity and humility. We the Edo people all over the World must find a common denominator for our Unity.
What are the specific challenges the Edo and Delta people face trying to settle down to a new country like Canada?
Migrating to foreign lands is stressful to any migrant and this stress can be classified into mental and physical stages. Therefore, migrating to Canada is not different, and its challenges are not only specific to the people of Edo and Delta. Although, what is specific in these challenges to Nigerians, Edo and Delta people inclusive is the expectation of the relatives of the migrant at home in Nigeria. These relatives expect gold and diamond from their immigrant kinsmen who are yet to find their footing in a foreign land. This expectation of family members is a challenge the immigrant must deal with mentally. The other mental challenge in trying to settle down in Quebec is learning to speak and understand the French language, and we all know that without communication one is totally lost. The physical challenge includes weather (winter) which is not very friendly to immigrant from the tropical zone. But the major challenge all immigrants must deal with mentally is changing from one immigration status to another in order for the person to become legal migrant. There is no exception to the rule. To curtail some of these challenges it is advisable to visit the Government of Canada Immigration website to have adequate knowledge of Canada and all its immigration procedure. The various Community organizations that are recognized by the Government only play the role of Good-Samaritan.
What is your role in helping them settle in?
The Association can only play the role of an observer during immigration hearing; and that of Good-Samaritan, and being my brothers and sisters keeper. Sometimes an immigrant who has partially satisfied the immigration Judge, and upon release from detention by posting bond might be placed under the supervision of Community organization who the immigrant in question have affiliation to through ethnicity.
What advice do you have for Edo youths who journey through the desert just to get to Europe?
This is a very dicey situationo see young men and women go through this ordeal looking for an enabling environment where they can survive and strive. This brings to mind the youngster who was found in the tire compartment of an Air plane looking for a way to flee his fatherland. When one decides to undermine the danger of unfriendly desert to embark on this sort of journey, you can therefore deduce the mindset of that person’s will to survive. And to give an advice that will counteract this mindset, one must be ready to make alternate bountiful provisions, otherwise your advice is null and void. However, I will appeal to my dear brothers and sisters of Edo, Delta and Nigeria as a whole to seek education or acquire some sort of vocational trade before embarking on journey to the unknown through this unfriendly route. Whatever education and vocational trade you acquired can help you in anywhere you might want to be.
How has the new Federal Government of Nigeria’s foreign exchange restriction affected Edo and Delta people in Canada, especially those who depend on remittance from Nigeria?
This restriction affected the Nigeria (Edo and Delta) foreign student community in Canada more because they are solely dependent on remittance from their parents in Nigeria. This is not to say that it did not affect other sectors. The business sector who transacts transatlantic trade between Nigeria and Canada are strongly affected as well. This is because their trading capital is held in tardiness by this restriction. On the other hand some Edo business men and women have relatively profited from this restrictions as it became an avenue of trading currency exchange between Canada and Nigeria.
Have you as a group made representations to the Nigeria Government to proffer solutions?
No we have not, but we are keeping close watch to see the duration of the restrictions. I think it is going to be temporary. This will enable the current Nigeria Government administration find ways to curb the loopholes in remitting funds out from Nigeria which is in line with their anti-corruption campaign.
How would you rate the Edo/Delta Community in Canada in terms of their contribution to the local economy?
The Nigeria population ratio in Montreal is infinitesimal to other migrant Community. So the economic contribution index of the Nigeria Community in Montreal cannot be adequately measured. However, ninety percent of Edo/Delta people living in the Island of Montreal and its surrounding borough are legally engaged in one economic activity or the other, and therefore contributing in one way or the other to the local economy by paying their taxes.
Would you see this as brain drain?
It depends on which angle we try to evaluate the situation. There are reasonable numbers of brilliant mind still in Nigeria in spite of the fact that they might lack the know-how of how to apply their knowledge. The one factor that continues to stagnate the growth of Nigeria society is lack of an enabling environment. So the first thing we should address is how to create and allow enabling environment before we tag certain situation as brain drain. Ones this is addressed we would be able to identify whether there is brain-drain in certain sectors of the society or not. In fact those who find their way to the corridor of power by any means necessary have not been kind to the society hence development in Nigeria is on a millipede motion.
Are there specific plans or programs for your members to provide professional services back home in Edo?
Let me remind you that this is a non-profit Community enhancement organization, and that we are not economically buoyant enough to embark on such worthy venture at this time. For instance if this organization decides to initiates program of the magnitude of which you are asking me, the organization must foot the bills and make provisions for the professional members who are being sent to Edo state from Montreal to execute such programs and initiatives. However this organization is always sourcing for professionals from every walk of life, and from every Community in Canada who could undertake on such venture on behalf of the Association on a volunteer basis. And again it still depends on having an enabling environment.
What role are the Edo people in Canada group playing in the coming Edo state Governorship election?
Our role is limited because we don’t have direct impact by way of voting. So our role is more or less of sensitizing our different wards and constituency of origin to support and vote for candidate whose primary concern is the wellbeing of the people of Edo state: a candidate who can industrialize Edo state; a candidate who can create an enabling environment for its citizen to strive; a candidate who can empower its people by way of education and creation of genuine employment of substance. The World is integrating and therefore we the Edo people don’t want to be left behind, and therefore can no longer be content with mediocre candidates, Governor and government out of intimidation, tribal or kinsmen affiliations. It is time we the people tilt the power structure of our society towards the citizens and not the selected few, otherwise we will continue to be downtrodden without benefitting from the dividend of democracy.
What is your assessment of Governors Adam Oshiomhole’s government so far?
I will sum up my assessment of Oshiomhole’s administration as: In the city of the blind one eyed man is the king.
Do you have a preferred candidate?
Yes I do. My preferred candidate is Chief Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri.
I prefer him because he is a technocrat who can actually industrialize Edo state; whose government can educate its citizen, create genuine employment and enabling environment for the people of Edo state to strive. I know this because I have been privy to read his blue print to building strong basic societal fundamentals that will propel Edo state to becoming one of the technological hubs of Nigeria. I would also want you to be cognizant of his current effort of trying to make industrial welding a degree program in Africa Universities. He is doing this in his present capacity as President of African welding federation.
Just for your information I am currently not a member of any political party, I align only with person or candidate who I think can really engineer twenty-first century economic growth in Edo state not by rhetoric but by actions and doings.
What traits would you want to see from whoever wins the Edo State Goverins the Edo State Governorship race?
A Governor that is transparent ;who has the best interest of Edo people at heart, and who will dispense the dividends of democratic process to the people. A governor who will create an enabling environment for the citizen of Edo state to strive.
What are your closing words?
The wellbeing of Edo people is not only relative to singing praises of Edo past glory; but building a strong Edo economic foundation today for tomorrow.
I wish you success in your online journalism platform.