Dr. Tade Omotosho, based in Warsaw, Poland, is one of those helping his fellow Nigerians, telling them what to do to get necessary documents, and offering them the urgent help they need at this time in order to escape apparent danger. He spoke with Saturday Sun.
How many Nigerians have received help through your efforts so far and what challenges are you facing while rendering help?
By my account, we should have over 150; that’s from my organization, the Nigerians in the diaspora. However, from the embassy side, I think the numbers are also pretty much the same. So, when it comes to numbers, that’s what we have. Talking about challenges rendering help, I think the most difficult part is with regards to those who are stuck at the border. You know, they are not able to come in yet, because of a large number of people waiting to be attended to. So I’m really worried about those people; it’s very difficult to access them. So we need a very high-level government-to-government talk about the possibility of being able to go across from Poland to the Polish border, enter through the Ukrainian border, and begin to serve and provide water, food, energy bars, power banks, to those people waiting to be attended to. From what we know, people can be there for days, two days, three days before they are able to exit Ukraine and then get into Polish border to be able to now get a Polish stamp to come into Poland. So I’m much more worried about those kinds of people. And I think that’s the major challenge. There are no other challenges. People are coming in, we’re helping them to get to the city providing them accommodation and all of that. So that’s where we are.
Why did you decide to help out?
I sat down and I asked myself if war broke out where I lived, what am I going to do? You know, the nearest or the best option, the easiest option for me to think about is to say that I would, first, look for a way to get my wife and my children out of there. And then, I will either join the civil army or fight for this country where I’ve lived for most of my adult life. But then, I literally can imagine myself being in this situation where these people are. So that gives us a lot of motivation. And immediately we started hearing the rumours and the news of war, and my team at the Nigerians In Diaspora Organization (NIDO), Poland, began to put together this helpline, which, of course, now became the global helpline for those fleeing Ukraine for refuge. So the simple reason we decided to help was humanitarian. And the way we are helping and what we’re trying to do now is even beyond just helping Nigerians; we want to want to help every African person. And in the next coming weeks, we will be extending even this help to even non- Africans. We will be going to shelters and providing relief materials and luckily, we’ve been getting a lot of support. A lot of people are asking what can they send, how can they send things. We decided to help because, firstly, a lot of Nigerians are being displaced. We should be our brother’s keeper. I don’t know what else we could have done. I think that’s the spirit of being Nigerians, the fact that we would never leave our brothers behind.