My Pal Elvis: The Nigerian Norwegian
Iwas in Norway last week for a three-day series of seminars and public debates on combatting radicalisation through nonviolent means. The organisers of the event, the Norwegian Council for Africa, were keen to learn about the strategies that Nigeria has adopted to combat and contain the Boko Haram insurgency outside military engagement. Of course Norway was traumatised by its own home bred terrorism when Anders Breivik, a far right Christian terrorist killed 77 people, most of them young people attending a party convention in 2011. Currently, Norway is living in fear following the realisation that about 150 young Norwegian Muslims have left the country to fight for the Islamic State. Will they return? If they do, will they bring back the spectre of terrorism? Norwegians are puzzled that their country, which has one of the highest living standards in the world and excellent social protection, could breed terrorists.
I was as always interested in the Nigerian community in Oslo. The person that struck me the most was Elvis Nwosu who defines himself as a Port Harcourt brought up Nigerian. He has been a councillor in the Oslo City Council for the past eight years with a background in trade unionism and social work and runs a column in a major Norwegian newspaper. He makes the argument that Norwegians tend to believe that their society only does good things to people and they get shocked when they find people are very upset with them. To provide context, he told me the story of his current battle to rescue 68 Nigerian babies seized from their mothers and placed with Norwegian foster parents. Most of these mothers are Nigerian sex workers who have moved to Norway from Italy and had the mistaken notion that producing children would provide conditions for the legalisation of their stay. The Norwegian scheme however has a caveat, trafficked persons can only have their stay legalised if they can provide sufficient evidence that would lead to the arrest of the traffickers that brought them to Europe. Most of these trafficked persons however do not even know the real names of their traffickers and therefore fail the “expose the traffickers” conditionalities.
Many of them who give birth to children lose the children, as the Norwegian social services believe that people who engage in sex work or associate with drug pushers – the majority of drug pushers in Oslo are Nigerians – are not fit and proper parents. Nwosu is currently involved with the struggle to recover George, a baby born to a 25-year old Nigerian sex worker Joy Ambrose. Joy had been to see a doctor who she complained to that her baby often refuses to eat and is often obliged to force feed him. The doctor promptly wrote the social services department accusing Joy of cruelty to and torturing of her son through force feeding and the baby was immediately taken and handed over to Norwegian foster parents. Nwosu was able to get a culturally sensitive lawyer and anthropologist