The London Borough of Southwark, on October 1, 2023, honoured Sarafa Tunji Isola, the immediate past Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, for his outstanding service.
This was during an event at the Council Headquarters on Tooley Street, London, hosted in commemoration of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence anniversary.
The event, themed “Integration and the Nigerian Perspective,” was organised by Mayor Michael Situ to reflect on Nigeria’s image and the roles of Nigerians in British society. Distinguished speakers were present to address the challenges faced by Nigerians in Britain.
Mayor Situ lauded Isola for his proactive approach during his tenure as the High Commissioner of Nigeria and presented him with an award. The Mayor said, “It is sad that the community will potentially be losing the High Commissioner soon,” adding, “His Excellency, Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola interacted and engaged very well with the British and Nigerian communities in the United Kingdom.”
Isola was also honoured with an Excellent Stewardship Award for his dedicated service to the Nigerian community in the United Kingdom. Situ emphasised that the award was a token of appreciation for Ambassador Isola’s excellent achievements, support, and strong voice during his tenure.
Also at the event, the Mayor presented Isola with the Southwark Council plaque of Excellence, along with various memorabilia items, including the Southwark flag, tie, lapels, scarf, and umbrella. “Wherever you go in this world, Your Excellency, we want you to remember us and also fly the Southwark flag,” Situ said.
In response, Isola expressed his gratitude to the Mayor for organizing the forum, which focused on issues of integration and the Nigerian perspective during Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Anniversary.
During a panel discussion, the Ambassador encouraged the UK-based Nigerian community to unite around common objectives, emphasising the value of diversity and unity. He cited the example of India, which has 51 ethnic groups but unites as one group in the UK, resulting in a British-Indian becoming the current Prime Minister of Britain.
Furthermore, Isola challenged Nigerian Members of Parliament, Mayors, Councillors, professionals, and business leaders to meet regularly to discuss strategies for addressing common concerns. He advised the Diaspora community to educate Nigerians at home to engage in viable enterprises and not leave Nigeria solely for the sake of traveling abroad.
He said that Nigeria remains a profitable country for business and questioned why some Nigerians, with huge savings, end up homeless in the UK. He also cautioned against the “Japa syndrome,” where individuals leave secure employment for unrealistic expectations in the UK.
Isola, as well, urged the Diaspora community to use social media platforms positively to promote business activities and networking, as negative narratives could harm the reputation of Nigerians in the UK.
He concluded by advocating for a shift from social gatherings to productive networking and dialogue on issues affecting Nigerians in the Diaspora. The Ambassador who plans to leave the UK soon, expressed hope that the Mayor and other Nigerians in the UK would continue to work towards improving the lives of Nigerians in the country.
The event drew the participation of UK politicians, Members of Parliament, community leaders, and representatives from various Nigerian professional organizations, including the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) and the British Nigerian Law Forum (BNLF), among others.