AUG 18 EDITIONProudly Nigerian

JOHN OGAH: Meet Nigeria’s New “Ambassador” in Italy

By Ishaku Kigbu

World’s diplomacy is wearing a new look with the emergence of a migrant hero who inadvertently became an envoy in Italy after doing the unusual. John Ogah, 31, got a rare recognition after his singular heroic act of foiling a robbery in an Italian shop. The act somewhat tends to remould Nigeria’s external image, as the country is now seen in different light in several overseas countries. Ogah, who hails from Edo State, entered world’s history books by the sheer act of goodwill in a foreign land even though he was an undocumented immigrant. His act elicited worldwide acclaim, including a rare opportunity of being baptised by His Holiness, Pope John Francis, during an Easter Service.

On that fateful day, Ogah, whose habitual pastime was to wander around outside supermarkets and shops in Rome’s Centocelle neighbourhood, was outside a supermarket begging for money when a masked man, armed with a meat cleaver, tried to escape from a cashier. Ogah spontaneously did the unusual. He confronted the 37-year-old thief with bare hands and wrestled himdown until the  police arrived. Once the thief was apprehended, Ogah sneaked out of the scene, fearing he could be apprehended and jailed or repatriated since he was living in Italy as an undocumented migrant.

He had stayed back illegally in Italy, after his application for asylum was rejected in 2016. But the police traced him, using the footage from the neighbourhood surveillance cameras. In a twist of fortune, the police instead applauded the uncommon bravery of the former wielder and recognised him as a good and brave person. The police authorities promptly demonstrated some goodwill and got Ogah an Italian residence permit with three job offers. With the permit and his new status in Italy, the Nigerian has since settled as a Stockman at a warehouse for the Red Cross.

The Migrant Hero (right), John Ogah, displays his resident permit.
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Beyond that, Ogah enjoyed a rare papal blessing from Pope John Paul at the Vatican when he was baptised alongside seven others from other countries across the world in an Easter service. The baptism took place during the Holy Saturday or Easter Eve mass which was attended by 10,000 Catholic faithful in St. Peter Basilica. At the baptism, the police authorities through Police Chief, Nunzio Carbone, acted as his sponsor and they later helped him to get immigration papers and work.

The Pope, while commenting on Ogah’s heroic act, urged people around the world to do more in helping others. Ogah, who escaped being recruited by a gang in Nigeria and entered Italy through Libya in 2014, spoke about his transformation and new fortunes. ” I feel so happy right now; the Pope laid his hand on me. Before, I was nobody but now, I am somebody,” a fulfilled Ogah said.

For this, he is proudly Nigerian.

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