Finding Rest, Libreville
Gabon is a sparsely populated country with about 1.7million people. It is estimated that over 300,000 Nigerians live in Gabon. Most of its citizens work in the oil rich government establishments; while foreigners dominate the local business in areas of food, clothing, electronics, auto spare parts and taxi. These portraits explore the paradoxical stories of Africans living on another African soil with reported incidents of xenophobic discrimination and socio-political nightmare.
A number of Nigerians who fled Nigeria during the Biafran war are now resident in Gabon. There are also others who arrived travelling through a deadly sea in search of a promised greener pasture. Most would agree that the economy of Gabon is far better than Nigeria while some, entrapped in circumstances far beyond their control, feel there is no place like home.
Their stories recount their experiences, the dangers of migrating through the sea, challenges of starting a new life in a francophone country, a frictional relationship with the authorities, and the threatening fear of returning back to their homeland as empty as when they came.
Occupation: Ice-Cream Seller
23rd year in Libreville
He plans to move back to Nigeria as soon as his Ice cream business yields well enough to start a new business. However, he doesn’t know what to expect in Nigeria now since he left with his parents at a very young age.
22nd Year in Libreville
He entered Gabon via a cargo aircraft in 1991 and has since worked with his brother. He recently started his own business, a Barbing saloon, the returns of which he uses to cater for himself and his Gabonese child. He says he would love to relocate back to his home country but he doesn’t feel it’s a better place now, as he hears sad stories in the news every day.
3rd year in Libreville.
She says she hasn’t regretted coming to Libreville. She hopes to do more and be popular.
Occupation: Taxi Driver
14th year in Libreville
He works as a taxi driver for 8 to 9 hours a day. He says he enjoys the basic infrastructure like power and good roads in Gabon. He boasts that he and his family have been living fine since they relocated.
Name: Mrs Ariet Ibe
Occupation: Food Mart Trader
26th year in Libreville
She complains about the attitude of her fellow Nigerians in the country; saying they break rules and regulations of the government in a bid to make fast money. She says the Gabonese were nice and friendly people many years ago but are now very sensitive because of armed robbery cases related to Nigerian citizens.
Name: Mrs Alis
Occupation: Petty Trader
32nd year in Libreville
Occupation: Arabic Student
12th year in Libreville
Though Gabon is predominantly a Christian community, there are still some mosques around the town owned and managed by Nigerians. Missaliyath receives Quran lessons during her holidays.
Occupation: Petty Trader
13th year in Libreville
His uncle promised him a better life in Gabon and took him through the Dead Sea which almost claimed his life. Unknown to him, the job was to come and help people pull goods with a wheel barrow. He has also experienced xenophobic discrimination from his neighbours.
Name: Alhaji Saliu
Occupation: Business Man
40th year in Libreville
Has been living in Libreville for 40yrs, since the Biafran war. Hails from Oyo state, Nigeria. He imports goods from Nigeria into Gabon. He says he would rather live in Libreville because life is easier there than in Nigeria.
Name: Alhaja Fatima
Occupation: Food Seller
2nd year in Libreville
Occupation: Baby Store Keeper
22nd year in Libreville
Struggles to maintain life as he works as a sales man. ‘I would relocate to Nigeria when I can afford my transport fare back’
For more, see Jide Odukoya documentary photography projects.These photos are used with permission.black and white gabon libreville people profiles