After nearly two decades of various philanthropic works across Belize, Stephen Okeke is winding down his public life in Belize. He believes that he has done enough for this country with little appreciation and in fact much opposition. But why is the usually irrepressible Nigerian finally giving up? It turns out, even he, has his limits.
I don’t think Belizeans don’t like what I’m doing. It’s a personal process. Every country, every individual, develop at a different pace. Myself, after so many years, I’ve come to the conclusion that people are saying , “We like what you’re doing, but we don’t want it.” I don’t want to speculate why it is so. I can only say what I’ve read on Facebook, what I’ve heard on radio talk shows, and what I’ve heard on call-ins that, “Because you are black and because you’re African, whatever you’re doing is irrelevant. It amounts to nothing.” I’m not making that up. People read them on Facebook. That is why I have decided to respect the opinions of people and step back, stop those things that I think are offensive. Right now what I’m doing is just selling smoothies.
Mr Okeke has two book projects in the works, one of which will be launched outside Belize.
While he respects Belizeans’ rights to think about him a certain way, he does not apologize for being controversial.
Most Belizeans have not come across an African immigrant, a black African immigrant, who has performed at this level in Belize. They themselves do not know how to react to the situation. So this is the best reaction, and I respect that. So instead of expecting somebody else to change all the time, to fit what you want, sometimes you also change a little bit. Most of the things I’ve done have been done for the first time in Belize, and most folks were not ready for that , or did not know how to react to that. So the reaction they have had so far, “You being in this culture is offending us’” is the best reaction you have, and you have to respect that. The development is an individual process, and I respect that. I’m not bitter, but I am stepping back to do something else.