Wednesday 21 August 2019

Charity beginning from abroad

Observers say that Abike Dabiri-Erewa was so successful as Special Adviser to the

President on Diaspora Matters that President Muhammadu Buhari had to create the Nigerian Diaspora Commission to further consolidate the gains of her achievements.

While watching the footage of the Nigerian Television Authority’s report of Nigeria’s Diaspora Day 2019 that held, with the theme, ‘The Power of the Nigerian Diaspora for National Development,’ one major thought that came to mind was that the Diaspora is a goldmine, waiting to be harvested by Nigeria. But that depends on how it is approached.

Diaspora, originally a Greek word, which means, “to scatter,” is used to describe a community of people who live outside, but also maintain significant contact with, their country of origin. And with specific regard to Nigerians maintaining contact with their roots, the word for that is, “You can say that again!”

Nigerians, who would gladly plead guilty to charges of retaining ties to their home country, are about one of most in-your-face as any group of people living on the face of the earth as anyone can be. You are not likely to have difficulties in identifying Nigerians.

They wear their culture and nationality on their faces and in their attitudes. You can buy Nigerian delicacies, like ‘Agege bread,’ akara, suya, amala, ‘roundabout,’ stockfish, gbegiri soup, and pounded yam in many foreign countries as easily as you can back home in Nigeria.

To confirm to the Nigerian Diaspora that their contribution  to national development is recognised and appreciated, the Federal Government has officially declared July 25 of every year as the National Diaspora Day.

No group is more delighted about this action than the Nigerian In Diaspora Organisation, the umbrella body for Nigerian intellectuals, technocrats, professionals, workers, and entrepreneurs, resident outside Nigeria.

NIDO is the vehicle through which Diaspora Nigeria engages with Nigerian governments – at the local government, state and national levels – and seek to contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

The African Union, recognising the importance of the Diaspora to Africa, has declared the Diaspora as the sixth region of Africa, after West Africa, North or Maghreb Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa.

This recognition is coming from the formidable size of the Diaspora’s annual remittances to Africa. About 30 million Africans, who live outside the continent, remit nearly $40 billion, which translates to about 2.6 per cent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product.

This is reported to be Africa’s largest source of foreign exchange inflow after Foreign Direct Investment. It has been reported that out of this inflow, Nigeria, with $23bn remittance inflow, received the highest.

But other nations that are doing better in terms of Diaspora remittances are China, with the world’s largest share of $72bn, and India, with $64bn. The Philippines, with $30bn comes as a distant third.

At more than three times the size of development aid by mostly the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development countries, remittances from international migrants or the Diaspora provide a lifeline for households in developing countries, especially in Africa. Some parents and wards almost solely depend on Diaspora remittances for their livelihoods.

While addressing a cross-section of Africans on Ted platform, Lindiwe Mazibuko, pleaded, “I am here to try and encourage you to take up a leadership role in your country, and on your continent. I am here to convince you that your country and your continent need you. Not later, not when you are older or more experienced. But now!”

The Yoruba say that when you tell half a word to a gentleman, it becomes whole in his mind. That is, a word is enough for the wise. The Nigerian Diaspora must seize the initiative, and no longer wait to be prodded before joining the national development train.

Diaspora Jews have set the good example of engaging in the politics, and turning the policy wheels, of their host countries to the advantage of Israel. Zionism, established  in 1887, became both a rallying point, as well as tool, for the development of Israel and Jews in all parts of the world. The Jews say, “All of Israel is responsible for one another.”

Nigerians, like Kemi Badenoch, who was recently appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as Britain’s Minister for Children and Families, should peek into the grace notes of Henry Kissinger, the German-born Jew, who used his position as America’s Secretary of State to advance the cause of Israel.

Perhaps, the biggest gain that the Nigerian economy will receive from the Diaspora is in highly skilled and exposed human capital. China, South Korea, and India, have demonstrated how the Diaspora can significantly help to transform an economy.

The robust working relationship between their governments and their Diasporas has been able to foster enabling environments to enable the mobilisation of Diaspora human capital, funds, other investment resources, and entrepreneurial know-how.

It is necessary to add that the Diaspora should not be restricted to modern-day Nigerians who migrated overseas. It should also include those who were carried to the Americas in the loins of their ancestors who were slaves.

Relocating them to Nigeria should be a significant aspect of the return of the natives. And it shouldn’t just be a symbolic visit to Badagry’s “Door of No Return,” or observance of the Annual Door of Return. It should be reverse migration of men of African origin to the homeland.

You may recall that former President Kwame Nkrumah not only encouraged, but also invited a sizeable number of African-Americans to relocate to Ghana soon after Ghana obtained independence in 1957. The move was in consonance with the call by Marcus Garvey that African-Americans should vacate the Americas and return to Africa.

Garvey’s “Back To Africa Movement” of the 19th century encouraged Americans of African descent to return to Africa, even if they will not be able to trace their original homelands.

Though the like of Joseph Jenkins Roberts, first Liberian President, Thomas Peters, founder of Freetown in Sierra Leone, and Henry Washington, a former slave of America’s first President George Washington, relocated, the exercise was essentially a failure.

However, W.E.B. du Bois, renounced his American citizenship in 1961, and accepted Ghanaian citizenship upon the invitation of President Nkrumah. He died two years later, in 1963, and his bones are resting in his Accra residence that has now been converted to a museum of Pan African Culture.

Nigeria can certainly profit from the contributions of the these descendants of slaves. History recalls that Golda Meir, not a descendant of slaves by the way, was born in Milwaukee, in America’s state of Wisconsin, migrated back to Israel, and later became its Prime Minister.

It should not be a surprise to Dabiri-Erewa if this category of Diaspora Africans, with immense technical and financial competences, inquires from her how the government of Nigeria can guarantee safety and conducive environment so they could elect to live in Nigeria, thus bringing charity from abroad.

This reverse migration should compensate for the brain drain of competent Nigerian professionals, trained in Nigeria at great cost, but have now relocated abroad for higher remuneration and more conducive work environment.

But as Dabiri-Erewa shops for Diaspora men, capital or investments, and ideas, she must also steer fraudsters in patriot’s clothing away from unwary Nigerians.

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