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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Nigeria and Its Diaspora: What To Do?

Your blogger is constantly travelling and racking up air miles. On these trips the blogger meets a lot of people. Off recent many Nigerians. There are many Nigerians in the diaspora,  many doing well and keeping a clean nose, while others just keep it real. When the politician comes across your typical Nigerian living in Rome, London or Chicago, they have an aloof attitude towards their motherland. Many rightfully feel betrayed by a country with so much potential.

Western governments want to curb immigration to its barest minimum but many immigrants have already come to stay. A flat lining and failing economy is usually the main reason. Others reckon that there is a strain on public infrastructure and for others, it is a simple case of identity. The blogger reckons that these are just euphemisms for xenophobia and perhaps bigotry. Its like justifying the dreadful ghana must go policy.

Emigration out of Nigeria has constantly grown since the late 1970s after the nation squandered its oil windfall. Chukwuma Soludo,  an economist and a former Central Bank Governor, in a newspaper interview claimed that there were about 17 million Nigerians in Diaspora (we are not here to debate that figure). The population of the country is 170 million strong.

Nigerians get excited, even proud  when one of their own is doing well in entertainment, sports, business and politics. A survey carried out by this blog, showed that only 28% of children of first generation immigrants talked about their Nigerian heritage. While only 45% of those who left Nigeria at a very young age speak about their Nigerian heritage (The survey did not include the older generations which would have brought into the fray Shirley Bassey, John Fashanu, Efan Ekoku, Sade Adu and Seal).

Sports, perhaps football is seemingly the main way Nigeria has been able to attract its diaspora. Probably because their adopted countries don't select them. Businessmen are still a little bit hesitant but relish the opportunity to make a fast buck. Fashion designers are creating a buzz but successful musicians, actors and actresses don't bother.


BEYOND WESTERN UNION


According to the French Consulate in London, there are nearly about 500,000 french citizens in London alone. If that was to be in France, London would be the 5th biggest city in that country. Little wonder that there are no french elections that don't have a campaign stop in London.

Nigeria's diaspora will never outdo the Lebanese diaspora. There are only about 4 million people in Lebanon and about 22 million worldwide. Amongst the diaspora are the world's richest man Carlos Slim, the actress Salma Hayek, Singer Shakira, CEO of Nissan Carlos Ghosn. An estimated 500,000 are believed to be in West Africa. A majority of the rest are in South America.

There are gains to be made. Nigerians can boast of about 4 generations in the diaspora. Many still have strong ties to their native country. The Nigerian government and Non-Government Organisations should begin opening cultural centers, just like the Chinese, the British and the French do all over the world. An emphasis on history, social studies, culture and current affairs should be advanced. University associations should be strengthened; not just talking about financial support for students.

Most importantly, folks abroad should be allowed to vote in their country of residence; at least for the presidential elections. These might arguably be the cleanest votes to be cast.

Just like the ancient Greeks, what other way could you engage the citizenry?