I am putting myself forward to lead a team of Nigerians in the capacity of Chairman Board of Trustees, providing strategic direction for the European arm of the official Nigerian Diaspora body called Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO). Reflecting, as I should do, on how I wish to do such important job at this time in Nigeria’s history, I took a journey down memory lane to all the efforts invested over the years by good men and women of NIDO Europe. They toiled for the organization to become an alternative platform for sustainable social economic development of Nigeria. I can only be grateful for the selfless services of these founding members and all the stakeholders that have sustained the organization till date. (This one is for you).
Irrespective of the amount of energy and human resources already invested, the organization is perceived by a significant number of people to be performing below its potentials and expectations. Much as they want to, under the circumstance, optimists – and I like to think of myself as one – are caught in the dilemma of expressing appreciation for the sacrifices of yesteryears while stopping short of an endorsement or show of total satisfaction with the state of NIDO today. I am sure that without all their efforts there will be no NIDO today, and the effects, irrespective of the expectations compared to reality, will not be felt in Nigeria and certainly not within the Diaspora.
Exciting times for Diaspora engagement
These are exciting times to be part of the Nigerian Diaspora movement. This is because more than ever before, our citizens back home, not to talk of our different arms of government; look up to us for innovative solutions to the myriads of challenges facing the nation. And why not? After all we are living and working in places where things work. As Chair of NIDOE Germany in the last three and half years, I have led a dedicated team of patriots accosted with the challenges and intricacies imbedded in Project NIDOE both at national and at continental levels but have also being amazed at the available enormous goodwill that provided the leverage upon which we have built a solid Chapter. My excitement for Diaspora engagement is fed partly by a deep sense of optimism about the future of the organization as it continues to contribute in its own little way to National development. Clearly, through NIDO, a very good foundation has been laid for the Diaspora to make great things happen at home and also to join in the national discourse regarding the process of nation building.
The Diaspora as de facto State
In my view, it is now time for NIDO to be seen as a symbolic 37th State of Nigeria in terms of politico-structural importance just as the African Union considered the Diaspora as the sixth Region of the continent, with Diaspora policy and Diaspora Commission and a planned future representation at the AU General Assembly.
What is important to know at this stage is that our European body NIDO:
- has great potentials to contribute to the social, economic and cultural leveraging of our people in Nigeria
- is facing major challenges in its current developmental stage, this not being unusual for organizations of such magnitude and importance
- enjoys an abundance of goodwill and human resources needed to take NIDO to the next level and that is why most well-meaning Nigerians have not abandoned the NIDOE ship.
What is also needed at this stage of our development is to rekindle once again the Diaspora indomitable spirit through a holistic re-strategizing and repositioning of NIDOE to present the organization and the Diaspora as a well ordered and dependable group, promoting national development, business, trade & investment opportunities, providing a professional resource pool from where the Diaspora and National developmental interests could be managed in a transparent but secure, respectful but fair manner to induce growth in the areas of economic, social, academic, political, entertainment and all areas where our people seek to position themselves. A team of like minds is urgently needed to recalibrate the course of the NIDOE ship for a new stage in its development.
Knowing our true base
I am first a Nigerian before being a Diaspora. I am first a chapter member before being a continental member. The foundation of NIDOE we all agreed starts with the Chapters. Getting the foundation right is a fundamental step in this new strategy. The resentment of most of the European citizens against the EU should be a big reminder to what happens when the people at the foundation of any organization feel “left-behind” due to the policies crafted at the top level of our policy hierarchy. Similarly, some of the difficulties we are experiencing in Nigeria today could be traced to the magic of Abuja at the expense of the federating structures. NIDOE at the European level must provide a road map to synchronize the unique and potentials of various Chapters and must work with Chapters as partners in progress in actualizing the set goals and objectives.
Our common interest cements our relationship
Focusing on issues that unite us rather than issues that divide us must be encouraged. I am first a Nigerian before being a Diaspora. Our religion, ethnicity, tribe and tongue may differ but our professional resource pool and our aspirations to contribute to the development of our country where our parents, brothers, sisters and relations resides must remain the same. Many of us have the luxury to move from one country to another within Europe, North America and the rest of the world but unfortunately, many of our people and colleagues back at home cannot afford such luxury. Pivoting on this fact, our plan must be to develop result-oriented policies and action-packages which will make it possible to galvanize our pool of resources, knowledge and experience to enlighten our folk to overcome the barriers of ethnicity and tribal bigotry and to provide an alternative argument through empowerment programs and initiatives; bearing in mind that such laudable objectives may not necessary receive “a red carpet reception” back at home without a trustworthy synergy with our Diaspora returnees. A starting point could be the commitment to a uniform web presence fashioned after existing common models where the database of Nigerian medical doctors, the lawyers, the engineers and the bankers and other Nigerian professionals in Germany or Sweden or UK will have a dedicated common platform towards national development discourse.
Reforming or consolidating
The organisation needs to build a sense of urgency, not around the word reform or change but a sense of urgency for consolidation. The history of reforms in NIDOE has been a battle ground for many intellectuals and professionals since inception. Every little gain and progress which has been made must be guarded jealously. After careful analysis, I have come to identify the Keyword as consolidation! Not change nor reform but consolidation! We will be mindful of the difficulties and the energy already invested, every reform so far achieved and we must learn to pursue the common sense implementations of such reforms as guided by the constitution. Such implementations nonetheless must follow wide consultations to be sure everyone is carried along; at least the critical mass of NIDOE stakeholders. Consultation must be an ongoing process yielding an organic change within our communities.
More projects less processes
Putting the right processes in place helps to ensure that projects succeed. NIDO does not need more processes but projects because to my understanding, Diaspora engagement should equate with being in a service driven role; an important life-wire, supplying economic and development lifeline to Nigeria. Viewed from this perspective, the focus of the Diaspora is to act as facilitators to the local developmental agenda of the Federal Government but mainly driven through the smaller entities like the Local and State Governments from the Diaspora stand point. NIDOE must be definitively project driven. The 2013 and 2016 Diaspora Days have clearly shown that being project oriented is a right way to go. Few Diaspora projects like NIDOE solar project, Trade Mission series to States of Nigeria, “No child left behind” are some of the NIDO success stories confirming this project-oriented approach.
Sharpening the lobby tools
It is important to know that none of the efforts of Nigerians in Diaspora will germinate if our leaders, policy makers and opinion leaders at home and in Diaspora do not provide a fertile ground for these efforts. Together with the NIDOE stakeholders in Nigeria, a concerted effort must be made to provide this necessary fertile ground through intensive lobby for the creation of important enabling institutions. Top on the Diaspora list are the Diaspora Database, the Diaspora Commission and the Diaspora Voting Rights. These legislated structures or institutions will act as catalysts giving the Diaspora the impetus to coalesce further and to create new solutions for national challenges. Good news is that the architecture for these important bodies of work is already in place. I want to lead us to swiftly run them to the finishing line.
Imperatives of coherence
To be sure we will achieve the aspirations; certain steps must urgently be taken. European citizens, for instance, are especially rebelling against the European Union for lack of transparency, openness and proper flow of information of the activities of the European Commission. NIDOE is irritatingly at similar threshold. They have been areas of total connections in the past that made NIDOE what it was then and what it is today, but many areas of total disconnect also exist at different levels; between the Board and the chapters, between various chapters and between NIDOE and non-NIDO members both at national, continental and inter-continental levels. There must be an immediate information offensive to bridge these gaps using all available information strategy and all available media tools. Moreover the information offensive will help NIDO win hundreds of professionals and resourceful people of Diaspora type who may not have had a favourable disposition towards the organization.
A broad-based vision, not a narrow narrative
In my opinion, the potential of NIDO and the modest achievements so far are strongly underestimated, if not actually neglected. This attitude is probably due to a lack of accurate information about the organization and its activities over the years rather than general indifference. NIDO is only seen by a large majority as an organization of professors and PhDs and at best for the intellectuals. But to individuals with years of experiences in various fields of profession who do not have a university background, NIDO is of little interest if not totally unattractive. At this juncture, let me re-emphasize that there are some outstanding Nigerians who are neither professors nor PhD-holders nor academics but have made achievements in their areas of chosen field. To them I will say that the years of an elitist organisation is dead and buried; welcome to NIDO of 2016 with a constituency that is broad-based.
Cooperating rather than competing is smart leadership
Crucial Diaspora affairs and events like the Diaspora Commission, Diaspora Voting Rights and Diaspora Day are matters that concern all Nigerians outside Nigeria, therefore a strategic cooperation, networking and synergy with other Nigerian Diaspora Groups e.g., ANNID, NIDAN, CANUK is cardinal. The Diaspora of 2016 must be seen as a call to service and all hands must be on deck and NIDOE must be seen as providing the needed framework and guidance. We must reject manipulative tendencies designed to keep us divided and fighting one another. We must accept to dance individually to the tone of our music and each in its own dancing steps and rhythm, but we must learn and accept to dance together. Together we are stronger and united.
In closing, I should say that there is much work to be done to overcome the things that set us apart. This work we must do together. Then focus on discharging our duties as Diaspora in accordance with the Charter of NIDO. Building on the experiences of our founding stakeholders both within the Diaspora and back at home, it is my utmost duty to provide the leadership needed today to make NIDOE a cornerstone of foreign and domestic policy by the Republic of Nigeria. I am certain that I am able to rekindle the fast dwindling indomitable Diaspora Spirit, unite us around a common agenda, work effectively with the private sector, governments and non-governmental organization at all levels and bring Nigeria’s development partners on board. It is the choice of others if they want to tell you something different, but it is your decision to retain the faith that the work to be done is not more complicated than I have laid out before you. We can do it and I want to provide us the strategic Servant-leadership as Chairman Board of Trustees to do it. So help me God!