Friday 27 December 2019

Nigeria: You'll keep hearing from us in the diaspora

Out, yet about
I have been out of Nigeria for a long time, 29 years in 3 days and I have my reasons. However, my absence from Nigeria has not become isolation or disengagement from Nigeria. I have a Nigerian heritage, I share elements of my identity with Nigerian, and I have significant members of my family, parents, and siblings in Nigeria.
What gets me agitated is when people assume Nigerians abroad have abandoned the country and by that should have no say in what happens there. There is a trope of othering that is becoming the mainstay of some influential commentators n social media who expect us to shut up and slink into insignificance rather than be heard or seen.
Fossils endure still
I had to deal with this way back in 2007 when a son of the then President of Nigeria working for Microsoft visited home and regaled us with pictures of servants at the presidential palace of Aso Rock sleeping in atrocious penurious conditions without any sense of appreciating how unreflective that situation was.
He went on to say, “I like how Naija (jargon for Nigeria) people who have abandoned their country like you carry on as if they are more Naija than anyone else.
In my addressing this issue in the blog I wrote then, I gave reasons why I might have abandoned Nigeria, it was however rich of him to suggest those in the diaspora were carrying on as if we were more Nigerian than anyone else, considering he is of great privilege and his father was still around 3 decades after he first left power in 1979.
See us here
Then, I do not presume to suggest that Nigerians in the diaspora should arrogate to themselves primacy in the affairs of Nigeria, but they can neither be ignored nor be seen as insignificant. A few months ago, a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers averred that Nigerian migrants remitted 6.1% of its GDP in 2018 at $23.63 billion which was a 17% increase on 2017, with estimates expected to rise in the next three years to US$25.5bn, US$29.8bn and US$34.8bn respectively. [PwC Report PDF]
The Central Bank of Nigeria disputes the estimate suggesting it is closer to a tenth, what is surprising is how nothing is said to account for the sudden downward trend that had been growing linearly for over a decade. [CBN – Vanguard]
I have used the case of the volume of remittance to propose the idea that like as taxation might spur a popular demand for government accountability, leading to better governance. The contributions of the diaspora cohort should earn them a right as stakeholders to have a say in what happens in Nigeria.
We’re all affected
The truth is everyone who has a Nigerian heritage is affected by the situation in Nigeria whether at home or abroad. The prosperity of Nigeria is the prosperity of all of us and the less of a burden on those who sometimes have to cater for the absence of a social welfare system and other social services and infrastructure deficits that hold progress back in Nigeria. Beyond that, we should be able to have a conversation on the political, economic, social and human rights situation in Nigeria towards affecting and improving outcomes.
Last night, I had to tackle another of those myopic and reductive views of Nigerian in diaspora and their contributions to the Nigerian system in all its ramifications. We might have left Nigeria, we are still involved, engaged, affected and contributing in varied measures to address issues that concern family, friends, strangers, charities and any other sphere we can find to influence for the better.

Our voices will be heard
We are not going away and those who cannot stand other Nigerians abroad having a voice would have to lump it or leave it, we all have a stake in the country and earlier we begin to realise we need each other, the better it would be for us to create the unity of purpose to bring the change, we desire to see in Nigeria.
Our silence will not be bought nor will our contributions which arrive as remittances but permeate the full-body polity of Nigeria be considered insignificant as to render us voiceless.
In brotherhood/sisterhood we have to stand to make a difference, we the unwitting ambassadors of Nigeria in our respective foreign communities creating the impressions that help positive views of the country along with the hardworking hands and minds in-country making a direct and effective difference in the lives of their localities.

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