Being an open paper delivered by Oliver O. Mbamara at the 3rd Annual Nigerian Leadership Summit in New York in 2012.
It is no news that many Nigerians have in recent times been traveling abroad for better opportunities and it is no news that many of these Nigerians now reside abroad. It is also no news that this trend has resulted in brain-drain and manpower depletion for the Nigerian home country. However, one relevant question continues to beg to be answered. Will these Nigerians now in Diaspora ever return home to help sustain the growth of their home country?
Schools of Thought:
There are those who argue that Nigerians doing well abroad would not want to give up the socio-economic comfort being enjoyed in Diaspora to return to a country were many are struggling to survive. A country desperately in need of a political messiah who would steer the leadership of the country in the right direction. A country struggling to sustain its fragile unity seriously threatened by communal and religious extremist violence.
Then there are those who argue that come what may, home will always be home and that one will never be as psychologically comfortable in Diaspora as one would be in his home country. An environment where one would speak one’s vernacular language without fear of being referred to as being grammatically wrong or ridiculed for having an accent while managing to speak the applicable foreign language even where such language is not one’s first language. An environment where one would naturally behave in the traditional (and cultural) manner the person was raised in without being looked at as a strange person. This school of thought insists that no matter how westernized some Nigerians in Diaspora may pretend to be, the socio-cultural elements imbibed in them through their country home upbringing can never be replaced. Instead, the Nigerian with home upbringing will always yearn to come back home to Nigeria someday.
This paper highlights the third position. A sort of middle path – that whether the socio-economic comfort abroad would encourage Nigerians to stay back in Diaspora, or whether their socio-cultural upbringing and extended family would encourage them to come back home, will mostly depend on how good or how bad things are in the home country. How safe is it and what opportunities are therein available?
Security and a Conducive Nigerian Environment:
In other papers I have called for Nigerians anywhere in the world to always stand up for Nigeria despite the unfortunate acts of a few Nigerians who continue to subject the image of the country to negative criticism despite the good efforts of the majority. I have always called on Nigerians abroad to turn their focus towards helping in building a sustainable Nigerian home country. Yet, unless the socio-economic and political state of things in Nigeria become conducive for the investment of resources and managerial skills, many Nigerians in Diaspora will continue to prefer the comfort of life in Diaspora as opposed to coming back home to a struggling country. Unless the security of life and property becomes assured or at least a sincere priority of the Nigerian leadership, those abroad including Non-Nigerian investors potentially interested in investing in Nigeria would remain skeptical about investing in Nigeria.
As I said in a paper written in 2002 titled, Investing in Nigeria (and Africa): The security question.
“It is only upon a solid foundation of peace and security of life and property that economic and political stability can be built to last. I look forward to the day our leaders would make safety and security their utmost priority for their country (not just around the leaders themselves). Employ more policemen, arm and train them better, but above all pay them well to attract more recruits and discourage bribery – there are many young men and women wasting away, yet willing and able to grab a police job anytime. It is said, ‘the idle mind is the devils workshop.’ When the youths have no jobs after their education, they easily accept an offer of a token fee to carry out violence and mayhem. Our leaders have continued to ignore this obvious equation.”
The Task For Every Nigerian:
Revamping Nigeria’s image, economy, security, and pride must be seen as a task for every Nigerian regardless of position, tribe, or location. Whether in Diaspora or at home, all hands must be on deck – the media, politicians, scholars, jurists, entrepreneurs, artists, and so on. A perpetual play of the blame game will hardly help. Yet the role of responsible and patriotic leadership cannot be overemphasized because there has to be some trustworthy hands to chart the course. Besides leading by example, the leadership must put the citizenry first and imbibe the fact that in actuality, leaders are indeed servants of the people. The populace must be recognized as an essential part of the equation and therefore fairly given such opportunities that would give them access to engage and contribute through the tools of education, production, marketing, management, and administration. They need not be abandoned to the crumbs and leftovers that fall from the throne of leadership and the tables of the minority rich and bourgeoisie.
(But then,) we have heard this type of call many times before and therefore it is no surprise when some ask – will it ever be possible to redeem the glory of a country once hailed in truth as the giant of Africa? Have the current leaders shown any sign of heeding such calls? Do we now have such leaders that would put the country first and their pockets last? Do we now have such leaders who recognize that they are accountable to the people and therefore must lead with the fear and respect of the populace? Do we now have such leaders that would change the orientation imbibed by past leaders who were mostly interested in desperate leadership tussles and what they can acquire from government coffers? If we do have such leaders then we are on course. If not, what are we going to do to help build the leadership of Nigeria towards a sustainable Country?
You the Nigerian – the ball is in your court.
The Nigerian in Diaspora has seen the good and bad of both worlds and this affords him the basis for a fair comparison and a wealth of what could be emulated for the better and what maybe be upheld with reason and integrity. Such exposure and experience could be put to very good use in the Nigerian environment. That is the Diaspora effect. A good way to start is to quit the blame-game. Rather let us ask ourselves if there are things we (the Nigerians) could do about it? Let us seriously ponder the question for possible answers and let us charge ourselves to put into practice those “little” things that we could do to help. Let us go beyond the rhetoric and the fault-finding pre-occupation and get down to practical and exemplary ways that could inspire the Nigerian of this generation and the next. Let us become our own inspirations and renew the content of our own history so our stories could be told and written in more honorable ways. Accordingly, to every Nigerian both at home and abroad, the call is simple but serious – the ball is in your court and the time is now.
Delivered August 11, 2012. ©2012
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oliver O. Mbamara is an attorney & admin judge. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, writer, actor, and poet. For more on Oliver Mbamara, visit www.OliverMbamara.com
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