Wooing Nigerians in Diaspora – By Arnold AlaliboArnold Alalibo, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
By Arnold Alalibo | NNP | July 2012 - For the better part of his four years (199-2003), former President Olusegun Obasanjo toured the world wooing investors to come to Nigeria, most of whom fled the country during the tumultuous military regimes. Now, it is the turn of the current administration to woo the many Nigerians in diaspora to return home and invest.
Statistics have shown that over 20 million Nigerians live outside Nigeria. This figure include those that only have one Nigerian parents. For instance, the Nigerian population in Ghana is estimated at 2 million. Cote d’Ivoire has a little more than a million. South Africa about 2 million and then at least 5 million in United Kingdom (UK)and 4-6 million in the United States of America (USA). The rest would come from other countries.
This multitude of Nigerians can be found in all facets of human endeavour from health to information technology, space and biotechnology to nuclear science and public policy.
According to sources, there are over 25,000 Nigerian medical doctors practising in the US. Add that to more than about 30, 000 Nigerian nurses discharging services in hospitals across the US, we have over 55,000 medical personnel in the US. In the UK alone, there are over 95,000 Nigerian residents, many of whom are dutifully engaged in health care delivery, engineering and other fields.
Since the introduction of the US Diversity Visa Lottery (otherwise known as the Green Card Lottery), Nigeria has topped the list of applicants worldwide. Same for visa applications at embassies and high commissions. Embassy staff of industrialized nations in Nigeria had at one time or the other recounted the pains they go through processing the deluge of applications from Nigerians.
This exodus from home gives the impression that Nigeria is a nation at war. But it is neither at war with itself nor with any of its neighbours. The reason for such high migratory syndrome is simple. Things are no longer at ease in the country.
There are growing unemployment, insecurity, progressive devaluation of the local currency, poor or non-existent infrastructure and above all poor living condition. These are coupled with long years of military dictatorship with its attendant ills including abridgement of people’s rights and brazen corruption.
The events have precipitated a massive brain drain, well qualified and educated Nigerians left the country in search of better life. Some migrated to Europe, the Americas and elsewhere in the hope of finding highly paid jobs, but ended up as victims of “occupational degeneration.”
Unable to find jobs in their fields of expertise, they took up menial jobs such as guards, gas station attendants, drivers among others. Some, however, were luckier. While the lucky ones got jobs in their areas of expertise, others went back to school in the industrialized West.
Altogether, this amorphous group of Nigerians scattered all over the world, have continued to eke a living in their respective countries of abode.
Besides, they have also been able to contribute to the Nigerian economy through remittances amounting to billions of dollars. Former President Obasanjo realized this while in office and reversed the trend from “brain drain” to “brain gain”. He wanted Nigerians in the diaspora to return home and help grow the nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan has made repeated calls on this set of Nigerians to return home and contribute to the development of the country. These calls are indeed auspicious. But they were not made in line with the reality of the Nigerian situation.
True, there is no place like home and Nigerians in the diaspora have demonstrated a willingness to come home and contribute to nation-building. But they are worried that things are yet to take shape. Lack of orderliness in leadership succession, endemic corruption in the system, pauperisation of the masses and infrastructural decay.
There are also rising insecurity and uncertainty which have coalesced to dampen their spirit to return. I believe strongly that these are some of the real issues. Much as one would like these Nigerians to return home and join hands to develop the country, I make haste to say that this will remain a mere wish unless this administration works harder to put the home front in order.
The nation’s poor image and reward system for hard work and honesty are not enough to inspire confidence in any Nigerian living aboard to return home. A commercial vehicle driver in the U.S., for instance, is better remunerated than some managers in our public and private services. This is most unsalutary.
Where then is the wisdom in leaving abroad for home where they are bound to be poorly remunerated? How can they leave their countries of abode for Nigeria which lacks comparable status with their host nations in the rule of law and orderliness?
We must devote more efforts to establish appropriate structures that would facilitate more effective diaspora participation in the affair’s of our nation.
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