Nigeria and the Wailing Diasporans, By Umar Yakubu

June 3, 2018
               News

Remittances to loved ones are good, but they are not development. Transmittals that create jobs are what matter. It is time for Nigerians in the diaspora to organise and be responsible. Let them open websites of their chapters, and instead of displaying pictures of eating events, they should each offer visual evidence of their contributions to schools, clinics and available infrastructure.

If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem – African proverb.

Over the last few decades, economically and technologically advanced countries, mostly in Western Europe and the United States of America, have received a deluge of immigrants from developing and underdeveloped countries. Between 2000 to 2010, the U.S. received over 1.6 million immigrants from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya. As of 2010, African immigrants from West Africa were over 570,000 and scattered all over the United States.

Most of the migrants are professionals, ranging from doctors, engineers, academics, educationists, nurses and so many members of the skilled workforce that drives economic growth. For example, there are over 25,000 medical practitioners of Nigerian descent in the U.S. alone. The United Kingdom embarrassingly boasts of over 5,000 of this skilled manpower. Statistically, there are over 80,000 registered doctors, with a disturbing figure of more than 50,000 of these reported by the Nigerian Medical Association to be practising abroad. The same depressing statistics is similar across different professions and non-professions alike. The number of economists, statisticians, engineers and generally, academics, who are working outside Nigeria can only be imagined.

By nature, man desires to improve his station in life and living standards, in terms of access to finance and social amenities. As such, it’s in perfect order for people to migrate from Nigeria to other more prosperous countries. We were mostly influenced through the watching of movies and dreams about what life over the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean would be. With the advent of the Internet and technological tools of communication, there is more access to seeing how societies are advancing in education, technology and other things that improve the quality of life. Most Nigerians living in the diaspora, especially those who probably stepped out in adulthood as first-time air travellers, would temporarily think they are already in heaven! The first few phone calls back home would be of how escalators work, how airports and buildings are so big, how clean the streets are and how institutions work for the common man. What you would not hear, is how most easily adapt to conformity with rules and regulations and transform into law-abiding immigrants!

After the first few months of settlement and integrating into Western society, some start to develop a superiority complex and see Nigeria as an irredeemable jungle. They litter the social media space with foreign examples of how things work out there. These are the same set of people who would demean our immigration officers right at the arrival lounge. They mostly possess a heightened Spider-man sense of observation, particularly of what is not working, starting with our poor road networks, airports, and most of the infrastructure around them. All that may be out of positive anger or passion for wanting Nigeria to be like the U.S. or U.K., or simply out of willful ignorance. Statistics would support that little, apart from clatters, has been done by most Nigerians in the diaspora to improve their fatherland.

How many associations of Nigerians in the diasporas have contributed to the building of hospitals, equipping them and taking two weeks off each year to come down and render health services for a token, if they can’t do it for free? How many diasporans have gone back to rebuild their dilapidated primary or secondary schools..?

The only statistic flying around is that remittances have been averaging $20 billion over the last five years from various countries to Nigeria by diasporans. The World Bank stated that Nigerians sent home over $22 billion in 2017, making it the highest remittance in Africa and fifth highest in the world. This was followed by Senegal and Ghana with $2.2 billion each year. Global remittances grew from $573 billion to $613 billion, with India remitting about $69 billion; China, $64 billion; Mexico, $31 billion and Egypt, $20 billion.

Some would argue that $22 billion is more than the GDP of most States in the receiving countries and hence it assists in alleviating poverty. This is because such monies would help in paying for school fees and some malaria treatments. These are significant investments in human capital for loved ones. One can also imagine the joy of low-income families receiving dollars in Nigeria and having business communications with the ‘aboki’ about currency exchange rates, which leads to the call for night prayers for “our sons and daughters” to continue sending dollars home. Ironically, there are no available statistics, probably because there is no evidence to rely on, about remittances that turn into investments or sources of capital improvement.

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Research has established that factors driving economic growth in developed and underdeveloped countries include, but are not limited to: Investments in new ideas, capital investment, technological change, knowledge transfer, foreign direct investment, trade, investments in human capital and a skilled labour force. How many associations of Nigerians in the diasporas have contributed to the building of hospitals, equipping them and taking two weeks off each year to come down and render health services for a token, if they can’t do it for free? How many diasporans have gone back to rebuild their dilapidated primary or secondary schools or take pride in posting a picture of their primary school in its current state online? Take a look at Barewa College, Zaria, a school that boasts of all the former-this and ex-that in Nigeria. The best the alumni do is to move out of the village of Zaria, to Kaduna on a yearly basis to discuss everything apart from raising the standard of the school. The same story goes for Kings and Queens Colleges and most public schools that thrived only decades ago.

Unfortunately, social media and access to high-speed data has afforded most of them an avenue to litter the cyberspace with unguarded remarks about their own country. From the tone of language, it’s easy to decipher some who are genuinely concerned but have no intention of making positive contributions, and those who are probably battling with the immigration services of their host countries.

Going through the websites of diaspora associations, there is not a single one that indicates mini-projects that are done in Nigeria. Most building projects are personal mansions meant to oppress local communities of how they have ‘made it’ abroad. Otherwise, it’s usually about dinners and networking of how to come back to Nigeria for lucrative government contracts, or political appointments. For those that can’t make a reliable ‘contact’, these dinners or meetings are simply platforms for discussing how terrible Nigeria is, without proffering or contributing to the solution. The same group cannot organise themselves to execute a single project but prefer to discuss Nigeria as if they are not part of the problem by not contributing to its development, at least in their ancestral wards or local government areas. Most want all the roads to be paved, hospitals fully equipped and 24-hour electricity running before they can come back to ‘contribute’ to the country.

Unfortunately, social media and access to high-speed data has afforded most of them an avenue to litter the cyberspace with unguarded remarks about their own country. From the tone of language, it’s easy to decipher some who are genuinely concerned but have no intention of making positive contributions, and those who are probably battling with the immigration services of their host countries.

Remittances to loved ones are good, but they are not development. Transmittals that create jobs are what matter. It is time for Nigerians in the diaspora to organise and be responsible. Let them open websites of their chapters, and instead of displaying pictures of eating events, they should each offer visual evidence of their contributions to schools, clinics and available infrastructure. They should explore advanced technologies and innovation that would support business development and drive social growth. There also needs to be a lot of knowledge transfer. They can build e-learning centres and use technology to deliver lectures and render medical services. They should simply give back to society or leave us in peace to, as in the paraphrased words of President Buhari, stay in Nigeria to salvage Nigeria.

Umar Yakubu is director–general of the Counter Fraud Centre; Email: u.yakubu@counterfraudcenter.org; Twitter: @umaryakubu

SOPURCE : opinion.premiumtimesng.com/

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