Contrary to what many people believe and imagine in Nigeria, partly because of their need to project their hopes and aspirations for a better life outside a country that tends to only limit and disappoint them and partly due to the flamboyant life many of our fellow Diasporans led when they go back home on holiday, we all know life is very demanding in the West and I know Nigerians are very busy people abroad. I therefore wish to sincerely thank you all Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, and our Friends for taking the time to be with us here today.
Allow me to remind us that as a people this is a historical moment for us both home and abroad.
Our country Nigeria is set for elections in April 2007. This is the first time we have a chance to move from one civil administration to the other. In the run up to these elections a lot of things have happened and are still happening. Nobody is sure of who is going to win any seat, a look at what has been written and said till about three months ago and the current list of candidates will show that most pundits and analysts have simply got it wrong. Political Candidates are being disqualified, changed, dropped and rejected; some individuals that have been hitherto perceived as untouchable and unassailable have seen their plans ruffled, their actions challenged and we have seen many of them quietly retreat or dramatically flee. Our Executives and legislators now make fewer trips abroad and there’re are media outlets and civil organisations monitoring their past and presents deeds and utterances. As imperfect and haphazard these events might be, I strongly believe that these are the conditions for a possible radical reform if not revolution in Nigeria. A lot is indicating that this is the chance for people of goodwill to rise and shine.
For those of us abroad a lot have changed as well: technology, possibilities of integration and the new breed of emigrants from Nigeria with their expertise, aspirations and their way of life have changed the way Nigerians abroad now live. There are now many abroad based Fuji musicians, Nigerian made churches and various Diaspora targeted products and services. In the last ten years many Nigerians have found their ways into, and are leaving their marks in the Western and Eastern boardrooms and bedrooms. Some of us now defend and prosecute western tribunals; we teach non Nigerian students and we treat non Nigerian patients, we are landlords and employers to non Nigerians. Even our fraudsters have excelled in their own ignoble field. Some of us are still hoping, I pray God answers our prayers.
Regardless of all our current achievements and disappointments as individuals, I wonder if as a people we still remember to ask ourselves why we came or returned abroad in the first place. Do we still remember the frustrations and disappointments that led us to seek refuge and a better life outside the shores of our ancestors? Can we still recall the hopes and excitement that fuelled our desire to emigrate? Do we still remember our first struggles and success in a foreign land? Now that we are here, more or less stable, more or less content, I wonder if we still have time to remember that the comfort and structures of these foreign lands that we so much sought or were forced to move into did not spring by itself but were built by some people like us. The unease that forced us to leave the land and ways we know is still there and will not go away unless some people do something about it. I will like us to ask ourselves and those we know what we intend to do.
Four options come to mind. We can simply turn our face away and stand aloof like the marsh does, pretending it is not the river’s kin; we can just talk, complain and comment like people watching a science fiction film; we can wait, fold our arms, follow events and try to conform and squeeze ourselves into the system so we too can get a chance to loot and oppress notwithstanding the benefits we have reaped from the labours and vision of a foreign land built by people that did not have us in mind where they were building their future. We can decide to rise and shine either by finding out what little we can do to help our homeland in her quest for a better future or even take the lead in shaping the future of our land.
History is full of examples of the Diaspora taking the lead. The Irish immigrants left their homeland because they were faced with the kind of oppression and despair that pushed Nigerians abroad. They then got to America and almost single-handedly revived their country by being engaged and taking the Irish problem into the American palaces. Any observer will today quickly discover how important the role of the International Israeli community is to the state of Israel. Italy went into the Second World War under a fascist dictator came out of it defeated but then rebuilt her economy and her democratic institutions mainly with remittance from abroad and by emigrates. India was near complete collapse in 1991 when P. V. Narasimha Rao opened up to the Indian Diaspora, they responded and now constitute a relevant part in the economy of that country and they play an important part in the governance.
Most people point out that for things to better in Nigeria, we need to change the Nigerian mentality and the kind of leaders that rule the country. What a task! And yet, at the moment only a few people are selflessly trying to do something good for Nigeria. Many Nigerians argue that Nigerians, excluding themselves, are not ready for true democracy because the elite is corrupt, without sense of service or dedication to the common good but are in the public arena just to loot; others argue that Nigerians, excluding themselves, are too hungry and too poor to do the right thing when voting, others complain that their actions will amount to nothing. I believe that Revival of Nigeria can start from abroad. I am convinced that those of in the Diaspora have the opportunity to change things back home. With the technology at our disposal, the economic and social influence we have over our folks back home we can do something more than sending money and goods to our loved ones. We can show them the way to follow for a better future we do not need a lot to do much: just the will to rise and shine.
I am here today to appeal to all Nigerian men and women of goodwill across the globe to tell their friends and family back home to do the right thing in next coming elections because events unfolding are showing us that we have a big chance to put things right in Nigeria. I am particularly appealing to Nigerians in the Diaspoara for many reasons.
Unlike millions of our folks in Nigeria we have at least achieved one dream: crossing boarders and settling down away from home. Secondly we have the opportunity to not only read about, but see and benefit from the advantages of countries governed by capable and committed people. We do not have to live with the worry of some basic necessities such as light and water. Amongst us there are people, who because of their age, others thanks to books have had the opportunity to know and appreciate the Nigeria of Ayodele Awojobi, Yusuf Bala Usman, Christopher Okigbo, Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano and Ajie Ukpabi Asika just to mention a few. There are many Nigerians today in Nigeria that have no idea of that kind of Nigeria; they have not seen a LMTC numbered bus before. What they know is the Nigeria of Molue, that of Adedibu, Abacha, Nzeribe and the language they understand is that of settlement and mobilisation. They message they grasp is that of what is there to chop. The methods they know are those of connections, bottom power, 419. It is too easy to just blame them. Most of these people are hungry; they do not have
the time and the vigour to pursue what is good in the long run. They want something now.
Most of us abroad however have something now and we should be able to see we can get more in the long run if we had a well managed country. Whether we decide to go back home or continue to live abroad there are immediate benefits for us if our country gets capable and committed leaders. It will boost our status, we shall have better chances to invest our financial and human resources, even those depending on us for sustenance will be less.
Nigerians are proud people, these coming elections is a chance for us to show the world that we have learnt something; that we are as good as we claim to be. Let us use this chance to rise and shine as a people, let us tell them @ home to vote for the right person in every seat and for every post. Let us gather information about the past, the present and the vision of every candidate vying for any post that concerns us. Let us use our knowledge and resources to influence those back home to make the right choice.
I am mostly interested in who becomes the next president of Nigeria and my choice is clearly and openly for Pat Utomi and I will be telling everybody I know abroad to tell them @ home to vote for Pat Utomi. Yes, I am partisan; my choice however is a reasoned one and I am sure I have made the right choice, a choice many of us are convinced will take us towards the much needed transformation of Nigeria. For those that do not agree with this choice I implore them to calmly place Pat Utomi aside every other candidate and screen them, measure them, weigh them. Ask yourself who they are and what do they represent? What have stood for or against in the past? What are their programmes and ideas? Who are their supporters and sponsors? Why are they contesting? If after doing all this you still see any other presidential candidate then, for the benefit of Nigeria please do your best to make sure he wins.
Some people tend to say they will not vote or make others vote for a candidate because although that candidate is good he does not have a chance of wining. Let me say here today without mincing words that such attitude is unwise, cowardly and ungodly. It is not sagacious to abstain from supporting what and who you know is appropriate when we all know the inappropriate candidate will still not do anything good for you or for your believe. It is blasphemous to act as if God is indifferent to what is right and just or incapable of beating evil.
Many refuse to actively work towards a better Nigeria because they think it is not possible to change anything they say after all these years what have we achieved; they say they are tired of trying and that they don’t trust any politician. The truth of the matter is that most people have never done anything to help Nigeria. Let us ask ourselves and other Nigerians we know how much money or time have they ever spent for the benefit of Nigeria in their life? Only the same few have being acting for the benefit of the many since the history of Nigeria.
Today we have a chance to change all this; we have chance to rise and shine. We should not be afraid to aspire. We should remember that if a man has an idea and does not stand up for that idea then either him or that idea and does not worth much. Ideally we should put some of our time, some our ideas and some our money at the service of our country. Imagine if every decent person you know just gave 20 hours or even 2 hours of their time and say 100 euros or even 10 euro of their money to influence the election of the president of the biggest black nation in the world. What a difference it will make! For most citizens of the great nations where we seek refuge this is a normal act. For many of us this is heroic; the reasons for this will be reserved for another discussion.
For now, let me appeal to you all to please rise and shine; let us all find the generosity to do something for our country. At least one thing before elections come, your simple email or just your phone call might be decisive for the future of Nigeria. If we don’t do anything now, we might miss the chance of doing it forever, and really we should then not speak to complain or criticise those who get to power by hook or by crook, they have at least done something. If however we do something we might change things or at least we will be able to say to our friends and family “in 2007 I did this or that”.