I do not often find myself, nor do I like, defending any article that I write, but following the feedback and many comments that I have received after writing the article “The Illusions and Delusions of Nigerians In Diaspora”, I felt constrained to make a few further comments in reply to some of vitriolic attacks on both my writing and a few on my person.
Let me first say that the majority of the feedback I received were very positive and congratulatory, and indeed, most of the readers related to my opinions and some also offered very positive advice, which I always take. Some others were very encouraging, while a tiny few were quite derogatory.
When I write articles on certain issues affecting Nigeria, I am quite aware that I am only expressing my own opinion, or commenting on such issues from my own point of view. I do not expect everybody who reads these articles to agree with me. I am also aware that, by exposing my views to the public, I stand the risk of being criticised, sometimes subjected to verbal abuse, but this is a risk I am always prepared to take in order to express my opinion, and honestly, I do not take umbrage at the sometimes unkind criticism, rather I take it in good stride. I am however always encouraged by feedback that do not see things the way I do, because this only confirms we can not all lie on the bed and face the same way. Positive and constructive criticism can only be healthy. It makes all of us better human beings, if we heed advice and feedback. We must always agree to disagree or disagree to agree. This is how life should be.
Of the criticisms, a compatriot insinuated that I am practicing negative journalism, so I decided to look up the meaning of “journalism or journalist” in the dictionary, and I find that a journalist is defined as “a person employed in writing for a newspaper or magazine”. The synonyms are columnist, correspondent, reporter. I do not consider myself a journalist or a reporter, because I am not employed or paid by any newspaper or magazine to write articles. I do this of my own free will. I am never paid for my articles by any journal or other media that deem it fit and appropriate to publish my article, having gone through the contents. I am also not a reporter, because I do not report news. I might be considered to be a columnist, but not a regular one. I write when I am inspired, or touched or affected by certain events that I feel has an effect on my life and that of others, the experience or thoughts of which I would like to share with others. And furthermore, I do not claim to have a monopoly of knowledge or wisdom in these things. I am not a trained journalist, since I do not have a degree or any other qualifications in Mass Communication or related disciplines.
Thank God, nobody has accused me of being a hypocrite or unpatriotic, because I am neither. I remain steadfastly committed to God and my country, Nigeria. I am someone who would sincerely like to see Nigeria take care of her people, whether they are living in Nigeria or living abroad. This remains my aspirations.
Nigerians will always live anywhere they can and like in this world. We will continue to travel out for education, to acquire skills and knowledge, to acquire wealth, to acquire all kind of things we want in life. We will also seek better life in other climes due to the economic hardship, uncertainty of polity, insecurity of life, bad governance, inequality and other negative factors that afflict our everyday lives. This is not unique to Nigerians only. What am I myself doing outside Nigeria for such a long time, anyway? So I cannot be hypocritical and say Nigerians must not travel out and live wherever their fortunes or desires take them. This is also advantageous for the country, but only if we transmute those acquisitions back to Nigeria to make it a better place for all of us. Nowadays, it does not look like that. We most of the time tend to think only about ourselves, and not the larger community of Nigeria. It is the same sort of mentality that is afflicting our present day political leaders. Selfishness, which inevitably leads to corruption. Some have argued that Nigeria is not doing anything for them, but I would ask such people to refer to what the late US President JF Kennedy said about what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you. Thankfully, there are still a lot of Nigerians, both living in Nigeria and outside, who are sincerely doing something for their country and asking for nothing in return, although this might not be evident right now because those who are taking out of Nigeria far overwhelm those who are giving. And herein lies the problem, which must be addressed and reversed or else we are doomed to forever be wafting around the world like the Flying Dutchman, which aaccording to folklore is a ghost ship that can never go home, doomed to sail “the seven seas” forever. The Flying Dutchman is usually spotted from afar, sometimes glowing with ghostly light. If she is hailed by another ship, her crew will often try to send messages to land, to people long since dead. The sight of this phantom ship is reckoned by seafarers to be a portent of doom. Some of our “Nigerians in Diaspora” do portend doom to the country, judging from their utterances.
Again, my article was not intended to force people to go back home, or to castigate those who do not have any wish to return to their motherland. I was only trying as much as I could to highlight the advantages of going back to Nigeria to help make it a better place for us, and for our generations to come. There will be problems of course, but we should be ready for such problems and tackle them when they come up.
I admit that Nigerians left the shores to look for better lives for various reasons. We all did, and circumstances and reasons differ from one individual to the other. I am not denying this fact. Our country is problematic, we know that, but at the last count, there are still some 140 million people left in Nigeria. For one reason or the other, the majority of them are not scrambling abroad ships and planes to escape. In fact a lot of them go abroad and see more of the world more often than those of us living semi-permanently abroad, for holidays, business, etc and then return to Nigeria. For those of us who are lucky to have travelled out and see how things are done in other countries, the challenge of helping to shape the country as we want it should remain our objectives. This challenge is not insurmountable.
One of the feedback I received was actually from a Nigerian living in Nigeria, who said that Nigerians living permanently in Nigeria do not need the help and sympathy of those abroad. There we have it, nobody needs your help and sympathy. Yet, we seem to think, judging from the comments of various groups of “Nigerians in Diaspora” that those left in Nigeria cannot move Nigeria forward unless those living abroad go back with their special skills, education, knowledge and wealth. Therefore, what Nigerians living abroad should be looking at is to complement or supplement, or add value to the attributes and the positive aspects of those still in Nigeria.
It is obvious where this kind of “we don’t need your help and sympathy” attitude come from. The reason, according to the feedback, is that many of us come back to Nigeria with the wrong attitudes, reasons and intentions. Some of us tend to look down on the Nigerians at home, we feel superior, we feel “too know”, we are boisterous about our experience abroad, we refuse or find it very difficult to integrate or to adapt, we are expecting too much and always making comparisons with the Western countries, and some of us are also part of the problem of Nigeria, because some of us come home with the intention of “sharing in the national cake” by whatever means they can. I see this gentleman’s point and agree that some or most of these are true of Nigerians living abroad. Yes, “Nigerians in Diaspora” or Nigerians living abroad do contribute to the problems of Nigeria, that fact must not escape us. For example, I know several Nigerians, who had never done a hard day’s work or held any job throughout their sojourn in the US or the UK, and who are now holding several high government positions in Nigeria. You tell me, what do you expect from such people? Yet, also, there are many Nigerians, highly educated and highly skilled, renowned and respected, who you would think should perform in their fields, yet, when they get into government, they are no better than the former group of Nigerians. They are even worse in the looting and raping of the country. What can I say? The whole country is replete with such people. Nigerians living abroad should therefore stay abroad if they are going to be part of the problem and not the solution some of us desire.
Another brother made a very good point when he pointed out that Nigerians living abroad can contribute to the salvation of the country from outside its shores and not necessarily only when they return to Nigeria. This is true in a sense. A lot of us are already doing this, but the impact is not really felt due to the negative environment that exists. “You have to be on the ground” is what they say, if you want to make a really big impact and difference in your country, because at least, you will be able to personally assess the situation, consider the options, negate the difficulties and take corrective actions when things go wrong, as inevitably they might. Do not let them do it on your behalf or else you will regret it in no time, trust me.
While I consider myself to be an advocate and strong proponent of migration back to Nigeria, and indeed, Africa, I am also conscious of the fact that not every Nigerian/African living abroad will go home, nor are we going to go home at the same time, en masse. There are certain facts of life which will make such dreams impossible. Such facts include, unfortunately, death, ill-health, family or domestic reasons, economics, etc. All I am saying here is that those who do want to go home and positively contribute to the welfare, progress and development of their country have to do it soon. The longer we wait, the much worse it can become in Nigeria and the more difficult it will be to return. Again, as mentioned before, the worst and the most selfish and unpatriotic reason anyone can give for not going back home is that they want Nigeria to be better before they go. Who is going to make Nigeria better if not its people? Nobody is going to do this for us. The USA and the UK are not going to do it for us. Also, why do you want the people in Nigeria to do the hard donkey work of making Nigeria better and then you go home and enjoy the benefits without contributing to the hard work? You cant reap where you don’t sow, so the saying goes. By the time you do this, you will be sidelined and you don’t really have a leg to stand on if you now want to claim your benefits and rights.
One of the feedback I received gave a very thoughtful and valid strategy for going back. This my brother suggested that we should not go home with the view to just joining and integrating. He suggested that for Nigerians living abroad who are politically inclined, the strategy should be participating in politics (we are already doing this anyway), ensuring that one becomes relevant at the grassroots, that is, in one’s local government, and working tirelessly to ease oneself into a position where one will be reckoned with, and then take control, or significantly influence the workings or the machinery of the polity, whether it’s at local government level or state level. This brother further suggested that by the time Nigerians from abroad are doing this, probably controlling fifty percent or more of the local government of a state, then we will be on our way to eventually take over from the present corrupt political class. This makes a lot of sense.
For those not politically inclined, this can still be achieved by establishing businesses, community initiatives, etc, either on your own or in association with others, Nigerians or foreigners, which will employ people in your community. This way, you are contributing positively and helping reduce the level of unemployment in the country. This is apart from the many various ways of contributing your quota to the country in terms of other areas, spheres and discipline – doctors, teachers, IT technicians, you name it.
A lot of us, whether living in Nigeria or abroad, have very good and defined visions of how we want our country, Nigeria, to be. We aspire to certain standards either gained from experience in Nigeria or from Western countries. We would like the best, especially taking into consideration, our vast wealth and resources, both human and material, for our country. But we cannot put our hands behind our back and expect manna to fall from heaven, or for Nigeria to change without contributing anything to it. As I said before, we cannot allow those who have been having a go at running Nigeria, unsuccessfully, for the past 5 decades to continue to run it, while we maintain a “let them do it” attitude, and then we start complaining and raining curses at them.
Furthermore, we know how we want Nigeria to be, the problem has always been how to achieve it, especially with the crop of visionless, corrupt and selfish leaders we have been cursed with over the decades, as well as the attitude of our people themselves. Let us face it, we are as much of the problems as the leaders. However, those of us living abroad, as a result of our experience and a different way of thinking, want good governance; we want politics and democracy practiced in Nigeria the way it is practiced in the western world; we want equality and freedom for our people; we want constant electricity; we want our taps to flow with hot and cold water; we want good roads and other systems of transportation; we want food aplenty; we crave a better and qualitative healthcare system; we want good and qualitative education for our children; we want corruption to be minimised to a manageable level; we want adequate security of life and property; we want things to work in a decent and organised society just like the West; we want opportunities for jobs, development and progress; we want effective and reliable telecommunications; we want a stable society that will be conducive to establish everything we desire, in short, we want our country to be a modern, progressive nation like most countries in the West.
We are the architects of our own destiny. All these aspirations and desires are not impossible to achieve or beyond us as a people, but will not be achieved for us. We are the ones to work towards their achievement. And if there are a set or clique who are bent on sabotaging our aspirations towards a better society, such should be removed by any means necessary. The bottom line is, whether we go back home or not, Nigeria will be there for Nigerians. It would also get either worse or better with or without Nigerians living abroad. I am sure the latter will happen, it’s only a mater of time, and I want to be a part of it. I don’t want to be told it has happened, neither do I want to be told that I was not part of the change.
We are not going to sleep in two rooms at the same time; we can’t drive two cars at the same time; I personally don’t want millions or billions of Naira sitting in my account; Nigeria’s wealth is for every Nigerian, not a few Nigerians.
I owe this to myself, to my children and future generation, to my community, to my people, to my countrymen and countrywomen. And to God and Nigeria.
My brothers and sisters, home is home. Let us make the best of it in our lifetime.