Nigerians In The So-Called Diaspora: “Abuja, We Have A Problem”

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

Over the last few days, I have read erudite and critical comments, articles and statements in the Internet media about the last elections. “President Obasanjo’s Legacy: An Objective Analysis” by Paul Oranika; “Statement On Nigeria’s Recent Elections” by a group of six American dons, who obviously were concerned about the elections as much as the ordinary Nigerian on the streets of Lagos or Abuja; and “Press Release from a group of 100 Concerned Nigerians Abroad, May 16 2007 – Nigeria: Electoral Fraud – A Serious Crime Against the Nation” signed by a concentration of dons and professors all living in the USA, Canada or the UK, and the most prominent of whom is our own Professor Chinua Achebe.

That concentration of erudite Nigerian minds is enough to make all our rascally leaders run for cover, abandon their stolen mandates and beg that one of these professors come and take over Nigeria, but alas, I don’t even think these our incorrigible politicians ever read what the professors wrote. Or read anything at all. They can’t have the time, because they are busy instead with their favourite pastime and objective: stealing the country blind.

Allow me to say this: I agree with the erudite 100 in their condemnations of the conduct and results of the polls in general, suggestions that fresh elections be conducted in all places where elections did not hold or were not properly conducted. However, I do think the Presidential election result should be left as it is, and also to leave appeals against results to the Electoral Tribunals to sort out. Conducting a fresh presidential polls will be retrogressive and anarchic. An Interim Government, which will favour some oppositions and those who never meant well for the country will be eased in to the confusion of everybody and set the stage for anarchy. It is undemocratic and unconstitutional and casts aspersions on our seriousness and ability as a people who yearn for democracy and good governance.

As I read through the list, as well as the statement, I was on one hand, proud, encouraged, and optimistic and on the other hand, very depressed. Proud to be confirmed, as we have always known, that Nigeria has arguably the most educated people in other communities in the world – hear this from the renowned Dr Emeagwali (Why Nigerians Are Not Returning Home – Remarks by Phillip Emeagwali, Association of Nigerians in Montgomery, Alabama October 10, 1999) (Philip Emeagwali was voted Africa’s greatest scientist by New African for his work on supercomputer development, and won the Gordon Bell Prize for his work with massively parallel computers in 1989)

“Last weekend, Nigerians celebrated the 39th anniversary of our independence from Great Britain. I was in Washington, D.C. and joined the Nigerian community in our Independence Day celebration.

I was surprised at the number and calibre of people that turned out for the party. I said to myself: “It seems like there are more Nigerian intellectuals living abroad than within Nigeria.”

We had three Nigerian governors who spoke that night. Each of the governors came to the United States to seek technical assistance from the World Bank and the IMF.

I found it contradictory that the three governors were seeking technical assistance from the World Bank but not from the Nigerian community.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Nigerians are the most educated ethnic group in the United States. Therefore, our leaders can seek technical assistance from Nigerians living in the United States. Sixty-four percent of Nigerians in this country has one or more university degrees. There are about 250,000 Nigerians living in the United States.

According to Dr. Emmanuel Oranika, half of the members of Association of Nigerians, Montgomery have masters and doctorate degrees. That is a reservoir of talents that Nigerian leaders are taking for granted.

We came to America to study. We planned to return home. But things got worse at home and we decided to remain in America.

It wasn’t always like this. When Nnamdi Azikiwe arrived in the United States in 1924, there were only three Nigerian students in the entire United States. A hundred percent of those that came to the United States returned home. In fact, up till about 1980, most Nigerian students returned home.

There are more Sierra Leonean medical doctors in Chicago than in Sierra Leone. At the rate medical doctors are leaving Nigeria, we could eventually have more Nigerian doctors working outside Nigeria than within it.

We also need engineers to help provide constant electricity, clean water and safe roads. Here in Montgomery, one of the engineers that make sure that the people of Alabama has good roads is Dr. Emmanuel Oranika”.

That was in 1999. I don’t think the situation has changed much now in 2007, if at all. It brings tears to the eyes. Those were only one hundred of them in the US and Canada. I will guess that Nigerians in the US alone with a minimum of a master’s degree will not be less than a hundred thousand. And we are only talking of the United States here. What about in the UK, Europe and Nigeria and all over the world? Don’t you think we have a problem? Since the days of Babangida’s SAP, Nigerian medical doctors have been taking flight to Saudi Arabia and Europe. Here in the United Kingdom, if you go to the hospital and has to see a Consultant, there is a three in ten chances that your consultant will be a Nigerian. In the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), a consultant is so senior to a doctor they don’t even address them as “Doctor” anymore. We call them “Mister”. And to be a consultant, you have to be a very brilliant doctor.

The UK, and indeed UK and Europe, is replete with other Nigerian professionals, scientists, educators, accountants, lawyers, IT professionals, housing, business and in all other walks of life too, as I am sure we all acknowledge, so I don’t need to re-invent the wheel. It is sad, isn’t it? We are exporting, very cheaply, our most brilliant minds while we allow illiterates and mediocre to run the country and are running it to the ground. One of my seniors at my grammar school in Ibadan was one of the doctors attached to Bethsaida Naval Hospital, in the US where most US Presidents get their personal doctors and treatment from. This my senior was one of those attached to the White House during the administration of President Reagan. He still comes to Nigeria regularly on holidays.

Mind you, I am not saying that the prerequisite to being a good leader or good governance is to be a professor. In fact, history has never recorded intellectuals as great or good leaders, but neither have mediocres ever being recorded as good leaders. Leadership is not about getting educational degrees aplenty, but people who aspire to lead a country, especially a developing country must be educated to acceptable levels, AND must have good ideas and plans of how to govern to alleviate the problems of their people. Unfortunately, and to our great cost, there seems to be a dearth of these sort of leadership in our country, thereby allowing thieves, thugs, ragamuffins, and like the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti said, vagabonds to get to power. That is indeed what happened at the last elections. Some of them did get in through massive rigging, especially in the states’ elections. Some of them were already in and could not be dislodged by fair means. Some of them were lucky; they managed to stay in power for eight years robbing their people. Now they are going to sit back and enjoy their ill-gotten wealth, and even try to control things from retirement, and it seems they might escape justice. However, it is everybody’s prayers that the EFCC will nab them before they flee.

I would like to point out a major flaw in the widely-held belief of most Nigerians that we are the most sophisticated and most educated people this side of the universe. We are always saying that we are blessed and have the most potential of any other country. What about other people in other countries? Aren’t they blessed at all? Is it because we are the sixth largest producer of oil in the world that we think we are the most blessed? What about countries that do not have these natural resources and yet are progressing one way or the other than us? Are not Ghanaians, South Africans, Angolans, Gambians and other countries in Africa not blessed because God did not create them too, or because they do not have oil? Why do we think we are the most blessed with the most potential? The answer lies in our pride as a people and is definite proof that we aspire to be great but are holding ourselves back and down. We are our own worst enemy. Look at the shambles of the last elections, and previously, the last census count. A comedy of errors and farces. And those are only two instances in our chequered history. What is the point of having potential if, repeatedly and deliberately, you cannot realise it? How can we say we are blessed if we are praying to God everyday and yet not doing His wishes? Leaders going to churches and mosques to pray and then going back to the office to steal peoples’ money. No, we are not the most blessed people in the world. Every creation of God is blessed, not only Nigerians. Every creation of God has potentials, not only Nigerians; it is only how they apply themselves to those potentials. Nigerians are not applying themselves.

Boy, we do have a problem as a people and as a country! That goes without saying. What then is the solution?

Let all sincere, committed and well-meaning Nigerians with good, practical ideas and plans go back to Nigeria en masse, at the same time, and give these leaders the toughest times of their life. If we go back singly, our presence will not be noticed, and they will always be able to deal with one person at a time. Let us go back en masse and collaborate with those brilliant minds that stayed put in Nigeria, combat these devil incarnates, to frustrate them out of power, so that the people rule. Easier said than done, you would say, impractical, you would say, isn’t it? No. Nothing is impossible with people power. The Jews did it in 1948 after being hounded and killed for over 2000 years, as prophesised in the Holy Bible. There are problems of course. We are probably too much insulated with the conveniences of the Western world – water, light, security, etc, and our children probably do not want to follow us into the African jungle. It is our choice. We cannot continue to sit in the comforts of our sitting-rooms and good jobs and fire long range salvoes at the Nigerian leaders, saying they can’t do this, they can’t do that, and criticising everytime, without being in Nigeria to appreciate that it is a very difficult country to rule. We should give support to those leaders who are good and frustrate those of them who are bad out of power. It has to be done on the ground, not in far away America and Australia and Europe. And you cannot do it alone. Everybody, who really want to serve Nigeria, and not the other way round, has to do it, hence the necessity for a mass migration back to Nigeria and Africa, probably form political platforms of our own, educate our people without insulting them with foreign ideas or putting on airs, adapting as quickly as possible to the environment and polity after such a long time away, have a vision of what we want to accomplish in collaboration with those already at home, undaunted in our commitment to making life better for ourselves and or people, incorporating our ideas with those that are positive at home and blending our culture and traditional values with those that we bring from abroad.

Every medium-sized town in Nigeria has at least two children abroad. If these two children can go back home and help educate, develop their community first, with the help of the hundreds already in the community, you will see that we start getting results. This is of course subject to their levels of commitment and sincerity, areas of speciality and the cooperation of their community itself.

But I admit there is a danger in all these, as we must realise that not all Nigerians in the so-called Diaspora are committed to these ideals. They often speak of these, but it is well known, and it is a fact that a lot of us who go back home, often do so with the main purpose of joining in the orgy of corruption and frenzied plundering of public money, self aggrandizement, sycophancy, nepotism and other traits of bad governance. I am saying this from personal experience. I have hundreds of examples of them here in the UK. I have personally been advised several times to go home and grab what I could. They tell me that nobody cares for my ideals, integrity and good intentions – and they are probably right, although I refuse to succumb to their theories. I would rather die poor than be accused of stealing money that belongs to 150 million Nigerians. I am not being sanctimonious or saying I love being in poverty. All these people want from Nigeria is power, fat contracts, money and positions. Their bottom line, they tell me, is to get a slice of the oil-rich cake. Absolutely no idea, but then, I am not usually surprised, because when I look at their educational and personal backgrounds and achievements, and also how they got out of Nigeria in the first place, I often fail to see anything fundamentally positive, and understand where they are coming from, and why we cannot entirely rely on the Nigerians abroad to make positive contributions and impact on Nigeria’s future development as a democratic, progressive nation.

Please, I am not denigrating those who are not educated to certain levels, in fact, some of these people are very much educated, (I have written before that the educated Nigerians are the problems of Nigeria, afterall most of our civil service are very much educated and are probably the most corrupt), but because Nigeria as a country, has to date, never been ruled by a University graduate, and look at the mess we are in, (we are slowly but surely getting out of it, thank God) the assumption, rightly or wrongly, is that this fatal flaw might be a factor in our country, states and local authorities, being run to a stand still, wallowing in poverty and infrastructures all but moribund. In fairness, and I keep on saying this, President Obasanjo has tried his best and achieved something where others have deliberately failed due to personal greed. I know people will disagree with me, but that’s how I see it as objectively as I can, under the difficult circumstances that he found himself. Many don’t like him as a person, but let us appreciate and commend him on what he has tried to do to move Nigeria forward. In my humble opinion, and without the benefit of presumptuous analytical data and information of Paul Oranika, nobody could have done better, even with the dubious crop of politicians who are fighting tooth and nail to succeed him.

A people, they say, deserve the type of leaders they get. Sometimes, I tend to disagree with this saying, because I don’t really think that Nigerians deserve all the leaders we have been getting. We are a fundamentally and traditionally hard-working, honest and sincere people, who adhere to all that life dictates that human beings should, and who aspire to be what we always want to be. However, we were derailed by a lot of bad leaders, simply put. We turned our backs on the governing process and allowed morons and idiots to get to power, from the military to civilians; we allowed bad leaders to pull the wool over our eyes and now they stick to us desperately like lice to hair and won’t let go, while sucking us dry. We have employed several methods, rather belatedly, to get rid of these leeches but are finding it a really massive battle. It has turn into a festering gangrene or malignant tumour and we now have to cut off the affected part, leaving us disfigured for life. But cut it off we must, or it will affect the whole body. We can still do it in a democratic way, but in a distinctly Nigerian style, our own unique adaptation of democracy. Ask India, the world’s largest democracy, but very different from that of the US or Britain.

No Professors! And the so-called Nigerians in Diaspora! It ain’t no use firing from long distance. You will often miss the target. And we might be firing duds and blanks anyway. We have to look into the whites of their eyes and shoot point blank. With a .45 Magnum, not a Dane gun or bows and arrows. It won’t work. Ten thousand erudite Nigerians, home and abroad, are more effective making one helluva racket in Lagos and Abuja than from Wisconsin or Toronto. It will unnerve those arseholes after a while. And if it’s becoming too hot in Nigeria, we can either stand our ground or go back to Houston and London to regroup. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

Call me a dreamer, I don’t mind. Everybody is entitled to their dreams, and this is one dream of mine, which I am sure will come to pass, maybe not exactly as I dreamt it, but close. We can’t all sleep and face the same way. Something’s gotta give.

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Michael May 29, 2007 - 12:56 pm

Nice write-up. Your call to Nigerians in Diaspora to unite is not going to happen though!!! Why? It will not happen because we represent a microcosm of the Nigerian society!!! We are not cooperative; there are the dysfunctional tensions between the Igbo, the Yoruba, and the Hausa. I say let us separate and compete, for this was God's intentions for the Nigerian State!!!

Oladipo Ojo May 28, 2007 - 12:57 pm


I am one of those privileged millions that read Nigeria online daily.

I was touched by your write up and I say THANK YOU.


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