LEVERAGING ON THE GAINS OF NIGERIANS IN DIASPORA
Human migration is as old as human history. In the distant past, it is the result of the desire to move away from areas of crisis and natural disaster to regions of safety in search of life sustenance. Sometimes, it is the result of sheer adventurism, population explosion and ambition for territorial acquisition. In recent times, man’s quest for knowledge, economic fortune and adventure has necessitated demographic movement across national boundaries. Despite cultural differences, language barrier, political affiliations and restrictive custom regulations, movement across geographical boundaries is more pronounced in contemporary times due largely to increased economic activities, improvement in the area of civil aviation and developments in information and communication technology that has turned the world into a global village. Migration and mobility of factor resources among nations are said to be healthy and mutually beneficial for global peace and economic prosperity. However, the distribution of the economic gains arising from this has not been favorable to some countries. A country’s level of technology, volume of investment and quality of factor resources abroad determines its gains from the migration of its nationals in Diaspora. It is a fact of history that some group have leveraged on the wealth—knowledge, skills, technology, income and investments—of their nationals abroad to build their nation.
Most emerging economies too especially those from Asia have benefited immensely from incomes and investments repatriated home by their citizens in Diaspora. The Asians are very proud of their culture and heritage. Wherever they are, they maintain an unbroken link with their home country. They seem to understand clearly the full import of globalization. Wherever they sojourn, they copy the best and adapt to suit their local situation. In any environment they are found, they build a community and establish structures of socialization for their people. Every Asian community here no matter how small has schools, cultural centers and other institutions for socio-cultural interface with their home country. On regular basis, they organize cultural activities for their people to give them a sense of belonging. The benefit from all these are quite luminous. Their nationals born abroad will not lose their identity and hence will always have the tendency to think home always.
As expected of a country with bourgeoning population, Nigeria like other nations has many of her citizens abroad. It is estimated that over twenty million Nigerians reside outside the shores of this country. Paradoxically, the gains in terms of income inflow, FDI have not been insignificant. Truly, our search for the proverbial Golden Fleece abroad did not start today. The great Zik of Africa, Dr. K.O Mbadiwe and many others of their generation sojourned abroad in colonial days but returned home after their studies to champion the cause of our independence. This was because they have the consciousness of belonging here. Indeed, our quest for greener pasture abroad assumed a worrisome dimension in the 1980s when our professionals, doctors and even professors resigned from their jobs and travel abroad to take up menial jobs. This was the provenance of what is known as the brain drain syndrome.
It is regrettable that the new generation of Nigerians in diaspora, especially those born outside our country due to a combination of factors ranging from poor economy, corruption, poor knowledge of our cultural norms and negative image of the country portrayed in the western media do not have the inkling to identify with us.
The implication is that Nigeria is not able to maximize the gains of its nationals in Diaspora. We have a sizable proportion of our people abroad, yet our net factor income from abroad is perpetually negative.
Today, the issue of maximizing the gain of Nigerians in Diaspora is in the front burner. The Federal Government and the National Assembly are struggling to articulate a workable framework to effectively harness the gains from our citizens in Diaspora. Whenever the issue of Nigerians in Diaspora is mentioned, I usually remember the personal encounter I had some time ago with a teenage Nigerian boy born in the USA, who had returned home on holidays with his father. His father who is a friend of mine had proudly introduced his son Chuks to me and in response, I had told the young lad welcome home to your country. The young man told me curtly that he does not belong here, that here is just his father’s birthplace and that he is an American. Intrigued by his reaction, I prodded him further to know what it was that he resented about us. Again, he shocked me by telling me frankly that he liked everything about and around us; from our solid diet, idyllic village setting, warm friendly physical environment, our gregarious communal lifestyle ... Yes, he was enthused by our way of life. It is just that the consciousness of belonging here is lacking.
The young Chuks is a Nigerian by parentage but by cultural orientation, he is not. He may not have been introduced to our history, culture and heroes. He may have been fed with an overdose of American history and the exploits their heroes like J.F Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and others. So, he sees the world from the spectrum provided by the pervasive influence of American hip-hop culture and ideals. He obviously knows very little about us and so does not share our sentiments.
Evidently, there are millions of other Nigerians in this category – born and groomed abroad without the consciousness of belonging here. This group should be our primary target if our dream of getting the best from our citizens in Diaspora must be realized. Those that emigrated from here somehow will remember their roots.
If we are to maximize the benefits of our citizens in Diaspora, the Federal Government must carefully articulate a program of action and establish institutions and socialization structures abroad to interface effectively with them. Our children begotten in a foreign land need to have knowledge of our history, our heroes, culture and values.
They need to appreciate our strength and problems. They should learn our local languages. We should inculcate in them our cherished values, virtues and social norms. They should know our peculiarities and national ethos. This will help them appreciate our heritage and enkindle in them the sense of patriotism.
Our foreign mission, the ministries of culture and education should as a matter of necessity establish schools in major centers of the world for Nigeria citizens. Such schools in addition to teaching the curriculum of their host country will teach Nigeria history, local languages, culture and moral instructions. Besides, Nigeria should establish cultural centers abroad and regularly organize and sponsor socio-cultural activities to showcase our rich cultural heritage. Those born abroad may also be given scholarship to study at home or incentive to study specific programs that are relevant to our needs. Furthermore, incentives should be given to those who wants to invest back home.
Our embassies and foreign mission should create a platform to regularly interact with our nationals spread across the globe with a view to knowing their challenges and wellbeing. The Federal Government of Nigeria should establish a census of Nigerians in Diaspora. The government should keep an eye on them, identify with them and protect them at all times. This will give them a sense of belonging and make them feel loyal, committed and indebted to the nation.
Effective management of our human resources in Diaspora will of utmost benefit to us. First, it will stimulate nationalism and think-home tendencies among them. It is expected that this will lead to increased income inflow, technological acquisition, increased local investment, economic growth and development. This will promote peace and social harmony. In the diplomatic circles, it will create goodwill and image laundry for the nation.
The behavior and reputation of the professionals that have identified with us will help change the perception of their host communities about Nigerians. Thus, effective management of Nigerians in Diaspora will turn Brain Drain to Gain and Nigeria will take its rightful place in the comity of Nations.
An economist and public policy analyst
- 13 Jan, 2023
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