This is a response to an email from a group of fellow Nigerians celebrating a recent Nigerian Guardian news publication, “National Assembly Raises Hope of Voting by Nigerians Abroad”, on 18 April 2009.
I feel quite disappointed that supposedly better enlightened and informed Nigerians abroad see the issue of making provisions for Nigerians abroad to vote as a key issue they should be clamouring for or celebrating about our Nigeria.
In my view the questions we ought to first ask ourselves are:
1. How crucial to the development of genuine democracy in Nigeria, is it that provisions must be made for Nigerians abroad to vote?
2. Knowing, that one of the cardinal problems with our democracy is that genuine elections hardly ever hold especially since recent times (since 1998 in particular), why should the interest of a tiny minority of Nigerians abroad supersede the interest of the overwhelming majority of our suffering compatriots at home. To put it more succinctly, why must Nigerians abroad vote when Nigerians in Nigeria have never really been given free and inalienable right to vote in elections?
3. How much of a priority is it to the general development of Nigeria that provisions for Nigerians abroad to vote must be made soon?
4. What is the wisdom of creating for our largely dubious and wasteful “public servants” another avenue for diverting and wasting our resources in the name of voting for Nigerians abroad?
5. What have Nigerians abroad contributed to the enthronement of democracy and good governance in Nigeria?
My fellow Nigerians in civilised societies of Europe and America, we bear a natural responsibility, to help save Nigeria and the Black race from inferiority and backwardness. Having escaped real poverty and deprivation of fundamental freedoms in Nigeria, we are in the best position to fight for the rights of ordinary Nigerians at the highest levels in the world. By virtue of our very significant presence and influence as immigrants in Europe and America, we have the opportunity to influence positive changes in Nigeria by influencing some local and foreign policies of governments of our host countries.
It is our greatest failure that we have not done any significant thing towards genuine development in Nigeria. We have not shown any proper or adequate concern for suffering Nigerians beyond sending monies to our relatives to celebrate their betterments. Rather than engage ourselves with honest efforts towards helping to develop our motherland, we have generally channelled our energies towards cosmetic projects such as voting for Nigerians abroad and idiotic programmes like “Miss Nigeria UK” which I painfully watched NIDOE discuss on or around 15 July 2006 or worst of all, going to queue along with sycophants for the attention of elected officials in Nigeria.
We must begin to do our part by first of all properly organising ourselves and genuinely giving ourselves the opportunity to understand the problems underpinning Nigeria’s development. It is a big shame that there has never been any genuine effort by enlightened and distinguished Nigerians either in Europe or in America, to sit down and deliberate on what we can do about our motherland. One does not intend to ignore the significant efforts of hundreds of pockets of organisations springing up everyday among Nigerians abroad including the great jobs organisations like Sahara Reporters are doing, but the fact remains that without solid umbrella organisations or forums of Nigerian elders and leaders of thought in Europe and America no significant impact will ever be made on the ground in Nigeria.
I do not advocate that Nigerians abroad should be militant or should be at war with Nigerian leadership, but simply that Nigerians abroad are capable of influencing the policies of our “White masters” in the EU and US on Nigeria and Black Africa as well as influencing real changes in Nigeria.
We can influence western policies on foreign aid, trade, legitimacy of African government etc by organising ourselves under reputable bodies and forums that study situations on the grounds in Black Africa as affected people and advocate our own people oriented ideas. Enlightened Black Africans (led by Nigerians) abroad can do much better than the likes of Bob Geldoff or some sentimental White journalists in representing Black Africa’s interest before western governments and global bodies.
We can also influence policies in our host countries that can directly check the culture of embezzlement of public funds by our state and federal government officials by influencing the enactment of certain laws where necessary to punish and repatriate our stolen funds without fear or favour. This is probably the easiest work that Nigerians abroad can do with little resources and efforts other than just sincerity.
We can directly influence real developments in Nigeria and by extension the entire Black Africa and even the Carribbean, by being genuinely committed to taking our wonderful Great Britain, Ireland, US, Canada etc to Nigeria. It is probably evil on our part that in our respective locations in Europe and America, we enjoy fundamental freedoms and at the slighted provocation seek redress in courts and tribunals with little or no mago mago or obstruction to justice, but have never made any significant effort at ensuring that such good things of life reach our people back home.
I know that some of us do believe that it must take us hundreds of years to become like our civilised host countries, but I do believe that we owe our compatriots at home the natural duty of care to make our own contributions towards alleviating their sufferings. Alleviating the sufferings of our people at how cannot be achieved by sending some textbooks and even hospital equipments to some privileged schools and hospitals as some of us do, but by helping to impact fundamental changes in the way our people perceive and run modern governments and leadership.
Since we are overtly more excited about voting in elections, one immediate job for enlightened Nigerians whether home or abroad before ever contemplating about making provisions for Nigerian abroad to vote is to device and advocate for the best ways to conduct free and civilised elections in Nigeria where there would be no need to employ gunmen or some dubious security men to annihilate oppositions.
I have since 2001, out of field experience of elections in Nigeria been proposing for audio-visual voting method (see for e.g. http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/john-iteshi/audio-visual-voting-method.html ) as a foolproof and inexpensive solution to election violence and malpractices, but unsurprisingly, being an undistinguished individual, that idea has never been considered by more than just a few enlightened individuals.
Genuine and or well organised Nigerian forums in Europe and America are therefore invited to deliberate on my idea or better ideas toward campaigning both internationally and locally for the best election methods that will usher in genuine democracy and development in Nigeria and Black Africa.
Until we have paid our dues by genuinely doing something for the development of our country and not just for our personal development, our Nigeria and Black Africa will remain backward and exploitable by people of other racial groups. The journey towards building successful societies (not individuals) out of Black Africa and Black Carribbean must start with enlightened Black individuals especially those with all the opportunities to influence the views of the masters of the world at the highest level. Nigerians abroad must start working responsibly towards taking genuine development to Nigeria not by going to lobby for some ludicrous projects called “Diaspora Village, but by genuinely contributing ideas and projects aimed at building a civilised society out of Nigeria.
Count me in for any project aimed at genuine development in Nigeria including discussions on how we can expose Nigerians who have stolen public funds to acquire properties in Europe and America and their collaborators. Count me out in programmes and projects geared towards self aggrandizements on the back of our suffering compatriots in Nigeria. Count me out of ridiculous and primitive ideas like Miss Nigeria UK or Diaspora Village!!