Nigeria´s Economy : Why Buhari needs Nigerians in Diaspora
– Chief Joe Mmeh
“Gen. Buhari shall personally try and reach out, visit and interact with Nigerians abroad. He shall make sure that he is not deceived by Diplomats who only call few of their friends to meet Presidents or Ministers whenever they visit. The in-coming President shall insist on meeting a cross-section of in any Country he visits, even if such meeting is for just an hour”
Gen. Buhari shall be assuming office as the President at a time when theNigeria’s economy is down. Although the situation is bad but it presents also a good opportunity for him to diversify the economy and stop our over-dependence on Crude Oil. He needs to pay serious attention to Agriculture. Our educational system that keeps on producing unproductive and unemployable high school and university graduates needs to be reformed. Attention shall be paid to vocational education, where our youths shall acquire technical skills, engage in job training and thereafter be in the position to start their own businesses.
At this time of economic crisis, both the federal and state Governments need to think out of the box and be more innovative as to solve our problems and ensure economic growth. Gen. Buhari needs the support and co-operation of all Nigerians and it is my candid opinion that he shall find help and reliable development partners in Nigerians abroad once he appeals to their patriotic spirits. Nigeria has lots of able professional men and women in various parts of the world and each has something to contribute towards economic development of Nigeria. According to World Bank, in 2013, Nigerians abroad remitted a total of $21 billion USD to families and relations in Nigeria, making Nigeria the fifth largest recipient of foreign remittances among developing countries and the first in Africa. The World Bank forecasts that these remittances shall rise to $41 billion in 2016. It is therefore logical that Gen. Buhari needs to work closely with these set of Nigerians, apart from their monies and contacts, he also needs their Know-How for the economic and industrial growth of Nigeria.
For an example, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH – German speaking Countries) which constitute the largest and strongest Market in European Continent, Nigerian Professionals are exhibiting their ingenuity and are part of the engineering and construction workforce. Nigerians are part of the reputed “Made in Germany” products and services representing quality and reliability which past and present Nigerian Leaders and their families have always trusted and clamoured for. In the area of quality medical services, Germany is the number destination of Nigerian Leaders and Politicians. But unfortunately Nigerian Leaders have avoided working closely with the Nigerian professionals in these DACH Countries. Gen. Buhari shall tap into the resources of the Nigerians in DACH and all over the World as to be able to fast-track and bring about rapid economic and industrial development of Nigeria. These Nigerians shall use their goodwill and existing contacts as well as explore more opportunities for the benefit of our Country. Their expertise and helping hands shall be needed in Nigeria in areas such power, science & technology as well as in the trade, investments and health sectors. Some of them could serve at federal and state levels as advisers, policy-makers and heads of institutions while others and their Organisations shall help in organizing and facilitating trades and investments to Nigeria.
Gen. Buhari shall personally try and reach out, visit and interact with Nigerians abroad. He shall make sure that he is not deceived by Diplomats who only call few of their friends to meet Presidents or Ministers whenever they visit. The in-coming President shall insist on meeting Nigerian Communities or at least a cross-section of them but not less than 50 or 100 persons in any Country he visits, even if such meeting is for just an hour. He shall endeavour to appoint Ambassadors who shall serve and work cordially with Nigerians in the countries where they are posted. It may interest Gen. Buhari to know that most Nigerian Ambassadors and Embassy Staff conduct themselves like Emperors and are out of touch. They treat Nigerians without respect and dignity. It is therefore important that Gen. Buhari directs Embassies to do their jobs properly and work in harmony with Nigerians abroad in order to achieve his goals of projecting and promoting Nigeria’s political, economic and social- cultural Interests abroad.
Newsreports about Nigeria in foreign media are often done in negative ways, which scare away tourists and Investors from Nigeria and for Gen. Buhari to reverse this trend, he needs to work with and strengthen Nigerian Communities abroad. Let him appoint an Adviser on Diaspora Affairs, someone who understands Nigerians abroad well. In the past, Nigeria’s Government has been hiring foreign media consultants to launder and manage our Image abroad, a fruitless exercise and waste of resources. The socio-cultural activities of Nigerian Communities abroad have better effects. It is a known fact and experiences have shown that Foreign Governments, NGOs, Institutions and Companies trust more, individuals they know and can identify with, individuals who live among them, who speak their languages and understand their Cultures. Nigerian Communities abroad engage in cultural diplomacy through their activities, they promote goodwill and better understanding between Nigerians and their Host Countries. The in-coming Buhari Government shall therefore encourage them to do more.
The Nigerian State Governors shall also profit from Nigerians abroad, if and when they appoint from among them “Honorary Trade Representatives / Development Officers” to explore more opportunities for the benefit of their States. Nigerians abroad are independent of Government patronage (handouts) and therefore can carry out these duties in their Countries of residence on honorary basis without any salaries. The appointed honorary Representatives shall work closely with other Nigerians and seek ways to attract development assistance and investors to the Nigerian States that appointed them. They shall do so by seriously engaging the NGOs, Institutions, Businesses and Chambers of Commerce in their host Countries for the benefit of states they work for. They shall also act as Information Desk, publicising Investment and Tourism potentials of the Nigerian States to the people in their host Countries.
Through the appointment of these Development Officers, the Nigerian State Governors shall be taking Government nearer to Nigerians abroad and at the same time throwing direct challenges to them to deliver, putting their knowledge and contacts into use for the good of Nigeria. The benefits to States working directly with Nigerians abroad in such co-ordinated and organised manners are enormous. Again, this Initiative is likely to be the fastest and most cost-effective way for Governors to achieve their goals of attracting direct foreign Investments which shall lead to rapid industrialisation of their respective States within a short period of time.
I look forward to Gen. Buhari appreciating the patriotism of Nigerians in Diaspora. He can give them a sense of belonging through his policies and actions and by meeting and interacting with them each time he visits any foreign Country. Nigerians abroad and their Organisations are ready to contribute positively and support Gen. Buhari in his quest to grow our economy and reduce unemployment among our youths.
Chief Joe Mmeh is a Business Consultant based in Germany