Nigeria boasts a Diaspora community of over 20 million people, spread across Europe, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. This community is renowned for its education and substantial financial and human capital, contributing an estimated diaspora remittance of over $65.34 billion in just three years, equivalent to about 4% of Nigeria’s GDP, which is 11 times the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). Given these facts, Nigeria should be celebrating its Diaspora community as a valuable asset as we mark our 63 years of Nationhood for helping to keep the nation alive economically.
However, it was a sombre moment for the over 20 million Nigerians in the Diaspora when, in 2022, 62 Senators and 240 Representatives voted against a bill that would have given the Diaspora a voice in the nation’s socioeconomic and political affairs. To unlock Nigeria’s full potential, we must involve the Diaspora, often referred to as the “Nation’s first movers” due to their familiarity with the local context and innovative programs derived from their international experiences, in the policymaking process and this must start with Diaspora Voting.
During a pre-anniversary event focused on the Nigeria Diaspora and Diaspora Voting, organized by members of the Nigeria in Diaspora Organization, it was unanimously agreed that a coalition of various stakeholders is crucial to continue the intensive advocacy for Diaspora Voting Rights. The Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) also needs to play a critical role by mobilizing support for Diaspora voting, facilitating advocacy efforts, and providing valuable insights into the specific needs and challenges of overseas Nigerians.
It’s worth noting that the Diaspora community played a significant role in the passage of the NIDCOM Bill after an extensive lobbying effort led by NIDO Worldwide Leadership. The 8th National Assembly (NASS), under the leadership of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki (then Senate President) and Honorable Dogara Yakubu (then Speaker of the House of Representatives), passed the bill on March 30, 2017. This achievement was the result of the hard work of late Senator Rose Oko (then Chairperson of the Senate Committee for Diaspora and Civil Societies) and Honourable Rita Orji (then Chairperson of the House Committee for Diaspora and Foreign Affairs), along with all members of NASS who collaborated with the Diaspora community led by NIDOWW leadership which I was privileged to be among during the final push. We can do this again with the current NASS leadership and Senator Prince Chinedu Munir Nwoko, the senator representing Delta Northwho is currently championing the crucial roles the Diaspora must play in Nigeria political Eco system.
My points were that for a win-win Diaspora Voting Rights Nigerian project to succeed, all critical stakeholders, including the 29 Senators and 58 members of the House of Representatives past and present who supported the bill, the Executive branch, the National Assembly, Nigerian Diaspora Organizations (with NIDO playing a leading role), the Electoral Commission, Nigerian Embassies and Consulates, and Technology Partners, must unite in patriotism and sincerity and put the nation first.
To effectively organize the Diaspora under NIDCOM for political reforms mobilization and advocacy, and to better understand their specific needs and challenges on how to help put Nigeria on greater development trajectory, the Executive branch with active participation of NIDCOM and NIDOWW must promptly constitute the NIDCOM Board in line with NIDCOM ACT as a Diaspora advocacy springboard as a matter of urgency to demonstrate its sincerity and commitment to the integration of the Diaspora community in Nation Building. Advocating for the formation of the NIDCOM Board in my view is just as crucial as advocating for Nigeria Diaspora Voting Rights. As Nigeria reflects on its 63 years of existence, we must summon the political will to set the nation on a path of great development once again.