“NIDO leadership has the ability and the gusto to take on its own fight and defend the interest of its constituency despite the perceived disarray of its rank and file. Despite the powerful lobby NIDO succeeded in bringing back its status as the lead Diaspora partner in the implementation of the Diaspora Commission and equal representation of the Diaspora on the Governing Board”
As with all policy work, my office quickly identified the strategic partners needed to set the ball rolling on Out-of-Country Voting or Diaspora Voting and Diaspora Bill. A Bill is essentially a legislative matter. It was no brainer therefore that our natural ally for the Diaspora Commission Bill would be the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives. The 2005 National Political Reforms Conference offered no better platform to launch our case for Diaspora Voting. Our Delegates to the national parley wasted no time in taking up the case for Diaspora Voting resting on the preparatory work and initial research provided by the Headquarter of NIDO Europe under my leadership as Chief Executive. By 2009 the building blocks or legislative framework for the Diaspora Commission Bill were in place. In tandem we had commenced initial work on a national policy on Diaspora affairs and after meeting several brick walls in its realization, we thought it makes all the sense in the world to choose our fights carefully. From 2 February 2010 when a public hearing was held in the National Assembly, ably coordinated and hosted by the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs to 30 June 2017 when the Presidency assented to the Bill, a lot of water had passed under the bridge.
Do we have a perfect Bill? Certainly not! But perhaps a perfect Bill does not exist. Most important thing today is that we have a Bill, one that took into consideration certain anomalies that the Diaspora pinpointed from the onset. Looking at the Bill as assented to by the Presidency and the initial draft presented by the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, on which early debates were based, there are huge similarities. Ironical isn’t it? Not really. It tells us a few things. Firstly, the House Committee leadership knew what a sound Diaspora Commission Bill ought to look like and initially delivered one. Secondly it exposes the vulnerability of the same House Committee leadership to undue influence by powerful Diaspora lobby. One clear evidence of this is: the initial draft Establishment Bill as put forth by the House Committee on Diaspora, recognized the place of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) in providing policy coherence in the Diaspora for the work of the proposed Commission. The pre-NIDO era lacked coherence. It was characterized by thousands of community, professional, religious, ethnic and cultural organisations of Nigerians in Diaspora, fighting, like children in a disjointed polygamous family, to dominate the space. As can be expected, the law of the jungle applied. This is because NIDO stands on its way in exerting undue control over Diaspora affairs. The other issue, closely complimentary to this is the disproportionate representation of Nigerian Diaspora on the Governing Board of the Commission. The Diaspora disagreed on quite a lot but an issue that organized Diaspora worldwide saw eye-to-eye on as the enemy to fight to a standstill was the buildup of powerful lobby in the Diaspora and returnee Diaspora, largely undermining the draft Establishment Bill and skillfully manipulating its seemingly naïve authors. Its purpose? To kill NIDO. Thirdly, it revealed that NIDO leadership has the ability and the gusto to take on its own fight and defend the interest of its constituency despite the perceived disarray of its rank and file. Despite the powerful lobby NIDO succeeded in bringing back its status as the lead Diaspora partner in the implementation of the Diaspora Commission and equal representation of the Diaspora on the Governing Board.
Collins Nweke is Founder / CEO of Global Village Consult Belgium, brand owners of Nigeria Human Capital. He had served variously as Chief Executive, General Secretary and Board Chairman between 2004 and 2013 of the Board of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe. Collins is a Municipal Legislator at Ostend City Council Belgium where he is serving a second term as elected Councillor. He writes from Brussels.
Emeka Emmanuel G.
– Chief International Editor, African Heritage Magazin
Editor’s note! This article was submitted before the final circulation of the “signed Bill”