The call by Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to an unrepresentative audience in Abuja that Nigerians in the Diaspora should send more money to boost the country’s sagging economy is simply a head-scratcher. There is no explanation for the attempt by the Nigerian government to reap where it has not sown, from the group it neither serves nor care about.
Nigerians in the Diaspora do not feel any love from successive governments, making the call nothing but the desperate nimble of saprophytic fungi. These “unknown Nigerians,” who the government does not even have any record of, have little stake in the fantastically corrupt and looted economy. Expect no response, Minister, that looks different from this.
Nigerians abroad send money home only because most of them have no choice. They have parents, siblings, friends and acquaintances who they have to help; and projects that they hope one day will be useful. Most of them expect nothing from the country to help them retire without worries.
Out of the sweat of their brow, they end up sending more than $20 billion to Nigeria every year, an amount that is now about to surpass the income from oil. Unknown Nigerians are about to become the breadwinners for a nation that lifts no finger when they suffer.
Nigeria’s 2016 budget is based on an expected oil income of less than $22 billion, but remittances from Nigerians living abroad hit $20.77 billion in 2015, making Nigeria the sixth largest recipient of remittances in the world, according to the World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016. The report states that the top two sources for Nigerian diaspora remittances in 2015 were the United States ($5.7 billion) and the United Kingdom ($3.7 billion).
Shouldn’t being breadwinners come with some rights? Power is where the bread is. In homes, dads are treated with special care where they bring the bread home. When the mum is the breadwinner, the dad is never happy to give up power but yields it most of the time. It is not the case with unknown Nigerians who, though spend the money, have no rights or recognition that goes with sponsorship.
Small-mind Minister Kemi really hurled an insult. It is true that politicians and public officials talk to Nigerians with all kinds of foolish logic, but expect a little correction. Those who live abroad and know how civilised societies work, cannot let her say anything and get away with it.
I call on those living abroad to send her the message that we are different and this is not acceptable. Nigerians abroad have no obligations without enjoying rights. There is no taxation without representation.
With all our financial muscle, we are not allowed to vote. Even Iraqis can vote abroad during their war. The Nigerian government ought to be ashamed that it is not one of the 115 civilised countries that allow citizens to vote when they are not within the country.
Globalirish.ie states that of the 115 countries and territories that have systems in place to allow their emigrants to vote are:
- 21 African nations
- 13 North and South American countries
- 15 Asian countries
- 6 Pacific countries
- 36 European countries.
And according to Wikipedia: “Some of the countries that allow their citizens abroad to vote include Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Britain, the Philippines and Mexico.” Even Nepal and Zimbabwe allow it, but not Nigeria.
Not only are we not allowed to vote, we have no voice in government. Overseas constituencies have become an essential part of democratic governance. Wikipedia states that “an overseas constituency or overseas electoral district is any electoral district located outside of a nation-state’s borders but which is recognised by the state’s government as a district for the representation of its expatriate (and, technically, military) residents who live within the territory of another nation-state.
Such constituencies are often organised in order to engage expatriate or diaspora voters who retain their citizenship.” Other than carrying Nigerian passports, what rights are there for the Diaspora?
It doesn’t end there. Some countries such as France reserve legislative seats for citizens who live abroad. Algeria reserves eight of its 382 parliamentary seats for expatriates, many of whom reside in France. A single seat in the Chamber of Representatives is reserved for Colombians abroad. Italy has four overseas constituencies, each with three representatives.
Seven representatives are elected by the Dominican diaspora: two to represent Dominicans living in the Caribbean and Latin America, two for Europe, and three for Canada and the United States. Portugal’s Assembly of the Republic seats two reserved seats for expatriates, one for Portuguese expatriates in Europe and the other for expatriates elsewhere outside of Portugal. Eighteen of the 217 members of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia represent Tunisians abroad.
In Nigeria, you either come home to vote or be voted – or you are not a Nigerian. Even the unannounced 2016 Diaspora Conference where the Finance Minister spoke in Abuja was organised without the involvement of the real Diaspora. I saw no discussion about it, no advertisement and no invitation – and I consume the media.
I do not know of any Diaspora man or woman in London, Chicago or Brussels who was invited to the staged conference. As they usually do, all they did was gather some friends and families abroad, pay them for a summer vacation to Nigeria, invite journalists, stage events and distribute brown envelopes to the gentlemen of the press.
Those events have no meaning to Nigerians in the Diaspora. That is why we are unknown Nigerians. We are known to ourselves and families but are not known to the Nigerian government.
The recognition of Nigerians in the Diaspora only when something is needed from them must stop. If a Nigerian were to be mauled on the street of New York or Vienna today, the Nigerian embassy will play no role to investigate and assist. If you live abroad, you are on your own.
Whether you live or die, you are on your own. Except you carry two passports, the green one is only useful at the Murtala Mohammed Airport. Nigeria is cold to her citizens who live abroad. It doesn’t care for them, it doesn’t reach for them, it doesn’t protect them.
Why should they care? They care not for the nation, but for the family ties that are still strong, which small-mind Kemi cannot break with her uninformed insult.
This article by Tunde Odediran, a US-based writer, was first published on his blog (http://tunde.odediran.com) on July 26, 2917