By Braeyi Ekiye
With Nigeria’s political campaigns now in full swing, preparatory to the February 2023 general elections, there is a need to visit the issue of her untapped national assets abroad. That is, talking about the untapped Nigerian virgin human capital resources in the Diaspora for the purpose of significantly contributing to the socio-economic development of the country.
It is expected, therefore, that the presidential candidates would see this as a topical campaign issue and consciously map out plans and strategies on how to tap these rich and variegated human resources for the holistic development process of the Nigerian State.
Professor Patrick Okedinachi Utomi, a political economist and management expert, speaking as a guest at the Research Education conference of the Association of Nigeria Nurse Practitioners in Washington DC, U.S.A, 2022, underscored this point, when he said that Nigeria has continued to export value to the world.
What Professor Utomi is saying, is that, Nigerians in the Diaspora can do the same for their country. But then there has to be the enabling environment through enlightened leadership to galvanise and open the doors to diasporans with the requisite education and professional skills to contribute to the nation’s development in an emergent new Nigeria.
The kernel of Professor Utomi’s message should not be lost in the minds of our presidential candidates and their parties. It is a call to them to see this as a national emergency, as Diasporan’s disposition to focus, hardwork and industry, and above all, commitment to avail Nigeria their services selflessly would, as Utomi puts it, “add real value” to Nigeria’s development process.
I believe it is the desire of Nigerians and diasporans that, come 2023, there would be a paradigm shift in this direction; a globalisation of our development process that would give the backbone to Nigeria’s rise to prominence. This can be made possible if we recognise the Nigerian generation in America, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, China, Russia and elsewhere, as a generation of transformation. Nigeria certainly needs a transformation that would birth a leadership to effectively manage what Utomi describes as ‘a web of inter-dependent variables, especially cultures’, as seen in our values which shapeshuman progress.
Pat Utomi’s identification of culture as the most important ingredient for national identity and for effective development should not be overlooked. I could not agree more that Nigeria, nay Africa, more than ever before, needs a leadership that understands the common good, and works consciously and decisively to express these useful nuggets in the governance of the state, through strengthening our institutions, elevating the quality of human capital and entrepreneurship for socio-economic growth and development.
And good a thing, we have the quality human capital for such transformation in abundance in the diaspora. It is well-known and documented that there are millions of Nigerian citizens living outside of Nigeria. Specifically, there are millions of Nigerians residing in the UK and USA. There have also been documented evidence of the power of the resourcefulness of these Nigerians in the diaspora. Specifically, the United States is the primary destination country for Nigerian-born international migrants.
Additionally, Nigerians in the USA are the best and most highly educated among all groups of immigrants and nonimmigrants. Over 37 percent of Nigerians in the USA hold a bachelor’s degree compared to approximately 20% of the general USA population. Greater than 40% of Nigerian Diasporas hold a minimum master’s degree or doctoral degree in comparison to 11% of the USA’s overall population.
That goes to say that Nigeria has probably lost and is not making effort to reclaim and bring its citizens home and give them the opportunity of participating in rebuilding our broken economy and the healthcare system. Nigerians in the diaspora also have become well organised, articulate and with the passion to serve, and serve selflessly.
Let us look specifically at the Nigeria healthcare system. The breakdown of Nigerian health care is one that is unarguably very concerning. Health gauges in Nigeria are some of the worst in Africa if not globally in the areas of the number of people living with HIV; burden of malaria; maternal and child illness and death etc.
Nigeria has serious deterioration in her healthcare industry whereas thousands of Nigerian immigrants in the USA work in the healthcare industry. Imagine their skills and experiences. Every hospital, medical centre and outpatient clinic has Nigerians employed as healthcare providers. Hundreds of Nigerians in the USA have their own private outpatient medical clinics, pharmacies, long-term care agencies, etc.
Nigeria’s healthcare system is in critical need of an overhaul. What will happen to the healthcare system of Nigeria if Nigerian leadership begins to do a massive call or employment of Nigerian healthcare providers in the Diaspora?
From the foregoing, it is clear that the role of diasporans in the rebuilding and restructuring of Nigeria’s economy cannot be over-emphasised. Their ready expertise and skills in the educational, health, agriculture, science and technology, construction as well as the media and other areas, would no doubt, be a useful source for the re-engineering of these sectors for national development and a stable and sustainable economy. If America alone has this store of rich and variegated human capital, what of those in Britain and others scattered across the world, contributing maximally to the development of these countries?
This is a clarion call on the current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, for renewed efforts in her mediation with diasporans for striking deals of mutual developmental benefits between them and their homeland. And this is the most auspicious time for such an aggressive move to drum home, the urgent need for harnessing the skills and creativity of the human capital assets abroad for revamping Nigeria’s ailing economy. And there is no better time than now for our presidential candidates to show leadership in this direction by recognising and highlighting in their campaigns, the value of education, professional skills and culture of selfless service from Nigeria’s rapid transformation.
Braeyi Ekiye, Publisher of EnvironmentWatch, writes from Yenagoa Email: email@example.com