Reminiscences Of National Diaspora Day 2021

By  Abdur-Rahman Balogun

The 15th National Diaspora Day since inception in 2006 and the third in the series since the establishment of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) in May 2019 had come and gone on Sunday July 25, but the memories lingers on in the minds of all the stakeholders.

So, it was not a mere coincidence that the theme of hybrid virtual 2021 National Diaspora Day where over 3000 participated was: “Diaspora Integration for National Peace and Development”. 

In recognition of the diaspora’s contribution to national development, the 2021 virtual celebration in the form of a webinar was organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), the two-year old Commission which provides a platform to engage Nigerians in the diaspora in policies, projects and participation in the socio-economic, cultural and political development of the country.

Welcoming all participants to the National Diaspora Day, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO of NIDCOM said the theme chosen for the Day was apt in linking peace and development to diaspora integration.

She called on the National Assembly to promulgate the much-anticipated law that would grant voting rights to Nigerians in the diaspora and urged the latter to be good ambassadors for their homeland in their host countries and share good practices with Nigerians at home. 

The NIDCOM boss used the opportunity to debunk the negative stereotypes associated with Nigeria and Nigerians living abroad, noting that the erroneous global opinion of Nigerians as fraudsters and drug dealers are a thing of the past as we have many Nigerians projecting the good name of the country and are being celebrated by the Commission from time to time.

In his keynote speech declaring the Day open, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada recognised the resilience and show of patriotism from the Diasporas as a force to reckon with.

 He reassured them of the Federal Government’s pledge to create an enabling environment and to adopt policies that will ensure their safety and well-being.

Dada disclosed how the Federal Government has taken a step in this direction through the approval and adoption of the National Diaspora Policy 2021 and its Action Plans for a more holistic approach in the Nation’s engagement with Nigerians in the Diaspora.

The National Diaspora Policy which was approved and unveiled in May 2021, aims to provide a comprehensive and supporting framework for facilitating Diaspora engagement in national development, empowering the Diaspora to contribute effectively, and maximising the value of diaspora contributions to Nigeria’s development.

One of the exciting aspect of this year’s National Diaspora Day was the engagement of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who joined the webinar from Geneva by Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa herself reminiscencing her broadcasting skills to interrogate her in a lively interview on her life outside Nigeria, her new job, diaspora voting and challenges facing the women folks in the topmost cadre.

Iweala, who repeatedly said she missed Nigeria so much, commended Nigerians in the diaspora for their contribution to national development, particularly through their remittances which have been critical in sustaining the country’s economy and in the socio-economic upliftment of households in terms of food, housing, education and small and medium-sized enterprises, to name but a few.

Given the current economic and security challenges confronting Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala urged Nigerians in the diaspora to do more towards the socio-economic development of their homeland. 

She noted that she had leveraged her position to explore how Nigeria can take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to attract investment, condemn vaccine nationalism and encourage vaccine production on the continent, as well as urge key manufacturers to remove trade restrictions and invest in Nigeria and Africa.  

Speaking in the same vein, another great Nigeria diasporan, Amina Mohammed,

Deputy Secretary-General of the United  Nations (UN), argued that the Nigerian diaspora has a critical role to play towards the attainment of peace and development in their homeland as their experience, networks and resources can help debunk anti-Nigerian sentiments and they are well placed to project positive narratives of Africa, sensitise people on human rights issues and mobilise investment.

Like Okonjo-Iweala, she illustrated that diasporic remittances had been pivotal in reducing poverty and fulfilling the socio-economic needs of Nigerian households. She added that the diaspora would be instrumental in Nigeria’s economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights of the day included a panel discussion from the invited diasporic organisations, such as the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) worldwide, Dr Bashir Obasekola, NIDO –UK South, Barr. Chibuzor Ubochi, NIDO Asia/ Middle East, Dr Abbas Ell-Gujja from Saudi Arabia, Nigerian-American Public Affairs Committee (NAPAC) Mr Segun Adeyina, the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (CANUK), Mr Ayo Akinfe, the Nigerian and Canadian Business Network (NCBN), Mr Wale Adesanya and Prof Lawal Marafa , Director Postgraduate Programme in Sustainable Tourism, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, with each setting out their contribution to peace and development in Nigeria and the challenges they are encountering in their respective continents .

Others include Home String- An interaction with the second and

 third generation of Diaspora, anchored by Hajia Aisha Dan-Kano with participants like Mubarak Marafa, Chisom Ilogu, Adedasola Adeniyi and Ajibola Erogbogbo from Americas, Europe and Asia.

The Diaspora day also witnessed other presentations such as the first Nigerian assembled electric vehicle by Engr. Jelani Aliyu which was test run by Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa to the admiration of all and presentation on the

 forthcoming third Nigerian Diaspora Investment Summit Initiative by Dr (Ms) Badewa Adejugbe-Williams, presentation by the state Diaspora Focal point Officers and simultaneous cutting of 2021 Diaspora Day cake by Nigerian Ambassador to the Russian Federation and staff, Amb. Prof. Abdullahi Yibaikwai Shehu as well as Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa and others in the venue hosting the event.

It must however be mentioned here that there were goodwill messages from both the Senate Committee Deputy Chairman on Diaspora Matters, Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe as well as Hon. Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs and Chief of Mission, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mr Frantz Celestin and Dr Mojisola Sodeinde , Head International Centre for Migration Policy Development West Africa, which added colour to the event.

Similarly, the uniqueness of 2021 National Diaspora Day was the unveiling of two key initiatives by making public the National Diaspora Policy and the National Diaspora Merit Award as well as wonderful performances from the duo of a great Saxophonist Revy Sax and Ice Prince Zamani, a top rapper and a hip pop Singer.

The 2021 National Diaspora Policy’s vision is “to effectively promote and harness the capacity and resources of Nigerians in the Diaspora for the growth and the development of the nation”; while its mission is “to empower Nigerians in the Diaspora as change agents for the development of Nigeria through promoting a framework for them to maximise their potentials in capital, knowledge, and networks”; and its goal is “constructive engagement of Nigerians in the Diaspora for sustainable national development”. 

The National Diaspora Merit Award, which was announced at the meeting, on the other hand. is an annual event that will begin in 2022 to celebrate Nigerians in the diaspora that have distinguished themselves in fields such as agriculture; information and communication technology; science, technology, and innovation; youth and sports; education; arts and tourism and entertainment.

Against the backdrop of anti-Nigerian sentiments, the Commission’s efforts in organising this memorable and impactful event and launching of the 2021 National Diaspora Policy as well as annual National Diaspora Merit Award should be commended.  

One of the take away of the Day was to create a business-friendly environment geared towards attracting more diasporic remittances and foreign direct investment as well as address the plight of Nigerians abroad.

 It is also geared towards improving the situation by galvanizing Nigerians in the diaspora to do more than they have been doing for their country.

The 2021 National Diaspora Day was therefore an opportunity for the various stakeholders to fashion out ways to return remittances to pre-COVID era and ensure that nothing rocks the boat.

The need therefore to share ideas and techniques that will assist the country in their Post COVID-19 recovery process is very important as a peaceful environment is the best to deliver national development.

Kudos and encomiums must however be showered on the Local Organising Committee under the able leadership of the Secretary of the Commission, Engr. Dr Sule Yakubu Bassi with the robust support from Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA) staff on the committee for packaging the best 2021 National Diaspora day.

So, until another Diaspora day on July 25 next year, the trills, gains and successes achieved in this year’s event will forever lingers on in our memory.

 *Abdur-Rahman Balogun is the Head of NIDCOM Media, Public* *Relations and Protocol Unit, Abuja.*   *rahmor2001@yahoo.com*

Aug. 11, 2021.

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