The Role of Nigerians (Africans) in Diaspora – in Nation Building

The Role of Nigerians (Africans) in Diaspora – in Nation Building

Being The Keynote Address By Oliver O. Mbamara – At The Second Annual Nigerian Leadership Summit in New York – August 2011 

We are now living at a time when the globe is connected more than ever through instruments of technology that leave little room for individual privacy or isolated national and socio-political means of living and administration. These days, individual decisions at one end of the world could have implications in major arenas thousands of miles away. The ongoing wave of demonstrations against government administrations in parts of the world is an example of how a singular event in one place could trigger a chain reaction across the world. No nation or government administration seems spared. The trigger could occur anywhere anytime, any day. The common trend is change. And being the only thing that is permanent, once it is due, change will occur when it will occur and no force can stop it when it is due. One prudent thing would be to positively ride the wind of change or be swept away into the annals of that which is sidelined at the dawn of change. To that extent, Nigerians and Africans in Diaspora cannot afford to remain isolated from socio-political and economic activities in their continental homelands. Days are gone when those in Diaspora would sit aside and watch from the sidelines as things unfold in their home countries.

The Call: In line with the trend of national and continental, political, religious, or societal developments, the call continues to go out for Nigerians and other Africans in Diaspora to return home and contribute to the growth of their various countries in particular and the African continent in general. The building and sustenance of the various countries in Africa need not be strictly separated from the building of the African continent for it is the character of all African tribes to be their brother’s keepers and to build together in brotherhood as well as help the sustenance of close and extended relatives and neighbors. Many are already answering the call while some are still arming themselves with the necessary tools required to effect some change in a continent dogged by political, religious, and social upheavals despite its blessings in many areas. Of course, there are some who have relegated their countries to the background as secondary societies that they may never again return to or even visit again. The latter category includes some critics and believers in the barrage of negative criticism leveled against Africa and Africans.

Background: These days more than ever, Africans especially Nigerians are subjected to special scrutiny when they travel abroad. One reason being of course, the fact that some of us have drawn the attention of the world’s terrorist watch to our countries by recent engagements in various levels of terrorist activities. Regardless of the excuse for such activities they paint the image of the people and the country as being involved in terrorism when the majority of the people are indeed peaceful and law-abiding people. Yet, there is another side to the image and scrutiny problem – corruption at political and leadership levels. Nowadays the scrutiny even extends to our government officials which erode the respect they would otherwise command when they travel abroad. In fact there have been reports of several arrests and searches of homes associated with top government officials in some of these Western countries. We have also heard of the successful prosecution and even incarceration of some of these leaders abroad.

Some observers see this as a welcome development since government officials now have some kind of sense of accountability and responsibility. It is no longer a case of “do whatever you like and nobody will ask.” Regardless of what position one takes, the fact is that most officials are now been made to realize that leadership is not a license to the abuse of power and irresponsibility nor does it mean that one is above the law. There is now hope that one day the corridors of power would be filled by men who have the interest of the people in mind powered by a sense of accountability, and not men who see governance as a tool of control, oppression, victimization, and self-aggrandizement. It is a tough journey but one that is somehow on course towards better nation building.

The Question and Some Answers: The pertinent question then is; what is the role of the Nigerian (or the African) in Diaspora? Is it to contribute to the down trend in the respect and honor accorded our country, or is it take up the mantle and be a channel for the manifestation of that hope harbored by many of us who continue to dream of a nation dominated by responsible and selfless leaders. Men who climb the podium of leadership with a pure intention to lead by service and example rather than those lured by pride, power, and material greed? Unfortunately, some of us who believe that they are more devoted than others in their tribal and/or religious beliefs have not helped matters by their continual commitment to riot and kill fellow countrymen at the slightest provocation, but there are also many honest and patriotic citizens as well as particles of good intentions in the leadership today. Those in Diaspora can help the growth of responsible leadership especially in this era of global socio-economic and technological evolution.

Having been exposed to a different way of doing things abroad, those in Diaspora are expected to know better for they have the advantage of exposure and a basis for comparison and evaluation. By that same logic, much is expected of them in nation building. However, while some actually return to help improve things as we are beginning to notice in some sectors, others simply return to get sucked in and influenced by the pending disrepute alleged by critics. They go ahead to jettison whatever little experience they have been privileged to gain abroad, and carelessly dash the hopes of those at home who have hoped that these returnees would make some difference.

This piece does not suggest the importation of foreign culture contrary to essential rudiments significant in the homeland society. The point is that one who has lived abroad has the exposure to realize that certain things can comparatively be done better in the homeland. He now knows that constant electricity is a possibility and that police security could be more efficient and essential towards maintaining law and order in the society which in turn would encourage peace of mind, attract tourism, and foreign investors. He now knows that the judiciary can function more independently and that government functionaries are subject to the same laws and almost the same privileges as the ordinary citizen. He knows that lawmakers always have their mandates in mind at the legislature and that government officials are always held accountable by the system. These and many more are the tenets and roles expected of the Nigerian (or African) in Diaspora who decides to answer the call of nation building.

The Nigerian (or African) in Diaspora is expected to deliver by exemplary ways for he can now compare the two worlds. He stands in a better position to apply what would work in effective and progressive nation-building. Anything less would be a disappointment and a betrayal of those African principles of brotherhood, extended family system, and care for one’s neighbor.

Read brief points for nation building – also by Oliver O. Mbamara

Oliver O. Mbamara, Esq. © First Delivered/Published  August 2011


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oliver O. Mbamara is an attorney and an admin judge. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, writer, actor, and poet. For more on Oliver Mbamara, visit

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