He has traveled far and wide. He is abreast of what obtains in several other countries. He is very angry that Nigeria is still lagging behind in the 21st century. And so, Mr. Christan Udechukwu, a London-based global financial analyst and CEO, African Market Development Partner, AMDP, (UK) who is incidentally a delegate at the ongoing National Conference, in a chat with Journalists, said that the country needs to set high social, political and economic benchmarks to grow. Excerpts:
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
How would you assess the conference so far?
I think the national confab has been very positive in the debate and discussions. It started with a lot of skepticism about whether the confab was going to go ahead, the legitimacy and all of that but so far, the confab has overcome a lot of those prejudices and skepticism and we see a lot of positive recommendations being made for the future and betterment of Nigeria.
What was the agenda of Nigerians in the Diaspora at the point of invitation to the conference?
It was a very big laundry list of needs because Nigerians who live abroad are generally concerned about the way the political affairs, governance in Nigeria and economy are being run. A lot of the concerns were that we are benchmarking ourselves not against the best in the world but making gradual and steady progress.
In order to mobilize the population, we need to set extremely high goals for ourselves and begin to dream to achieve the impossible, that way all hands will be on deck.
If the milestones are on a gradual basis, then you are looking at the resources and capabilities that are immediately within our means but most of the countries that have made significant advancements set impossible goals for themselves. America set the goal of going to the moon when they didn’t have a space shuttle.
South Korea set the goal of building ships when they didn’t have heavy duty industries and so, the goal that Nigerians in the Disapora set for the National conference in terms of their agenda for the delegate was a very long one.
However, in our discussions at the committee level at the Foreign Affairs Committee where the issues were discussed extensively, we narrowed down the agenda to four key issues: Diaspora Voting, Disapora Commission, Citizen diplomacy and a reform of the political system to allow greater representation for Nigerians in the Diaspora.
These four items were later narrowed down to three. We pursued the right of vote because the Nigerian constitution guarantees all Nigerians the right to vote and living abroad doesn’t mean we should be disenfranchised.
There is this belief that the conference has no business with some core infrastructural, administrative issues such as power, agric and the likes; that its mandate is purely to develope political road map for Nigeria’s peaceful co-existence…
You cannot talk about political development without talking about the holistic basis of our collective existence as a nation. It is very much like in a family; when things are not going the way they are supposed to, then you say the family should not discuss all the issues that concern them because you don’t know why the family is not functioning very well.
It is when you hear the grievances of the members of the family or you hear their ideas on how the family is supposed to function that you can have peace and prosperity within the family. This is what is going on at the national conference. You cannot discuss political restructuring and development without looking at the socio-economic fundamentals that underpin and connect our co-existence as a people.
So, that is why it is important to discuss transportation, science and technology, foreign affairs and diplomatic services, telecomms infrastructure, aviation and so on. It is important to discuss all of that because unless you are satisfied individually and collectively in terms of how we organize ourselves, our living and society, our political systems will not work. And we have set very high standards for ourselves but then are we able to set high standards for our political leadership?
Nigerians should not be celebrating governors who are doing boreholes, when we had urban water systems in 1960s. They should be building on that urban infrastructures so that you can turn the tap on in your homes and not have to build your own water supply system in your own home. We shouldn’t be clapping for governors who are building roads, it is the fundamental things they are supposed to be doing. What is worthy of celebration is when we are benchmarking ourselves against the world in terms of our children, the schools they are going to; what is the class size?
What is the quality of education they are getting? What is the ratio of students to teachers? What is the quality of facility that are available for them to stretch their imagination, even at kindergarten?
How does the world perceive Nigeria and Nigerians and why do we have a lot of Nigerians languishing in foreign prisons without much concern from the government?
The question about the concerns of the government towards Nigerians abroad has been addressed by the committee. It is one of the recommendations that have been made under citizen diplomacy which is essentially that Nigeria should increase the resources allocated to foreign missions abroad. I understand the present allocation is under one per cent.
But most countries of the world that we compete with, some of them have allocation as high as 10 per cent for their foreign missions because they understand that diplomacy is a tool by which they expand their economic frontiers, political influence and social impact on other nations and cultures of the world.
Now, what we are saying essentially is that there should be increased allocations to our foreign missions and a deliberate government policy to support Nigerians who are or traveling overseas.
We need to ensure that Nigerians who are traveling travel with same level of confidence and protection that other citizens of America, UK, Europe, Singapore and China enjoy all over the world. Our citizens should be able to travel the world without fear and prejudice; pursue their dreams and aspirations to the end of the world as they seem fit.
And they should be able to do so with the backing of the federal government knowing that wherever any issue arises whether they are in the right or wrong, they would be treated very fairly with equity and good justice and that the force of the state will always be there to protect them; to ensure that their human rights are not violated. That is what the citizens diplomacy is about.
There have been many recent cases of Nigerians dying in South Africa, Ghana, Dubai and other places and there is a lot of public concern about the fact that a lot of these cases, not only have they not been properly revealed in official circles, perhaps, there has not been evidence of government leading very strongly to ensure that justice prevails for the families that have been affected.
Now, the other thing is that overseas, Nigeria is perceived as a great nation. We just rebased our economy after years and it has put us in a bold position as Africa’s number one destination for international investment, culture, travels and tourism. We are a great country, great people, visionary people, very enterprising and that’s why any where you go in the world, you will see a Nigerian.