By Jessica Angula

When the aircraft touched down the runway of Abu Dhabi International Airport, I adjusted in my seat having endured a seven-hour flight from London to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I wanted a time out from my busy schedule as Managing Editor of a young growing platform . So, the decision to visit Dubai just came naturally after all the stories I had heard about the place.

The shuttle to the hotel was pleasant. This is aside from the magnificence of the airport. Dubai is a beautiful city. So much so that you would ask how a desert area was transformed into such grandeur.

I gathered from the cab driver that what transformed Dubai from a desert village into a global player was just willpower and foresight of its ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who once summed up his ambitions for the city in a simple sentence: “We want to be No. 1.” There is also an interesting twist in the Dubai story. One of which is the fact that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum studied in the United Kingdom, at the Bell Educational Trust’s English Language School in the United Kingdom. He also studied at the Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, after which he returned to Dubai. And the rest is history.

As a Nigerian, I somewhat felt depressed with the state of affairs in Nigeria. I recall when I left the shores of Nigeria some years ago to the United Kingdom; I had a desire to return at some point too because there is no place like home. And this thought of mine is seen in the Dubai example. The transformation of Dubai was made possible by its citizens and not foreigners. The spate of development around the UAE and the size of its economy should frighten any Nigerian abroad to return home to do something for Nigeria to move forward.

This might not be an appropriate example, but I will use it for illustration purposes. Nnamdi Kanu lived in the United Kingdom for close to eight years. He returned to the country, and all he could do was foment trouble and cause unrest. While I won’t blame Nnamdi Kanu wholly for his misadventure, I would also partly blame the government because of the level of non-engagement of Nigerians in the Diaspora. The strength of Nigerians in the Diaspora is unimaginable. These set of Nigerians are positively contributing to the growth of their host countries.

The Nigerian Diaspora totals 15 million around the world, according to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and The Diaspora, in March 2017. Nigeria competes with India, the home country of the most substantial Diaspora in the world standing at 16 million, and other countries such as Russia and Mexico as one of the largest Diasporas globally. Furthermore, according to The World Bank’s Migration and Remittances, Factbook 2016, nearly USD21billion was sent home in 2014, making the Nigerian Diaspora the sixth largest regarding remittances.

The Nigerian Diaspora is a community that must be tapped to grow the country’s economy. According to recent Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission report, Each year some 2,000 Nigerians trained outside the country in the US, UK, GERMANY, FRANCE, RUSSIA, CANADA, JAPAN, and CHINA return home to use their expertise and professionalism to help to develop the country. The new 21st century modern Nigeria the nation is yearning for needs the participation of patriotic Nigerians abroad to succeed.

However, there are some challenges. One of the critical features of the Nigerian government’s engagement with its Diaspora is the absence of programmatic terms of involvement in the form of a Diaspora engagement policy. A study conducted by the International Migration Institute states that such policies are known to take a wide range of formal and informal manifestations: symbolic and rhetorical appeals to the loyalty of emigrants and their descendants; measures aimed at capturing and channelling a share of the migrant remittances that now dwarf global development aid; new citizenship provisions that extend beyond state borders; and formal governmental institutions that harmonize and oversee the myriad ways in which states impact on, and are impacted by, the Diaspora.

The National Assembly has also been very vocal about the Nigerian Diaspora as a vast pool for national development. Evidentially, the Diaspora has a significant stake in the economic growth of Nigeria.

The figures produced by the CBN, IOM, UNDP, IMF, and the World Bank. However, the questions remain: what has the Nigerian government done to make the Diaspora feel more connected to the homeland, regarding political, cultural, scientific and technological development, and how have Nigerian emigrants been given a more significant role in the development of their country of origin?
The Nigerian government has been quite optimistic that it will achieve much through its efforts to attract members of the Nigerian Diaspora to become key in and contribute meaningfully to national development actively.

Unfortunately, such initiatives aimed at engaging the Diaspora may not be based on a proper understanding of the different and heterogeneous character of identities of the Nigerian Diaspora.
The point is that the Nigerian Diaspora must be seen as a strategic asset and thus be meaningfully engaged by the Nigerian government towards achieving Nigeria’s developmental objectives. In this regard, other concerns being raised by foreign-based Nigerians such as their inclusion as voters should be addressed with all sense of seriousness.

If the truth must be told, if the Nigerian government does not engage the Diaspora, others will as seen in the case of Nnamdi Kanu and his co-travelers. Suffice to mention that most negative conspiracies against Nigeria are hatched, plotted and executed by those abroad. A word is enough for the wise.

Angula is the Managing Editor of TheNigerian