Atiku Abubakar: Nigerians in the diaspora must be allowed to vote

by Atiku Abubakar


Nigeria requires a committed, visionary leadership that works in concert with a mobilized citizenry – with this we can change the way issues are handled and turn Nigeria around!

Democracy is not bestowed on a society over night. It is a process by which the citizens and their government perpetually negotiate over the tenants upon which that society operates. By 2015, Nigeria will have been on its democratic journey for 16 years, and despite progress towards a more democratic future I fear that apathy towards the arduous journey has set in and we are swiftly losing the sight of our goals.

On a recent visit to Geneva, Switzerland, I spoke on Nigeria’s democratic transition and the need to deepen the roots of democracy to ensure a better tomorrow for every Nigerian. I noted the impediments that stand in our way – weak democratic institutions leading to further deterioration of governance and rule of law, worsening levels of corruption, and rising unemployment and insecurity. In order to alter the path that we are currently on, Nigeria requires a committed, visionary leadership that works in concert with a mobilized citizenry – with this we can change the way issues are handled and turn Nigeria around!

An unavoidable stepping-stone on the path todemocracy is an engaged and mobilized citizenry. For this, it is imperative that every Nigerian citizen of agebe allowed the opportunity to participate in theprocess of democracy. Many of our citizens are nowliving abroad as a result of rising insecurity and underwhelming employment opportunities, so it is important to extend the vote externally, to reengage the millions of Nigerian citizens who call Nigeria home, wherever they may be. Each Nigerian citizen abroad should be allowed to be involved in our growing democracy, and every Nigerian at home should work to grant them that opportunity, if only because engaging the diaspora will create stronger avenues for human and financial capital that will aid Nigeria on its quest towards a better tomorrow.

Those who have publically sought to undermine national confidence in the contributions made by the diaspora, referring to the diaspora as “national deserters”, have only managed to unveil their own ignorance of the symbiotic relationship between Nigerians in diaspora and those residing in country. In 2011 Nigeria received over 20 billion USD in remittances from Nigerians who work abroad to support their family at home. These people are still Nigerians; Nigerians who have made the tremendously strenuous move abroad to support their people and their country because of the economic and security conditions at home.

In a 2012 petition to the federal government to extend the vote to all citizens of Nigeria, ANNID, CANUK, NiDAN, and NIDO wrote, “the Nigerians in Diaspora are proud of our heritage and we want to be part of the process to improve the welfare and development of our nation.” I support this ambition.

The members of the diaspora want to be involved in bettering our nation; we should let them. Several diaspora groups have formed direct investment enterprises, including joint ventures with international investment groups, with the aim of finding suitable avenues for investment in Nigeria’s infrastructure. A preliminary meeting of the Nigerian Diaspora Direct Investment Summit in May 2013 found that despite the good intentions of those citizens seeking to invest in Nigeria from abroad, there are many impedimentsstanding in their way, including, but not limited toinsecurity, bad roads, expensive local flights and accommodations, and an irregular power supply.These infrastructural weaknesses can be addressed with strategic alliances between a listening and attentive government and the investors whose investment relies on a stable and secure infrastructure. We should make diaspora investment as attractive and smooth as possible: allowing our brothers and sisters abroad to be politically invested means their financial and capital investments will have more value.

It is time that Nigerians at home and abroad join together with a common vision to change the recent tendencies towards dishonesty and disarray. We can no longer allow treachery to cripple our economy, fragment our Nigerian identity, and disenfranchise unprecedented numbers of good Nigerians. Nigeria needs to unify by reincorporating those who relocated. Not only will this strengthen our identity, but also allow us to focus again on the infrastructure, education, security and employment projects that will create a better future for the Nigerian peoples.


Atiku Abubakar was Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999-2007)


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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