The trouble is nation building requires more than subsistence money transfers. Nigeria needs it local knowledge and need must be matched with global experience and talent.
Same people that I fought for, that I fight for,
That I ride for, that I live for, that I die for
Be the reason that these n-ggas is alive for
And they want me dead
But I’m so sorry but I just can’t die for you
But I can make ‘em put their hands in the sky for you
We waiting for the fireworks like July 4th
– Jay Z (Why I love you)
I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my very good friends the other day.
This friend has a Nigerian name but that’s about all the green he has flowing in his veins. His parents left Nigeria for Canada when he was fairly young and he has a Canadian passport to prove his allegiance to the country that gave him all the opportunity he has. He has done very well for himself in Canada; student Union Executive positions, stints at some of the world’s greatest consulting companies, two business exits –any country would be proud to claim him as one of theirs. Unfortunately for Nigeria, with this friend of mine, such associations are only possible “in name only”. Despite his Nigerian sounding name he bleeds red, white and maple leaves – not green, white, green.
In my conversation with him, the question of Nigeria and its many ills and opportunities came up. At one point, I jokingly asked if he would ever consider going back home to serve the fatherland, knowing fully well the answer would be no. I got the answer I was looking for – but I got more.
“See E, this is my problem with Nigeria. I don’t know what it wants. What more does Nigeria want from me? ”
The context of his question is important.
You see, my friends parents were of Nigeria’s NADECO generation. His father was a journalist at the height of Abacha’s despotism. Like many others of that era, his outspokenness made him few friends in power and soon enough he had to flee the country or risk being buried alive by the military junta. As if that was not enough, over the next two decades, all his memories of Nigeria would be a litany of family funerals he couldn’t attend. Aunts, uncles, nieces, grandparents, – and eventually even his own mother – all swallowed up by Nigeria’s ironic sense of tragedy.
As I absorbed the pain in his voice as he asked, “What more does Nigeria want from me?” I could tell he would never be able to associate our country with anything but tragic endings.
His experience isn’t unique. I’ve heard similar lines of questioning from family, friends and colleagues of Nigerian and African descent who are as disconnected from the country and the continent as my friend is. Their experiences with the continent are so fraught with displeasure they are content to just send the periodic remittance and call it a nice day.
The trouble is nation building requires more than subsistence money transfers. Nigeria needs it local knowledge and need must be matched with global experience and talent. Yet when our diaspora primarily motivated by a sense of duty to their homeland come home to contribute to nation building, they are almost always ridiculed, threatened and shamed by Nigerians benefitting from the status quo. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Osaze Odemwingie, Arunma Otteh are some of many other examples of globally recognized Nigerian professionals who have had to swallow very bitter pills in the name of service to their country.
In one of my most shared articles from this year, I held the hope that the next generation of young Nigerians bred all over the world in capitals more functional than ours would eventually be its saving grace.
Now I wonder if they might not become deterred by the personal cost of serving Nigeria and ask like my friend did:
“What more does Nigeria want from me?”
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.