The Chairman of The APC South Africa Chapter, Engr. Bola Babarinde has reiterated that the time is long overdue for Nigeria to embrace Diaspora Voting.
The APC SA Chairman who made this call during a speech presentation at the Nigeria Disapora Voting Workshop in Abuja recently said, “Voting in the diaspora has become a necessity that should not be shelved aside any longer.”
Engr. Babarinde further said, it was imperative that Nigerians in Disapora be allowed to contribute in more impactful ways to moving Nigeria forward.
He said “An excellent way of doing this is by starting at the very top of human activities –the accommodation of diaspora in our electoral process and governance. Nigerians in the diaspora still believe that being outside Nigeria does not make any one of them less Nigerian than those living in the country. Our people should be able to walk freely to our embassies and feel at home.”
The APC SA Chairman during his speech also called on the Federal Government to urgently take steps towards arresting the rising spate of insecurity in the Nation.
He said, “…we equally wish to use this occasion to express our concern over the situation of insecurity in Nigeria. We acknowledge the efforts being made to address this but also wish to express our concern over the increasing security challenges being witnessed in some parts of the country and hope that more decisive steps will be taken to get them completely eradicated.”
Full text of the speech is given below:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask for your indulgence as I stand on the existing Protocols.
Madam, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, we want to welcome you once again to this important and epoch-making occasion. Perhaps, when the future generation will be marking the history of Nigeria, the positive outcome of this occasion may become one of the landmark annals worthy of commemoration. This is an event that speaks to the fine-tuning of our democratic development as well as marks the beginning of the removal of all clauses that disenfranchise our diaspora generation. We should, therefore, see this meeting in that very important light, while ensuring that our names are written in gold and embossed in the annals of history. I pray that this engagement process will yield fruitful actions and results.
One good thing about history is that it never forgets the good, the bad and the ugly. Hence, we equally wish to use this occasion to express our concern over the situation of insecurity in Nigeria. We acknowledge the efforts being made to address this but also wish to express our concern over the increasing security challenges being witnessed in some parts of the country and hope that more decisive steps will be taken to get them completely eradicated.
Let me disclose that the leadership and members of the APC SA recently visited the Honourable Minister of Interior, His Excellency, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, at the Old Secretariat, Abuja. The meeting was momentous and the reception given to us was encouraging. A larger part of our discussion focused on Diaspora voting, in which the Honourable Minister spoke very splendidly of the MD of NIDCOM, Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa. The minister particularly mentioned her passion for the job and spoke highly of how she is making Diaspora matters the focal point of this administration.
The Honourable Minister finally took time to intimate us on how poor our nation, Nigeria is in reality, which is in contrast to the generally held perception that our nation is one of the richest in the world, he analysed the situation robustly with evidence-based data to drive home his points.
At the end of our engagement with him, not many of us were left in doubt concerning the reality of the economic situation of our beloved country. Now, in real terms, do we believe that Nigeria is RICH or POOR? Whatever side we belong to may be right because the information available to you determines your judgement.
Many a time, we blame leaders. But, can we say in all honesty that the followers are without blames? Many of the followers today will become leaders tomorrow, and history will be there to judge us too. How about the questions of integrity in the offices we hold; our background; where we place the country in our hearts and schemes of things? Do we use the opportunities available to us to deliver public good or build public mistrust within our areas of influences?
May we be reminded that our high offices do not determine our accomplishments, given that, people obviously use supposedly small positions to oppress others too. Think of clerks, junior government officials in every stratum of our society.
It is noble to show respect for every position of authority. In my view, I believe that we are a rich country. Riches in my personal view is based on factors that include human resource capabilities, natural resources, and how we impact our society with however little we have. Consider the natural resources, extractive industry – petroleum, Kaolin, gold, agricultural potentials, arable lands and many others. Yet, we must know that our greatest asset in this nation is our human resources.
Many great countries have achieved greatness by making use of their human resources and not necessarily their natural resources. Of such nations to be considered are countries like the United States, Singapore, UK, Japan, Germany and many more of such great countries.
They have little natural resources and much excellent human resources, and they enhance it regularly. Does it surprise us that the US, Germany, UK, India and Japan have the highest numbers of PhDs and are significantly outstanding nations of the world? Why should it look like the abundance of natural resources in our country is a curse? No, it shouldn’t be, especially if it can be well utilised like the Arabians are doing in the Emirates, same with the Swedes, Norwegians and Finnish in the Nordic countries among many other examples.
Any nation that is endowed with enormous human resources such as Nigeria should be classified as a super-rich nation. Unfortunately, in our case, most of the human resources find no employment and are driven out by the centripetal force of unconducive environments.
Many have voluntarily exiled to other countries worldwide. It is well known that Nigerians in Diaspora are making significant contributions to their host nations. Nigerians in diaspora perform to the best of their God-given talents.
Our country Nigeria needs a rethink, on how to accommodate our own, and how to develop a centrifugal programme that can begin to attract us back home from everywhere we are scattered all over the world. We need to contribute to the development of our fatherland beyond merely repatriating monies home.
The above issue brings us directly to the issue of empowering our people in the diaspora, giving them – actually us – a sense of belonging in Nigeria; removing the binary divide of ‘us against them’ and thinking of inclusive programmes for our people in diaspora. An excellent way of doing this is by starting at the very top of human activities –the accommodation of diaspora in our electoral process and governance.
Nigerians in the diaspora still believe that being outside Nigeria does not make any one of them less Nigerian than those living in the country. Our people should be able to walk freely to our embassies and feel at home.
Voting in the diaspora has become a necessity that should not be shelved aside any longer. It will be a milestone if this government, the Executive and the 9th Assembly can jointly deliver it. It can be extremely embarrassing, for instance, when nationals of other countries who enjoy similar privileges outside ask questions such as: ‘OK, the Nigerian General Elections comes up soon, are you going to vote? Such answers are however often unsatisfactory.
The least the present leadership can do is to start a pilot project of voting in diaspora and deliver it competently in 2023. Perhaps, if it will be overwhelming to include all countries for a start, a pilot project of diaspora voting can be delivered in selected countries with more Nigerian population such as South Africa, Ghana, UK and USA, or as the electoral body deems fit.
For a reminder, to date, 23 African countries successfully grant voting right to their diaspora citizens including Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya and Togo. Yet, other African countries are known to reserve parliamentary seats for diaspora citizens, for example, Cape Verde allots six out of its 72 parliamentary seats to its diasporas; Algeria reserves eight of its own 389 parliamentary seats while Angola has three out of 220 seats for their Diaspora nationals. If these people can do it, why can’t Nigeria do it?
This regime has scored some significant pioneering achievements. It boldly made June 12 of every year a Democracy Day – which many believed was impossible, a reality. This administration is proactively addressing the Second Niger Bridge to ensure completion before 2021.
The diaspora voting, if delivered, will be another first of its kind in the catalogue of achievements of this present administration. We, as APC SA will leave this thought here for serious consideration.
May the greatness Nigeria deserves never elude her and may this country move from strength to strength.
Thank you for listening.
Engr. Bola Babarinde