By Victoria Ngozi Ikeano
To say that Nigerians can be found in virtually every corner of our planet is no exaggeration for it is not for nothing that Nigeria ranks as the most populous black nation on earth. With our high population, estimated at over 150 million comes a rich human resource which should ordinarily be the pride of any nation. However, while we have not been able to take full advantage of this human resource to develop our country maximally, many of our compatriots can be found outside our shores, providing the intellectual bulwark for those countries’ advancement – in all spheres of human endeavour. Whether in the arts, economics, technology, etc., etc., you are likely to find a Nigerian that is making a mark in a ‘developed’ nation that has now adopted him/her by naturalisation though they cannot divorce him/her from his/her origins. One can wager that the first non American or non European astronaut to set foot on the moon or some other planets of our gross matter would be a Nigerian though he would do so wearing another country’s badge (where he is resident) rather than Nigeria’s.
The converse of the above postulations is that a Nigerian can be sighted in practically any world, international happening. And so it is that the recent heart-wrenching international events of crash of an Ethiopian airline on an international flight and terrorist killings in two New Zealand mosques had Nigerians caught in the unfortunate web. In the New Zealand killings which claimed 50 lives with several others injured, a Nigerian Lateef Alabi was the Imam of one of the two mosques in Christchurch that was attacked by a ‘self-confessed white supremacist’, Brenton Tarrant. According to the BBC, “Alabi said he heard a voice outside the mosque at about 1:55 p.m. and stopped the prayer he was leading and peeked out the window. He saw a guy in black military-style gear and a helmet holding a large gun and assumed it was a police officer. Then he saw two bodies and heard the gunman yelling obscenities. ‘I realised this is something else. This is a killer’. He yelled at the congregation of more than 80 to get down. They hesitated. A shot rang out, a window shattered and a body fell, and people began to realise it was for real”. Alabi was lucky to escape the terrorist’s bullets as he attacked the two worship places during Friday prayers.
But another Nigerian, in fact two Nigerians, were not that lucky as they both died aboard the ill fated Ethiopian airliner transiting from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya with all 155 other passengers. They were both also citizens of the world so to speak – Professor Pius Adesanmi was a Canadian citizen, holding both Nigerian and Canadian international passports; a lecturer at Ontario University, Canada. The other was a Nigerian diplomat Ambassador Abiodun Bashua carrying a United Nations (UN) passport.
Mrs. Balogun-Adesanmi’s tribute to her husband was quite revealing. She wrote:” I have no words to describe the depths of my pain on the untimely passing of my husband, Pius Adesanmi. He was an extraordinary scholar, husband, devoted father and a fine gentleman. He was an uncommon breed. He wrote about human rights, gender equality and human dignity. He practised what he preached. I am a living witness to the kindness of his soul and love for others. Pius Adesanmi enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. Our daughter Tise’s words often tugged at his heart every time he needed to travel. He compensated for his regular absences by being generous with his time. He was witty, funny and a joy to behold … I am comforted by the sheer enormity of the lives he touched. He lived and died in pursuit of a better world. He lived and died in service to Africa. Nigeria was dear to his heart and he longed for Nigeria’s development. Pius Adesanmi was also a Canadian citizen and deeply appreciated the blessings of making Canada home…” Undoubtedly, the experience of a motor accident which he reportedly had sometime last year would have changed his perspective of life and implanted in him the maxim to do as much good as one can while still living on this earth.
In arts three Nigerians were this month named among the long list of the 2019 Women’s prize for Fiction. Chimamanda Adichie who now lives abroad, was the first Nigerian to win this award formerly called Orange prize. Also in motion pictures four Nigerians were among the members of the Academy that helped determine winners of the 2019 Oscar awards a.k.a. the Academy Awards. They are Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Wunmi Mosaku, Femi Odugbemi and Ngozi Onwurah. Early in his administration US president, Donald Trump named Nigerian-born Adebayo Ogunlesi among his Economic Team. There are Nigerians holding key offices in giant information technology company, Face Book and working directly with its co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg. In brief, there are thousands of Nigerians living abroad as bona fide citizens of those countries ,contributing their quota to the progress of our world as citizens of the world. The question is, when will their native land, Nigeria be able to collectively harness their talents for its own rapid development too? It is an irony of sorts that Nigerian talents are developing other nations while the land of their birth lies prostrate like a cripple. When will Nigeria stop the brain drain?
Victoria Ngozi Ikeano writes via email@example.com