By John Okeke
Nigerians in the diaspora have been charged to change their negative perception about their country and return home to take on the huge responsibility of building the Nigeria of their dream.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra, former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and Chairman of Nigerian Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, among others, threw the challenge at Tampa, Florida in the United States.
The speakers, who spoke in Tampa, Florida at the third annual conference of the Nigerian-American Business Forum, a group of accomplished and influential Nigerian professionals in the U.S., said every great country was built by some people, but usually the diasporas.
Obi, who was a keynote speaker on the theme: ‘Improving Nigeria’s Economy: opportunities and challenges’ said: “This is a clarion call for all Nigerians in the United States to translate their skills and know-how to building Nigeria like the Jews, Indians and Chinese did.
“There is an opportunity in Nigeria when it comes to investment that is not anywhere in the world. Channel your investment back into the country; be part of the change at home. We have no other country to call ours except Nigeria,” Obi said.
While urging NABF to focus on Nigeria and help turnaround the economy, however, he challenged the Nigerian government to create the right environment that supports businesses to thrive.
“You can make money everywhere in Nigeria but the system and processes must be right. Come, return and run your business but you can’t come back unless the right environment is created.”
Anyim, who was also a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, warned the diasporas that “if you don’t come back to build Nigeria, it will wait for your children. America was built so Nigeria must be built.”
He urged the diaspora investment group to partner with the governments to formulate and implement policies that attract and protect their investments.
Dabiri-Erewa on her part, said: “Nobody can ignore the Nigerians in the diaspora because Nigerians are the best wherever they are found anywhere in the world.
“We have the best doctors in the world but just look at the state of our hospitals; it is a shame. So no more excuses, you have the best engineers and you now have the Diaspora Commission. Let’s join hands to build the Nigeria of our dream.”
Ms. Jane Castor, Mayor of the City of Tampa, Florida, said Nigeria was in a position to recreate itself adding, there should be a strategic plan to resuscitate the economy and build the country to a great nation.
While describing Nigerians in his city as “amazing people” who are contributing their best to the city, she said: “It is not good for just a few people to prosper in a country, those who are prosperous should be able to lift others up”.
Makinde, while delivering his keynote speech, also showcased how his administration was changing the governance landscape of Oyo State, and presented the investment opportunities in the areas of agriculture, tourism, housing, education
The governor said himself, being a diaspora, had realised that the diasporas had a major role to play if Nigeria must realise its development potential adding, there are many opportunities, especially in Oyo State.
“And speaking of business packages with unique benefits, we are disincentivising investors. For example, we offer you land at unbeatable rates and I make bold to say that if you get a better offer for the same value anywhere in Nigeria, we will best it.
“We are proud of our investors both local and foreign and we are determined to make life better for them. So we want you to be part of this novel investment,” he said.
The governor pointed out some of the challenges currently facing investments in Nigeria especially insecurity and shared what his administration was doing to address them, especially the launch of the security outfit ‘Amotekun’, which he said, would be a formidable force to combat insecurity.
To ensure the realisation of its billion dollars projects in Nigeria, NABF also unveiled the American Nigerian (AMNI) Bank to fund any investments being undertaken by any diaspora in Nigeria to the tune of $3 billion and at a low interest rate.
Dr. Leo Egbunjobi, Chairman of AmNi Bank said the bank had a vantage position to leverage on the huge liquidity the diaspora Nigerians move to Nigeria so as to solve the problems of funding that many diasporas usually faced.
Chairman of NABF, Dr. Afolabi Andu, said Nigerians in the diaspora represented the largest contributors to the country’s economy with an annual average investment of $25 billion.
“Today marks the re-affirmation of our commitment to the task of nation-building, the desire to see Nigeria rise and take its rightful position among the comity of nations and ultimately become a preferred global investment destination.
“Against the tide, we will rise to take charge of our common destiny through the collaborative efforts of likeminded patriots. Our collective will, though constantly tested by ethnic sentiments and insecurity in recent years can outlast the present challenges.
“Americans, we know built New York through the power of vision, the United Arab Emirate also emerged from the plague of its desert territory-status, applying the same principle, no doubt will Nigeria emerge from today’s shadows to become a force of global reckoning.”
Andu said the resolve of NABF to rebuild Nigeria “is not wishful thinking but an affirmation of our unshaking commitment towards the retaliation of a dream for a formidable Nigeria. We are here gathered to chart a pathway for the realization of this vision”.
Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Justice Sylvanus Nsofor (rtd) said Nigeria’s problems were no doubt the responsibility of Nigerians but urged the diasporas “to use this forum to translate, therefore, into increased opportunities for investment into Nigeria and provide opportunities in various endeavours”.
The Consul-General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benayaogha Okoyen, Deputy Consul-General Nicholas Ella and his Atlanta counterpart, Mr Innocent Iwejuo, were among top government officials that attended the conference.
Other speakers also included President of World Trade Center Atlanta Mr Max Sutherland, Mr Terrance Baker, Mr Femi Olubanwo, Pastor Ghandi Olaoye, as well as other prominent and influential inventors across the globe.