Presidential aide, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has called for unity among Nigerians in the Diaspora to actualise government’s vision of engaging them for national development.
Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, made the appeal at the Nigeria Diaspora Leadership Conference, organised by the Nigerian Consulate in New York on Sunday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports the conference came on the heels of a major leadership crisis in the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Americas that led to divisions in the body.
In a keynote address, the presidential aide warned that the newly-created Nigerians in Diaspora Commission would amount to nothing without harmony among stakeholders.
She said: “I am excited about the theme of the conference: “Uniting Diaspora Leaders for National Development,’’ because it is very critical.
“I hope that at the end of this conference we will not pay lip-service to the issue of unity.
“This is the first time we have a commission but if we are not united we will not achieve much progress. I cannot do anything with a divided house.”
The presidential aide pleaded with leaders of the body to put selfish interest aside and think of how to channel their “enormous human resources” into Nigeria’s development.
Dabiri-Erewa, whose nomination as chair of the Diaspora commission is pending in the Senate, also appealed for her confirmation to enable the agency to commence work.
She said that nothing had been done since the commission’s establishment Act was signed by then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo in July 2017, due to the pending confirmation.
Describing the conference as strategic and critical, the SSA told participants to come up with ideas that would “help us when the commission comes on stream”.
Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Tijani Muhammad-Bande, underscored the importance of leadership among Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Muhammad-Bande stated that leadership was a key determinant to whether or not something would get done.
He said: “We are good at mentioning names that have excelled, that is really good but a tree does not make a forest.
“Nigerians are capable, we do not have to say that here because everyone else has said so.
“What we need now is to harness our enormous potential and resources in a more systematic way.”
In a goodwill message, Fatima Mohammed, the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, shared some existing AU activities and platforms for engagement with Africans in the Diaspora.
She listed the platforms to include associations such as the Pan-African Diaspora Women’s Association, the Pan-African Youth’s Association and the Pan-African Men’s Association.
Among the events, according to Mohammed, is a Diaspora Trade and Investment Conference, whose maiden edition, held in Washington in November, 2018 as well as the Annual Diaspora Retreat.
She urged Nigerians in the Diaspora to avail themselves of the fora for proper engagement in the development of the continent.
Earlier in his address of welcome, Benayaogha Okoyen, the host and Nigeria’s Consul General in New York, said the conference was aimed at fostering unity and cooperation in the Nigerian community.
Okoyen said: “You will agree with me that a well-organised Diaspora community is an important development resource for any nation.
“There are no better times for Nigerians to combine our efforts for national development than now.
“We, therefore, call on Nigerians in the Diaspora to unite and participate in development initiatives at home to foster the needed collaboration with government.”
In attendance were Nigeria’s ambassador to Austria, Vivian Okeke; Deputy Head of Mission of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, Hassan Hassan and the Deputy Major of Newark City, New Jersey, Ugochukwu Nwaokoro, among others.