The Nigerian Diaspora and National Development: Contributions, Challenges, and Lessons from Other Countries

Sharkdam Wapmuk, Oluwatooni Akinkuotu, Vincent Ibonye

Abstract

The paper, in general terms, clarifies and discusses the link between the Diasporaand the issue of development in general, and, in specific terms examines the roleas well as the huge potential of the Nigerian Diaspora in national development.Drawing lessons from the historical as well as contemporary experiences of somecountries such as India, China, Philippines, Italy, and Ghana, the paper arguesthat the Diaspora can be an agent of national development. In analyzing thedifferent Diasporas and remittances from Diasporas from the different countries,the paper took cognizance of the fact that they are not similar to each other, justlike Nigerian Diaspora has different kinds of diasporic conditions and responsesas that of other African countries in Diaspora. After many years of militaryauthoritarian rule, Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999. The event openeda new vista in terms of Nigerian government-Diaspora relations. This is evidencedin the increased efforts by past administrations of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjoand Umaru Yar Adua and present administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan toattract the Diaspora, not only to identify with Nigeria, but also to contribute to thecountry’s development. The philosophy behind Nigeria’s current efforts to engage the Nigerian Diaspora was borne out of the recognition of the huge capital andresources of the Diaspora and the need to tap into that vast reservoir of knowledge,skills, and experiences for national development. The new initiatives by thecivilian government towards engaging the Nigerian Diaspora included interactivemeetings, dialogues, conference, and through the creation of organizations suchas the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) and Nigerian NationalVolunteer Service (NNVS) as platforms for Diaspora engagement and the adoptionof July 25 as Diaspora Day every year. Such appropriative efforts have not yieldedenough fruits as the Nigerian state would have wanted. This, in part, is due to thecharacteristic of Diaspora and diasporic identities in their highly hybridized andever multidirectional character, rendering the impossibility of entire cooption bythe national government and its agencies. When compared with the experiences ofsome of the countries examined, it becomes evident that the Nigerian governmentdevelop more platforms for the engagement of the Nigerian Diaspora and alsoimprove its engagement with the Diaspora by building partnerships and harnessingits resources for national gains. The study therefore concludes by recommendingthat an institutional framework should be created by the Nigerian government thatwill effectively engage the Nigerian Diaspora, so that the huge potentials thereincan be harnessed for national development.

Keywords

African diaspora; Nigerian diaspora; diaspora policy; national development; international migration; diaspora relations; international remittance

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/1898