The date was Thursday July 1st 2010. The venue was at the 16th Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) at the Gaylord National Resort on the Potomac, Maryland USA; the theme was “World Bank and Capacity Building in the Healthcare Sector in the Developing World; the challenge to Nigerian physicians in U.S was that “to change something in Nigeria, you must give up something”; and the revelation from Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was that in spite of what she went through, she will do it again.
So, the debate begins. If you
were Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will you stick out your
neck for Nigeria again? At what point should
Nigerian professionals in Diaspora go back home
to help effect the much needed change in our
system? Are the professionals in a better
position to effect change in the private sector
or within the government? If from the private
sector perspective, does it matter if the right
parameters for investment and economic growth
are in place? If from within, at what point
should they call it quit?
From Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s
experience - the redeployment to foreign affairs
ministry and discovery of the fraud in her new
ministry was enough for her to honorably bow out
after an unparallel performance and achievements
at the finance ministry. What was however ironic
was that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala particularly warned
would-be professionals that are planning of
going home not to be discouraged by their kids,
siblings or any family members while one of her
reasons for her resignation from Obasanjo’s
administration as foreign affairs minister was
“the need to take care of pressing family issues
that demand my immediate attention.” I guess
though that that’s one of those “compelling’
reasons for honorable men and women bowing out
of office when they have had enough.
Listening to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala
however, I saw a woman that relished the
challenges and triumphs of working with the
Nigerian government. While it was clear to her
that “crazy” people and circumstances will stand
on her way to implement change, she was however
stubbornly determined to succeed. And she was
successful. She led the debt relief effort and
brought Nigeria's external debt down from $35
billion to $5 billion.
What can be said of so many
other professionals from Diaspora who went back
to help improve on the Nigerian system but ended
up being part of the decay and in some cases
worse? Will the amendment of the constitution to
include independent candidates encourage
professionals to go back home and run for
elective positions? What does it take to succeed
where many have tumbled?
President Jonathan recently
said: "…one of the things we are trying to do is
to upgrade the department in the Foreign
Ministry that deals with Diaspora issues to a
full-fledged commission so that we will be able
to liaise properly with the Diaspora population,
harnessing their talents."
From 1999 when the latest
round of democratic experience in Nigeria
started, it is evidently clear that it will take
a crop of selfless, courageous and incorruptible
Nigerians (both at home and in Diaspora) to
effect any meaningful change. Assuming that
President Jonathan can be taken for his words;
how many Nigerian professionals in Diaspora are
truly willing to give up something for the
difficult task of saving Nigeria? Most
importantly, how many of them will not be
compromised on getting involved with the running
of affairs in Nigeria?
We know that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala
is not going back to Nigeria, at least not that
soon. What she wanted to achieve by that
revealing confession was to encourage young
professionals to go back and wrestle the bears
in the wilderness of Nigerian political system.
She is challenging them to give up something
here in order to change something back home. She
is also challenging professionals at home to get
involved too. The Nigerian National Assembly has
been a “House of the Incurables” so, she is
challenging the members of Nigeria Peoples'
Parliament in Diaspora (NPPID) to go back home
and teach our dishonorable and corrupt members
of house and parliament how laws are made.
My advice is this; if you are
a Nigerian professional involved in any form of
administration in Nigeria, follow the footsteps
of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala but don’t follow the likes
Prof. Dora Akunyili.
It was Chinua Achebe who said
that "A man who means to buy palm wine does not
hang about at home until all the palm wine in
the market is sold." Nigerians in Diaspora
should stop hanging at home called abroad; the
market is Nigeria; the wealth of the nation is
the palm wine they have been stealing, drinking
and getting intoxicated; 2011 election is just
round the corner and the time to act is now.