It is not out of place and possibly not a subject of debate that Nigerians living outside our shores have no protective cover of any kind. In truth, Nigeria, once at its glorious height and then the true face of Africa and the black race, had representative offices located everywhere in the world and stood gallantly on intervention for Nigerians and the black person, some from other African countries that could not afford the niceties of setting up diplomatic missions.
Significantly, this brotherly love and protection by Nigerian embassies for other African nationals led to huge abuse and created problems for authentic Nigerians in foreign lands, mistakenly slammed with the sins of brother black nations.
I would come back to this “blood” related inference with our brother blacks later but suffice it to say that the problem of our missions abroad protecting Nigerians in diaspora is as legion as you can imagine; a challenge hidden in diplomatic bags, hardly opened but a time bomb waiting not only to embarrass the country but timed to make our people the black sheep of a failed world looking for who to blame for its many troubles.
Certainly, Nigeria is part of this world but our obvious lack of strategy on how to manage our image and the consequent backlash that may arise as a result of our socio-economic and political situations leaves the innocent Nigerian out there in a foreign land taking the heat alone.
In the course of my many privileged travels all over the world, I have had the opportunity of visiting some of our key embassies and missions and usually came out with very depressing impressions.
At most of our foreign missions, Nigerians in diaspora are criminalised, treated as garbage and generally left all alone to fight their battles with host nations, some very discriminating in interpreting their immigrations laws to hurt immigrants, particularly where Nigerians are concerned.
And with the downturn in our economy and poor funding of the missions, members of our diplomatic community are left to fend for themselves and their families, living as refugees, no schools, health care facilities and sundry privileges deliberately withdrawn by foreign affairs eggheads in Nigeria. Indeed, the problems of our foreign missions and the poor understanding of diaspora issues began from the negative and regrettable politicisation of diplomatic mandates.
Do you know that some missions abroad can only respond to certain diaspora matters if the concerned Nigerian came from a particularly tribe? Even for those on trade missions and other issues, once the mission eggheads identify with their own, you are left to fry.
The patriotic zeal and diplomatic privileges that made foreign mission work attractive in the first instance is no longer there, and this has led to many frustrations for both the missioner and the diaspora person(s).
I really don’t know how the chairman of newly created Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, would work with our Foreign Ministry to fund Nigerian missions abroad. Does Abike have the power to diplomatically and directly intervene on issues of Nigerians living outside our shores without approval from the ministry of foreign affairs?
As it is now, I am yet to get the full grasp of Abike’s commission and its intervention on the many challenges facing our people within and outside Africa. Two issues, possibly three, must engage us, if Nigeria will sincerely restore confidence in our many communities outside our shores. First is funding, which cannot be overemphasised as earlier stated.
The idea to either merge or close down some missions abroad will not solve our problems. In fact, the fact that Nigerians are highly nomadic presents unexplainable but solvable diaspora matters, if only we can tackle the funding of missions creatively.
Again, if we agree that remittances in thousands of dollars from our diaspora communities abroad can be captured easily through our banks and other financial institutions, maybe a certain percentage of gains accruable to those institutions can be channelled to bail out the missions.
Secondly, the direct interference of our political system in our foreign affairs missions has produced gross negative influence in the day-to-day running of these establishments. It is no news that our political ambassadors would use their tour of duty to divide and rule the camp of professional mission heads and later clean up whatever is sent from government for the good of the diplomatic missions.
The presence of these politicians in diplomatic garb has destroyed our foreign missions, as some of them have turned our missions to their own gains and Jerusalem of their Israel. These politicians fend only for their families and friends abroad or for those visiting or invited. Some of these guys are richer than Nigeria and its embassies due to their many shenanigans.
The absence of critical knowledge-based communication strategies betrays solutions to the many lies of host nations against Nigerians. In Africa, for instance, our problems with sister African nations are largely due to poor understanding of the very aggressive nature of our business or economic interventions and presence. Our embassies do not have tested communication or media experts who could help out with strategic communication platforms not to just respond to diaspora issues but to nip image crisis in the bud before it escalates.
Since we share similar cultures in Africa, it is benevolent to address some those issues through cultural relations, as done recently by the director-general of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe, in Ghana, through the setting up of Nigeria/Ghana Friendship Club.
In addition, certain basic information materials and brochures on Nigeria need be made available to our embassies to help create a better image for our country and for the sake of our diaspora communities and their families.