Address By H.E. Mr. Peter Obi, Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party,
Remarks at the Fireside Chat At the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, Dearborn, MI
Monday 3rd October, 2022.
1. I thank the Organizers of this Fireside Chat, especially the Michigan Local Organizing Committee and the coordinator, Mr. Mike Okaka. I am glad to be in Dearborn, Michigan, and to be so well received.
2. I have been asked to speak on “Nigeria Diaspora and Capacity Building.” Before I proceed, I wish to pay tribute to Nigerian youths wherever they may be– at home and in the Diaspora. The journey to rescue Nigeria, could not have gained momentum without the proactive role of our youth. I salute them. The race is far from over; the campaigning has only just started. Yet I am confident that given their resilience, they will stay the course.
3. My remarks will be brief and in two parts, to allow for an extensive interactive session. We know what our national challenges are, so I won’t dwell on them. Rather, I will share with you how we plan to tackle the prevalent challenges. Thereafter, I will catalog the role of the Nigeria Diaspora in nation and capacity building.
4. Nigeria is not bereft of the required human capital necessary for good leadership. Nigeria is also bereft of good governance ideas and plans. However, our country is bedeviled y the impunity of those few who have perfected the dubious act of State Capture. It is their conduct, plus the resulting combination of institutional weaknesses and lack of political will that manifest as poor policy and projects implementation and poor governance performance outcomes.
The Way Forward
5. We are convinced that turning Nigeria around requires sacrifice; but above all it requires an adaptive, transformative and purposeful leadership that is imbued with competence, capacity, credibility and commitment. Against this backdrop, my administration has identified seven (7) governance priorities required to pull Nigeria out of the doldrums and the present quagmire.
6. We are committed to retooling governance and bringing about a secure and united Nigeria. We will pursue a production-centered growth for food security and export; effective legal and institutional reforms (rule of law, corruption and government effectiveness);the leapfrogging of Nigeria from oil dependency to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); we will expand physical infrastructure through market-driven reforms (by unleashing growth-enabling entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations); we will engender human capital development that empowers competitiveness and gender balance; and a pursue a robust Afrocentric foreign policy that restores Nigeria’s strategic relevance at the bilateral, multilateral and global levels.
Our Initial Focus Will Be on Several Critical Sectors
• The 4 CS And Intangible Assets: Thinking through 2023 and beyond, we must think seriously about a leadership that is imbued with competence, capacity, credibility and commitment. Accordingly, we will pursue intangible assets of good governance, rule of law, security of lives and properties; we will ensure that we have these assets in place and stress asset optimization.
• Security: The relevant security institutions and agencies exist. The supporting national security enabling documents and strategies also exist. We will tweak the security architecture, by offering each arm or agency lead in areas where they have comparative advantage. Total reform of the entire security architecture that will include 3 level policing- Federal, state and community.
• A properly manned, equipped and technologically driven security system will entail reforming the security sector and governance, with particular emphasis on re-focusing the military on external threats and border protection and police on internal security threats and law enforcement; swift prosecution of criminals, bandits and terrorists; enhanced coordination among security agencies; and upholding the rule of law.
• Power: Even though I am aware that power has been moved from exclusive list to the concurrent list, we will go beyond it; we will aggressively support the private sector to invest in the power chain through a multifaceted approach particularly the transmission infrastructure. As we all know, two components of the power sector (generation and distribution) have been privatized and liberalized leaving the most critical component (transmission) in the hands of government which is causing inefficiency and darkness. We will, therefore, vigorously pursue the liberalization of the transmission infrastructure in addition to a robust power mix- embedded power and renewable energy.
• Subsidy: There are two elements of subsidy- the corruption component and the real subsidy component. For the corruption, we will deal with it decisively which will reduce the subsidy cost by over 50%. We will support local refining for domestic use and priced strictly in Naira. Starting with all government vehicles, we will transit to gas powered cars.
• Inflation: The first thing to tackle is food inflation. Once we tackle insecurity and farmers return to farms, our food production will go up and inflation will go down through reduced food prices. When you remove subsidy, our fiscal imbalance will reduce and subsequently increase.
• Debt: We shall pursue a drastic reduction in cost of governance and corruption; Improve ease of doing business to attract FDI to jumpstart industrialization and when borrowing is unavoidable, it will be strictly for regenerative purposes and production.
• Human Capital Development: We will aggressively pursue the global best practices and standards within available resource. In the medium and long term, 14% budgetary funding for education is within the realm of possibility. We will re-direct UBEC and TETFund resources to the strict and robust funding of basic and tertiary institutions, with a view to ending the perennial strikes by University Staff and workers.
• Gender Parity: As governor of Anambra State my administration achieved close to a 60-40 gender balance in appointive and elective positions. The national target has hovered around 30-35%. We intend to progressively aim for between 35-40%, with aggressive gender mainstreaming action plan and rigid benchmarks.
• Corruption: We will have zero tolerance for corruption; block leakages and cut the cost of governance. Our total commitment to transparency and accountability in government business is the only credible way to achieve limited to zero corruption.
Impact of Diaspora Communities on Their Countries
7. Cognizant of the critical role national Diasporas can play, some countries have set up full ministries, departments, or agencies to engage their nationals in the Diaspora. Furthermore, Diaspora communities are increasingly part of the foreign relations architecture. They serve as informal ambassadors and help with in advancing development in their home countries.
8. Beyond their vital role of sending foreign remittances back home, the Diaspora are increasingly involved in advancing technology and skill transfer, strengthening democracy, opening up global supply chains, trade and foreign direct investment, education and research as well as healthcare delivery.
Diaspora Role in building National Capacity
9. Presently close to 20 million Nigerians reside outside Nigeria. That population is larger than the population of Netherlands and the combined population of Switzerland and Austria, three very rich Western countries.
10. The Nigeria Diaspora represents a broad segment of Nigeria’s human development capital. With that population, the Diaspora family has the capacity to catapult any nation to greatness. Regrettably, Nigeria is yet to harness fully the huge benefits of the Diaspora potentials.
11. We have advanced our national efforts to leverage Diaspora competencies. Executive and Legislative basis for engaging and empowering the Diaspora family already exist via the 2021 National Diaspora Policy (NDP) and the Nigeria Diaspora Investment Trust Fund. What is lacking is the political will to implement these instruments optimally. We will change that.
12. The Nigeria Diaspora has capacity and therefore, must have a voice. After all, membership has its privileges. By 2027 elections, Nigeria Diaspora must have a voice via absentee ballots.
13. In tandem with Diaspora Rights and Privileges, the Nigeria Diaspora has a continuing role and responsibility toward national development. I will share three core areas of possible positive impact:
14. First, with $20 billion in remittances in 2021, Nigeria ranks 6th behind the top five recipient countries, namely; India with $89b; Mexico with $54b; China with $53b; the Philippines with $37b; Egypt with $32b and Bangladesh, with $22.07b.
15. We must improve on the present ranking since expert assessments indicate that Diaspora annual remittances can be raised to about $60b, which will translate to about 14% of our total GDP.
16. Second, I consider Diaspora remittances the new normal and envisage that it will soon become Nigeria’s new Official Development Assistance (ODA). In 2021 Nigeria’s foreign direct investment (FDI) was a paltry $4.8 billion compared to Diaspora remittances. Diaspora remittances are our alterative FDI and ODA.
17. Third, as we explore ways and means of tapping in on technology transfer from the Diaspora, we will also explore ways of reversing the enormous brain drain that has been debilitating for our country. We will trigger every known technological and knowledge transfer initiators. Nigeria’s brain drain will be turned into brain gain.
18. I foresee a Diaspora role of infinite possibilities. With Nigeria’s huge diaspora strength, her Diaspora community can help to mobilize efforts in the direction of private sector investment. We will, therefore, fund our governance, development needs ourselves.
19. In conclusion, I enjoin you never to despair or be weary in contributing your quota towards national capacity-building in Nigeria. Even though the outlook seems bleak, especially with the present state of insecurity and parlous economy, I am certain that with your avid prayers and contributions in both human and material terms, Nigeria will recover. It will take only one visionary leadership and disruptive thinker for Nigeria to be put back on the right trajectory. I know that with a robust diaspora support we can take back Nigeria.
20. Thank you. God bless you all. God bless Nigeria.