Friday May 17th to the 19th saw the last ACN conference hold in the windy city of Chicago. The ACN an acronym for the Action congress of Nigeria ceased to exist a few weeks ago when the party ratified its merger plan with other opposition parties to form the new All Progressive Congress (APC). The Conference with the central theme; The New Vista and the Role of the Diaspora involved Government officials from the party and members of the party all over the USA with a strong presence of ACN Canada.
[Update: it was made clear to me by my comrade Kayode Adegbola that ACN STILL exists until the merger process is completed. The convention only favored the merger by resolution]
The event kicked off on friday with a round table styled panel discussion where party leaders presented their thoughts, ideas and suggestions on what role the diaspora can play in the new APC. A central theme during this discussion was the urgings of the leadership on party members to come back to Nigeria and get involved. Senator Babafemi Ojudu from Ekiti state emphasized that one has no excuse to say you cannot relate with the politicians in power whether or not you intend to run for a political office in the near future. His perspective was pretty clear; less time should be spent criticizing from a distance and especially as party members, more time ought to be spent participating in moving the party forward and understanding the nuances of Nigerian politics.
…you cannot eat coconut without breaking it
Regarding individuals situated in the USA/Diaspora and are interested in running for politics, Senator Ojudu was terse in his advice that you have to start working at home [in Nigeria] early to build that trust and confidence of your people. He emphasized that in our current democracy, meritocracy is not as important as nepotism or the idea that “he is one of our children” and this perspective is not changing anytime soon.
Nigeria is at war
Hon Abike Dabiri touched on some issues raised by attendees regarding what happens to what is already a good relationship between party members in the diaspora and ACN Nigeria when the party merges into a new entity. She noted that there is going to be a directorate in the manifesto of the APC for the diaspora which is being worked on collaboratively with ACN diaspora leadership. Regarding getting involved with party activities should you desire to run for office, she emphasized that no one is expecting you to hastily pack your bags and return to Nigeria. She noted that people ought to build synergy initially before taking such a step. In addition to this, she emphasized the need to connect with the diaspora network all over the world as many have had experiences you might be about to learn from.
Im sorry to say we worship money, we worship power and I dare say, we are all guilty of it.
– Hon. Abike Dabiri (Pictured)
In summary, Hon. Dabiri pleaded with all in attendance not to come exclusively to seek employment or focus on the generic political positions. Be a job creator.
Hon Opeifa went on further to touch on the issue of political relevance sighting his experience running for a political office before being appointed as the current Commissioner of Transportation in Lagos state. “If you do not have the pedigree, use your family name.” he stated as he addressed attendees. Should your initial run fail, he advised that one continues to try. There is no level playing ground, you must be ready to take advantage of situations and ultimately stay focused on the goal of impacting positively on the Nigerian state. He implored attendees to capitalize on all opportunity even suggesting that one claims to be a founder of the new APC. The Merger is a beehive of tremendous opportunity especially for competent and educated individuals in the diaspora he emphasized, don’t miss out.
Former Benue state Senator, Joseph Waku made it clear that we don’t have a democracy. All we have is civil rule which begets dictatorship that breeds corruption as it is being seen in the current administration. We were educated with a history lesson of how he registered the PDP, but was the first to move OBJ’s impeachment. Waku noted that the only way for Nigeria to move forward is if leaders compromise and forgo their self interest.
“When you begin to talk about yourself, that is not leadership.”
“Don’t make the mistake that America is better than Nigeria.” he said going as far as praising some actions of Abacha to limit the number of Visas given to American Citizens in reaction to the number given by the US to Nigerian citizens. There was a mixed response from those in attendance to this example with some agreeing and others disagreeing most importantly general Secretary to the ACN, Sen. Shuaibu who eventually stated the next day that he was in total disagreement with the statement.
Chairman of ACN Lagos, Otunba Henry Ajomale like everyone else, stated that if you think you are coming home and you are going to get it on a platter of gold, it will not happen. One has their work cut our for them he said. He stated that lack of ideas at the top is the reason why Nigeria is tremendously backwards and this is where the diaspora has the advantage and is also desperately needed to move the country forward.
Saturday activities consisted of a keynote address from a representative of Gov. Rauf Aregbesola. Download HERE
KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF OSUN, OGBENI RAUF AREGBESOLA, AT THE NATIONAL CONVENTION OF THE ACTION CONGRESS OF NIGERIA UNITED STATES CHAPTER (ACN-USA) AT THE CHICAGO SOUTH LOOP HOTEL 11 WEST 26TH STREET CHICAGO, ILLINOIS USA ON SATURDAY MAY 18, 2013.
I must thank the Action Congress of Nigeria United States Chapter (ACN-USA) for the kind invitation to attend its National Convention in Chicago and deliver the keynote address. I must commend members of the ACN-USA for their robust contribution to the party, especially for raising the party’s flag and giving it a voice in this great country and land of freedom.
The Diaspora chapter of the party is a unique one. It takes a lot of grit and nerve to hoist the flag of a party in a land where it will certainly not contest an election and where the unputdownable demands of existence do not easily permit other non-economic engagements.
Even though you are not at home, we know that you are not less concerned about developments in our land. Nigeria has been in the throes of violence, with daily cases of armed banditry, kidnapping and terrorism escalating. While kidnapping, usually for ransom, has gripped the South East and South South and gradually spreading to the South West, the North Central and North East are hotbed of terrorist killings. We could not but be filled with trepidation when one of our own, the chairman of a local government was kidnapped in Lagos. He was lucky to return home alive after ransom was paid. Another of our member, the former Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chudi Nwike, was not so fortunate. His dead body was found dumped by the roadside many days after he was kidnapped.
This violence, especially in the North East, culminated earlier this week in the declaration of emergency rule in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa States, with heavy deployment of the military to these troubled states. This was a last resort after every other measure had failed, especially an offer of dialogue as an overture to amnesty. Nigerians wait with bated breath to see if this last effort will work.
This is because there are three basic causes of breakdown of law and order, leading to insecurity of lives and property. The most critical is social injustice leading to economic deprivation of the masses of the people. This has been well established by social scientists that deprivation will lead to aggression. The second is the culture of impunity when the impression is given that the country is a huge outlaw estate. Jean Jacques Rousseau once wrote that as soon as it is possible to disobey with impunity, disobedience becomes legitimate. This is the failure of law enforcement and lack of deterrence thesis. Indeed, it is commonsensical that where there is no restraint and the fear of punishment, the criminally inclined will proceed to perpetrate his or her act.
The third is the failure of the justice system when the weak and underprivileged are no longer assured of obtaining justice from the legal system and then resort to self help.
There is no conflict situation that does not have an element of the three but to conclude in a non-reflecting reductionism that all it takes to resolve such deep-rooted conflict that has its foundation in poverty and prolonged neglect of the masses, is to escalate state violence, and amounts to sheer delusion.
There is however, still greater concern on the unintended consequences of the deployment of the military to quash civil disturbances. Given our past history with the military, this fear is not unfounded. The military’s rule of engagement is most suitable to a war situation where they fight the enemy muzzle to muzzle, and not in civilian populated area where human and people’s rights stand the grave risk of being trampled. There is the ultimate risk of civilian engagement whetting the putschist appetite of the soldiers. But God forbid.
What we are seeing is a challenge of democracy and a call to patriots to rescue our country from this so far unmitigated slide into chaos. Never in the history of our country has there been such need for the intervention of the progressives in the polity. Nigeria is very ripe for deliverance and salvation.
We were not under illusion in 1999 that the country we salvaged from the military was perfect; it only offered us an opportunity for a new beginning. It is clear now however that this window has been mismanaged and we stand the risk of losing it again, if we are not careful. But we are careful and we are saying never again are we going to lose it. Rather, we are going to save it because we have what it takes.
The bright light in the horizon, however, is the performance in office of all the people elected under the banner of the ACN. The ACN states of Lagos, Edo, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Ogun are the models of governance and public administration in Nigeria. It has been a story of one resounding success after another.
It is our success story that inspired hope in the land and commended us to other progressives for the formation of the grand coalition that will drive away the usurpers and ruinous elements who have seized our country by the jugular and furiously driving it along the path of destruction.
Not that there has never been such efforts in the past. There was the short lived United Progressives Grand Alliance (UPGA) in the First Republic. The Progressive Peoples Party of the Second Republic was still coalescing when the military struck. However, the All Progressives Congress (APC), like the pithy saying from Victor Hugo, is an idea whose time has come.
The tradition of the ACN is progressive politics, with Chief Obafemi Awolowo as its fountainhead. The Action Group which he led other to found in the First Republic emerged as Unity Party of Nigeria in the Second. This was also the dominant tendency in the Babangida’s misbegotten Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the aborted Third Republic. In this Fourth, it emerged as Alliance for Democracy (AD), absorbed others later to become Action Congress (AC). It became even bigger to become Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). It has now led others to the grandest party of progressives ever formed in Nigeria. It is a dream comes true.
It is our hope that we will rise to the occasion and fill the deep yearnings of Nigerians for genuine patriots who will rescue our land from the PDP in the coming election.
It will be too much to ask the Diaspora to come home to vote, but they can offer support in many other ways. The first is their financial support where it is possible. They can also engage the international community on the situation in Nigeria, especially on the plight of opposition in Nigeria and the coming elections. The governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun in 2014 stand out and will be a prelude to the 2015 elections. The international community must be made to play greater roles in the conduct of free and fair elections, beyond mere observers. There have been enough observations, it’s time to make every citizen participate in elections and make every vote count in Nigeria.
The opportunity to build the Nigeria of our dream is here now and we must take it with full hands.
I thank you once again for inviting me to the convention and wish you a successful meeting and sojourn in the land of the freedom.
I thank you all for your kind attention.
ACN National Secretary, Senator Shuaibu who represented Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the ACN leader was the guest speaker. His complete speech can be downloaded HERE.
APC: The New Vista and the Role of the Diaspora
An Address delivered to the ACN-USA 2013 Convention in Chicago, United States. By Senator Lawal Shuaibu, National Secretary, Action Congress of Nigeria on Saturday 18th May 2013
Coming to the theme of this Year’s Convention of the ACN-USA gives me immense pleasure and opportunity to interact with you today. I would like to say there couldn’t have been a better topic for this event, under the current circumstances in Nigeria. This is because the Nigerian community in the Diaspora constitutes a formidable force the new forces of change and development need to explore and work with in our earnest and sincere commitment in rebuilding as well as advancing democracy and development in our dear country, Nigeria. And this is borne out of our observation and deliberate conviction that Diaspora Nigerians are not only concerned with and interested in the state of affairs back home, but are willing to and are indeed working to ensure the future and success of our fatherland as a stable, virile and democratic entity, where freedom, human rights and sanctity of human lives are not only guaranteed but protected and advanced.
The first time I came across the word “Diaspora” was in those good days when I was in the Secondary School. Then, we were so engrossed in reading different types of books especially novels. I had this book on World War II around Germany, Poland, France and sometimes references were made to the Jews as DIASPORA. Until I checked my Dictionary, I naively but laughably thought the word was a name of a country or race.
Today, the word is widely used to describe the dispersion of anything that was originally localized, as in people, cultures and the likes. In the case of the Jews, the reasons for their dispersion from Israel were adequately narrated by various strata of opinions by world Historians.
Interestingly, the Nigerian Diaspora exists in relation to the experience and concept of Diaspora as a global phenomenon that has been fundamental to shaping civilization since human beings began to migrate from the geographical locations where they were born. With reference to Nigeria, specifically, it refers to Nigerians migrating to countries outside Nigeria for a range of purposes; from education and temporary residence to permanent residence in those countries. The existence of the Nigerian Diaspora presents vital questions in relation to development of the Nigerian state. These questions include the rationale for migration of Nigerians, the contributions of this Diaspora to the development of the country and the future possibilities of relationships between Diaspora Nigerians and Nigeria, their country of origin.
Circumstances in the Growth of Diaspora Nigerians
The Nigerian Diaspora developed in three historical phases and each phase represents a development in terms of historical movements that transformed the relationship between the demographic constitution of the groups that eventually made up the nation and the rest of the world and those within the nation after which it was formed and the world at large.
The first phase was prompted by the Transatlantic Slave Trade, between the 16th and 19th centuries, in which numerous of our fore parents were taken captive and sold into slavery in the Americas and Europe.
The second phase occurred between 1800 and 1960 during the period of British colonization when in the search for a new civilization, many people were prompted to leave places of birth for higher education and opportunities in advanced nations. This was what produced the Herbert Macaulay, the father of Nigerian nationalism, his compatriot Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as well as Chief Obafemi Awolowo. These Nigerians studied in the West and were all trained in terms of skills that became central to their pre-independence nationalistic fervors. These experiences fed and sharpened their appreciation of the necessity of national independence and of the institutions necessary to the development of a successful nation.
The third phase was during the repressive military regimes, especially when the SAP was introduced leading to economic depression that devalued the currency and resulted in regressive standard of living without any corresponding reciprocal benefit. This rather spurred many Nigerians to migrate to more stable and prosperous economies in different parts of the world, in search of quality education, employment and a system where certain fundamentals of social existence are not be taken for granted. Today, there is no field of human endeavor in which you cannot find a Nigerian across the globe.
“APC: The New Vista and the Role of the Diaspora”, the theme of this event:-
The Progressive Politicians in Nigeria, in an effort to couch the guiding principle of the All Progressives Congress, APC, the new Party being founded, believe every generation has a historic responsibility. The generation before ours’ worked hard for our country to be free. The task before our own generation therefore, is to build on the achievements of our heroes past and bequeath an enduring legacy, freedom, democracy and prosperity for the future generations.
The course of history has placed on all true patriots, the enormous task of building a better Nigeria, which demands that patriotic Men and Women of finest disposition must come together in the search for a new economic, social and political order that is woven around sustainable development, enduring peace and mutual co-existence.
The bedrock of the genesis for Nigeria’s inability to sustain developments has always been identified to be corruption. The Progressives, in the process of founding APC resolved to fight corruption frontally. We shall plug all the leakages that accelerate monumental corruption and recover looted funds while we also intend to cap up and trim down unwarranted allowances to public servants.
You may now agree with me at this stage, if I tell you that Nigerians in Diaspora are very important when it comes to the execution of the policies of the new Party. Diaspora Nigerians are very educated, with exposure that transcends our local experiences, and they are professionals from whom other countries have been greatly benefitting due largely to the absence of conducive atmosphere back home. No sensible Leader in Nigeria or anywhere can afford to ignore his people in the Diaspora who have excelled in everything to the advantage of their host countries.
Though Nigerian Diaspora unlike their Jews counterparts were neither persecuted nor expelled, yet they necessarily need to learn a lot from the Jews Diaspora who adopted an exceptionally supportive strategy toward the Jewish state, Jewish culture, Jewish economy, Jewish Politics etc. The history of Jewish dispersion has led to the outstanding diversity of the Jewish people, who have settled in countries as disparate as Morocco, Cuba, Mexico, and Australia. Presently, it is said that there are some 13.4 million Jews in the world with more than 8 million in the Diaspora, with the remaining more than 5 million in Israel. In most Western democracies, where Jewish communities have been able to act relatively freely, these entities have adopted a communal strategy. Essentially, this strategy means not only moderate social, political, and economic behavior, but it also has determined the nature of the organizations the Diaspora operates none of which poses major threats neither to the host countries nor to the members of the Diaspora. Because of its origins, endurance, attachment to its ancient homeland and contributions to Jewish interests all over, it is not surprising that the Jewish Diaspora has been considered an imperishable “classical,” “archetypal,” and “mobilized” Diaspora.
We are aware that financial contribution of our Diaspora communities is central to Nigerian development in the form of remittances, largely for the provision of needs of dependents, ranging from everyday needs to education and the acquisition of land and building of houses, the USAID Report entitled “Remittances, Competition and Fair Financial Access Opportunities in Nigeria” describe “official figures” (stressing) that remittances are the second largest source of foreign exchange receipts from Nigerians in Diaspora.
Politically, the contemporary Nigerian Diaspora could be expected to be contributing to the development of political consciousness in Nigeria through acting as a catalyst to the development of Nigerian political consciousness. Under military regimes for example, Diaspora Nigerians represented a critical unit of the Nigerian intelligentsia who were able to act against the tyrannical governments. They equally played a significant role that complemented the role of actors in Nigeria in the form of conferences, media pressure and demonstrations, agitating for transparent democratic governance in Nigeria etc. Not very long ago, we were all witnesses as to how NADECO forced a return to Democracy in Nigeria
What we are saying is that the Nigerian Diaspora represents a potentially massive source of contribution to the development of our nation. We also anticipate the contribution of the Nigerian Diaspora to the development of the nation as time goes on. The role of Diaspora community remains invaluable in shaping the national socio-economic and political landscape in Nigeria. We expect that the presence of Nigerians in the various sectors in the West, particularly in their concentrations in the United Kingdom and the United States, can be described as catalyst for the needed socio economic and political transformation of Nigeria. However, the sense of value in which our members of the Diaspora could be viewed is to be defined by the character of the Nigerian state in the near future. Those who wish to invest their resources, material, social and mental in the country would need to be confident that the environment is conducive to such investment. Such conducive conditions will involve a number of factors which will include security of life and property, a change in investment infrastructure in relation to the operating environments of business, and again the set of people who should guarantee such conducive environment different from the kind of governance with impunity we are being made to live with since 1999. Check out the Lagos State phenomenon. It is today the reference point in socio-economic transformation in Nigeria. Every potential Investor would rather operate in Lagos! The story is gradually becoming the same in all the ACN controlled States in the country.
Since Diaspora Nigerians leave Nigeria significantly for better economic prospects and education, we in the ACN, as against those that are determined to load it over the Nation since 1999, are committed and determined to improve these as much as possible, moving towards best practices and best international standards.
A major reason why there is such a large Nigerian Diaspora is because many are not convinced of good faith on the part of the political class back home that will ensure progress towards the basic goals of development, talk less of achieving an advanced society. When this resolve can be demonstrated through consistent action as we in the APC are committed to, it will definitely reduce emigration since more Nigerians would be engaged in participating on the economic, educational and political life of the nation since they are convinced that they have roles to play from which they will benefit.
What we are trying to do in the APC project, which it’s founding fathers envisioned and which we reiterate here is not only necessarily compelling and veritable in view of the realities of today’s Nigeria, but also an overdue national integration process, whose broader dynamics involves deeper trends, with potentially far-reaching implications for stability, democratic governance and prosperity. APC was born out of deliberate concern to rebalance our national history, redefine our democratic roadmap, and reinvent national integration for stability and prosperity and to replace impunity, which has been the trademark of PDP since 1999, with good governance. The glaring state of insecurity and political suspicions planted in different sections of Nigeria deliberately or by fundamental omissions, made it necessary for Opinion Leaders of these different sections to come together and forge a common front in order to prevent an imminent collapse of the entire system which might lead to disintegration, God forbid.
Ladies and gentlemen, making this a reality will require input from our enlightened Diaspora compatriots who have tested and experienced variety of best practices in governance and development from their host communities. As formidable voices needed to chat and advance a new era in Nigeria’s political history as well as development, let you be heard loudly and clearly on those issues bordering our country’s fate and hopeful future. You are all attuned to the variables that affect and slow down Nigeria as a democratic country with full economic and development potentials. The abundance of your experiences and capacities put you highly in a veritable position to help Nigeria in this circumstance.
The connection between Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora has remained firm, but this time around, the ACN-USA should be determined to make it more compelling. This goes without saying ACN-USA and our great country can be mutually enriched by forging an inseparable and genuine partnership in our vision and mission for a progressive, stable, prosperous and democratic Nigeria, an Action that, we must admit, is Compelling. The new APC in Nigeria has become something of a phenomenon in every house, every community, every town and city and as I can now confirm, every Diaspora community. An action, that you people also say, is compelling.
Thank you for listening.
I was fortunate to deliver a speech on behalf of the ACN Governors. You can read it HERE.
Hon. Dele Alade summarized the intent of the diaspora arm of the party and the party in general which was fighting for collective interest and not personal interest.
ACN National secretary, Senator Shuaibu stated that ACN in the diaspora is as important as ACN in nigeria. He went on further to list out instances where citizens in the diaspora had significant roles to play in charting the country forward. He stated that despite the merger with other political parties, the broom remains there meaning the core ideologies such as a strong emphasis on the diaspora will remain strong post ACN.
Like other speakers he noted that the fundamental thing that characterizes sincere politics is a mindset that asks what it expects for its people and not what it expects for itself and that many politicians seem to miss this after tasting power. He gave accolades to the diaspora arm of the party recognizing that it was the only place he saw sincere politics.
For me, this conference opened my eyes to truly appreciate how much of an impact Nigerians in the diaspora have on the Action Congress of Nigeria. It would come as a lie for anyone outside of Nigeria to claim limitations to impacting the Nigerian political landscape was as a result of proximity. Like I had stated in my speech, even if you cannot be physically present, technology has given us an upper hand to positively impact the country.
I am looking forward to a new and exciting party and I’m truly optimistic in the prospects of the exceptional development and growth Nigeria can achieve should APC come to power.