First I will not advice any Diasporan to go into politics in Nigeria unless one has been thoroughly woven into the fabric of the already existing system. The danger of this is that you then become exactly like them. (Eg Saraki, Dimeji, Fashola, Fayemi even James) All these are former Diasporans who had great ideas of changing the system and wanted to make a difference. Today they are much worse at the “game” than their fathers and godfathers!
Others who went relying only on their ideas and money were left broken and bankrupt within months!!!. I personally know people that sold up and went to Nigeria to join politics but today are struggling and jumping from one party to the other seeking relevance. The truth of the matter is that home-grown folks do not trust Diasporans. We are seen as alien nosey parkers who want to “come and reap where we have not sown”. Oh they will take our money no doubt but not our ideas or participation.
I shudder whenever I hear of the latest politician’s town hall meeting in London where they come, patronise us, bully and sometimes insult us – and then ask for our donations. There was one I went to that I couldn’t finish eating the free food laid out at the cusy do that took place in a 5 star hotel in Central London because the food got stuck in my throat from the barrage of insults and abuse the “host” was dishing out!!!
But once these people have returned to Lagos or Abeokuta or wherever, that is it – till the next elections where they do the rounds for another collection. How many of them have personally written to any of their Diasporan supporters from their cushy office computers to thank them?
And while we are at it, if the powers that be in Abuja have any
iota of respect or consideration for Diasporans , where is the Diasporan Vote?
Why are we not given a legitimate platform to have a say or voice in the affairs of the nation except on Facebook and Twitter?
My advice to Diasporans is to either form a mega party made up solely of former like minded Diasporans with Diasporan money and collectively introduce new ways of doing things or simply set up Diasporan owned organisations and enterprises in Nigeria, again employing diasporan brains and talents which the Western world is awash with. This is the only way the Diaspora can showcase what we have and can do for the home community.
But intergrating into the fabric will not work.
Nigerians living in the Diaspora some of them for over 20 years have imbibed new cultures and ethics many of them in extreme contrast from the Nigerian way. Most offices and departments will only work with kickbacks, advance payments and bribes which are the order of the day in Nigeria which again, Diasporans are not used to.
Politics itself is dirty, dangerous and basically a do or die affair in Nigeria. Far removed and far different from the civil and sophisticated manner in which politicians in the western world conduct themselves and their business. Forget about the lame insults that you hear during elections campaign periods in the US or the UK – but in Nigeria, statements are made with cutlasses and guns with many politicians spending days and nights either atop some mountain or bathing in some river for good luck and election success.
Politics in Nigeria favours who you know over who is capable. From what we can very obviously see in Nigeria, many of the legislators we have, have no business whatsoever in public life. But as long as you have the right contacts and backers, who cares if you cannot read, speak or write English or even address some pressmen coherently.
Politics and public life in Nigeria is very rarely about service. It’s more about doing as little as possible for as much money as you could possible lay your hands upon. Its about the accoutrements of power. Its about the elevated status. Its about the titles, the praises and the big offices and cars. But very little about community service or development.
Grassroots politics in Nigeria is based on the old sentiment of the “elders know best” rather than fresh blood can bring fresh ideas and do better – which is what you have in other western countries. A great number of those wielding the most power in Nigeria are those recycled power men from the 70s and 80s with many of the younger ones simply acting as figureheads doing their bids. Admittedly though, this trend does seem to be reversing and a lot more younger people are now calling the shots – albeit with a great dose of criminal gusto!
But most of these people are gung-ho, rugged, street fighter type of politicians who will call out anyone and go to any extent to have their way and enrich themselves. The corrupt practices that we hear about in Nigeria is a deep rooted sickness that is deeply woven into the very psyche of the Nigerian fabric and is the drug that a huge majority of Nigerians live on – next to religion. When as a diasporan, you cannot seriously trust your very own family members with money you send home to buy or build your property – how much more a bunch of money and power hungry strangers? And trust me – any whiff that you’ve just returned from abroad with a bob or two, the typical Naija will devise and plan on your behalf – ways to ensure that they spend it for you! With you left with no idea where you money went.
No matter how smart you think you are, these peoples’ smartness is unrefined, uncouth, gutter fighting, street-wise smartness that few or no Diasporan(s) after many years of living outside the country can match.
There is no loyalty or family sentiments in Nigerian politics. There is no civility or couthness. And neither is there the welcoming spirit that will accept strangers – which is what a Diasporan stepping in to join a ready established political party or group will have to face and put up with. More so when you will be coming to the table – with every trait, mannerism, behaviours and attitudes that are strange and alien to those already on the ground. And the only way to join in will be to deny and jettison all your acquired refinement and sophistication from years of living in a more civilised environment, and blend in.
But by so doing, you find you also have to deny any new beliefs you have and cast aside your convictions in the face of extreme pressure to be “like us” and the constant taunts of “That is from abroad. It cannot work here”
Birds of a feather, they say, flock together; and if you cannot beat them, you are bound to join them. The only way for any lone Diasporan to survive and succeed in politics in Nigeria is to get all low, down and dirty and fight like the locals – otherwise you’ll find yourself a lone, cast-aside and alienated wolf in the midst of a pack of blood thirsty hyenas.
Otherwise, let Diasporans come together to do their own thing, using all the skills, talents, attitudes and knowledge they have. Who knows, the home politicians might just be so inspired and impressed they will want to join them.
(C) Olajumoke Ariyo