This was the admission of Hon Bar. Rita Orji Hon member of the House of Representative and Chairman House Committee on Diaspora Matters in London last weekend. She made this declaration while speaking in an interview with Dr Alistar Soyode on a BEN TV
Please read the transcript of the interview below
A.S. (Q) What made you go into politics?
Hon. Rita. Two reasons made go into politics, and they are; One is that It’s the only avenue that you could influence policies that will favour the masses; number two, I want to change the mind-set of people about politics. they have this notion that politicians are these or that and I need to make a point for people to reach the real politics and what it’s supposed to be from my own performance and nature, those are the two things that made me go into politics
A.S. Two powerful ingredients
A.S. (Q) You are elected from one of the most populous States from Nigeria and people technically presume that you are not from that States but you spring a surprised and how do you use that to encourage other people is that a factor for uniting Nigeria?
Hon. Rita I think It’s a uniting factor number 1 and 2..but when one thinks that you’re not from the area it a different thing, because I touched down there when I was small as a child.
I thought that and when I was four you can imagine how old I am now. I grew up from there, school with them, played, peer group built, work and rendered my social responsibility, have my investment today there and when they say I’m not from there, I’m not really from there and what makes you an indigenous person Per say by naturalization I think I’m part and parcel of Lagos state and an indigene of Ajegunle from Ajeromi-Ifelodon local government area.
A.S. (Q) It’s good that you mentioned Ajegunle, here and looking at your profile a bit i find that you have actually done a lot of things within the local community and the people really fancy and Support it; could it be or is that one of the reasons that people really need to build in order for them to go into politics?
Hon. Rita Yes, Number one you have to establish a relationship; when you look at the situation in Ajegunle and many local people don’t want to be associated with that local government, but I am really proud to be the present Honourable member, representing my federal constituency; it’s because people don’t really know what Ajegunle is all about and the notion they have of it, but when you come to Ajegunle, this is where people are left to leave by themselves, You’re the local government chairman, you provide the water; you provide electricity, You do everything by yourself, and yet you maintain peace, in all these they could have resulted into other violence, but they believe that with God on their side, they are working in peace. Even in the Local government you cannot see portable drinking water; You can’t see electricity, you cannot see good roads, and you cannot see current light that would people access their houses, but they pay taxes, they pay even taxes and rent differently obnoxious this are the ones you won’t have heard.
but this is the most neglected local government and is referred to as a suburb in Lagos Nigeria, people of our class living there knows that this not a ,suburb, this is just about and there suffering neglect of the people.
A.S. (Q) Let me quickly ask you this question you are now the chairman of the Diaspora committee which was handled by another person; how can you now transfer or rather attract the Diaspora to support the administration and Nigerian development?
Hon. Rita In the first place, whenever you want to attract somebody, there must be a laid-down procedure, you must prepared the road, diaspora commission is not passed; electronic voting is not done and you see those are the reasons why I’m a lawyer and I’m in politics. When you want to take issues like that you go to relevant stages and amend the electoral acts that will enable electronic voting to take place before you bring any bill to challenge electoral voting; you do the right things first.
Then when you are talking about diaspora commission, it is imperative that this must be when you kick against the machineries of its commends or conscience. And this Government and present administration knows that even coming into its existence that the Diaspora played a very important role; so to every government that needs success will not do away with the relevant tit bits of the economy, the Nigerian diaspora are one wonderful entity that no government will want to do away with!
A.S. (Q) You mentioned the Diaspora commission bill what do you think is the position of the 7th assembly which is now technically ended, though was passed through, does it mean that the diaspora bill has not being officially passed?
Hon. Rita It was not assented to, meaning the president has not assent it yet Thus, meaning the commission has not been officially passed and, it died with the last 7th assembly, It means no signed off; it dies with that assembly. But when you bring it back, it will move from the assembly back and we have done that.
A.S. (Q) one of the biggest challenge for Nigerian Diaspora is the voting rights what do you think about that?
Hon. Rita. You know we are already a late student in this kind of voting; Algeria have done that and a couple of other countries have done that; why we won’t do that is that number 1 we must have legislation that will enable us to get good data of Nigerians, it might not be an electronic voting, but you might vote in the Nigerian high commission building; and you tap your results from there. But there is no data. I was at the Nigerian high commission yesterday and it was very appalling, even the Nigerians in the UK; nobody can give you the accurate data. How are we going to talk about voting, or are we going to use Ghanaians, plus Liberians or South Africans with the Nigerians to cast the vote. So, I my team performance is the first blue print is to put in place a data record, and that is already on course because they already have a portal being designed where all interested diasporan , if you claim to be a diasporan and independent of the government. I found out that a lot of things are happening here in the UK and the high commission doesn’t even know about it. So through NIDO, am going to work directly with NIDO, We will work diligently with NIDOE, every other professional body would come under NIDO.
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A.S. (Q) Very good to indeed as you mentioned NIDO, which is the official umbrella for Nigerian diasporans, it’s good to hear that from you. So technically people will say there are more than 1 million Nigerians in UK and over 10 million Nigerians around the world but would it not be of good even if we get 10% of those interested to be on the data, because we do have Nigerians with mixed nationalities, how would you like to mix the two facts together?
Hon. Rita. Our constitution allows dual citizenship so every Nigerian no matter the passport you are carrying you have a right to decide to vote in Nigerian government, Even if we don’t have a restriction on nationality, they can enjoy that, but my problem is this there must be a framework, that in any case, like Nigerians in UK are supposed to harness their brain and intelligence and push on, i am here on investigation, I have being here for a couple of days and people don’t know, I have gone to various oppositions, human rights, lawyers, home office , Nigeria High commission there are silent questions , that the Nigeria high commission and the Nigeria government have to answer on this issues
But we believe that we have wonderful Nigerians here and we tend to harness that potential by bringing them under an umbrella that would feel their impact , their impact is needed their impact is important, I refer to them as my pride, I refer to them as a first class citizens wherever they reside, they have Nigerian blood in them we don’t give up that is why you see wherever we Nigerians they are doing wonderfully well no matter the hard conditions they find themselves no matter the restrictions, hard policies, draconian laws trying to push them down from their real self they still survive, because we don’t give up, we believe in ourselves, so every diasporan is my pride wherever they are i adore them because the state they are living in an ordinary person couldn’t have coped and yet they are succeeding.
I am saying in this administration my priority and the priority of the 8th assembly is to make sure that the stars which they are must be allowed to shine, because you don’t need to struggle to shine if you are a star, we just need to create an enabling environment and allow them to come into existence and I don’t doubt they are going to do well
A.S. (Q) Another interest for the diasporans is the yearly diasporan day which normally takes place in July every year, but last year it was in August , now how would you like your new office to manage it because mostly of the time the staff working on it plan it last minute instead of working and planning it ahead and then per grouping based on their professional attribute and characters. How would you like to see this galvanised for the benefit of Nigeria rather than just to get together the diasporans without any benefits?
Hon. Rita. I am not a partying person, I am not a person that is good in social partying, coming to dance that is not my reasoning, if there isn’t a reason for doing Diaspora day then it shouldn’t be done but if there must be a reason for doing a Diaspora it must reflect on gains, on vision, ideology and mission statement. So as we are going to do it will take a different shape it’s not going to be bringing musicians and dancing it’s no longer going to be that.
This wonderful Nigerians must have a Theme that when we are celebrating, there must be an achievement that would be rolled out on that day, such as; that is what the diasporans have done either in their host country or in their home country; that these are the facilities they have put in place; that this is the joint venture investment they have entered with the government, the money they have put in place; that this are the things they have done from Jan-June, and we are celebrating it, and that is the only way of celebrating. That this is what they have achieved and what they intend to do in the final part of the year.
All the professionals would come together each, I have a blueprint, each head of the groups in NIDO would have a blueprint from, this is what we’re going to ask you for on the diaspora day, you would give us a speech base on it, this is what your professional bodies have been able to achieve, this what you’re going to achieve, and this what you’re going to achieve by the last quarter of the year, those are the things we want to hear on the diaspora day.
A.S. (Q) With the diasporan should they now look towards your office as the house committee chairman to communicate more and will they get you because now as the Diaspora, we expect to call your office, for the phone to ring and someone to say welcome to the Diaspora office.
Hon. Rita. Those that know me very well even in my constituency, will tell you that I pick up my calls, Its only when am in the plenaries that you can’t get me because of the session there may not be network, then i may leave my phone with my PA who would pick up the calls. But I want to tell you this truth, several attempts the diasporans made failed because it wasn’t a coordinated one.
investment in Nigeria is old,, investment is very, very important, if investment is not important why would foreigners struggle, why would aliens try as much as they could to go in. remember the last two months we have passed a motion in the house, on a bill for “The choice of first refusal” to any Nigerian company coming into Nigeria to do projects or business, we moved that they must now be given the first priority choice of any job or contracts. We cannot bring people together without having an enabling environment , we have being able to put these together, being able to remove that, we have moved the motion that if this guys are coming they must have the rights of first choice of refusal, and you can see that I have done something there,. As soon as the national assembly passes it , it is now bidding, that Nigerians would need to listen to their diasoprans first, we have being able to do that. Now you have an enabling environment, that you can say am coming to do drainage, build a school, or build a hotel, you now have the right of first refusal before any other foreigner. That is what we have done, and is one of our achievement.
Secondly investment in Nigeria through my office, by the grace of God, we can coordinate, give it a legal backing, give it a face that nobody will come behind to jeopardise your chance of owning your establishment just because you are in the Diaspora.
Those are the things we are putting in place, you don’t want to work under anybody who wants to take up the director, this or that, take everything, you would be the one to bring the funds, and somebody else would take everything, and you would be mooning over it, am a legal person, when you invest your money, you need to be on top of it. This are the things we have put in place to encourage diasporans and I encourage you guys too when you are trying to come into Nigeria please work with our office because we are on ground , We want to know where you can invest and have your returns.
A.S. (Q) Thanks very much your last words to the diasporans.
Hon. Rita. Well, I will keep talking with them, my word is wherever they are t my pride I am once a Diasporans, I know what they pass through, I know their politics, I know what they can do, I know what they are capable of doing.
I know that their presence in Nigeria will make a turn around on our economy without a recourse to paying heavy taxes on it
Diasporas are the tools, I say they are the tools Nigeria needs to develop without harsh conditions; because they have what it takes they have acquired the knowledge
most of the people they are coming over here to bring to do most of the are not better, because most of the jobs they are doing in Nigeria are done by the Diaspora also, so we have the best hand and I welcome them, they are welcomed, Within this four years by the grace of God they are my face I will. Look with their eyes and I will hear with their ears I will smell with their nose and I will speak their voice that is all I have for them.
A.S. In Conclusion. Thank you very much; I have being talking to Hon. Bar. Rita Orji the Chairman House Committee on Diaspora Matters, Nigerian House of Representatives on her visit to the UK.