30 June 2012

Nigeria: 'Our Diasporan Citizens Are Important to National Development'


The night of revelries at the Tropical Grill, the upscale Restaurant in Queens, New York was almost winding down, and guests were on their last drinks when he walked in- looking dashing and debonair and greeting everyone with an infectious demeanor that attracted everyone to him.

Soon, discussions devolved around the Nigerian project and he came out in strong, persuasive and convincing manner to inform his fellow Nigerian Diasporans that their skills are needed home. That though we have experienced some challenges in our country, those challenges are not uniquely Nigerian phenomenon; that there are incredible opportunities for Nigerians with requisite skills and dash, to make huge contributions back home.

"I was a Diasporan like you guys. I lived in England for decades and was doing pretty well for myself until 2008, when I decided to return home and contribute my knowledge and expertise to the developmental efforts of my country. Four years later, I am glad I made the decision. Nigeria needs us." Prince Chidi Ibe, the Abia State born businessman whose business interest spans hotel and hospitality industry, oil and gas amongst others said.

Of all his business involvements, one area that he seems to be emotionally invested in is an organisation he set up to appropriate the skills set of Nigerians in the Diaspora and to make them integral components in the developmental efforts of Nigeria. Initiative for Diasporan Knowledge Transfer (IDKT) was launched early this year by the First Lady-Dame Patience Jonathan in Abuja, and since then, it has served as a Tink -Tank- an incubation centre for Nigerians who are desirous of coming home to utilise their talents for the greater good of the country.

According to Ibe, "I set up IDKT to help Nigerians who are highly skilled in their various professions to transfer such knowledge to Nigeria. If you look at China and India, most of the technological advancements that they have recorded were initiated by their Diasporan citizens. We want to replicate same in Nigeria. We believe that all the knowledge acquired by our Diasporan population will amount to a waste and become useless if they don't apply such to develop their fatherland. We have Nigerians who are found in virtually all the major corporations in the world including NASA. We have Nigerians who may not qualify for the high-brow professions, but who are providing great service in other aspects of the economy- the mechanics, those doing tilling, those who provide service in various service industries, those who have knowledge in road constrictions, those we call the "handy men"- we need these people to come home and bring their skill sets and apply them to the various industries in our country. We need these people to transfer their knowledge and IDKT is poised to help them transition into the Nigerian environment and provide a soft landing for them."

Ibe said the manner IDKT operates is "if any Nigerian has a better way of doing things-say in road construction or any other aspect of our national development, we will help him patent the right to such an idea and would thereafter refer him to the relevant federal agency-in this case the National Planning Commission who may then take another look at the idea and upon further inquiries, provide the platform for such an idea to be appropriated on a larger scale. This is how some other countries I had earlier mentioned used their Diaspoan population to move their country forward."

Prince Ibe said Nigerian under President Jonathan is destined for greatness. "I have heard people say all manner of things about the Jonathan Presidency. One thing they fail to understand is that God has used President Jonathan to reposition Nigeria for greatness. I can assure you that by the time President Jonathan is done leading Nigeria, our essence, our greatness, the dreams of our founding fathers to have a prosperous country united under shared values and ideals would have taken root and a new nation would emerge that all Nigerians would be proud to call their own. Are we experiencing some challenges now? You bet we are. Are they insurmountable? Certainly not. I call these the challenge of nation-building. Every nation-including those we look up to, today went through similar challenge of nation-building and were blessed to have had leaders who were ready to galvanize the people towards the renewal of the nation's essence. I believe genuinely that President Jonathan is that leader that Nigeria needs. He is like our own Obama- I know some people may not agree with me, but having watched the president at close range and knowing how invested he is about the development of this country, I am sure someday very soon, my assessment would be vindicated."

Prince Ibe stated that he became sold on President Jonathan's agenda for Nigeria when he was constructing his Five Star Hotel in Port Harcourt (he owns Premier Best Westin)" I saw the presidents manifesto and the platform he ran on, and I knew he was the right person for the country. I became involved in the campaign and was the happiest Nigerian when he received what was a truly national mandate. He is very interested in the affairs of the Diaspora Nigerians and has kept a keen eye on them even since he became president. He appointed Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu as the Special Assistant-Diasporan Affairs."

As I tried to sleep that night, a quick idea came into my mind- an idea which if carried out, would drive Tina's mum into aborting the a baby. There was no way she would keep the pregnancy after I had told her of my next line of action I had reasoned, unless she was the devil-incarnate. Convinced that I had finally found an iron-clad solution to the problem, I picked up the phone and called her the next morning. Would she budge or will her selfishness still be her defining impulse? I had been so consumed by the guilt I felt for betraying my fiancée and there was no way Tina's mum was going to blackmail or emotionally brow-beat me into agreeing with her to keep the pregnancy? I had told her that morning in no uncertain terms that I was going to make a confession to her daughter and tell her everything that had happened between us, and seek her forgiveness. "I don't think you would wish for us to bring your daughter, my soon to be wife into this messy affair. We should protect and insulate her form this whole mess. But if you wish to still stick to your convictions and continue to play hardball, I am afraid I will tell Tina everything that happened between us. I know the details are not pretty, she may never recover from it, but that seems to be the only option left for me at this time. Please, don't let us do this to her. Let commonsense prevail and we will pretend as if nothing of a physical nature had ever happened between us. You have to do this for your only daughter. Think about the scandal this will engender-the public opprobrium we would be condemned to; the taboo we are about to break and ask yourself if it is worth it. Please give this a serious thought. I have been a shadow of my normal exuberant self and this is affecting everything around me, including the way I relate to my fiancée and your daughter. Please do something - and fast too!" I pleaded.

I will never forget the cold and detached tone that Tina's mother responded to my appeal for common sense. In an emotionally vacuous tone, she had proceeded by asking me if I was done with my 'jeremiad'-yes that's how she described my appeal for common sense and sober reflections on the issue. Thoroughly exasperated now, I told her "yes" I was done. And she now preceded by telling me in no uncertain terms that she will never abort the pregnancy. "I see you have simply disregarded my moral foundations as far as the issue of abortion is concerned. I will and I repeat will not abort the pregnancy. It is against my religious beliefs" an assertion that had me interrupting her "but you know what we did also was not right in the sight of the Lord. You can't be pregnant for your soon-to-be son-in-law and be preaching about moral values. Those ring false" I had told her.

"Well you can rationalize it all you want. We both made an egregious mistake-a serious error of judgment and we are here left with the consequences of that lapse in judgment. If my opinion about abortion were not as hard and non-negotiable as it is presently, maybe-just may be, I would have given your demand a thought, but I can't. The baby inside my womb right now is a living soul. He or she deserves to live and I cannot bring myself to laying down in a doctors' office and seeing this baby who tomorrow may be the president of Nigeria, gets sucked out of life.

To be continued

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