NIGERIA: 2015 – JONATHAN ENDORSES DIASPORA VOTING

President Goodluck Jonathan disclosed yesterday that Nigerians in diaspora could vote in the 2015 general elections an issue, he said, he would address next year.
The president hinted that he has directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to look at the possibilities in which Nigerians in Diaspora are able to vote in the presidential and gubernatorial elections as a starting point.

2015 is fast approaching and Nigerians in Diaspora want to collect on that promise.

Nigeria is our country and we want to be part of it, however, we cannot continue to contribute to the development of the country while being denied the participation that every citizen enjoys in other countries even though they live outside the country.
Every day, week and month, hundreds of Nigeria’s political, business, and religious leadership travel to Europe, and America and other parts of theworld, where they enjoy the fruits of democracy that guarantees one man one vote to all its citizens.

What I want these leaders to understand is that Nigerians in Diaspora who are dual citizens have the power to lobby their legislators to deny visas to the leaders that are standing in the way of one Nigerian one vote for every Nigerian in the Diaspora.

Recently, there have been several cries from Nigerian leaders regarding the state of the Nation. While this writer wants to stay neutral regarding the politics of the country, but it is difficult to divorce this appeal from the importance of a stable progressive, united and peaceful Nigeria. In order to achieve the above, every Nigerian must be given the opportunity to contribute.

The first step in the contribution is of every citizen is the right to vote.

To deny Nigerians in Diaspora the opportunity to choose their leaders is tantamount to another form of location and economic apartheid, a form of “taxation” without representation, because we repatriate over $21 billion to our beloved country every year. Some might argue that Nigerians in the Diaspora do not pay taxes, but we tax ourselves to send home over $20 billion every year.

Our participation will not only enhance the country, it will help deepen the democracy that we all agree is the best form of Government for our people.

Nigerians all over the world have been the best ambassadors for the country for over 60 years since they have relocated to foreign countries for various reasons including business and education.
Therefore, denying them the opportunity to vote is denying that they are real Nigerians and that they have something to contribute.

To all Nigerians in the Diaspora, it is time for you to rise and demand your vote. Every day I see hundreds of criticisms of Nigeria and its leaders, but if you chose not to participate in the selection of these leaders, then you have no right to complain when the bad ones wangle their way into the leadership by default. It is painful to visit Nigeria and not have light, it is painful to see your nephew, your niece out of the University for Four years and not have a job. It is tough to see the country you left 30 years ago that has all the amenities of life, now in dilapidated conditions. It is painful to read the newspapers every day and see people entrusted in leadership positions making away with billions of Naira only to receive a slap in ye hand. It is painful to see a road contract awarded over six years ago left uncompressed while thousands die every day on the same road. So what then is stopping me from trying to make a contribution? What stops you? If not now when?
This is not about who should rule, that is individual decisions. All we are asking is just fight for your right to vote. Then you can decide who to vote for.

SUPPORT FROM LAW MAKERS

Here’s what the Chairman committee on Diaspora said about Nigerians in Diaspora….
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A lot of Nigerian professionals and business people abroad want to contribute to the economy but they do not know where to go and how to link up with the system. We are talking about Nigerians in Diaspora who remit about $20 billion annually to Nigeria; we are talking of some of the brightest brains in the world and they are not asking for anything other than seeking ways to contribute to the development of our country. Among them we have the medical doctors bringing in hospital equipment; we have professors wanting to come over to do their sabbatical in our universities and they are all looking for a platform to connect with the system.

Hon. Essien Ekpenyong Ayi (PDP/Cross River)

This argument was, however, countered by Hon. Essien Ekpenyong Ayi (PDP/Cross River) who rose in defense of the bill and sought to enlighten those opposed to it on the immense contribution of Nigerians in the Diaspora to the country and the world. Ayi drew the attention of the House to the several exploits of notable Nigerians who have excelled in various fields of endeavour in Europe and America. He also disclosed that in other parts of the world, harnessing Diaspora potential had become the norm.

Honorable Betty Apiafi is a member of the House of Representatives representing Abua Odual/Ahoada East

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Federal Constituency of Rivers State.

Democracy is actually evolving in Nigeria and people are just scared about a lot of things. We have presented the issue of the Diaspora Voting Rights. We have actually presented the Bill to amend the Electoral Act to provide room for Nigerians living abroad to have voting rights but the response we got was not very good so we decided to withdraw it for now and then start from the beginning and the beginning really is to actually work on the agency that will take care of Nigerians who are in Diaspora in the first place. It is clear that the Nigerians in Diaspora are not well taken care of under the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government where the issues of the Diaspora are being handled. When we have a functioning agency that will be seeing to the affairs of Nigerians in Diaspora, we can then be having accurate information about our people abroad. Maybe we will start from having a database of Nigerians living in Diaspora. If we start from the beginning, that idea will give Nigerians more confidence but the challenge we are having right now is that most people believe that elections may be rigged in favor of the government in power if we have Diaspora voting rights in the country.

If you are a Nigerian in Diaspora, you do not really need to come home if there is no need but if we see that you are a technical person, we will invite you to come and contribute to the development of the nation but we need to have the Nigerians in Diaspora realize that Nigeria is their country. One of the decisions passed to the African Union during the last African Diaspora Summit in Johannesburg was to make Diaspora the 6th region in Africa so that the people in Diaspora can be more involved in the decision making in the AU. We want them to be able to participate in many African countries and if we are going that way, Diaspora will be on the front burner of African politics. Nigerians in Diaspora have to be well prepared for the coming changes in the entire Diaspora programs coming up.

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