Those who have been following me for a while know that I am very vocal about my love for the Black race, and that I am a big advocate for returning home (Africa) and growing our continent. I try to use my voice to uplift, educate and inspire. It is only fitting that I pen these words today on October 1st. The recent re-election of the Edo State governor Godwin Obaseki has been received with great happiness from Edolites, home and abroad. In the past four years, his administration has been dedicated to improving education, energy, heath care, infrastructure, and much more. The next four years will undoubtedly produce more growth and stability. Now is the time to utilise the nation’s talents and resources, including those in the diaspora (who undoubtedly provide a wealth of transferable skills and resources), to continue on this path of economic, social and business development within the state.
Edo State is a rich land with abundant history and culture. Yet, it is under-utilised by those abroad. When we return, it is usually to invest/live/work in Lagos or Abuja. Edo State is an after-thought, even for those who are originally from the great red soil. I myself have been guilty of this, seeing Edo State as somewhere to visit briefly but not invest in or live. This is a result of lack of knowledge. The youth in the diaspora are not fully aware of the greatness of our land and the immense potential it holds. There is no one spearheading the drive to modernise the state and include this demography. Then there are those who have acquired the knowledge, education and skills needed to build our nation; they would like to move back and utilise their expertise within the country but lack adequate support. A guided government plan backed with robust policies can help make the transition back as smooth as possible for this group.
The state should look into creating an organisation or an initiative that encourages and facilitates the return of fresh bright talent to Edo State. This will not only serve the indigenes of the state, but also the African American and west Indian people who have ancestral ties with the country. This would certainly push an influx of talent into the state. The initiative would help with things like visa applications, housing, business start-ups, subsidised land acquisition, connecting employers in the state with the diaspora looking for jobs, which ensures home and work stability. In other words, a conducive home coming environment.
For “The Year of Return 2019” initiative, Ghanaian government collaborated with The Adinkra group, a US based organisation, to encourage diasporans to come to Africa, specifically Ghana. It received international acclaim and attracted attention from the global media and famous personalities. As a result of this, Ghana saw an economic boom and a spike in tourist generated revenue, thanks to those moving back to rebuild their lives here. More than 100 African Americans were sworn in as citizens of the country. The year of return was so successful that they have now started another follow up initiative called “Beyond the Return”, a 10-year plan for continued growth, encouraging diasporas and those of African origin back into the continent. There are several other countries that have also created initiatives to attract social, business and economic development. For example, Canada and various states within America such as Vermont, Nebraska, Oklahoma have taken similar steps. Even in the West Indies, countries like Barbados are offering concessions to encourage those abroad to live and work there. In Nigeria, however, private companies are usually the ones who provide enticing relocation packages for the diaspora. Edo State government can be the pioneering force to implement this in the region.
With its rich cultural history and fertile land, I see no reason why Edo State cannot become a tourist hub and one of the leading pathways to Nigeria for the diaspora. We have an array of Edo State talent- creatives, academics, engineers, software developers, management professionals, IT experts, specialist healthcare professionals, etc. Currently, this talent is being utilised in foreign lands. Even when they come back to Nigeria, they flock to Lagos and Abuja to set up shop. With the implementation of forward-thinking initiatives that encourage those of the land to come back and contribute to the development of the nation, Edo State could undoubtedly become a leader in business, economic and social development. Furthermore, this would highlight its great and rich culture, along with its significance in the development of Nigeria. The state government can set a precedence by cultivating progressive and innovative initiatives that promote growth, happiness and restore pride. If supported and executed properly, this would open the state to fantastic development, support, and acclaim from the international community.
As governor Godwin Obaseki commendably asserts, “I stand for the happiness of the majority and not for the few”. This certainly includes those in the diaspora. It is productive and beneficial to foster relationships and engage with this group more positively in areas such as skills and knowledge development, trade and investment, and social development. ‘No Edolite left behind’— together we can make Edo State a centre for progress, investment, and prosperity. A place where people are happy to grow roots in, not flee from. Initiatives that will not only accelerate growth during the next four years, but also for decades to come.