Opinion | By Tony Osakpamwan Agbons | 06. 09. 2021
There comes a time in the history and life of a people when there is a fundamental and organic change in their narrative. The framing of the building blocks of any developed society is never accidental. It is done by a conscious push of purpose, vision, and drive. Such seismic shift occurs by a deliberate galvanising effort of togetherness, strategy, tact, and craft of the people. Available data reveal that over 17 million Nigerians live in the Diaspora and a high percentage of this number come from Edo State, the Heartbeat of the Nation.
Edo state is a land steep in royalty, culture and traditions that dates back to centuries. Edo State people walk around with gait, pride and an air of arrogance which is the envy of other Nigerians. The average Edo state man or woman is savvy, industrious, mercurial, and conventionally wise. In the lexis of Edo State people, the term `Diaspora` also refers to their sons and daughters residing outside Edo State within Nigeria and in African countries. The Diaspora in this context is not just limited to Edolites residing in `Jand` (using the common parlance) or those resident abroad or overseas.
In any society, the foci of communal ascension are a combination of natural, material, and human resources. In its more than 30 years of existence, Edo State is positioned more than ever before on the cusp of a reconnaissance. The people of Edo State are singing a new song composed in verses of gold by a new vision, ladened with provisions. This understanding has put the people on a sound pedestal and trajectory that is cerebral, calculated, planned, and primed. It explains the euphoria that greeted the recent Diaspora celebration of Edo State @30plus marking the anniversary of its creation in 1991 from the then Bendel State.
For a land hitherto flowing with milk and honey, one is taken aback as to how we lost our mojo and paled into systemic oblivion. Analysts and keen followers of Edo state adduce the `arterial disintegration` to the ineptitude and bad leadership of successive governments. The only exception been those of Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, and Prof. Ambrose Alli (both of blessed memory). Edo State is a land with an enduring monarchy of global acclaim. It is a land loaded with distinguished sons and daughters defining and holding their own in all spheres of human endeavour both at home and in the Diaspora. We are a people of confidence and excellence steep in values that are encapsulated in courage, respect, and measured wisdom. The current administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki has a great opportunity to write its name in `gold prints` in the annals of history.
It is in the light of the foregoing that Edolites globally received with aplomb, the inauguration of the Steering Committee to birth the establishment of the Edo State Diaspora Agency early last month of August 2021. The high powered Committee is chaired by Anthony Okungbowa, Esq, the State`s Head of Service. The Diaspora squad in the Committee consists of eminent sons and daughters. Ambassador Adesuwa Matthew Beeki Uwaifo, an Ambassador of the African Bar Association for East, Central and Southern Africa, in Tanzania). Others are Dr (Mrs) Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor, a renowned Obstetrics and Gynaecologists based in the United Kingdom. Mr Soni Irabor, ace broadcaster and media czar, in Lagos. Dr Johnson Odibo; President, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) in Switzerland. Prof. Isa Odidi famed global pharmacist, in Canada. Other members of the Committee are Mr Chris Osarumwense, Managing Partner Greenfields Consultancy and Services Limited and Mr Isaac Ebewele who is the Secretary. The Steering Committee`s report is due to be submitted to the Edo State Governor this month of September 2021. Expectations indeed are high for the take-off of the Edo State Diaspora Agency.
As the Edo State @30plus celebrations showed, the role of the Diaspora in the affairs of the State can no longer be over-emphasized. The Edo State Diaspora
has shown in many ways that they are a vital force and major stakeholders in the overall development of the State. According to the Pew Research Centre (2018), Diaspora remittances to Nigeria was projected to grow from US $25.5bn to US $29.8bn between 2019 and 2021. The total Diaspora remittance flow to Nigeria is expected to grow to US $34.89bn by the year 2023. Official figures show that Edo State indigenes make over 60% of Nigerians in Diaspora. The import of these statistics is that the Edo State Diaspora has immense economic power, expertise, and transferable skills. The latter is unquantifiable in monetary terms.
From the Edo State Diaspora point of view, the focus is one of changing our narrative for the betterment of the majority of our citizenry. Our young people in Edo State must once again rediscover their vibe and sense of community. The elderly amongst us must provide exemplary leadership for the younger generation to look up to and be inspired. The latent value of the new networking emanating from the organic friendships and camaraderie of Edo State sons and daughters in the Diaspora is monumental. Edo sons and daughters are joining hands to drive the new frontiers of thought, creativity, innovation, and positive energy capable of reoxygenating the state to el-dorado. The Edo State Diaspora are also proudly remapping the democratic landscape of not just Nigeria, but that of the African continent. We move!
*Dr Agbons writes from the United Kingdom