Nigerians in Diaspora in the Americas will converge in a virtual town hall meeting on Saturday 9 May 2020 with Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NIDCOM) Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa. Ahead of the meeting, here are my questions for the Honourable Chairman:

  1. To what extent is NIDCOM legitimate, considering that more than a year after its establishment, its Board has not been constituted? What exactly is the problem?
  2. How effective have you being Madam Chairman, as a lone Board member? Under what checks & balances do you operate NIDCOM without offending the provisions of its Establishment Act?
  3. It’s alleged that some activities of those in Govt. including you, have derailed strategic approach to Diaspora engagement e.g. by overtly/covertly encouraging set up of new Diaspora organisations, thereby defeating Gov. Diaspora Policy. Pls explain.
  4. Nigerian Diaspora is alleged not to be unified, in-fighting… What do you say to those who accuse you and your cohorts of engineering or supporting Diaspora disunity because it favours your agenda? Is a strong Diaspora a threat to you & colleagues?
  5. Don’t you see any incompatibility, if not conflict of interest, in the two positions you occupy concurrently: Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Mr President on Diaspora and at the same time Chairman of NIDCOM?
  6. Won’t it be more value-adding for Nigeria, transparent, Good Governance as President Mohammadu Buhari advocates, if the role of SSA Diaspora & Chair NIDCOM are independent from each other and occupied by two different persons, not just yourself?
  7. Nearly 20yrs after @NigeriaGov under President Olusegun Obasanjo established NIDO to unify Diaspora input in national development, there are calls for reform of the org. Some clandestine reform efforts have failed. What reforms do you want to see?

Collins Nweke
Belgium ??

Communication and Governance of Coronavirus Crisis Management: initial thoughts

In observing the management of the Coronavirus and the crises around it, I have underlined two skills and leadership take-home specifically in regards to the strategies deployed in Belgium (Europe) and New York State (United States of America). In a separate note I shall zero in on the Communication Strategy of an African country and possibly draw comparison with another African State.

Belgium achieved an early bipartisan agreement for the communications on the Coronavirus to be left with the medical experts and the scientists, not the politicians. The daily briefing has since been in the hands of top experts who are highly professional, objective and completely devoid of politics in their excellent delivery.

When (note that I didn’t say if)?? I become the President of Nigeria and have to deal with any national crisis of comparable nature, I’d remember to adopt same strategy That is what I have learnt from the crisis management so far?

New York Governor on the other hand has gained my respect with his proactive communication strategy. In his daily briefing, he flanks himself by scientists and health experts, to make the technical inputs but it is instructive for any discerning mind, how well he’s worked with Data Scientists and Communication Experts to develop highly effective proactive communications which he personally delivers as Chief Executive (call it taking charge or responsibility) pretty skilfully.

The powerful effect or impact is that because he has used data to tell his stories, he’s able to preempt the public, tell them when cases will rise but also talk to the preparations in place to mitigate the situation. He has also efficiently used same data management skills to illustrate where help is expected from Trump’s Federal Government; acknowledge the help when they arrive; and sound the alarm bell when they ain’t forthcoming. Of course his strategy has equally put the impossible Donald under soft but enormous pressure to act well towards New York State. The Governor has gained unprecedented political credibility as a consequence of these deliberate, not incidental, actions.

Lessons that I learnt? When I become Governor of Delta State of Nigeria, I’d put together a multidisciplinary team of advisors, give them a generous resource base and charge them to work in synergy for all Deltans. I’d do the strategic communications as Chief Executive but the credit will unambiguously go to them.

So help me, us God!??????

Collins Nweke

Coronavirus: panic reactions to partial lockdown

Reactions especially from Governments but also from citizens ought to be based on science

In Belgium, we have gone into partial lockdown as a consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic. Professionally, I’m not expected at work before 3 April. I can therefore talk of a partial self isolation since I’d be working from home as much as possible. All appointments are cancelled except a crucial political engagement that requires me to show up for Council Business routinely on Thursdays. 

This morning I called up my local mini-supermarket to know if they are open and for how long. As it turned out the opening hours are unchanged. So I thought to dash out and pick up (not stock up on!) a few groceries. Shocking that though everything I needed was available except milk, the proprietor of my local mini-supermarket told me that the stock up on or hoarding of milk and water was absolutely unnecessary. Normal supply will be maintained and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. He teased me further: Collins I know you politicians sometimes take some funny and stupid  decisions but I’m sure you guys are not that mad to allow food scarcity! 

Politicians may indeed take mad decisions sometimes but as social animals, we have more to worry about. I’m curious to know in the coming weeks how Belgians will remain sane without visiting cafes and restaurants. Food and drinks in restaurants and cafes are means to an end. The end is community, social contact and socialising. I’m curious to know in the coming weeks how much Italians will get used to not shaking hands, hugging and pecking. What will the Brits do without the museum and concerts…

These are issues that are more concerning for people as social animals than Coronavirus infection especially for those with no preexisting medical conditions. The virus won’t kill them any more than common cold would hardly leave any lasting impact on their health. I’ve had a few interviews on Coronavirus since the outbreak ? In one of the conversations, I warned about spreading of fear and the tendency of politicians to ignore science and expert medical advise.

Based on responses from different capitals of the world, we can’t help but conclude that panic was at the heart of all the reactions. Reactions should have been based on science, not fear, not politics! 

I hope that post-Coronavirus, global solidarity and cooperation will be (re)kindled. Under a body like the World Health Organisaion, one will expect that a global convention on uniform response to global pandemic is worked out, negotiated and underwritten by every nations of the world. Its focus should be to entrust management of such pandemics when they occur to a global team of rapid response experts drawn from National Centres for Disease Control. The expert team works out a global plan which must be uniformly executed.  This looks to me a viable way to counter the current situation where countries take different measures that are either scientifically baseless or that run at cross-purposes. 

As simple and basic as this sounds, it is curious why after previous pandemics, the most recent of which was the Ebola virus, the global community did not act? I recall a TEDtalk given some five years ago by Bill Gates in which he expressed exactly the same sentiment about a need to work out a global response strategy for global pandemic. No action was taken. Why?

I want to think that lessons were not learnt from the Ebola crisis first and foremost because African leaders are either too stupid to proffer sustainable solutions. Or they are too corrupt to commit resources to issues with no direct exclusive benefits to them. Or both! Going a bit further, Ebola happened mainly in Africa and was largely contained there after claiming tens of thousands of lives. Western nations, who have the skills, technology and resources, felt that the problem was far from their beds and saw no urgency in acting around global pandemic management. On the risk of sounding naïf, I want to believe that Coronavirus, having unleashed serious havoc out in the West and still terrorising us today, we’d now see how much a global action plan is not only an urgency of our time but an imperative that can’t be ignored or postponed.

Anioma People’s Declaration 2020

Declaration of statehood by the Anioma people of Nigeria

Proposed Anioma State of Nigeria
Map of Anioma

(1) We, the Anioma people declare that if granted our state in 2020, we shall generate enough electricity to power the whole of Nigeria by 2030. We shall build hydro-electric power plants at Uguozala, Ebu, Illah, Asaba, Onitsha, Nzam and Atani on the banks of the River Niger that will generate at least 50,000MW of electricity

(2) As our state will straddle the River Niger with territory in both the current Delta and Anambra states, we pledge to build six river crossings over the next 20 years. Each crossing will be at least four lanes wide

(3) We will construct Nigeria’s first underwater tunnel, building a 1km tunnel between Asaba and Onitsha

(4) We will construct at least two railway river crossings, with one linking Illah and Nzam and another linking Asaba and Onitsha

(5) We shall develop the world’s largest rubber plantation at Idumeje Ugboko with accompanying processing plants. Our goal is to attract the likes of Pirelli, Michelin, Firestone, Dunlop, etc. We will also aim to build the world’s largest condom and surgical glove factory at Umunede and the world’s largest rubber boot factory at Okpanam

(6) We shall construct Africa’s first underwater restaurant at Illah. This restaurant shall be made of glass and shall be situated under the River Niger

(7) As we shall be part of the southeast geo-political zone, we shall construct dual carriageways linking Onitsha with Enugu, Owerri, Abakaliki, Awka and Umuahia

(8) Asaba and Onitsha shall have high speed train lines linking them with Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. Our capital Asaba shall be linked to every state capital in Nigeria by rail

(9) Anioma State will be the first state in Nigeria to refuse to accept any federal allocation. We refuse to join in this parasitic charade as it is contrary to our cultural values and an affront to our industrious nature

(10) We shall dredge the River Niger up to Onitsha and Asaba, enabling large Panamax ships to sail upstream. Our aim is the create Africa’s largest inland cargo port at Onitsha

A Richer Literary World with ‘Sons of the Soil’

I am honoured to offer some commentaries as a Reader at the book launch of Ben Ajuzie in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, 20 September 2019. I make bold to conclude that the work of fiction is an enrichment of the Belgo-Afro literary landscape.

Author Bernard (Ben) Ajuzie, Sons of the Soil

The world of literature will be richer on Friday 20 September 2019 with the official launch in Brussels, Belgium of the work of fiction “Sons of the Soil”. Authored by Bernard (Ben) Ajuzie, himself a study in diversity, Sons of the Soil holds a mirror to humanity. Through this mirror we are able to view ourselves from diverse prisms. 

In reading even just a part of Sons of the Soila kaleidoscope of self-evaluating questions can’t help but whirl up your head: am I the concerned father that also happens to be King of Sumanguru Kingdom, one of the principle characters of the over 300-page fiction? Do I best fit in the shoes of Gawiwy, Dr Banjo or Gabito, the master schemers? How much does Chubido, the loyal friend mirror my personality? Could it well be that my exterior defeats my inner calm, a different set of ambitions and a near zero sense of worldliness, making me the Prince Jeje of our time; heir apparent to the Sumanguru throne with no ambitions for the crown? How much does Chief Tirie represent my ambitious uncle, who would stop at nothing to get that which he sets his eyes on, undermining all and crushing everything that stands on his way? 

In more ways than one, there are Sons of the Soil in us all, be it in our daily lives as ordinary mortals or as parts of a cabal that constitute present day politics and politicking or community set-ups. Considering that Sons of the Soil speaks candidly to us all, it is a reference work to own. 

As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks! Readers are bound to make their individual assessment of the literary style deployed by Ben in this latest work, either in isolation or in comparison with his first book “Southern Realities Northern Dreams”. I for one see in Ben with his latest literary outing, a writer that is dramatically coming of age. I will not belabor you with neither volumes nor details but allow me the latitude to consider this oxymoron I extracted from page 301, and it reads “Chief Tirie laid face down and the earth appeared to shield it from the shame it refused to embrace when he was dealing other people…”  Before that, on page 300 to be precise, he had painted a literally picture of a Chief whose past would not let loose. Hear this “The Chief’s latest fear was not his failure to achieve, but the idea that the gods are on the hunt following his vows before the oracles”. Even poets and fans of poetry would have a field day with Sons of the Soil published by the National Library of Nigeria. An overzealous man had done everything and stopped at nothing to achieve his innocuous ambitions, knew that he had stepped on too many toes and made uncountable enemies. Will he be glorified, any legacy to celebrate? Perhaps not hence before drawing his last breath, he had this poetic rendition to spare:

“All who wish me gored

Are free to come forward

And party my end”

If I could indulge you a little more, allow me dwell for a brief moment on where the author, Ben Ajuzie derived the impetus to deliver such masterpiece of literature. As averred earlier on, Ben is a study in diversity. A Nigerian of Igbo extraction, his early influences are to be found in Limbe, West of the Cameroons, Accra and Anloga in Ghana where he enjoyed his secondary education before a homeward journey back to his home state of Abia in Nigeria. At the State University there in a semi-rural, semi-urban town of Uturu, he bagged a bachelor’s degree in Food Science & Technology. Thereafter, like his character Jeje, a sojourn away from Africa, brought him to Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit, Brussels for dual Masters, one in Human Ecology and the other a master’s in educational research & Psychology.  Ben’s rich and diverse background is a baggage that informs but also enriches his literary outing. 

Worthy of final mention is the crossover elements in Sons of the Soil. The setting of the fiction may understandably be Africa, but the fact of the writer maturing in Europe is evident in his coinages, metaphors and the oxymorons that dot the novel here and there. It is only fair to assert that this work is an interesting, if not a curious addition to the Belgo-Afro literature, which at present is in its infancy. My assessment is that Sons of the Soil leaves the first-generation African Diaspora and their European friends and family with nostalgia while their children, the second-generation Diaspora, will find in the book, tales of the influences that shaped their dads and mums, uncles and aunties. 

Commentary by Collins Nweke

Ostend, Belgium

Curious African Development Agenda from Japan

TICAD7 2019 Yokohama, Japan

Since 1993 Japan has conferenced six times with African leaders with a seventh session billed to commence today, 27 August 2019 in Yokohama. Initially attracting only a handful of African Heads of State, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAN) now has virtually all African Presidents and Prime Ministers jostling for visibility. It is now being recognized as one of the most important and visible vehicles for strengthening Japan’s relationship with Africa. A multilateral and international forum focusing on African development, the theme for TICAD7 “Africa and Yokohama: Sharing Passion for the Future” raises questions as to whose future is being positively served here. 

Japan says it pursues two major approaches to guide its relations with African countries, namely quality growth:  inclusiveness, sustainability as well as resilience and human security: capacity building focusing on each individual in Africa. With the inception of TICAD, Japan took the lead in fostering international discussion on Africa’s development. TICAD’s innovative approaches include advocating African ownershipand international partnership; promoting the participation of international organizations, donor countries, private sector and civil society; and creating follow-up and review mechanisms to ensure the progress of programmes and projects.

After 23 years of its existence, the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD6) was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on 27 – 28 August 2016, making it the first TICAD held on African continent. The theme of TICAD VI was Advancing Africa’s sustainable Development agenda: TICAD Partnership for Shared Prosperity’It adopted three pillars for Japan’s cooperation policy with Africa. Firstly, promotion of economic structural changes through economic diversification and industrialization. Secondly, promoting a resilient health system for high quality of life, and thirdly, promoting social stabilization for shared prosperity. 

I have quite a lot on my mind but my priority thought centers around the fact that Japan’s curious departure from the traditional overseas development assistance #ODA strategy is a commentary on the changing landscape of international development. It does not seem to me that Japan’s major interest is about developing Africa. It is more like, and rightfully so, building Japan’s economy taking advantage of the abundant resources that Africa has, which includes 89% of world’s total reserves of platinum, 60% of diamonds, 53% of cobalt, 37% of zirconium.Japan is known to actively deploy its diplomacy towards Africa in order to maintain the momentum. The Japan–African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) Summit Roundtable for instance, was held in New York on the margins of the 2013 UN General Assembly, chaired by Prime Minister Abe. In the roundtable, participants exchanged views on agricultural development and food security. In addition, from November 24 to December 5, 2013, Japan dispatched a Public and Private Sector Joint Mission for Promoting Trade and Investment for Africa to the Republic of the Congo, the Gabonese Republic, and Ivory Coast. Thus, Japan hopes to further develop its relations with Africa through such follow-up measures to TICAD. Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe visited three African countries in 2014, fulfilling his promise at TICAD5 to visit Africa in the near future.

Africa has become a bride everyone wants to court. But the big question is: does #Africa realize how beautiful a bride it is and why everyone wants her? Has Africa got a strategy to harness its potentials and yield dividend for its overwhelmingly growing youthful but restive population? With the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement #AfCFTA now a reality, one would hope that sooner rather than later, Africa will begin to grow for itself, leaders who would help drive the developed but never implemented continent-wide agenda for development through which they relate with the likes of TICAD & FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation). An Africa-wide Agenda with country strategies should be anchored on the notion that different African countries have different competitive advantages over one another. Until Africa emerges with leaders who understand that fair trading conditions with Western nations will yield more dividends than aid, the continent will continue to be poor and under-developed.

Whole Society Approach to Counter-Terrorism

Today the United Nations wraps up a two-day regional conference in #Nairobi, #Kenya ?? on global actions to prevent and combat terrorism. Here in a news bulletin on #TRTWorld, I shared a brief view on its global implication and what it portends for Africa.

Economic Diplomacy & the Diaspora

I was delighted to have made a presentation at a Multi-sectoral Stakeholders Economic Investment Summit organised bySME Secretariat and hosted at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Victoria Island, Lagos Nigeria on Monday 21 January 2019

Jeffrey Onyeama Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria

I used the opportunity to review the Nigerian Economic Diplomacy Initiative (NEDI) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari. After a general refresher of what NEDI is all about, I dropped the following conclusions on this policy initiative:

  • NEDI is a strategically important policy tool with huge potentials to make a structural difference in economic regeneration of Nigeria with focus on non-oil sector
  • NEDI made a good start but has clearly not lived up to its biddings. It has failed rather woefully in showing evidence that it has made a convincing start in delivering on the important task of enhancing inter-agency collaborations
  • There is no visible effort on the part of NEDI to genuinely engage the Diaspora in a result-oriented way
  • Unless there is a change of course, NEDI is marked to fail!

I wrapped up with these sets of recommendations:

  • Foreign trade component should be introduced into the operations of all Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs)
  • A NEDI Attaché should have a sitting in all major Missions of Nigeria worldwide where possible or the role unambiguously integrated into the duties of all diplomats charged with economic affairs
  • A formal working relationship should be initiated with Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) worldwide to enhance professional Diaspora mobilization
  • Clear targets should be set for inward investment flows as aconsequence of NEDI activities

Access to the integral PowerPoint Presentation on Economic Diplomacy & the Diaspora is possible:!AuyRKnHzz067wRMWQFFnd28yiaXL

The Fights Facing the African Youths

Africa Day 2017 Lecture by Collins Nweke

When Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana convened the First Congress of Independent African States in Accra in 1958, his goal was to showcase progress of liberation movements on the continent. Nkrumah loved symbolism as well. He used the congress to symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation. Though the Pan-African Congress had been working towards similar goals since its foundation in 1900, Nkrumah had a unique brand of flamboyance about him that propelled the initiative beyond the initial intentions.

Five years after the Nkrumah Accra Congress, specifically on 25 May 1963, representatives of thirty African nations met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Haile Selassie. At the time Nkrumah was already a fulfilled man because more than two-thirds of the continent had achieved independence, mostly from imperial European states. At the 1963 meeting, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded, with the initial aim to encourage the decolonisation of AngolaMozambiqueSouth Africa and Southern Rhodesia. The OAU committed to supporting the work conducted by freedom fighters, instituting for that purpose a policy tool that it named Africa Liberation Day. With the replacement in 2002, of the OAU by the African Union, the celebration was also renamed Africa Day which has continued to be celebrated on 25 May.

How far have we the African descendants of Nkrumah done him proud 60 years down the line? When he convened his congress in 1958 it was largely with pride for all the efforts to liberate the continent from foreign domination and exploitation. Today the liberation that Africa needs is liberation from itself, from the African strongmen and greedy political elites, grandfathers and great grandfathers who like stubborn colossus, have dominated the scene. Young people at the primes of their lives, like Nkrumah, Azikiwe, Selassie, Lumumba and others were at the time, do not find their place in the Africa of today. By this situation, African youths have a huge fight in their hands to reclaim their space in the scheme of things. This has to change.

This was why when I received invitation to deliver a paper at the Africa Day 2019 events in Dortmund, Germany, I thought I would have to disappoint the Permanent Representative of the African Union to the European Union who is meant to host us at a reception in Brussels to commemorate the Africa Day 2019. I could join the Merry-making in Brussels in the 2020 edition but the chosen topic for Dortmund 2019 is one that I consider germane in the scheme of things in Africa’s developmental trajectory. I am to speak on:

Developing Leadership Competencies, Overcoming Obstacles and Influencing Governance for Africa’s Growth with special focus on the Millennial Generation. 

It is not uncommon in existing literatures on development studies for Africa to be described as a continent of missed opportunities and failed leadership. There are equally no shortages of empirical evidence to back such assertions. One thing that appears to be in acute short supply is a set of innovative strategies that should help Africa out of the menace. Often people would give up on the current generation of African leaders and repose hope in the Millennial generation as the messiah that will rescue the continent. 

Obviously, the change that Africa needs will not propel itself. What leadership competences are therefore required to activate the development and growth that Africa needs? Does the current definition of Youth Leadership sufficiently capture the requirements that will enable the African continent to have a place on the global leadership table? The underlying assumption of my Dortmund paper is that the theory of youth leadership being just about young people gaining skills and knowledge necessary to lead reform and community organizing activities is obsolete. A redefinition is long overdue. It has not happened because the youths themselves have not been in the forefront in that redefinition process. 

The paper will present three governance engagement models targeting three domains: politics, social enterprise and civic mobilization and the development of requisite competencies to drive each of them. It will be the contention of the paper that African Millennial generation must be in a hurry to retire the current crop of tired leaders through purposeful civic engagement and reclaim their destiny through renewed governance models, defined and pushed through by them. 

Confidence in Diplomacy?

Author Amb. Abdul Rimdap signing a copy of Confidence in Diplomacy

There were just too many odds against making it to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in the weekend of 27 April 2019. I had committed to moderating a panel discussion on Diaspora Voting and related matters at the plenary of a Nigerian European Global Diaspora Summit there. I had missed Day 1. Missing Day 2 I knew would be unforgivable whatever the excuse. This is because I am expected to deliver the lead paper of the day and lead debate on Nigerian Diaspora Commission and Need for a sustainable United Diaspora Network as the Summit organisers coined it. Whatever the circumstance or situation, I knew that I had to drag myself to the that great Dutch City. And whatever happens I must be back to Ostend home-base same day before midnight.

That is exactly where the problem – at least in part – lies. It is always a sorry case when you have to do a dash in and a dash out of a city you love. This is because you have no opportunity to relax in your favourite café, see your museum, hang out with your pals and visit your high streets and Malls. That was to be my sorry case when I made the quick stop in Amsterdam to present the lead paper at the Summit. The basis of the paper was an opinion piece I entitled Reflections on a Commission for the Diaspora. After laying out a number of provocative pointers, I launched into a most engaging interaction with the audience. As time was always an issue in such occasions, we had to call it off at some point and rather abruptly but in the understanding that the conversation goes on post-summit!

The icing on the Summit cake, which became for me an adequate compensation for the Amsterdam City that I would not see, was a reunion of sort with a father figure and retired but certainly not tired Diplomat of Nigeria, Ambassador Abdul Rimdap. In his recently published Memoir, CONFIDENCE IN DIPLOMACY, the diplomat extraordinaire took his readers on a journey of not only the contemporary issues that shaped our time in history but also a run on comparative world cultures. The book is a clear defence of Nigeria at home and abroad as the subtitle alluded to but it was done in an uncommon candid and intelligent manner. What I found most striking in the narrative style of this brilliant mind was the humble and humane way in which he brings across what would otherwise be a sad or bad incident or episode. A candid writer with uncommon candour, I found for example Ambassador Rimdap’s reference to President Olusegun Obasanjo quite profound. He was clear not just about the fact that he did not like the man but also about why he didn’t like him. Ironically, he had credit for the same man that he disliked for appointing him on merit to, not one or two but, three key diplomatic posts, even without knowing him or having met him in person but simply on positive evaluation of his antecedents. When he recounted the incident that marked a turnaround in his dislike for OBJ, it was with the same undiluted honesty that he justified his dislike.

The Amsterdam – Ostend train journey that takes some 4 hours, looked like a 40 minute trip, thanks to reading my latest autographed gift of book, Confidence in Diplomacy by Abdul Rimdap!