Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) was formed in the United States of America about 15 years ago.
NIDO has many chapters in the US, Asia, Europe and Africa. Since its inception, it has continued to assist Nigerians abroad in different areas relating to immigration, job placement, and organising seminars for Nigerians in Diaspora in relevant areas.
In addition, upon requests, it consults with, and provides information to the Nigerian government.
In this interview, a US-based lawyer and Chairman, Board of Trustees of NIDO Americas, Mr. Samuel Olugbenga Adewusi, speaks on the aims and objectives of NIDOA and other issues affecting Nigerians abroad and the plans of the organisation for Nigeria.
Can we know more about you as a Nigerian, who is passionate about Nigerians in the Diaspora?
I am Samuel Olugbenga Adewusi, I live in the United States of America. I left Nigeria in 1981 after completing my secondary school education. I obtained all my post-secondary education degrees in the US. I have a Bachelor Degree in Political Science, and a Doctor of Jurispudence from David Clarke School of Law. I was admitted to practise law in the Bars of both the State of Maryland and in the District of Columbia. I have been practising law since 1996. I am also a member of the US Supreme Court Bar. I am a father of four children; two boys and two girls.
So, can you tell us about your Diaspora organisation as well as its aims and objectives?
The organisation is known as Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation (NIDO). It was formed in 2001 in Washington DC. Fortunately, it has expanded to include NIDO Americas, NIDO Asia, NIDO Africa and NIDO Europe. We have about 37 chapters in the USA alone, with 8 Districts. We also have budding chapters in the process of formation and reorganisation in various states in the USA. In Canada, we have about three chapters and two of them are very active. In fact, our next Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Convention will be held in Calgary, Canada from September 1 to 4, 2016.
NIDO was formed with the basic principles of organising itself to protect the interests of Nigerians in the Diaspora, comport itself as the umbrella organisation for all the Nigerian community associations within its geographic space.
In the past, NIDO has not done a good job of reaching out to the other Nigerian community associations. With our new Board of Trustees, there is a renewed focus within NIDO Americas to reach out, build bridges and collaborate on nation building. Going forward, we will be having quarterly meetings with those associations. Consequently, our goal is to engage the Nigerian community associations. Going forward, NIDO Americas will partner with them to coordinate events that would have serious impacts on average Nigerians.
Furthermore, NIDO Americas is fully engaged in providing solutions that will assist Nigeria to reverse brain drain. For example, our previous Board compiled a list of professionals in the Diaspora and send it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based on our interactions with our fellow Diasporans, we know that a lot of them are very keen in contributing their quota to nation building. That was why NIDO Americas provided that to our government. Although, the list is not exhaustive, with appropriate large and secure database, we can do more in the future.
In addition, NIDO Worldwide is seeking to actively collaborate with the Nigerian government to enhance and strenghthen knowledge transfer from the Diaspora. So, it is not only about bringing our people back home, we also want to ensure that we bring back knowledge that have already been acquired to Nigeria to help rebuild the country.
When President Muhammadu Buhari came to the US after his inauguration, he met with Nigerians in Diaspora. The President said that he wanted the Nigerians in Diaspora to work with the Nigerian government and help rebuild the country. We are ready to do so.
The organisation started about 15 years ago, you must have achieved some things because some Nigerians are stranded in the US, especially, over immigration issues and lack of job. So how has it been?
When NIDO was formed, if you look at its bye-laws, our mission is to network and help each other during difficult times. So, in essence, NIDO was formed to help our people.
At the moment, NIDO Americas is re-focused and re-dedicated to achieve its mission and objectives. If you come to the US and you don’t have money, we will look at the root cause of that and point you in the right direction and get you necessary results. Do you need an education, we will get you on the right track. Do you need training so that you can work, we can steer you in the right direction. As we speak, we chat groups where members can post job vacancies. If you have immigration issues, or you need to regularise yourself, NIDO Americas can also point you in the right direction.
In the current world economic situation, it is very difficult for people to come to the US and get jobs.
In addition, visa approvals have declined due to the tightening requirements after 9/11 terror attacks. However, due to our collective experiences and large knowledge base, NIDO Americas is uniquely placed to assist Nigerians in Diaspora during this difficult times.
There is only one caveat because NIDO Americas is duly registered and constituted under the laws of the United States, we cannot help anybody to disobey or violate the law. We want to help people, who really need help. If we know that there are people who don’t have papers, we can send them to lawyers. We have several lawyers as members. We also have access to pro bono legal assistance. Currently, we are exploring a potential partnership with the Nigerian Association of Lawyers in the US regarding immigration help referrals for Nigerians in the US.
We have put into practise what we planned. For example, in 2013, we held an immigration seminar in Washington DC. During the seminar, we gave out immigration information and legal referrals to Nigerians and other Africans.
In addition, shortly before I left US, I had a meeting with fellow African immigrants at the office of US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS).
At that meeting, we met with the USCIS officials. The purpose of the session was to engage an outreach to African immigrants in the USA. I represented NIDO Americas.
As a result of that meeting, we will encourage our US chapters to work with the outreach section of the USCIS to disseminate information about new immigration rules and regulations to fellow Nigerians.
Leveraging this outreach partnership, NIDO Americas and USCIS, will assist people who want to regularise their papers, and who want to become US citizens. What is more, tools of survival will be made available to those who successfully obtain their green cards and or become US citizens. These tools will take the form of teaching them how to write CV/resumes and apply for government and private jobs.
In other areas, NIDO Americas has been very active. In the past, we organised various seminars in different chapters on relevant issues facing Nigeria as a country. To make a meaningful difference, our Washington DC Chapter recently organised a forum solely dedicated to education. During that forum, five (5) papers were presented by Nigerian-American education professionals. In NIDO Americas District 2 alone, we had a seminar on election, one on immigration and one on Nigerian Interfaith Religious issues.
The forum on interfaith religious issues was held in August 2014. Long before the 2015 election and it was planned before it became something that everybody is now doing. When we held the forum in 2014, we invited Nigerian-American experts to present papers on how Nigerians can live together in peace despite our religious differences. In NIDO, we let others complain about problems, our goal is to provide solutions. This is what we have been doing, and what we will continue to do.
Currently, under my leadership we are working on programs that will have practical and measurable impacts on the lives of average Nigerians. Some of these programs were started by the last NIDO Americas Board; such as the state of the art National Trauma Center that will be built by public/private partnership, and will be located in Abuja. Other relevant programs and projects will be announced in due course.
What have been the challenges facing NIDO and how do you finance the organisation?
Basically, when NIDO was formed, there was supposed to be an annual financial support from the Nigerian government. The initial support we got was $100,000, and we were supposed to get that renewed every year. Unfortunately, we only got the money once in the last 15 years. However, fortunately NIDO managed to survive with financial contributions from members, partnering with other organisations, and the payment of annual dues. That experience did not make us bitter, it made us stronger.
But the financial uncertainty situation is in the past. NIDO Americas now intends to partner with private corporate entities and other charitable organisations to make sure that we are financially self-sufficient and independent.
For example, we are working with two corporate partners to explore potential mutual beneficial partnership. Whenever we hosted any of our several seminars and forums, we have never depended on the government for support; apart from the initial funding, and occasional support from the Nigerian mission in the US. In order to survive and grow, we levied ourselves, dig deep into our pockets and got supports from private corporations.
The Nigerian National Assembly comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives usually have committees on the Diaspora, what have been your relationship with these committees?
We have a great relationship with the former Chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. I want to seize this opportunity to specifically thank Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa for her hardwork and support for NIDO. I will be unfair if I don’t recognise her diligent hardwork and unflinching support for the passage of the Diaspora Commission Bill. Kudos to her.
I also thank the 7th National Assembly for passing the Diaspora Commission Bill. NIDO Worldwide respectfully urges President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the bill into law.
In a related matter, I want to recognise Professor Attahiru Jega for his support of voting rights for Nigerians in Diaspora. I also want to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his promised support for the Diaspora voting during his meeting with the Nigerian Diaspora in Washington DC.
We urge the 8th National Assembly to pass a bill that would allow Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote as soon as practicable. There is nothing that prevents Nigerians in the Diaspora from voting. Other African countries smaller than Nigeria already allow their people in the Diaspora to vote. Furthermore, technology can greatly make the Diaspora voting easy, and secure. NIDO does not think that financial or security reasons should impede voting by the Nigerians in the Diaspora. We believe that those obstacles can easily be overcome with careful and adequate planning involving all stakeholders.
NIDO appreciates the Nigerian government for listening to our advice in the past, for supporting us, and for recognising the value that NIDO brings to the table. NIDO wants that strong relationship to continue.
We also appreciate our diplomatic staff in foreign missions for their continued support, especially, the staff at the missions in Washington DC, Atlanta and New York.
What we want from all arms of the Nigerian government is continuous support and recognition for the value that we bring, our demonstrated competence and capacities.
In order to demonstrate NIDO’s commitment to Nigeria, we will build a new relationship with the National Assembly because we have not done that in the past. We cannot just focus on having friendly relationship with the executive arm alone, we should also have a strong relationship with the National Assembly also, especially, with NASS leaders and principal officers because they are key component within our presidential system of government. In the future, NIDO will work on building a strong relationship with the Nigerian judiciary too.
Did you actually come to Nigeria now because of NIDO?
Yes, I am in Nigeria because of NIDO, to mend fences, nurture old relationship and build new ones.
Do you send messages to Nigerians at home on the need to stay in their country rather than traveling abroad?
Definitely, although traveling broadens the mind, it should not lead to shameful death on the high seas.
There was an analogy that I gave about 10 years ago. If you say that you have a leaky roof in your house, but you foolishly decide not to fix your roof and that instead of repairing your roof, you decide to live with others with roofs that do not leak. In the short or long run, your abandoned leaky roof will inevitably get worse and it will cost you more to fix in the future than if you stayed to fix it right now. More likely than not, your new hosts will invariably ask you to move out one day. And when they kick you out, where will you move to? Will you now move to the house that you abandoned, deserted and neglected? Guess what, moving back to that house will now cost you more to repair. It will be more expensive to move back to the neglected house in terms of energy, money and time; especially, after the long years of abandonment.
This analogy can be readily applied to Nigeria. Every year wasted in neglecting our problems have cost more, for all of us, to repair. We cannot expect anybody else to fix our country for us.
Somebody worked hard to fixed the countries that some of us are running to. Without someone working hard to fix those countries, we would not have any place to run to.
The time has come for all of us to work together to build our Nigeria, and to fix and repair our collective leaky roofs. That does not mean that you cannot travel. But Nigeria belongs to all of us, it is our home. We have no other home. We cannot run away, or just sit back and let somebody else do the hard work. We cannot sit overseas and ask if they have fixed the electricity, or if the traffic is now working well. Who is your maid or servant, who would fix all these things and make them work?
We must all join hands and help rebuild Nigeria, and make it work for us, for our children and for posterity. It is as simple as that, if we don’t do it, nobody else would.”
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