The All Progressive Congress (APC) has disclosed that Nigerians in the diaspora contribute $20 billion annually to the nation's economy.
Emphasizing the importance of enabling their participation in voting, Dr. Abiola Oshodi, the Vice Chairman of APC in Canada, made the disclosure during the diaspora voting conference moderated by Senate Leader Senator Bamidele Opeyemi.
Oshodi underscored the potential for diaspora voting to enhance representation and further contribute to the development of Nigeria.
“It is a pleasure mixed with pain, disappointments, visceral passion for change, and a shrilly voice of patriotism.
“And it is an umpteenth opportunity for me to preach again on the rights of Nigerians in the diaspora to vote and even be voted for because we don't deserve less.
“We are ambassadors of Nigeria and home calls us to service, duty and patriotism. We work under cold sheets of ice to remit $20 billion home annually.
“To stress how important the diasporan contribution is to the Nigerian economy; our nation is borrowing $3 billion dollars from Afrexim Bank to be repaid for years at an interest. Another $7 billion is to be gotten from the securitization of our annualized dividends from Liquified Natural Gas.
“These two interventions are meant to pay the backlogs of forex and reduce the pressure on the Naira. But irrespective of how helpful this intervention might seem, the bigger truth is that a borrower is a servant to a lender,” he stated.
Oshodi said that the funds were a remittance inflow of Nigerians living in the US, Canada, the UK, France and other countries.
“These are almost free funds. Not foreign loans. But free dollars, pounds, and euros sent by Nigerians abroad to pay the school fees of a nephew, the hospital bills of a mother-in-law, set up a dialysis centre, and repair an old bridge constructed by the community to connect the next town.
“$20 billion! Huge funds. Big money. Yet freely given to Nigerian banks, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for onward transmission to aid local businesses and even service our foreign debts.
“And $20 billion is a fraction of the potential that we could do. In 2022 India remitted home $111 billion, the Philippines did $39 billion, and Egypt did $28 billion.
“The marker between these three countries is their nationalities abroad are permitted to vote and participate effectively in their political processes.
“If only we would be recognized and encouraged to participate in our election process and representation of our people during the voting process, we too would contribute so much to the sustainability of our country,” he said.
The APC Vice Chairman, who commended the Nigerian Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele, for sponsoring the Diaspora Voting Bill, said that it was high time Nigerians in the diaspora were given stake on the conference table of Nigeria, adding that “we deserve to be equal partners just like other stakeholders.”
According to him, about 15 million Nigerians comprise doctors, engineers, educators, entrepreneurs, artists, and professionals of all kinds living outside the country.
“If Nigerians abroad were classed as a state, it would be the largest state in the country. Our voting strength would be higher than Kano and it would eclipse Lagos.
“Why should this important bloc be excluded from the political process? Who knows, maybe there is fear that our number could tilt established voting trends and change things since it obviously would be tougher to buy a Canadian-Nigerian consultant psychiatrist with a bag of rice.
“But isn't such philosophy the needed one to change voters' behaviour and reduce pressure on candidates who need huge sums to buy our people over at elections?” he queried.
Oshodi, a Canadian-Nigerian consultant psychiatrist, described Nigerians abroad as a patriotic stock, a polished breed and well-travelled folks, saying it is wise to draft diasporans who were used to living according to their means into participation in the political process of the country.
The APC chieftain said that acquired cultures got from saner climes where laws were feared and obeyed could impart more on the orientation of the average Nigerian to be better citizens if only Nigerians in the diaspora were permitted.
Oshodi asked the Nigerian legislature to provide a nationwide legal infrastructure within the Electoral Act for overseas voting.
“Our constitution and laws must be reworked to accommodate the innovation. Of course, the path towards Diaspora Voting is fraught with challenges, including logistical, legal, and administrative hurdles. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. We must work collectively to overcome them,” he said.