A REPORT OF THE 3RD SESSION OF THE BRITISH AFRICAN DIASPORA CONFERENCE HELD AT PORTCULLIS HOUSE, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS, WESTMINSTER, LONDON
THEME: ‘EFFECTIVE OPPOSITION PARTY AND SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY’.
The 3rd series of the British African Diaspora conference on Nigeria which took place at Portcullis House, British Parliament reviewed the role of Nigeria’s opposition party in a nation where there seems to be a growing call for good governance and sustainable democracy. The conference saw the Nigeria Diaspora community in the United Kingdom, African diplomatic corps, Nigerian professionals; friends of Nigeria and relevant Stakeholders converge at Macmillan room, Portcullis House of the revered British Parliament for a lively interactive and stimulating deliberation on Nigeria’s political development tagged “Effective Opposition In Sustainable Democracy”.
In what could only be described as a cultural and significant change, the venue of the event was fully packed by 1700, one hour ahead of start time and at exactly 1730 hours, the conference programmes commenced. The conference organiser, Tunde Alabi while addressing the audience stated that the conference aimed to create a dialogue between the government in Nigeria at all levels and Nigerian Diaspora in the UK while using the developed UK democracy to create the acceptable global standard for an effective and sustainable democracy in Nigeria. It also aimed to emphasise Nigerians’ expectation of public office holders who are entrusted with the key responsibilities of managing the country’s vast human and economic resources. The conference also was to begin the process of organizing the African-Nigerian Diaspora in the UK to be able to maximize the potentials of the Diaspora community in a way that will create wealth and promote security.
“…Here in the UK, the ethnic minority group African Diaspora is growing at a very consistent rate. The recently released information about the Ethnic populace from compilation of academic and third party research over the last five years, including the first findings of the ONS Census, as well as interviews…showed 2012 Multicultural Britain is growing in influence and the ethnic minority (BME) population is growing at a fast rate, therefore it is high time the Diaspora community began to organise itself as it occupies an important place in England”
The chairman of BEN TV, Alistair Soyode, declared the event opened with a strategic and well thought analysis of Nigeria with emphasis on Nigeria’s 100 anniversary and the need for the country’s past exemplary leaders to be recognized.
The world renowned anchor of BOS, Bisi Olatilo, who moderated the first section of the programme, spoke passionately of Nigeria, her wealth, people and the unequal opportunities in the country. While reviewing the security challenges and related issues in Nigeria, Tom Griffin, Director of Control Risks, West Africa, based in Nigeria highlighted many of the insecurity challenges facing the country and the government’s inability to control the unwholesome developments. Tom, in his paper entitled “An Englishman in New Lagos – Observant and Challenges for UK Companies operating in Nigeria” noted that Nigeria is a wealthy nation with intelligent and hard working people but bedeviled with mismanagement, underdevelopment and all manners of insecurity. His observation and quite frank assessment of Nigeria was well received by the audience.
Rt. Hon David Lammy, a member of British Parliament representing Totthenham and a former minister under the Labour Government challenged Nigeria’s opposition parties to stand up for the citizens and work above party lines. He went further to highlight the five ingredients of a successful government in any community which must be the bench mark for measuring success. David said Education, Employment, Community, Aspiration and good Parenting must be a yard stick for measuring successful government.
The Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Rt. Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji presented a paper on the state of the nation and the role of opposition and how legislatures could be helpful in ensuring the dividends of democracy get to the people. He accused the PDP of mismanaging Nigeria and her resources and called on the people to defend their country.
‘Nigeria currently is tossed by several storms: a country in political limbo still in search of leaders with proper democratic orientation. Nigeria is still run today like a unitary state. Forget any other argument to the contrary. The ruling party manipulates the laws of the land to suit its political agenda. An extremely powerful center holds the other entire constituting units hostage to its whims and caprices. The ruling party parades its dynastic aspiration to rule forever as a trophy already won.
Speaker Adeyemi while submitting chided the people who are in position of authorities further ‘The running commentary about Nigeria in the local and international media is consistently that of gloomy statistics on human rights, respect for the rule of law, endemic corruption and a government that reels from one financial scandal to another. International agencies and groups have scored Nigeria low on several counts from corruption, mortality rates, unemployment, insecurity, lack of institutions, lack of accountability and debilitating government inertia. There has been more bad news than good news in the last 13 and half years since the return to democracy’.
He assured the conference participants that he was willing to work with the Diaspora to ensure that Nigeria is able to deliver the same quality of life as they have it in the UK.
His Excellency, Executive Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, averred that everyone that was not in government should be part of the opposition party. He stated that every Nigerian either at home or abroad not in government must be in the opposition to create check and balances that will ensure that the dividends of democracy get to all. He lamented that many of the Diaspora need to be more active in national development and discourage corruption. In his assessment of the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan, Gov. Peter Obi claimed that the president meant well for Nigeria and though he was not a member of the president’s party, he believed that President Goodluck Jonathan could take Nigeria out of the woods.
Simon Hughes, a member of the British Parliament representing Bermondsey and deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat in the Parliament who was also the host of the conference noted that corruption and mismanagement are the bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment, poverty and insecurity. Simon who had visited Nigeria in the past lamented the rate of poverty and underdevelopment in the country despite its huge resources. He however expressed the hope and confidence in Nigeria’s potentials and ability to indeed be the leader in Africa. He challenged the Diaspora to participate in Nigeria’s development actively and promote accountability, transparency and good governance. He expressed his readiness to support and work with the Diaspora community.
Other speakers were Paul Edward from British High Commission, Abuja; Representative of Nigeria High Commission in London, representative of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Jenny Jones and Minister Adelemi of Nigeria High Commission.
The conference noted that the problems raised in the last two conferences still remained unresolved despite the passed recommended solution.
1. Insecurity of lives and property
2. Corruption of the political elite
3. Disgruntled political class
5. High rate of unemployment
6. Widening gap between the rich and poor
7. Government’s lack of determination in fighting corruption
The conference also noted that the opposition groups and parties in Nigeria are not doing enough to
1. check the excesses of the government
2. mobilize Nigerians to demand justice, fair play, equity and end to mismanagement
3. use the legislature to check the excesses of the executive
4. challenge the legislature to use relevant powers conferred on it to reprimand government officials deemed incapable of holding a position
5. the opposition party in Nigeria should go beyond blanket criticism of all government policies to also proffering and making suggestions to the government on policies they consider anti people
6. that Nigerians in the Diaspora are not active in the fight for good government and governance in the country
7. that Nigerians in Diaspora are not actively and aggressively pursuing the issue of Diaspora Voting
The highlight of the conference was the presentation of the February and September 2012 conferences report by the organiser, Tunde Alabi to:
1. Simon Hughes MP for the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg
2. British Foreign and Common wealth Representative, Jenny Jones for the UK Minister of Africa
3. Nigeria High Commissioner Dr Tafida Sariki
4. Gov Peter Obi of Anambra state for the 36 Governors in Nigeria
5. Rt. Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji for the States House of Assembly Speakers in Nigeria
6. Nigerian Diaspora Community present at the conference
The conference attracted Nigerians from all walks of life across England, friends of Nigeria within and outside Africa, members of the diplomatic corps, politicians from Nigeria and international media.