FOR Nigeria to regain its leadership status on regional and global stage, she must urgently use her ‘Diaspora power’ to galvanise slumbering creative energies back home. The country should also engage that power as the financial and intellectual critical mass for economic development.
This was the submission of the renowned African-American civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian in Abuja.
Jackson said the political elite of Africa’s most populous nation need to realise that even the apparently elusive unity so often spoken about, is today not enough to take the country to the next level and reclaim its manifest destiny if the necessary vision of the big picture is lacking.
Nigeria was part of his latest African shuttle that also took him to south Africa where he witnessed the funeral of late Nelson Mandela. He explained that there are rising concerns in the United States (US) and, indeed, the world about Nigeria and its political leadership with regards to fulfilling the African dream.
According to him, it is such concern that is now leading to the convocation of the African-American economic summit to raise hope, to point to possibilities and to make for a massive contribution of the African and Nigerian brains for the advancement and economic development of the long suffering people of the continent.
Jackson analysed specific examples: “… There are more than 30,000 Nigerians doctors in the US alone, which means they are African-American doctors. I am interested a lot to mobilise these Nigerian Diaspora power. (Also in engineering, aeronautics, etc)…Houston is reputed to be the energy capital of the world. We can do a huge Nigerian rally of 10,000 people in Houston Atlanta. Just a show of cultural heritage, trade stream…and we must see the length and breath of this country and its wings are real wide and so Nigerians in America, Canada, Britain and France are substantial members of this family.
“We are going to have a rainbow summer conference from February 11th to 14th (2014) in New York, with special attention to the African-American business stream.”
Jackson, who once harboured the dream of becoming the first African-American president of the US, had meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan and community leaders and is scheduled to meet with the governors and leaders of Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Bayelsa and Lagos States before departing Nigeria.
Asked to give insights into what he discussed and would be discussing with Nigerian leaders, he said “We share, we are not disrespectful. We have a president that set the stage about development, but we are number one in poverty, we are in mortality, number one in short life expectancy…but we still hold the bubble of economy, because of freedom and equality, we are free finally.
‘And now, there is the struggle for corporate justice, and corporate know-how is the next stage. We fought for democracy and we make sure that democracy work for us. We have political democracy, free enterprise and the middle class. You (Nigerians) have the right to vote, and we need to vote leaders who protect the integrity of the people’s interest. We must have checks and balances, separation of powers, transparency, a free critical press and a legitimate economic justice for all. These are some of the things we are saying”
He continued: “Those must come together. We really need a free press, that’s critical not just political, a critical and analytical press, we need an upright judiciary, good legislature too. When the democratic machinery is working, then we have the right to vote (we must use the vote), we must make choices, informed choices; leaders must honour their campaign promises, that’s why a free press is important.
“It would be one-man one vote, not one million dollar one vote. In America we passed a decision, (law) to stop a situation where you can spend unlimited amount of money running a campaign. It is destroying our democracy. That was the problem (president) Obama and (Nick) Romney had spending billions of dollars.
“We got to keep fighting to make it work, to make democracy work, keep fighting to vote a leadership that can honour its campaign promises, for checks and balances, separation of powers, free press. An election that is open, free, fair and transparent, all these terms make for an enduring democracy. You need to insist on that in Nigeria
“That’s also why I want the President (Jonathan) to send to the summit, the top of the list, the Ministers of Agriculture and Trade and Petroleum, so we can hook up there in a summit for change. We really should have a major Africa-America Economic summit in Nigeria. It will be a beginning of a massive movement, many Nigerians who are out of the country can remit resources and enough financial power.”
He said Africa deserved a degree of respect because “we are all basically the same and need to sit and figure certain things out, that’s why we are having an African-America conference in New York, and African-America Economic Summit here in Abuja, Lagos having some major activities in Atlanta, Houston, then Chicago.”
Culled from The Guardian Newspaper