The Role of Ndiigbo in the Diaspora in the Development of Alaigbo
Economic development is the means through which a society improves its standard of living. According to Joe Summers of Auburn University, it has been defined as “The process by which a community creates, retains, and reinvests wealth and improves the quality of life”. Economic development should be holistic in nature if the desired outcome is to be realized. A community is not developing when the people of that community cannot have access to the following: adequate health facilities, safe and easy access to drinking water, good educational system to produce the brain power needed to create and sustain the development, good transportation network to move people and goods freely, good communication system for efficiency, secured lives and properties (nothing can work against economic development more than insecurity of lives and properties), regulatory and law enforcement environment, impartial judicial system and government that is willing to partner with the people.
The theme of this paper is the role of Ndiigbo in Diaspora in the development of Alaigbo. Alaigbo is blessed with enormous human and material capital. According to Wikipedia, "Human Capital is defined as the stock of competencies, knowledge, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value." On my way back from Vietnam in one of my international trips I read an article that has kept me thinking about why Africa has not lived up to her potential. That article said that from this 21st century going forward human capital will play more important role compared to material capital in the economic development of a community. When you sit back and think about this concept you will agree that it is already happening. Apple, Google, MTN, etc are all products of human capital before material capital was brought in to complement and actualize the idea.
I have always argued that the major part of Nigeria’s problem is the reliance on material capital as the sole basis for economic development. This has led to politicians assuming god complex. In Nigeria government determines through its action or inaction who benefits financially and economically. I am not going to go into the systemic inadequacies inherent in government being predominantly the sole determinant of who gets what in Nigeria. That is a topic for another day. In this paper I am going to discuss the role of Diaspora Ndiigbo in the development of Alaigbo.
With the above brief introduction, I will now go into today’s discussion “The Role of Ndiigbo in the Diasporas in the Development of Alaigbo.”
This topic will be discussed under the following categories: Human Capital, Technology, Material Capital, Money Remittance/Foreign Direct Investment and Reverse Brain Drain or Human Capital Flight. I shall also discuss some of the mitigating factors towards full realization of this topic under the following categories: Security, Political Will and Infrastructure.
As stated previously, Wikipedia defined Human Capital as the process by which a community creates, retains, and reinvests wealth and improves the quality of life. Fortunately, Ndiigbo in Nigeria are blessed with the highest number of children of school age going to school. The latest result of the 2013 May/June West African Examination released by the Council disclosed that the five Southeast states populated by Ndiigbo were in the best ten performing states in Nigeria. Anambra and Abia States were the first and second performing states respectively.
Furthermore, information from JAMB also noted that Ndiigbo have continued to lead the rest of the country. The same way Ndiigbo State leads at home in the number of people trying to get into the tertiary institutions is arguably the same way Ndiigbo State leads in the number of Nigeria Diasporas who have finished or in tertiary institution abroad. They have seasoned professionals in virtually every professional group here in the U.S.
I stated previously that the United Nations is projecting that Human Capital will surpass Material Capital as the dominant force in economic development and the above statistics shows that if harnessed properly Ndiigbo State will dominate economic development also. For this projection to be realistic, the issues discussed under the lack of Political will must be avoided or drastically reduced.
A 2011 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York examined how the production of university degrees and R&D activities of educational institutions are related to the human capital of metropolitan areas in which they're located. One of Ndiigbo’s goals is to develop a database of Ndiigbo professionals in the U.S. When this is done, it will help the Southeast governments to tap into the database to access the skills needed to develop Alaigbo. My discussion with some of these professionals disclosed that they are not necessarily interested in going home to work for the respective governments or anybody but will be willing to donate their time for specific projects as long as the projects do not interfere with what they do here. The governments of Southeast must seek out these professionals and engage them with minimal or no cost for the progress of Alaigbo.
The Business Dictionary defines Technology as the purposeful application of information in the design, production, and utilization of goods and services, and in the organization of human activities. In this paper I am limiting my discussion of technology on its business application which is closely related to economic application. The scientific application which incidentally affects economic development is not discussed
Asian countries that achieved tremendous economic growth did so mostly using the Human Capital and most of them leveraged the technological expertise of their Diasporas to augment domestic Human capital. The Southeast governments can borrow a leaf on that synergy to fast track their development. Even though I discussed this topic previously I brought it up here again in this section for emphasis. The saying that there is no need to reinvent the wheel is appropriately applicable to how the Southeast governments can leverage the expertise of her Diasporas to develop Alaigbo. For example, in information technology, Ndiigbo State has many experts here in the Unites States of America and other advanced economies that given the necessary incentives (not necessarily financial) can help develop modern information technology in Ndiigbo State. We also have many people in health technology, education technology and in so many other areas that the governments can leverage their expertise to better the plight of her citizens. Our people at home should not always think that the lighter skin people are smarter because some of our people here are bosses to those lighter skin people based on their knowledge, experience and expertise.
It is very sad that when we visit home we find it difficult to access the internet and even when one has access to internet the speed is so slow that it drives one insane. I am confident that there are many of our people in the Diaspora that could be tapped to bridge this information technology gap. What makes this difficult to achieve are some of the issues such as Political Will that I discussed elsewhere in this paper. It is sad that our students in the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions have limited or no access to internet. Even primary school children here in the U.S. can access information in the internet to aid their learning process. The saying that information is power is becoming more evident in the present information technology age. Take for example the GPS technology that makes it possible for people to go to places that they have not been before just by knowing and inputting the destination address. One western writer said that Africa missed out in the technological breakthrough that ushered in unprecedented prosperity not only in the western hemisphere but also in Asia and parts of South America. He further said that Africa is about to be left way behind because they lag woefully behind in Information technology. My mention of Africa is not accidental but deliberate. Deliberate because I know that Ndiigbo can lead Africa just like the Silicon Valley led the rest of the U.S. in innovative technological breakthroughs. Ndiigbo have the human capital needed for such leap.
Technology allows for faster processing of data and easier retrieval of information. When people perform tasks manually, it can be time consuming and full of human errors. When technology is used for operations, mistakes and errors are greatly reduced or eliminated, and the time it takes to complete the task is reduced thereby increasing efficiency. In addition to quicker or instant access, technology also makes it easy to update information. Instead of manually searching for information which may sometimes take hours or days to accomplish, a few clicks of the mouse can instantly pull up information from a database. There are many other advantages to the use of technology such as using cell phones to transact business which reduces unnecessary driving which in turn reduces road accidents. In addition, not many people are exposed to insecurity associated with being in Nigerian roads such as armed robbery, carjacking or kidnapping.
While we still lack the political will to do the right thing, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2010 encouraged the governments of advanced economies to embrace policies to increase innovation and knowledge in products and services as an economical path to continued prosperity. The directive noted that their continued prosperity hinges on continued technological advancement. It should be noted that brain drain or human capital flight, which is the loss of talented or trained persons from a country that invested in them, to another country which benefits from their arrival without investing in them, arises as a result of underutilization of both human and material capital. Asian and to some extent South American countries are now experiencing reverse brain drain or reverse human capital flight as a result of increased efficient use of human capital. Ndiigbo can leap frog other sections of Africa in effective use of her human capital by developing her technological base.
Alaigbo is blessed with abundant natural resources such as crude oil, lead, zinc, white clay, fine sand, limestone and natural gas in commercial quantities. Alaigbo is also blessed with abundant arable land. In many parts of Alaigbo, with little effort yam, cocoyam, banana, plantain, cassava, maize, okra, melon, various types of vegetables are produced. It is instructive that we gave Indonesia and Malaysia palm kernel to grow palm trees and now we import vegetable oil from them. To our people especially those at home when development is discussed, a lot of undue emphasis is placed on material capital. (Please note that I use material capital while many use material resources).
Money Remittance/Foreign Direct Investment
The recent data from the World Bank and other relevant sources placed Nigeria among the top recipients of remittance from her citizens residing in the developed world.
The top recipients of worldwide remittances in 2012 are India ($70 billion), China ($66 billion), the Philippines ($24 billion), Mexico ($24 billion), Nigeria ($21 billion), Egypt ($18 billion), Pakistan ($14 billions) Bangladesh ($14 billions), Vietnam ($9 billions) and Lebanon ($7 billions).
In 2011, with $11 billion, Nigeria is ranked 8th among the top recipients. Please see the graphs below. The $21 billion in 2012 and $11 billion dollars 2011 were the official record and this did not take into account unofficial sources such as people carrying money with them when they visit Nigeria and hawala type of money remittance. Hawala type of money remittance is when a person (here in the USA or other country) who wants to send money to his/her relative in Nigeria arranges with a third person here in the USA or other country. The third person here arranges with somebody in Nigeria to give the naira equivalent while at the same time the person over here receives the dollars from the person sending the money. It is an honor system and no records are kept of such transactions. I explained the hawala type of money remittance to show that when the two forms of informal money remittance are included Nigeria's remittance would be double the official figures.
2012 Worldwide Remittance - Billions of US Dollars
I said earlier that Ndiigbo arguably has the highest number of her citizens abroad and if that scenario holds, then Ndiigbo receives between 55% and 65% of money remittance into Nigeria. This translates to $11.55 billion to $13.65 billion using the official figure for 2012 and between $6.05 billion to $7.15 billion for 2011. If the unofficial figure is factored in then we are looking at more money that flows into Alaigbo from her Diasporas. The governments of the Southeast may not realize it but her Diasporas are playing a very important role in keeping Alaigbo economically stable.
The Nigerian government in general and the Southeast governments in particular tend to play down the role the Diasporas are playing in the development of the country in general and Alaigbo in particular. Take for instance the money that an individual sends home to build a house, that money will be retrieved by either the relatives of the person, contractor or any other relevant party. The money will be used to buy rod, cement, sand, gravel and other materials needed to build the house. The business that sold the rod, cement, sand, gravel or the other materials will replenish its inventory, the people that are engaged in the building of the house will be paid and so on. In certain instances some shrewd petty traders will sell pure water, akara, moi moi or mama put to the workers. The multiplier or expansionary effect of that money in the economy is enormous. Please note that this money was sent into Alaigbo from outside the country which qualifies it as a foreign direct investment. Remittances from Nigerians abroad have been the cushion that have helped Nigeria avoid the nasty effect of the massive corruption that is endemic and systemic in the country. I told a friend that for every dollar mismanaged through corruption Nigerian Diasporas kick in anywhere between 60 cents and 80 cents to replace that money misappropriated or misapplied through corruption. Without money coming from Diaspora the Nigerians economy would have collapsed as a result of the massive corruption in the system.
Ndiigbo Diasporas must not be seen by the political class at home as desperate to be part of the system that has wrought untold hardship on the masses. Ndiigbo Diasporas must have the moral courage to tell the government the truth about the effect of corruption, misplaced priorities and outright abuse of power. We cannot condemn a system and then wait patiently to be part of the system that we condemn. This is one of the important areas that Ndiigbo Diasporas can help to develop Alaigbo. However, there is a difference between constructive criticism and criticism borne out hate, political mischief or ignorance.
Having enumerated areas Ndiigbo Diasporans can help to develop Alaigbo, I will remiss if I fail to highlight some of the difficulties that the Diasporans face in actualizing this task. I chose three areas to discuss the difficulties that Ndiigbo Diasporans face and they are Security Situation, Infrastructural Development and Political Will.
Apart from the lack of human and material capital, nothing works against development like insecurity of lives and property. Investors like to operate in an environment where they know that they can move freely to engage in business transactions. As a result of the globalization of the world economy coupled with instant access to information, investors are now able to analyze the risk/return tradeoff in a time manner. I have noticed that some of our people who want to invest outside Alaigbo always use lack of security as a cover. While I think that the security situation is about the same all over Nigeria, Ndiigbo being mercantile people should know of all people that a fairly secure environment is necessary for Ndiigbo to maximize their business acumen. Fortunately, the security situation in Alaigbo has improved remarkably.
The fear of insecurity can sometimes be worse than insecurity itself. To compound this issue is the culture which our people operate in. Many times people are afraid to volunteer information that may aid law enforcement because they are afraid, sometimes correctly so, that the law enforcement official(s) will compromise their safety. Some of the bad apples in law enforcement actually engage in activities that are inimical to the security of individuals that they are sworn to protect. Again this is not unique to Alaigbo but is part of the nationwide systemic corruption that has created insecurity in the first place. Insecurity is also caused by the army of unemployed young men and women who have done all that the society requires them to do but unable to be gainfully employed. Even with their education (some with graduate and post graduate degrees) they are unable to find work and are unable to raise the necessary capital to start their own businesses. Such brilliant minds may be deployed towards negative activities confirming the saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
Insecurity or perceived insecurity is costing Ndiigbo a lot. For example, if 100 Diasporas want to visit home monthly, some of those who want to visit home may be discouraged because of insecurity. The Southeast economy will lose the potential revenue that the discouraged individuals would have brought with them had they visited. The expansionary or multiplier effect from the lost revenue is the price Ndiigbo are paying for insecurity or perceived insecurity. This same scenario is repeated when Ndiigbo who live in Nigeria but outside Alaigbo feel reluctant to visit Alaigbo. Advanced countries spend tremendous amount of money luring tourists because they know the positive economic impact tourists have in an economy.
Until recently the governments of the Southeast have only paid lip service to the development of infrastructure. The governments of the Southeast have taken appreciable steps towards road development in Aaligbo. Investors look at the level of infrastructural development in an area to determine if it is cost effective to locate their businesses in that area. A country like Ghana is getting undue attention because of the level of her infrastructural development. A steady supply of electricity and water is a panacea for economic development. The cost of energy can put a country or region at economic disadvantage. Nigeria as a country with her population and purchasing power has not lived up to her economic potential as a result of the high cost of doing business due to her underdeveloped transportation network, epileptic power and water supply. Alaigbo is part of Nigeria and it will be unfair to blame the Southeast governments for the lack of energy but the governments can develop good transportation network and water system. Again without sounding like broken record, there should be a strong partnership between the Diasporas and the government and stakeholders in Alaigbo in this area.
Everything that has been ailing Nigeria and by extension Alaigbo can be attributed to lack of political will. I talked with one of the EFCC officials about what they should do to bring about sanity in the system and his response was “there is no political will to do it”. This brings me to the dilemma that Nigeria is facing. Before I go into this crucial area, I must say that every country has issues but the difference is how those issues are handled. Take the issue of corruption for example China executes public officials who are found corrupt while most European and American countries sentence corrupt officials to long prison sentence. Contrast that with the Nigerian attitude towards corruption and you will see why Nigeria is in such predicament. My presentation is not about what is ailing Nigeria but what we can do to help develop Alaigbo because the governments of the Southeast are under the federal government and that makes it difficult except in the areas where they have total authority and control.
I am going to discuss this critical section under the following subheadings: Attitude towards power, Attitude towards governance and Attitude towards corruption.
Attitude Towards Power
I will preface this part of my presentation with two of the many life changing events that I experienced and will like to share them. The first one was in the nineties when I was coming back from Washington DC to California after attending training at the FDIC Seidman Training Center in Virginia. I sat on Row 22 and before I settled down the then Chief of Staff for President Clinton Leon Panetta came into the plane behind me on Row 23. He opened the overhead compartment and put his carryon luggage. Both of us were sitting on the aisle seats in our respective Rows and I turned back and asked Mr. Panetta if he was Leon Panetta the Chief of Staff. He smiled and said that he was. When we got to San Francisco, he got into his vehicle that his wife was driving and they drove away. The next true story was in 1986 when I started working for the State of California, Department of Savings and Loan as an Examiner. I was shocked when the Assistant Commissioner the number three person in the State of California came over to me on my first day on the job and told me to go to lunch break with him and the other big wigs. I was not the only Examiner invited nevertheless I was surprised coming from Nigeria and knowing how power is handled in Nigeria. Those two examples showed me what the true power is. The true powerful person is a person who speaks softly but carries a big stick.
In addition to the two examples above, I was impressed when I watched the President of Sierra Leone on the African channel. He said that he drives himself around Freetown without entourage. A friend also told me that when he visited Ghana, his Ghanaian counterpart took him to visit the President and the ease with which they saw the President was a shocker for him coming from Nigeria where at his level he was not able to easily see his own President.
Treat them rough and make them like it mentality of a typical Nigerian politician, portends danger to the polity as the population continues to be highly educated. In Alaigbo with the highest educated people in the country, leaders who have learned to exercise power judiciously will continue to win elections when election becomes truly free. A politician who wields power judiciously will most of the time win the hearts of the electorate. Judicious exercise of power includes fiscal prudence, entourage that does not disrupt the normal lives of the people, disciplined lifestyle and leading by example.
Attitude Towards Governance
Some of the most important aspects of good governance are the provision of infrastructure, securing lives and properties, fostering and adhering to the rule of law, generally providing for the welfare of the governed. A good leader exhibits various forms of charisma, humility, civility, shrewdness, caring attitude, respect for the governed and law, and the fear of God. In a place like Nigeria where sycophancy reigns supreme, a good leader must be careful listening to sycophants because they are not real. In Nigeria it is very difficult to see an elected official unless you are somehow connected to that official. That should not be so. Granted that in a place like Nigeria almost everybody who wants access to an elected official is going to beg for one help or the other, there must be ways to go through the list of people who want to see the elected official and prioritize the list. An example may be for the elected officials to have visiting hours. The elected officials must have access to the list of people who want to see them and decide on who to see based on the reason for the visit. It should not be left entirely for the assistants as that may be an avenue for those assistants to extract money from the visitors.
Some of the Diasporans who have been exposed to how things are done especially those from advanced democracies are not helping matters. Who will blame the elected officials who observe individuals who should have known better trying to outdo each other to be seen when they visit. Some disciplined Nigerian officials feel embarrassed while those who get intoxicated with power enjoy every minute of the charade.
Since this paper is about how the Diasporas can help develop Ndiigbo State, I will state unequivocally that discipline is a key ingredient of development be it mental, social, spiritual and development of the community. The Diasporans must know that our actions or sometimes inactions may be contributing to the problems that we criticize.
Attitude Towards Corruption
A Nigerian and a Japanese became very close friends while going to school as engineers in the U.S. After their university education they both went home. After few years the Nigerian engineer visited his Japanese friend. While in Japan he saw that his Japanese friend had a small car and a small house. He queried his Japanese friend what he had been doing since he returned to Japan. His Japanese friend responded that he has been busy building the infrastructure such as good road, uninterrupted power supply, nonstop running water, efficient railway system and all other infrastructure that he no time to even enjoy his small house and car. Few years later his Japanese friend visited his Nigerian friend. He saw many expensive cars, big mansion and all other trappings of wealth but there was no power, no nonstop running water, no efficient railway system and basically no developed infrastructure. He asked his Nigerian friend what he has been doing since he returned to Nigeria. The Nigerian answered and said that he had been too busy enjoying his wealth and did not have time to build any infrastructure. This story unfortunately was from an African friend who told me that this joke was passed around at the U.N.
A man dies & goes to hell. There he finds that there is a different hell for each country and decides he'll pick the least painful to spend his eternity. He went to Germany hell & asks, "What do they do here?" He is told "first they put you in an electric chair for an hour. Then they lay you on a bed of nails for another hour. Then the German devil comes in and whips you for the rest of the day". The man does not like the sound of that at all so he moves on. He checks out the USA hell as well as the Russian hell and many more. He discovered that they are all similar to the German hell. Then he comes to the Nigerian hell and finds that there is a long line of people waiting to get in... Amazed, he asks, "What do they do here?" He is told "first they put you in an electric chair for an hour, then they lay you on a bed of nails for another hour. The Nigerian devil comes in & whips you for the rest of the day." But that is exactly the same as all the other hells, why are there so many people waiting to get in?" asks the man. "Because there is never any electricity so the electric chair does not work. The nails were paid for but never supplied, so the bed is comfortable to sleep on. And the Nigerian devil used to be a civil servant, so he comes in, signs his time sheet and goes back home for private business." (FOR ONCE, IT PAYS TO BE A NIGERIAN)
The above two stories among many have shown how other people view us. The celebration of wealth no matter how the wealth is acquired has put Nigeria in a bad light before the rest of the world. Ndiigbo Diasporans can help Alaigbo by insisting through their contacts with Ndiigbo political class (for those who have that access) that corruption is the reason why Nigeria is still struggling economically. Ndiigbo Diasporans must not be waiting to join the band wagon but must engage the governments constructively and must be ready to confront them if their constructive engagement is rebuffed. If we can help effect a positive change, it does not only help Alaigbo but also our pocket book. Some of us spend sometimes up to 50% of our hard earned income to shore our people at home.
The world is a global village. When something happens in any remote area of this world it is instantly known worldwide. For the business community, intelligent community and opinion makers, information to make decision is now a click away. Alaigbo must be seen as business friendly. By being business friendly the governments of the Southeast must reduce any bottleneck in setting up a new business or expanding an existing business. Political opponents must understand that unnecessarily hyping a minor incident for political gain may hurt everybody including those opponents. Responsible opposition will help Alaigbo develop but irresponsible opposition will hurt Alaigbo. Ndiigbo Diasporans must engage in responsible opposition if they feel that the actions of the Southeast governments are inimical to the development of Alaigbo.
Finally, Alaigbo will not develop if they look up to the federal government as a role model because of the level of corruption and attitude towards corruption at the federal level. The governments of the Southeast must constantly dialogue with Ndiigbo Diasporans because if such dialogue if constructively done it will help to develop Alaigbo just like Asians and Latin American countries are doing. I am confident that given the level of education in Alaigbo and the number of her successful business and professional Diasporans, Alaigbo will be the winner if both sides can work together.
About the Presenter
Amadiebube Robert Mbama is the DSG IWA Economic Institute. He is the president of MBAMA & Associates LLC a California based anti money laundering, anti terrorist financing, bank secrecy act and office of foreign asset control consulting company. Mr. Mbama has an MBA, ACA, CGMA, CFF, CPA, CAMS.
Amadiebube Robert Mbama was a former online faculty member of Accounting and Finance classes at the University of Phoenix. Currently he is inactive due to the opportunity of running MBAMA & Associates LLC. He was a Supervisor with the Department of Financial Institutions, State of California. He has a BS in Accounting and MBA in Finance & Banking both from the University of San Francisco, California. He is an Associate Chartered Accountant of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, a Chartered Global Management Accountant, a Certified Financial Forensics, a Certified Public Accountant, and a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist.
He helped to develop training and also train money transmitter regulators association examiners (MTRA). MTRA is an arm of various state banking department/financial institutions regulatory agencies that specialize in transmitters of money abroad, payment instruments issuers and travelers checks issuers. He is an anti money laundering consultant for many financial institutions in the U.S.
He was a former Financial Institutions Supervisor. As a Financial Institutions Supervisor, he was responsible for the senior, mid and entry level Financial Institutions Examiners. He assisted in planning, organizing, and implementing the examination program and regulatory oversight for a group of licensees. Prior to being promoted to this supervisory position, he was a Senior Financial Institutions Examiner with the Department of Financial Institutions, State of California. As a senior examiner, he was appointed by the Commissioner of Financial Institutions to the Internet Task Force and Special Licensees Task force. He was also one of the point persons during the Y2K conversion. In December 2002, he was awarded a rare State of California Superior Accomplishment Award and in the same month, he was awarded a Team Player of the Year Award by the Department of Financial Institutions for exhibiting a positive attitude, inspiring others to excel, and his contributions that continuously exceed expectations. Prior to joining the Department of Financial Institutions, Robert was a Savings and Loan Examiner for the State of California and was involved in examining troubled Savings and Loans during the Savings and Loan crises.
An active member of his community, he is the past Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) USA District Society and a current member of the board of trustee. He was a former President of the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce. In 2004 and 2005, he was the President of the Parish Council and prior to that, he served as a member of the Finance Committee for seven years.