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Elections: Nigerians in diaspora as game-changers

How can Nigerians in the diaspora who are the country’s economic powerhouse be left out of political decisions? Data obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has it that Nigeria received $17.57 billion in direct diaspora remittances between January and November 2019.

EDO governorship election 2020 has come and gone but the impact of the power of Edo indigenes in the Diaspora in swinging the poll would never be forgotten.

It is no more news that every household in Edo State has a relative in the Diaspora who has great influence on their people back home.

Governor Godwin Obaseki enjoys massive support among Edo people living outside the country. This group of Edos in diaspora embarked on massive campaign for his (Obaseki) re-election. They were 24/7 on social media canvassing support for him. When his Nigerian fans ran out of data or had no electricity to charge their phones, his diaspora fan base was busy campaigning nonstop. Their main point of argument is the need to stop godfatherism in Edo State and by extension Nigeria as a whole.

In the run-up to the election, if you visited any African supermarket in Europe, you would find large numbers of Edo State indigenes talking and arguing on why it must be His Excellency Governor Obaseki.

Since most of them are bread winners of their respectful families back at home, it was very easy to convince them (relatives in Edo) to go out there and vote Obaseki.  For most of them, the election was not about APC or PDP as some of them even belongs to the APC camp, it was about Obaseki as a person and the need to end the practise of godfathers deciding who would rule their state.

“Edo is not Lagos” was a refrain on their tongues.

Using Edo’s gubernatorial election as a case study, we may conclude that the Nigerians in Diaspora are a very important stakeholder in Nigerian politics that should not be underestimated. Whether they can participate actively in the voting exercise or not they are a formidable force to recon with.

We may assume that the reason the Nigerian political elites are not interested in allowing the Nigerians in diaspora to be part of the voting exercise is the fear of their voting power. This is unlike their counterparts in many other countries all over the world including many African countries.

A report by Fidelis Mbah in July 2018 spoke extensively on how the diaspora influenced 2017’s election in Africa, with the help of social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook. The report which covers polls held between June 2017 and May 2018 in Angola, Kenya, Egypt, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, Lesotho and Rwanda as well as the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in northern Somalia,  highlighted how key voices from the diaspora helped shape the debate online.

Back to Nigeria, we should expect the same scenario to playout in the upcoming Ondo State gubernatorial election as most Ondo indigenes out there in the diaspora are in support of continuity – in favour of  the incumbent, Aketi. 

As for the Diaspora voting right, the national assembly should get their act together and expedite action on the constitution amendment to enable diaspora participation in Nigeria’s electoral exercise at all levels.

A popular idiom that says, “He who pays the piper calls the tune’. How can Nigerians in the diaspora who are the country’s economic powerhouse be left out of political decisions? Data obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has it that Nigeria received $17.57 billion in direct diaspora remittances between January and November 2019.

Finally, my take is that either directly or indirectly Nigerians in diaspora are a formidable force to be reckoned with in any future election in the country and they could be a game changer in Nigeria’s political arena just as in the Edo State governorship election of 2020.

.  Ogundele, a mechanical and multimedia engineer, writes from Vienna, Austria

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