Former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has heaped praises on his countrymen and women who live outside the country for their “immense sacrifice” for their homeland.
Dr Jonathan made the remarks on Tuesday while receiving an award from the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) in Yenagoa.
The award was presented to the former Nigerian leader by the president of the German chapter of NIDOE, Dr RosaLyn Dressman, at a brief ceremony in the private residence of Dr Jonathan in the capital city of Bayelsa State.
Jonathan noted that the money sent home by Nigerians abroad was not only an important source of foreign exchange for the country but also a lifeline for millions of Nigerians.
“We are all aware that it’s not easy to live abroad with all the challenges it entails, yet you send a considerable part of your hard-earned income to help your people at home and support the economy of Nigeria,” he said.
The former president praised the “endurance of diaspora Nigerians” and enjoined them to continue to support their homeland as the task of moving the country forward could not be left to only those at home.
President Jonathan called on the diaspora to “expand their influence into the different sectors of the economy,” where their expertise, experiences and financial capital are direly needed.
He also advised that diaspora Nigerians must maintain a positive attitude to the country “as hope is an important requirement not only for progress in individual lives but in the destiny of nations”.
In her brief remarks before presenting the award to former President Jonathan, Dr Dressman said the diaspora appreciated the immense efforts of his administration to chart a way forward for the country. Noting his historic decision to concede to President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2015 general elections even before the votes had been fully counted, Dressman said Dr Jonathan set the foundation for enduring democracy in Africa’s most populous country.
“Sir, when we finally achieve the Nigeria of our dream, you will be remembered most affectionately by the people of this country,” she added.
Dr Jonathan had delivered a virtual address at the annual general meeting of NIDOE, which took place in the German city of Dortmund, in November. Because he was not physically present due to the global pandemic, NIDOE could not present the award to him in person.
“The Diaspora has always been an important part of Nigeria’s development journey,” he noted in his speech at the event. “You act as agents of change because of your capacity to deploy your expertise, facilitate investments and leverage international connections to boost economic and industrial development,” the former president said.
“As President, my administration had a policy of actively and robustly engaging the diaspora in a coordinated fashion.
“I expect the diaspora to be more involved today in promoting entrepreneurship and development, especially with the birthing of the Nigeria in Diaspora Commission of this present administration.
“This is not the time to wait until our country and its systems begin to run efficiently before you consider investing your talents and resources to its growth.
“Nigerians should not see themselves as foreigners in the Nigerian project. This is the time for all of us to fire up our patriotism and explore more ways of helping to build our nation.”
Timi Benson (Yenogoa, Nigeria)