When in December 2018, the then Presidential nominee to the position of Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa was asked by the Senator Rose Oko-led Committee on Diaspora and NGOs on what is the Next Level for Diaspora Affairs in Nigeria, the committee was impressed with the response from the nominee despite the fact that she was once a lawmaker for three consecutive terms of 12 years and should ordinarily take a bow in line with the legislative norm, she was asked to respond to the question and that responses were apt as her road map for the future of Diaspora Affairs in the country.
I was so carried away that I gave her a round of applause that earned me a warning from Sen. Oko that “we don’t clap here, don’t do that again’’. Even though the eight National Assembly screened Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa in December 2018, she was not confirmed as Chairman/CEO NIDCOM until May 2019, some days to the end of the tenure of that Assembly.
Within a space of five months, May to October 2019, the poser is: Has Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa lived to her promise of taking the Diaspora Affairs in Nigeria to the Next Level?
Mind you, even though Next Level, is a new slogan recently adopted by the APC –led government, the then-Senate Chairman on Diaspora Affairs belonged to the opposition PDP and made it clear that her Next Level was not that of a political party.
Of course, this is in the public domain that Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa was the first Chairman of the newly created committee on Diaspora Affairs in 2008 in the House of Representatives, such as she was also the first Chairman of the House on Committee on Media and Public Affairs in June 2003 to June 2007, when she worked at giving the House a credible image through absolute openness and transparency.
As Chairman House Committee on Diaspora Affairs (June 2008 till June 2015), her major spotlight has been in her advocacy and calls for justice and fairness for Nigerians abroad. Regrettably, for eight years of two legislative sessions, the Diaspora Commission bill was passed but not assented to by previous administrations.
This background is necessary so as to connect to the Next Level wherein she has built Diaspora affairs within the shortest possible time to what is it today. In spite of the fact that she was no longer a member of the parliament since June 2015, she kept on lobbying for the passage of the Diaspora bill even before she was made the SSA to the President on Diaspora Affairs in April 2016 and ensured that the final passage was signed into law in June 2017 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
So within May 2019 till date, she ensured that the newly created Diaspora Commission keyed into the Next Level agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari, though with the teething challenges associated with the pioneering of an agency, this did not deter her from forging ahead, a Diaspora policy was drafted and validated, awaiting FEC approval, Nigeria Diaspora Day was successfully done on July 25, Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit was conceived and actualized as well as Nigerians Diaspora Festival in Badagry, many interventions to see to the welfare of Nigerians were diplomatically and pragmatically resolved.
Series of collaborations and MOUs were sealed with critical stakeholders. Evacuation of stranded Nigerians from Libya, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey amidst several international engagements was successfully done. Some Nigerians on death row were rescued, those in troubles were given succour, NIDCOM as an office suddenly picked up and became a toast of all and a commission to be proud of. Nigeria remittances increased and became the highest in Africa and the third in the world with $26 billion USD after India and China.
Patriotic Nigerians in the Diaspora, who were shoring up the image of the country abroad with their activities, skills and talents, not only recognised, appreciated but celebrated by NIDCOM under the able leadership of Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. What is more, she had been lucky to have been challenged with pioneering tasks and she has successfully taken them to the Next Level to the admiration of all.
It must be pointed out that the coming on board of the commission had shored up the image of the country abroad due to the pragmatism and dynamism of Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa who clocks 57 years on the surface of the earth on Friday, October 11, 2019.
To this Amazon and wonderful boss, whom I was formally introduced to in 2003 as a fresh lawmaker by my senior colleague, Alhaji Ayinde Soaga of NTA, who told her that if you really want your activities to be propagated, “this is your man’’, then as a senior parliamentary editor with the News Agency of Nigeria. I must confess that I did not regret that bonding to date.
Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa always thinks Diaspora, dreams Diaspora and works Diaspora in all things that affect Nigerians in the Diaspora 24/7. When the staff of the Commission came around on Wednesday, October 9, 2019, and surprised her with birthday felicitations two days ahead of her birthday, the overwhelmed Dabiri-Erewa said :”I am really humbled with all your show of love and you got me with this surprise birthday when I was still thinking of seeing you on Friday. Be rest assured that we have not started the job and we shall all achieve success together by taking Diaspora Affairs to greater heights “.
To many, the celebrator, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has several times been described as a sterling Nigerian Amazon, an outstandingly brilliant broadcaster, a great parliamentarian, a worthy, compassionate, and kind-hearted Nigerian and a dynamic leader.
A proud wife, mother and grandmother, who has won over 200 awards both nationally and internationally and has been a voice for the voiceless and remains a symbol of hope and inspiration to many. Her comportment, integrity, virtues and ideals are indeed qualities worthy of emulation, whose guiding philosophy at all time is that *success is not about age, it is not about character, it is not by how much you have in your account but how many lives you touch.
As you mark your 57 years sojourn on earth and in the service of mankind, I wish you a memorable, rewarding and productive birthday. My unique prayer for you is that ” … *May your tomorrow be better than today”‘ (Quran 93 verse 4).
Happy Birthday Madam.
Abdur-Rahman Balogun is the Director Media of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Abuja.