September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Title:A coup against Nigerians abroad
Blurb:$200 million in remittances buys little influence back home for Nigerians living in the USA. They are now barred from running for office in Nigerian elections.
Body:Princess Ijenwa, a Nigerian-American resident in New Jersey rooting to run for the Nigerian Federal Legislature in 2003. Ijenwa is a well-educated, urbane and articulate lady who wants to occupy the Ika Federal Constituency of Delta state in the House of Representatives. Ijenwa symbolizes the ambivalence Nigerians living abroad provoke back home. They are loved for their American dollars, but feared in the political arena because they could disrupt to the status quo.
In a little-noticed law passed last month, the Nigerian Legislature disqualified all Nigerians holding dual citizenshiplike Ikenwafrom contesting for any political post in Nigeria. To show its contempt for Nigerians living abroad, the legislature also prohibited an absentee ballot proposal that would have allowed Nigerians in the USA, Canada and Europe to vote in the countrys national election.
The legislature did this without consideration for the estimated $200 million that Nigerians in the USA alone sent home last year.
I have instructed my lawyers to challenge this undemocratic law in the courts in Abuja, Ijenwa told African Abroad during her hugely successful fundraiser in Irvington, New Jersey. Ijenwa said that as a Nigerian, she is eminently qualified to run for any office in Nigeria. There is so much suffering and want in Nigeria, and I am ready to liberate my people from bad government.
If the law goes unchallenged, a lot of Nigerian-Americans hoping to contest for governorship or senatorial offices may have their hopes dashed. In this category are Professor Olayiwola Adedeji of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn NY, who wants to run for the governorship of the state of Ogun under the auspices of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Otunba Tai Balofin, publisher of the US African Eye who wants to run for Ondo state governorship under the PDP; Dr. Dairo, who wants to lead Ogun state under the Alliance for Democracy (AD); and Chief Jumoke Pgunkeyed, chair of the NY-based United Committee to Save Nigeria, who is a leading candidate for Osun State governors lodge. Those who have escaped the hammer include Elder Amadin Omede, chairman of the NY-based Sammed Protective Services, who is running for Chairmanship (Mayoralty) of the Oredo local council of Edo state. Omede is a permanent resident of the United States.
The constitution of Nigeria appears to support the position taken by the legislature. According to chapter iv, section 66 (1) of the constitution, No person shall be qualified for election to Senate or the House of Representatives if, (a) subject to the provisions of section 28 of this constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, has made a declaration of allegiance to such a country. For the position of governor, section 182 also disqualifies any Nigerian who holds dual citizenship, while such people cannot also contest for the Presidency of the country.
Ironically, chapter 111 of the Nigerian constitution allows for dual citizenship. provided citizens are Nigerians by birth. Section 28 (1) states that, Subject to the other provisions of this section, a person shall forfeit forthwith his Nigerian citizenship if, not being a citizen of Nigeria by birth he acquires or retains the citizenship of Nationality of a country, other than Nigeria, of which he is not a citizen by birth.
The move to disenfranchise Nigerians with dual citizenship has kicked up a storm in the United States, where many are gearing up to return home to contest for the various polls in 2003.
Polly Ubah, chairman of the New Jersey PDP chapter, condemned the move. How do you ask Nigerian professionals to return home to help in reconstruction, while at the same time downgrading them to the position of second-class citizens? asked Ubah.
According to a political analyst, the ban on dual citizens political participation will backfire as many become disillusioned and give up on the country.
President Olusegun Obesanjo raised the hopes of Nigerians living abroad when he formed the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization (NIDO) in Washington, D.C., last year through Professor Jibril Aminu, the countrys ambassador to the United States. Apparently, the Nigerian Legislature and the constitution do not share Obasanjos enthusiasm about luring Nigerian professionals in North America and Europe back home to help in the rebuilding process.
Sources told African Abroad that two different groups are also headed to the courts to challenge the new electoral law. The first group is led by Professor Aluko, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM), who has contacted Attorney Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). The second is Chief Jumoke Ogunkeyed, of the NY-based United Committee to Save Nigeria. Both have promised to put their efforts toward changing the electoral law ousting Nigerians with dual citizenship from the political process.
Additional reports by Ifiemi Ombu.
i>African Abroad covers news of Africans in the United States and the African continent from Brooklyn. /i>