Kenneth Gbandi was elected the new chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) at the body’s annual general meeting in Athens, Greece, on 11 November. The Germany-based migration expert, communal politician, business consultant and media entrepreneur spoke in his first interview after the election with the Afrika! Portal on the challenges facing NIDOE, how Nigeria can attract more foreign investment and the best way to manage the fight against corruption. Gbandi, who has been the president of the German chapter of NIDO for the past four years, also talked about the efforts of the Diaspora to contribute to national development and what he plans to do to support the current government.
Congratulations on your election as the new Chairman, Board of Trustees, of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE). How does it feel to be the representative of all Nigerians living in Europe?
I am overwhelmed and humbled by the trust and confidence of the Nigerian Diaspora in Europe. I pray to justify this huge confidence and humbly count on their collective support.
Let me kindly use this opportunity to thank all the representatives of the 14 NIDO country chapters across Europe and all the 61 delegates who travelled from all over Europe to Athens to exercise their democratic franchise and those who voted by proxy too.
The Diaspora has a role to play in national development. Were there attempts during your tenure as NIDO Germany chief to explore opportunities for making contributions in that regard?
Yes, we did. We held many trade and investment events to bring German business people together with their Nigerian counterparts from home and in the Diaspora. These events were platforms for the potential investors to jointly explore opportunities in Nigeria. I am happy that several German companies that participated in our events are now engaged with Nigeria.
Among our other notable achievements is the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, we signed with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to join in the fight against corruption. The MOU provides the opportunity for NIDOE members to contribute to the fight against corruption by providing services such as training in security issues, transfer of Diaspora knowledge and IT-based solutions and availing the organisation of international best practice models.
We have also signed an MOU with Lead University, Owerri. The goal is to support scientific and technological research as well as business development at the university. We will begin implementing our plans as soon as the university is approved to do so by the National University Commission. This is planned to be a model for NIDO Europe’s engagement in skills and know-how transfer in various fields. It will also form a base station for NIDO university exchange scheme between Nigerian and European students.
In the areas of business, under my leadership we signed a tentative Partnership Agreement for Export Promotion with Aulic Nigeria Limited, concessionaire of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex for the New Nigerian Export Hub (NETH) at Lagos. This partnership, considering the current realities, supports the diversification of our economy away from over-dependence on crude oil.
Many more of such partnerships in the areas of agriculture, mining and IT will follow under my watch as Chairman of NIDOE.
What are the immediate issues you hope to tackle as NIDOE Chairman?
Our immediate objective is a holistic repositioning of NIDOE to present the organization and the Diaspora as a whole as a well-organised and dependable group. We intend to continue our contributions to national development by promoting trade & investment opportunities in Nigeria and provide a professional resource pool from where national developmental interests in various spheres could be managed, in a transparent but secure, respectful manner. This will promote growth in the economic, social, academic, political, cultural and entertainment sectors, where our people seek to position themselves.
To achieve this, I will immediately propose a master plan to enable us raise half a million euros within the next one year and 1 million in the next two years. The overall goal is to make NIDOE a self-funding and self-driven organization. This will help us tackle the immediate, medium and long-term needs of the organization.
We will also review and harmonize all ongoing and planned NIDOE projects and find strategies to finance them. A Project Summit is planned for the 26-27 May 2017 in Dortmund, Germany. This will coincide with an investment summit to which all the Chambers of Commerce and Industry across Europe have been invited. These activities are under the framework of the Nigerian-German Bi-National Commission and the Federal Government of Germany economic plan for Africa.
Moreover, we plan to hold a stakeholders‘ retreat to re-examine the core objectives of NIDOE including the roles of the various components of the organization. This is part of the holistic plan of the Board to reposition NIDOE.
What will you tell Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora at these trying times?
Today, Nigeria is undoubtedly in an economic nightmare due to the fall in oil price and maladministration. However, the potential of Nigeria and of doing business in Nigeria with over 170 million people can never be ignored or underestimated and we need to wake up the giant in us by active participation in the affairs of this great country.
In Europe, citizens participate actively in the process of governance through professional, civic and other groupings, which is why the state works well for them. We have to do that too. Yes, we are down but not out. Nigeria will be back and in full strength.