“Why Should I Convince You to Come Back Home?” ~ Governor Fashola

Babatunde Raji Fashola. Photo credit: African Arguments

On Monday 4th November, the Governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Raji Fashola spoke at an event at the House of Commons, in the UK Parliament, on his state’s priorities for sustaining growth and development, and how he responds to key challenges. The event was jointly organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nigeria, the UK Trade and Investment and Chatham House.

It was an event I had marked in my calendar over a month in advance given the relevance of the subject matter, and the personality involved. Fashola is doing some amazing work reforming Lagos in terms of transport infrastructure, taxation, revenue generation, and a whole lot of other things. Lagos is the commercial capital of Nigeria. The state’s economy will become Africa’s 13th biggest economy in 2014, equivalent to that of Ghana, according to Renaissance Capital.

Unfortunately, I forgot to factor in the London traffic on Monday.  I was therefore horribly late and missed more than 70% of the talk. I only caught the last two minutes of Fashola’s presentation and the brief Q&A session.

The highlight of the event for me was Fashola’s response to a question posed by a young lady. She asked what the Lagos state government is currently doing to encourage Nigerians in the diaspora to go back home and “contribute to national development”.  Now, this is the typical question posed to African policymakers by (young) Africans in the diaspora at these Africa-related summits.

Governor Fashola retorted thus:

You are a Nigerian, it’s your country “why should I convince you to come back home?” Many Nigerians have made the move back home without anyone persuading them to do so. This man here [he points to someone seated close to him] moved back to Lagos from the United States a few years ago, and he has done a lot of things. It’s your choice. I don’t think I need to convince you to come back to your country. [paraphrased]

I think most of us were jolted by his unexpected response because the reply to such a question is usually more conciliatory and appeasing. Yet this departure from the norm by Fashola is really food for thought. If you’re so passionate about your country, as an African in the diaspora, do you really need anyone to convince you to go back and contribute to national development? Many others have made that decision, some have been successful, and others haven’t, isn’t this risk all part of life’s uncertainties? Is “moving back home” the only avenue of “contributing”? For those who make the decision, do they have realistic expectations about how best to engage or contribute? Does the government have a responsibility for putting in place special structures and incentives to encourage the diaspora to relocate back home?

34 thoughts on ““Why Should I Convince You to Come Back Home?” ~ Governor Fashola

  1. The ancient notion that those in the diaspora have something to contribute towards national development over and above those who remained at home to confront the challenges on ground is no longer valid.

    Fashola’s retort was apt and appropriate in the circumstance. Only a neglible few among those in the diaspora have anything worthy to demonstrate achievement in their adopted societies anyway, and the massive anti-immigration sentiments and policies sweeping across the western world and now asia, only reinforce legitimate concerns to those in the diaspora to retrace their steps back home without anyone’s prompting or persuation.

    1. Indeed, there are some of us who need no convincing to be home. I am a successful business man of over 26years with a passion to leave everything behind and come to my country Nigeria to serve. Since my return, I have adopted a degenerated primary school in Epe Local Govt, feeding and renovating the degenerated building for a more conducive learning environment for the children.
      The question in coming home to serve is, would those of us from the Diaspora be given the opportunity to put all hands on deck and help in serving our Country?I heard comments like ” you ran away and now you think you can just come back and partake” comments like ” The cake is not enough for those of us here, who are you to now want to come back and share in what is not enough” and many other silly and stupid comments. Coming back home after a long period of time in as much as a lot of us would like to make this move, is scary, The lady asking the governor a question is not so much looking to be convinced to come home, but rather, looking to be encouraged to come home. As the governor in good standing with the people, do know, and understand the power and strength from those in the Diaspora, and as an Elite governor, he of all governors that I know, understood the quest of the people and can only encourage individuals on how to return home and join hands in making Nigeria the best she is destined to be. However, I do agree with the governor that none of us should be convinced but rather be encouraged. I am home in Nigeria, leaving behind a successful business, wife and grown up sons, and I am available to Serve in any areas as needed. And for the info of the general public, I am beginning to see and meet a lot of Nigerians returning home, we can only appeal to our people to allow them the chance to compete fairly and not frustrate their effort and good heart desire to return back to our country for the betterment of this great Nigeria. Nigeria had suffered enough brain drain, let us encourage and not convince our able and capable Nigerians to return home. It will be of great advantage to our country Nigeria. The year 2015, is either going to make or break Nigeria. Let us wisely choose capable leaders and stop recycling our old politicians into power.

      1. Hmmm…Words from a wise man!! I do share your sentiments and agree on the kinds of reaction and reception people back home show returned diasporans. However in the context of contemporary Lagos, it is in the best interest of anyone abroad to take advantage of the emerging economy and opportunities and use it wisely. As such, encouragement is not so needed because while you’re contributing to the development of the country, the incentive lies in the potential benefits (no matter how little) and the self-gratitude of having done one’s part rather than pointing accusing fingers at who’s not doing. As you have been doing. I think the rhetoric about diasporans having plenty to contribute is highly misconstrued, I am almost certain that many of these “Andrews” and “Ajalas” may not necessarily be in it for the betterment of the country but for their own accumulation of wealth. It doesn’t go without mentioning that many diasporas have too high standards and expectations for the quality of life. They want to live like its Vegas or Malibu but can rarely put in the work.
        Like the governor said it’s your country, you don’t need to be convinced or encouraged to come back.
        Just like you, I will be taking that step too pretty soon and I’m prepared for all the mud slinging and criticism. After all David killed Goliath ke!!

      2. God will continue to bless u,i really enjoy all and admire it.sir d youth of this contry had suffer enough we encourage our lovely brothers and sisters to come and ressue us from this issue unmployment.pls i beg u people

    2. First let me say agree nobody need to convince us to come back to our own country. Wrong answer from Fashola though, you cannot ask people to disregard why the question was asked. The ones that need to come (those with success stories and experience to help rebuild the country are not coming and you cannot blame them. They have too much to loose and give up for a thieving cabal who have taken over our country and economy, who may never allow them to have full participation in the rebuilding of the nation that’s why the question is relevant.

      For me the question is more about policy that an incentive to come home, do we get to participate. I am a modestly successful Nigerian in technology space and have a lot to contribute to my country and will do so selflessly but remotely, why the risk to myself personally and to my family.

      I don’t need nor want a government job, I will invest my own money., but why I should I come over and drive my Mercedes Benz G500 in a pot holed filled highway, sweat all night or smoke diesel oil till I develop cancer. There is a saying in our country ” In the land of the blind a one ye man is a king” Nigerians celebrating Fashola is truly a sign of how much we have failed. I just arrived from Lagos yesterday and I can assure you everything he is doing will need to be re-done, it is all point blank waste of money.

      Here are my reasons why:

      The guy is planing flowers and putting drainage in 2 lane roads, I mean one lane on each side of the road. He is paving sidewalks and the property just beyond have nothing but mud front yards. Installing street light and traffic sing on roads that need to be paved or expanded? all of his work will have to come down with the right guys in place.

      When he is done Lagos will still look like a 1920 city with old dilapidated and terrible looking city.

      Leadership is missing, strategic thinking is missing. He is looking to improve how people feel without necessarily improving their lives. For heaven’s sake he is treated like a God for it. Nigeria is in shit hole.

      What will I do different, first before running around and planting flowers and doing all those things I will put a foundation in place that will go beyond my time in office to rebuild the city. Rules law and order then planning.

      1. Structured markets for the street vendors to feel safe. Build these markets around town create long term rent abatement program so it is affordable and get people out of the street.
      2. Land condemnation/acquisition policy to expand all roads in a newly reconstructed Lagos
      3. Aggressively educate people on the benefit of mix use modern homes. Lagos has seriously under utilized real estate with all narrow 2 story commercial structures all over the streets.
      4. Bring in private enterprises to acquire these properties under government/business partnership that will provide housing benefits to the owners. retailers with mix used building accommodating modern stores and apartments.building I am describing
      5.Only after the following has been done can you truly rebuild the entire city into a modern landscape to be proud of. These would be sustainable policies that anyone coming after him will have to follow, without these things Lagos will be back where it was in another 4 years. What we are seeing is a person with the desire to make change going about it the wrong way.

      People like me even as a private enterprise will have my hands tied up without the policies in place to make investment that can facilitate the types of development i am talking about.
      In summary the question the young lady asked is this: What incentive do we have that we can actually help in rebuilding. There is no reason to take the chance if we are only going to be marginalized.

  2. The discourse on brain drain is long overplayed. In 2012 Nigeria received about $21 billion in remittance . With such staggering numbers, I would think a government official might actually plead with his people to stay overseas, especially taking into consideration the current unemployment figures. Just saying!

  3. There wouldnt have been an appropriate answer to that question than what fashola said, innitially the Government did not convince people to leave the country it was your choice, everyone is responsible for his or her own actions

    1. Thanks Bruf…That make alot of sense…You can be anything you want..Its just like Nigeria Govt are not helping us…Its so sad

  4. Very arrogant response. Those that left left for greener pastures. If they are coming home is it to a greener pasture or a slum city/country? The arrogant response is proof that Lagos is not working. Every father and mother encourage and convince their children to come home.

    1. @If you can call your father’s house a slum then it may be ok to call your country a slum. There’s nothing arrogant about his answer just that you wanted him to say what you wanted to hear. Should he be begging people to come or people decide themselves whether to come or not?

      1. Fashola is fixing 2 lane roads and lined by dilapidated buildings? really? In the land of the blind a one eye person is a King. What happen to planning, land use design? Yeah they bring home mostly unaccomplished people from the diaspora. Professors with no practical experience, no deployment or executions skills most of whom are academicians with no real life skills. That my friend is why Fashola work will end up being redone. Read my other post below I gave details.

    2. Basil, lets look at it from this perspective! If North America, Europe and all the places we all flock to didn’t fix their slums and economy by themselves would we find them comfortable to live in? Nigerians returning home don’t need no greener pasture, after all they’ve enjoyed all that while abroad, the objective is to help fertilize the ground so the future pastures can be greener and conducive for generations to come. So I don’t sense any arrogance in Fashola’s response, its the bitter truth pill that needs to be swallowed.

  5. The grass is always greener on the other side… no matter what side you view it from! One side is a house the other a home. Where are you at?

    1. A home is where the heart is. I am home where you cant drive at night with fear of kidnappings. I am always at home in the US be rest assured of that, but my feeling for the motherland has never diminished and it is those who want us to accept everything but the best are the real problem for the homeland.Fashola is a one eye king in the land of the blind. I just got home from Lagos all I could do was laugh. But make no mistake about it, I am going home consistently and contributing the best I can in the tech space but living there for now I will pass.

  6. I must confess i’d always had this answer in mind anytime i attend such events and see some Nigerians in the diaspora try to negotiate their way into government positions/favours back home. I think it is a bit funny that instead of being concerned about, and increasing pressures on elected public officials to provide good governance, some diaspora Nigerians are more interested in negotiating deals for themselves. I understand that the global financial meltdown and European economic crisis has made it difficult for some Nigerians to continue to live in those places, but i think it is a bit unfair to the millions of Nigerians struggling at home. Access to Nigerian leaders abroad shouldn’t be turned into a patronage-seeking avenue. Decisions of whether to come back or not should be a personal one – often after considering the pros and cons – and should not in any way involve public officials or resources.

  7. Does anyone really think there is a better answer than Fashola gave?
    Who, apart from a fool, needs persuasion to make a crucial life decision?

    1. Fashola was correct in as much as I think he is wasting our money. As a real transformer will need to redo everything he is doing. Take my word for it. You cannot rebuild an over populated city without a land use policy that will modernize the State.

      Policy that will condemn old home rebuild wider roads with more lanes. Institute mix use construction along major trading sections of the city that will help street traders maintain their livelihood/homes while improving life quality. Implement a government/business program to acquire property under create lease/live programs that allow landowners to benefit for the use of their property while helping modernize the city

  8. I don`t really give a damn about what he think…If you`re in abroad doing great stay there if you`re home stay there and keep moving forward…they all keep the money to themselve nothing is changing..60 percent are still struggling…I left few years back when things are not well with my family..life isnt all about you..you have to think about your family and all..i`m not MKO abiola now but frankly I thank God i`ve manage to look after my family and sponsored my sister in university which was my priority then…everybody that better of always taking about coming back home and all..I have alot of friends here before always talk about going back home and all…most of them are struggle to come here now…Why? You dont have to be super rich here but you can work and look after yourself and your family…

  9. First, I think we need to define and contextualize what we mean by the phrases “contribute”, “come back? and “home”. Unless we do this, we cannot meaningfully comment on this very important topic.

  10. That’s the problem with the country right there… that word – “sponsor”…masses want government to “sponsor”…families want uncle to “sponsor” etc…instead of wanting a government that would create or foster an environment where people can work for themselves. Not waiting for government to sponsor…brother or uncle to sponsor. Fashola is trying to create the right conditions in lagos. The focus should be how money can circulate and interchange so that kids can work while they go to school. ..and in that case all you need to do is to supplement them and give them guidance…on the part of the government it would need to create more opportunities so that people and small businesses can thrive better. Those are the kind of questions the people in the diaspora should be asking in my own opinion.

  11. I am really embarrassed that the question was posed by someone who lives in England. Who wants to live with SLUMDOG millionaires? Who wants to do that unless you don’t know what is meant by having a good quality of life.

    She should have asked the so called Governor why he has a law degree but went into the Nigerian Government system to get rich like the rest of them. Ask him , did he really win the election or the thugs on his payroll stuffed the election boxes. These are people that got rich by being government boys . All the millionaires in Nigeria are all government officials or ex government officials. Now he says he does not need to convince one to come home. What these arrogant and half educated hasses don’t understand is that all they have to do is to create a secured environment for commerce and the safety of their citizens and they will get the biggest surprise regarding how commerce works. Of course they cannot do that since they don’t want others to come BACK HOME and SHOW THEM HOW THINGS REALLY WORK. But they are busy calling themselves business men by looting the treasury and then start a monopoly business like Otedola and Dangote. Business men my has.

    I will not even attend any of these forums not alone talk to people like him, I am sorry they don’t understand what it means to be humans anymore. Fools, they think life is just for them alone.

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    1. You’re a FRAUDSTER! Note that these Custom Auctions are the latest scams coming from the stables of some greedy good for nothing Yahoo boys. Its all a SCAM as the Nigerian Customs don’t sell cars to the general public. Pls dont fall for this! If its too good to be true, then it’s a LIE!

  13. It is worth reflecting on the question posed by a previous commentator: who but a fool needs persuation to make a crucial life decision?

    In the final analysis, Nigeria is by far greater than any individual whether in the diaspora or at home – and lets face it – the country will continue to move on with or without those in the diaspora or even those who choose to remain at home.

    1. Haruna,is our country really moving forward? food for thought. I think we were better off yesterday than we are today. We need all hands on deck for our country to be able to move forward. Together, we can turn Nigeria around.

  14. I concurred with what his Excellency said. A Hausa proverb says Giji lahira, meaning home is enduring for ever! need no one to convince you, for when
    you left the Country nobody convinced you.

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