Former TV girl, Hon. Abike Dabiri- Erewa was quite popular in Nigeria before she joined politics. She was a journalist with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Lagos and she became famous with her innovative reportage on News line every Sunday, especially during the ‘MARY saga’ in 2008.Today, she is a legislator in the House of Representatives representing Ikorodu constituency in the National Assembly. In her second term in office she was appointed Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, a new committee with the challenge of ensuring that Nigerians in Diaspora are integrated into developmental activities of their motherland. Recently, she was in Lagos to receive Ayoyemi Ajimatanrareje who is Miss Nigeria Florida. She spoke to CHRISTY ANYANWU.
You are a very busy person, why are you in this gathering today?
In things like this, where we have a Nigerian like Miss Nigeria Florida, what I think she has done is to celebrate the culture of Nigeria in America. That’s why one took time out to come and encourage her and people like her to continue to do what they are doing. You can see that she is giving back to the society with her title as Miss Florida. She’s not only propagating our culture in America, she is coming back to do things for the younger ones here in Nigeria. I’m very encouraged by what she is doing. At her age, she has done so much, any mother will be proud to have her around. So, she’s my adopted daughter.
What are your views about Nigerians in Diaspora?
There are Nigerians, especially our women that are amazing success stories even more than Americans. All we need to know is where our people are. We don’t have the data of our people in Diaspora. We are dealing with 16 million. We are supposed to have a database and then break them down in a way that it will be easy to locate Nigerians easily. So, let’s have a database, which is what we are trying to do right now. Even Ghana has it. You must know where your people are, and what they are doing. There is nowhere Nigerians are not extending, although you have a downside. You have Nigerians in jail for committing crime, for when 10 Nigerian
What are the challenges you have with Nigerians in Diaspora?
There are many challenges. The first one is that we have man Nigerians in trouble in many parts of the world. We just came back from South Africa, we have more than 409 Nigerians in South Af-rican prisons and some should not be there. If you commit a crime, you will be punished for it but when you did nothing, maybe you are just guilty by association, there is no trial and you are stigmatized. Really, I think Nigeria should intervene and we are pushing for that. Second, we need to have a database of Nigerians in Diaspora to know exactly where our people are, what they are doing. We are talking about local content.
There is nowhere Nigerians are not excelling. That is just the truth. If you want Nigerian experts in any field in the world, you can always get them, but we need to encur-age a synergy between Nigeria and the Nigerians in the Diaspora. We plan to establish a Diaspora commission. Alone, 26 countries have a full-fledged Diaspora ministr. Yet, we have the largest number apart from Brazil that has the largest number of blacks outside Africa. The next number will be Nigeria. We need to have that commission so that when people like Miss Florida comes here, the commission knows she is here and the commission knows you are there, and they can work with you. It’s going to be a full-fledged commission wher you can now tap into enormous resources. These are the immediate basic things that I think should be tackled.
As part of your official duties, how do you feel when you are out there and found Nigerians doing all kinds of jobs?
I think the first thing is, lets tackle the cause, which is unemployment. We met a Mass communication graduate in prison in South Africa. When I heard him speak, I know he is well educated. He was looking for a job and someone invited him to South Africa. When he got there, there was really nothing there and he finds a way to survive and got into trouble. The first thing is, lets solve the problem of unemployment in this country. I know there is greed, I also know there is desperation. Some people were brought back from Libya, 24 of them. Four of them are graduates of University of Nigeria Nsukka. Ghadafi was going to kill them.
They went to look for jobs and they were actually working before they were arrested. So, we need to tackle unemployment. Government does not create jobs but government creates an enabling environment for jobs to be created. So, that has to be tackled. We are paying lip service and we are deceiving ourselves when we say we are creating jobs because we are not. I think that is the major thing. Again, a lot of awareness for the younger ones is necessary. Look at what she is doing. You can say she’s privileged but she could have been in America and gone into something else. So, we need a lot of awareness for the younger ones to know that it might not be greener out there because some are there out of ignorance.
Take Cairo for instance, they have told the boys they are going to play football. They get there and there is no football to play. Now they are already stuck there. The devil has a workshop for idle hands and they want to do this and that to make ends meet and they get into trouble. Basically, there is need for awareness and we keep saying that if you commit a crime, you will be punished for it. There are some that are defendable and we are glad that we have been able to prevent such. We intervened in some and we succeeded. The next thing is to tap into these talents that are with Nigerians everywhere in the world. We have the best doctors in the world. In America, we have the best doctors that are Nigerians, and look at the state of our hospitals in Nigeria. A lot of things are happening, so we must have a Diaspora Commission. I hope we can, so that we won’t be left behind in Diaspora matters. There is going to be a regional summit sometime next year.
So, how do you cope? I mean juggling your work as a legislator and travelling back and forth the globe.
I think work is work. Whatever you are told to do, you just do it responsibly and ensure you put in your best. You are not going to work forever. You have to balance your family with your job, which is the most important challenge for a woman.
So, how do you spend your day?
The first thing is to pray. I’m a Muslim. The first thing I do is to pray in th morning and get to sleep again; I enjoy sleeping. Then get ready for work. I won’t say I have a typical day. Everyday is unpredictable, whether as a journalist or as a politician. But I always place my family first in whatever I do. Whatever I do, I will not sacrifice my family fo any other thing. I give them the priority. No point being successful in your career and not being able to raise successful children. I don’t have a structured day but the first thing is, you wake up an pry to your God for guidance till the rest of the day. And of course, as a woman, you must have to take care of yourself, do your spa, your facials, massage and relax.
Do you miss anything about your career as a journalist?
Of course, I miss television. Aah; I miss television, it’s the best job in the world. First thing I do is news. As am seeing you now, I’m wishing what I could do with you. I do miss it and I hope I will still do a few things in journalism, just for the fun of it.
What are your plans for 2015?
We take a step at a time. I’m a member of House of Representatives; I still have a lot of work to do. I have put in my best.
You dress nicely, what is the secret?
Regalia makes my outfit. I just wear what I feel suits me.