Tapping the enormous expertise of Nigeria’s Diaspora population sometimes seems like nothing more than lip service. Shaka Momodu writes on an encounter with Franklin Ekechukwu, a mortgage analyst based in the US who has promised a break from the norm
To the untrained eye, you might not make anything out of his resume; but a morethan- cursory glance reveals a career that cuts across diverse vocations. From biochemistry to financial management; student unionism to manpower management, Ekechukwu has traversed many worlds. For sure, it would seem derogatory to call him a Jack of all trade, even though you couldn’t describe him as master of none. Indeed, he has mastered the worlds providence has taken him through.
As much as he has given to his professional career, he has also given to building bridges and providing platforms for Africans in the United States, to congregate and share common experiences as they strive to reap from the American dream. He just set up a similar body called the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation. “The formation of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization is one of President Obasanjo’s greatest initiatives. Many will tell you their version of the origin of the idea but at the end it was President Obasanjo who implemented and facilitated the formation of the organization. It was an idea that draws resources from the synergy of all Nigerian professionals in the Diaspora, to instil ethical consciousness and civic responsibility that will enhance the socio-economic advancement of Nigerians and humanity in general. I guess one can conclude that what led to the formation of the organization are the enormous Nigerian professionals in all areas of human professions living outside
the country.” To actualize that dream, he is organizing a conference in Washington DC, later in the year which he says promises to be interesting and instructive. Apart from networking opportunities that it would afford those attending, it is also going to be an avenue for Nigerians to interact.
A dream shared
“The purpose of the conference is to link grassroots American investors with grassroots Nigeria business community which in turn reflect the transformation agenda of the present government as we work towards realizing vision 20/20/20 of the federal government.
“By 2020, Nigeria hopes to become a member of the largest world economy. This world conference will create an environment in which investors will have opportunities to target the needs of each specific government and businesses from Nigeria; and tailor investment instruments to meet such needs. Nigeria’s population is large, young, energetic and mobile.
Therefore, the country’s economy is poised for a huge and spectacular growth now. This event is designed to assist Nigeria to create jobs for young graduates and its citizen in today’s global economy, and the strategies to deal with the challenges of growing sustainable development in today’s economy.” The conference will also focus on critical areas like manufacturing, export/ import, real estate, tourism, constructions, transportation, consulting, telecommunications, cyber security, education, energy/ utilities, finance, healthcare and even agriculture.
Optimism amidst challenges
While the nation’s potentials have been acknowledged all over the world and the economic potentials of the country’s population, it is also a naked secret that a combination of poor infrastructure and corruption has both combined to make efforts of investors cumbersome. Ekechukwu says he is aware of this; even as he pushes on with the conference that will bring both American and Nigerian investors together.
“Corruption remains a big monster but I believe that development comes in phases in the life of any nation and Nigeria is not an exception as all corrupt leaders will be judged by posterity if not now. The fact remains that Nigeria has not fared well in the area of infrastructural development due to some factors which are tied to corruption and leadership challenge but beyond that, we must realise that the Nigerian’s economic resources potentials has not been fully harnessed and if properly tapped, it will create more jobs for our citizens thereby reduce unemployment and crime
“Also, Nigeria is a virgin country when it comes to infrastructural development; that is the reason why all sectors of the infrastructure would be touched. For example, in healthcare, many hospitals lack necessary equipment to function effectively, not only that, the military mental health are yet to be tapped or explored, the same also applies in communities that lack roads. In security sector, police lack many fundamental infrastructures to function effectively; our agricultural sector is also very sick in every area, we still cannot preserve food, nor have the fundamental instruments to produce food. So as you can see we lack in all areas of infrastructural structure to sustain our nation.
So “This is quite funny because it is not difficult at all. An average US investor is hungry to come into Nigeria, they want Nigeria so bad that they can taste it but the challenge is the US governmental policies that regulate international businesses coupled with the Nigerians trust issue. If these two issues are resolved an average US investor will flock every market in every sector of the Nigerian economy.”
Given that it’s registered as a non-profit, how does he intend to raise fund? “Finance has been a big challenge in running the activities of NIDO but we have always funded our programmes through the support of some NIDO members who have taken it up as a challenge by personally donating their individual funds as a way of showing their patriotism to their fatherland. Contrary to public opinion, we have never received any subvention from government for our programs but on this event we are seeking sponsorship support from both government agencies and private organisations to be able to execute the program effectively considering the magnitude of the event.”
Dealing with scepticism
He also admits that getting the Nigerian government and business community to buy into the programmes of the organization has not been easy. He says it is more frustrating because the American business community really wants to come and invest here but the organisations must also come forward through conferences like this to create a melting point of opportunities.
Ekechukwu has at one time been senior mortgage banker with Waterstone Mortgage Corporation, Columbia, and also branch manager, Key Financial Corporation, also of Columbia. He has also been the founder and president of Timeline Capital, Gaithersburg since 2003 till date. A selfmade professional, perhaps, his is a resume that tells it all the story of eyes that seem to have seen it all.
• Co-founded Nigerians in Diaspora
Organisation (NIDO) to offer a platform
for Africans in the United States to congregate
and share common experiences
as they strive to reap from the American
•Emergence of NIDO inspired by
former President Olusegun Obasanjo
• Worked at Waterstone Mortgage
Corporation, Columbia, USA
• In 2003, Founded Timeline Capital,
Gaithersburg, USA to answer your question infrastructure is a major topic under discussion without being emphasized.” Ekechukwu’s outfit was registered as a non-profit making organisation and has been operating since year 2000 and how has it fared since then. He doesn’t seem to be excited about being classified as one of those who want to make money off the nation.
“The Nigerian in Diaspora Organisation as a body representing Nigerians outside Nigeria has done tremendously well in restoring the dignity and identity of Nigerians living outside homeland through its numerous programmes and activities which include town hall meetings, symposia, workshops and conferences which promote the country among the comity of nations.
The town hall meetings help us to identify and also protect those Nigerian citizens who are legally residing in their respective countries of residence as well as doing genuine business. From the conferences Nigerians in diaspora have attracted so many foreign investments to Nigeria. Due to our achievements, seventy five percent of US policy on Africa revolves around Nigeria.”
The temptation to gloat over the achievements of his organisation, have been tempered by the fact that “sixty-seven per cent of young graduates are still unemployed, many citizens are plagued with poverty, the roads are still bad, the power sector is still seriously sick”. He said that his organisation has resolved to tackle all these national challenges through its numerous programmes; one of which is the conference coming up.
As shocking as it might sound, Ekechukwu said an average American businessman wants to come to Nigeria and invest. He said contrary to widely-held notions, they like the Nigerian environment and they want to come and invest and avail themselves of the numerous opportunities available.