The Maryland General Assembly, United States, has hosted a Nigerian delegation to a dialogue aimed at promoting unity between indigenous and Diasporan ethnic groups of African descent.
Chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and her counterpart in the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, led the delegation.
Both officials were the special guests at Wednesday’s event, which was attended by the Speaker of the Assembly, Delegated Adrienne Jones, the first female to occupy the office.
Also present were members of the black caucus in the House led by the Deputy Majority Whip, Delegate Darryl Barnes, and the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Amb. Sylvanus Nsofor.
Coinciding with the Black History Month celebrated every February in the U.S., the forum provided an opportunity for the delegation to showcase the country’s rich tourism attractions and investment opportunities.
In separate remarks, Dabiri-Erewa and Akande-Sadipe reminded Nigerian-Americans of their roots and emphasised the need for them to contribute their quota to the development of their fatherland.
The NIDCOM chairperson seized the moment to market the government’s `Door of Return’ programme, which seeks to encourage Nigerians in the Diaspora to return home and invest in their country.
Held in October every year, the programme features visits by Africans in the Diaspora and people of other races to the Badagry Slave Route in Badagry, Lagos State.
The 2019 edition of the programme is captured in a documentary film titled, `Badagry: The Joy of Return’, produced by award-winning Nigerian documentary filmmaker, Ronke Macaulay.
The 15-minute film was screened alongside another that showcases the rich cultural and tourism potential of the Oyo Empire, at the event.
Different speakers at Wednesday’s forum called for unity among Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, for the economic, social and political development of their communities and the continent.
Akande-Sadipe said whether they liked it or not all people of Africa descent were one regardless of their citizenship or where they lived on earth.
“The Jewish Nation has become very powerful because all Jews see themselves as one irrespective of where they are or their citizenship.
“I want us to have the African Nation and make it a very powerful word; not the African American, not the Jamaican African, not the Caribbean African, but the African Nation.
“The Jews are citizens of different countries but guess what, they are Jewish. We are citizens of different countries but we are Africans,’’ she said.
The Nigerian lawmaker urged Africans to teach their children about their ancestry, and let them understand that they are not inferior to other races.
For his, Barnes said the word African had suffered stigma for many years partly because African-Americans did not know what it truly meant to be an African.
“From what we have been taught from American history books, and when we think about Africa, what comes to mind are jungles and animals running wild. No one ever talks about the rich history of Africa.
“So, if you understand the rich history of where we were in slavery and where we are today, it is imperative that we now start having more conversations.
“What we should be thinking about is how to build collaborative relationships and how to start looking at things more globally than we do narrowly.
“Let’s think about how to reach across the shores and start talking about global trading and working more together. These are the things that matter to me,’’ the deputy whip said.
Dabiri-Erewa and Akande-Sadipe were honoured with awards by the assembly.