NIDO (Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation) – is the umbrella body for Nigerian professionals in the Diaspora. Ms Patience Key is the outgoing Chairman of the Board of NIDO Americas USA. In this interview with Ademola Akinbola, she spoke about the achievements and milestones of her tenure, while also calling on all Nigerians in the Diaspora to join NIDO to execute its laudable objectives.
Give us a brief insight into your educational background.
I was born and brought up in Benin City. I attended Ezoti Primary School, St. Maria Goretti Girls Grammar School all in Benin City. I started off at the University of Lagos in 1995 in a basic Computer education program while I waited for JAMB. To cut the story short, my tertiary education was at Ambrose Alli university, Ekpoma in Edo State where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Regional Planning. I completed my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Ido-Osi Local Government, Ekiti State. I relocated to the United States in November 2006 to Join my husband in the State of Maryland where I currently reside.
I had most of my Pre-nursing classes at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) from where I gained admission into Coppin State University Accelerated Nursing Program in 2012 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). And a Master of Public Health (MPH-gc) at Walden University.
Tell us about your career history
For couple of years now, I have done jobs that can help me maintain flexibility for personal reasons. I started my career in the US at Genesis Healthcare where I worked for a year and some months as a Patient Care Nursing Support then at Johns Hopkins Hospital for over 3 years. I observed some Clinical Nursing time at Maryland General Hospital and Sinai Hospital in Baltimore Maryland. Currently, I am a Managerial Staff in a healthcare corporation, Infinity Nursing Services Inc. I own a healthcare staffing company, P-Key Health Solutions Inc. and an Environmental Management Business in Nigeria which was started and owned by my late mom.
I am a certified Agile Scrum Master which I do on consultancy basis. I am currently working on a corporation with a global view with a partner in Silicon Valley.
What motivated you to join NIDO?
In July of 2014, a friend invited me to join a group of Nigerians coming from different States in the US to meet with former President Goodluck Jonathan at the time for a “Bring Back Our Girls” peaceful protest in Northern Virginia. This was about the Chibok girl’s abduction. Not knowing anything about NIDO, I was just sympathetic of fellow humans facing injustice and their human rights abused. I was excited to see many Nigerians leave their comfort zone to come together for a collective fight for the freedom of the underserved and less privileged.
After the first round of protests the Former President came out to join us and addressed us very politely and humbly. We also had a breakfast meeting with the presidential aides and entourage and they repeatedly addressed an issue that deeply caught my attention and that was for us to work together, come up with projects or programs together to enable presidency listen effectively and work with us. They vehemently stood against individual projects, circumvention, and self-aggrandizement. I knew nothing about Politics then and for the little I know now I do not agree with the Nigeria style of politicking. Well, after the protests, I decided to speak with the leader of the team who was a lady to know what the acronym NIDO stands for, their objectives and all.
She was friendly and full of energy. I admired her strength and passion throughout the protest. After I learnt about NIDO, I got interested and wanted to know more. With the help of one of the participants at the protest who kept in touch and offered great encouragement, I decided to attend their Annual Conference and AGM held in Ohio in September2014. It was my final year in nursing school, so I finished a Critical Care Exam that afternoon and flew to Ohio for the NIDOA event. My kids were still young then. I had a toddler and a preschooler.
I have always used the services of a Live-in nanny or a House Manager, their dad will also be around them after work and he was fine with me attending the Conference. Though, it was tough for me because that was my first time of traveling alone and being away from my kids and husband. The event was successful. I met lots of Nigerians and 95% of the members were older. I was in my late 30s then. It was exciting to meet NIDOA members from the DC chapter. I also was introduced to the late Ambassador, Prof. Adefuye, then Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States. I learnt there was no NIDOA USA Chapter in Maryland.
When I returned from the 3 days trip, I narrated my experience to the lady who invited me to the peace protest and the need to form a chapter in Maryland. I also kept in touch with the DC Chapter members. I continued to learn about NIDO and the next month on October 18th, 2014 NIDO Maryland had its first meeting at Morgan State University with 9 members, inclusive was a pregnant lady who was also part of the peace protest in Virginia. Our first recruitment started at the embassy of Nigeria Washington DC when I was invited by the late Amb. Adefuye. When NIDOA USA Maryland held its first election on July 29th, 2015 I emerged the first president winning my opposition with 88% votes. It was a humble beginning with genuine selfless hard work for a better Nigeria.
How would you describe your experience as the Chair of the National Board?
Hmmmm, beautiful question! A lot of stuff led to my becoming the Chairman of the National Board, so let us rewind. As the president of a local chapter, one automatically becomes a member of the Board of Directors on the National level. Fortunately, and coincidentally, it was an election year on the National and the year the USA branch began to exercise autonomy as a Board having met all requirements as stipulated in the bylaws. So, I decided to run for the Public Relations Officer (PRO) on the National Level. The Annual Conference and AGM was held in Atlanta that year. We were 6 members from Maryland chapter that attended the Annual conference. It was so much fun. We chartered a van and traveled as a group. We settled in, got to the conference center and I started my campaign for the position of the National PRO. I had an opposition. I noticed him, walked up to him, and introduced myself. I asked him if he was ready for the position and to win. He said positive.
I started to campaign and so was he. About 45 minutes to voting, he gave up the position for me and asked that I support him to be the Treasurer. A little bit surprised at his position but very sure of myself because I knew I was going to win. I supported him and asked everyone eligible to vote to support him to win. He also won and we all worked excellently well as Executives with Engr. Ndubuisi George as our Chairman.
Now, with my experience working with the Executives as the face and spokesperson of the organization, I learnt a lot and do not see any other person fit to be the next chairman but me. We had 4 women on the National Board then and only 2 of us were very active and about 30 strong, talented professionals and very opinionated men but that did not bother me one bit. I announced my interest and candidacy as chairman very early in the game. With few positions having oppositions, the chairmanship was talked about in secret by some men that were interested but for shame that they may lose to me refused to step up. When I learnt of that, I humbly approached 2 of those seen to have interest in running for same position but they tried hiding their intentions.
They were really scared to lose to me looking at their status. I reached out to them because I believe being in position is all about servant leadership, giving back, listening, and acting on the concerns of the people and showing accountability. It was never about self and what one can get from society. I then became the first female Chairman and the youngest so far on NIDOA USA National level.
To me, it was an excellent experience meeting and networking with other Nigerians on national development. With the benefit of hindsight, I was already an influencer prior to my emergence as a leader in NIDO. As a preliminary student at UNILAG and later as a Departmental Vice President at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. I knew how to feel the pulse of the people, listen, and cater for their needs. I understood servant leadership. I am not perfect, but I knew my responsibility and most importantly I value teamwork. In addition, as a healthcare professional, I am trained to work independently as well as a team player and my agile scrum position gave me the privilege to remain focus, agile, dynamic and a servant leader.
So, I could function in a hostile environment. I knew the objectives; I understood the aims of NIDO. So, I did not cage in or allow indifferences and selfish motives from oppositions derail me from my service to humanity. It was challenging to see that most people come to the Organization for selfish purposes, do not want to follow structure, exhibit attitudes that are detrimental to the health of the organization and consequently denies the underserved Nigerians the opportunity to get justice, education, healthcare, and other basic amenities. But I am grateful to God Almighty for the courage, boldness, vision, strategy, fearlessness, selflessness, and the like-minds that He surrounded me with. The experience made me stronger and more determined to serve humanity.
What are the milestones and key achievements of your tenure?
Quite impressive that even during chaos the NIDOA USA Team fearlessly and courageously continued to function and achieve. My administration started on November 2017. In our first meeting, I rolled out the plans for the administration. They were 2 of them with items outlined. The 1st was to “Build Capacity Development in the Diaspora and secondly, to “Create Alliance Between Nigerians in Diaspora with the Nigerian Institutions and Stakeholders. We achieved many of the goals and the rest are a work in progress. In February 2018, we kicked off with a “Nationwide Strategic Townhall Meeting” titled the Strength and Voice of the Nigerian Diaspora in New York at the Nigerian Consulate.
The aim was to engage Stakeholders in the larger Nigerian Communities to foster the spirit of patriotism, networking and collaboration to join NIDO’s Mission to channel the enormous talents and resources of Nigerians in the Diaspora towards the overall development of Nigeria, to help us realize our strength and voice when we work in unity, to embrace the spirit of patriotism for National development and to build our membership and facilitate our working together to serve the collective needs of Nigerians in Diaspora in furtherance to national development. in March 2018, May 2018, July 2018, and August 2018, we continued the Strategic Townhall Meetings in Washington DC, South Carolina, Houston TX, and Florida, respectively.
We travelled with the Diplomatic Staffs to areas where we do not have Consulate offices, bringing the Embassy and Consulate close to the Nigerian people to help facilitate resolve for any consular needs and answer any questions in relation to doing business in Nigeria and creating an enabling environment. The late Amb. Justice Sylvanus Nsofor, Amb. Samson Itegboje – DPR Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Late Amb. Tanko Sulaiman Abubakar – then Consul General Nigeria Consulate New York, Amb. Nicholas Ella – Deputy Consul General New York, Rtd. Amb. Kayode Laro – Consul General Nigeria Consulate Atlanta, other Diplomatic staffs and the Nigerian people in the areas visited were a big support to the success of the Nationwide Strategic Townhalls.
The goals were met as NIDO Americas USA saw an increase in membership, enhanced collaboration with the Diplomatic Missions and interest among Nigerians to have continuous Townhalls and create more awareness and synergy among the Nigerian community.
At the 2018, Diaspora Day, we presented on strategies to improve the health of Nigerians and further create sustainable and affordable healthcare. We also presented on ways to control and eventually tackle human trafficking and the reformation of our educational system. We have connected with the Commissioner for Justice in Edo State and Governor Obaseki regarding same issues. I feel sole dependence on politicians is slow and slippery. We have other strategies planned following lessons learned from COVID-19 intervention initiatives which we hope to implement in 2021.
In August of 2018, we collaborated with an organization on a Medical Mission. We were in Aiyegbe in Ogun State for a week-long medical intervention and another one week in Ebutte-Metta in Lagos State. Collectively, about 8,000 participants were registered, evaluated, and given needed care. Among the procedures done are tumor operations, cataract surgery, wound care, diabetic care and management, blood pressure treatment/management, pediatric care, pain care, eye care and routine checkup.
Our Maiden National Summit and Annual General Meeting was a great start for NIDOA USA as an autonomous Board. We worked on strengthening our relationship with the Diplomatic Missions, US. State Department and agencies in Nigeria while working with the Ministry of Science and Technology. The Leadership Conference held in New York and hosted by the Diplomatic Missions was birthed at the NIDO Americas USA Annual Summit in Indiana. The leadership Conference brought together Nigeria organizations and leaders under one roof to deliberate on the need to work together under one umbrella – NIDO Americas USA.
We embarked on NIDOA USA WECARE COVID-19 Palliatives distribution to the residents of Ayobo, Iyana-Ipaja, Aiyegunle and Mile 12 during the lockdown to help sustain families for a short period of time. Over 200 families were gifted with food items and mask distributions. We saw these areas as communities with underserved and less privileged Nigerians. The Lagos State government noticed our humanitarian acts and supported the distribution.
The SSA on Diaspora affairs, Mr. Jermaine Sanwo-Olu was at one of our distribution centers to give his support. Due the reception and appreciation shown by our people, NIDOA USA, plans to continue the humanitarian services with a “Feed Nigerians Project”, consisting of strategic food banks and interventions in the agricultural value chain. The idea is to help generate employment opportunities while putting a dent on hunger and poverty in Nigeria.
We created an independent – sister organization, a Nigerians in Diaspora Chamber of Commerce to integrate Nigerian and American owned businesses. The Chamber promises to support and grow members businesses, direct foreign investments to Nigeria while checking on mutual benefits, support start-up entrepreneurs, create opportunities for members, outsource jobs, exchange programs, organize conferences, seminars, workshops both digitally and physically, partner with leading industries in the US, Nigeria, and other parts of the world for member benefits and branding among other great benefits.
We have finally set up a solid and secure platform to generate the database of Nigerians in the United State. The database will help us have a knowledge of the number of Nigerians in the US, improve their welfare, organize and harness talent for national development, link interested investors to local governments, states and the Federal government as the need arises, select and refer individuals/groups as needed by the public and private sectors for appointments, investments, employments and giving back, facilitate Diaspora voting and use of PVC from the Diaspora, build teams for specific purposes towards national development among other great benefits.
Projects waiting for execution include the Youth and Women Entrepreneur Conference. This will be an ongoing program to empower the Nigerian Youths and Women, train and create emerging entrepreneurs, support startups, create measures to fund and sustain the Feed Nigerian Project, and continue Townhall meetings.
What were the challenges that you faced, and how did you surmount them?
The challenges I faced in NIDOA-USA as a leader are felt in different Nigerian organizations. Challenges are not exclusive of the NIDO organization. My chairmanship started off smoothly and every Director on the Board seemed to comply with the rules and regulations of the organization until few months down the road some Directors whose agenda were off the NIDOA script began to reveal their intentions.
Maybe they thought Patience Key being a woman may leave room for nonchalance, corrupt practices, disrespect, and freedom to initiate practices detrimental to the organization. So, some of the Directors became disruptive of our meetings, highly power-hungry, deceitful, entertained private secretive meetings outside the NIDOA USA official meetings, laying of false allegations with no proofs, instigating other Directors and finally seceding from the organization to form an illegal group.
When we, the constitutionally elected saw the signs of destruction, we called emergency meetings each time to address pressing issues including the registration of NIDOA as a business in Nigeria without the consent of the General Board, the allocation of Directors to represent NIDOA on NiDCOM Board, disruption of meetings whenever final votes and resolution by the General Board Directors not fit their selfish intentions, among others. We always start by calling a meeting to control the situation, but the offenders escalate issues because they felt they had an upper hand due to positions on the Continental Board.
Unfortunately for them, they were first members of the National Board before their access to the continental Board. In fact, the National Board sends Members of the Districts who are chosen from the chapters and have already qualified to be on the National Board to the Continental Board called Board of Trustees. The issues involved members with dual leadership positions who failed to implement our structural guidelines that resolution is first initiated on the National Board and ONLY escalates to the Continental Board when no resolution is reached before an official invitation to the Continental Board if necessary but in this case, we had no issues to start with. We wrote petitions and then involved the stakeholders.
On January 14th of 2019 we called an emergency meeting after some few groups of same Directors acted out of proportion in our General Board meeting held on January 13th to start off the year 2019. We met to make concrete decisions on what to do regarding constant disruption in our meetings. The lead disruptors were asked to write a letter of apology within a specific period or be sanctioned. Due to refusal to comply with the Board’s decision, 2 Directors were suspended.
They seceded, formed what they called an “Interim Board, and wrote to stakeholders that my leadership and team had been dissolved and reported same to the 3 Diplomatic Missions. The Missions did their findings and tried to reconcile the members on April 13th, 2019 in a meeting chaired by his Excellency, Late Amb. Justice Sylvanus Nsofor. The meeting did not go in their favor. Some walked out on the late Amb. Nsofor, the Consul Generals, their Deputies, other Diplomatic staffs present and the NIDOA USA/NIDOA current and past Directors present. They also refused to sign the communique but later signed about 3 weeks later.
However, they never complied with the instructions therein. They continued with their deceptive and divisive mis-information’s campaign, false allegations of financial misappropriation with no proofs, and started to plan election to the detriment of NIDOA general structure. No process followed. We called a general emergency meeting which they attended. They were asked to substantiate their allegations. Due to their refusal or inability to state any proof at the said meeting, NIDO Americas USA Board of Directors gave them 7 days to respond and provide proofs or face sanctions. Reminders were sent and the offenders never responded.
On July 19th, 2020, eight Directors in NIDOA USA were suspended for 6 months. Instead of serving out the 6 months, they continued planning elections without following procedures. They selected themselves into offices and formed an illegal parallel group. They later in October of 2019 filed a frivolous lawsuit against me for “Trademark Infringement” etc. At the first hearing in the District Court of Columbia in Washington DC, the Judge, after listening to answers to the questions he posed to us among other things said that the lawsuit to him is not a Trademark Infringement but a fight for power and control in the organization.
Despite the continuous craziness instigated by a few in the organization, the NIDO Americas USA National Board of Directors continues to function and achieve great landmarks. I kept my focus and courage as a leader and many of our success stories happened during the uproar. Most importantly, I am blessed with sincere, firm, and bold fellow Directors and great leaders.
What tips or suggestions do you have for the incoming Board?
I strongly advise the incoming Board of Directors to read and adhere strictly to the NIDO structure. The problems we have had emanated from Directors being drunk with power, doing what suits their selfish intentions and not what the bylaws direct. Directors are all chapter members who are elected by their chapters to represent them on the Board. The Board should reiterate the duties of the chapters often to save NIDOA USA from unnecessary fights and lawsuits.
Secondly, it is impossible for any leader to sit in their comfort zone and achieve success. The incoming need to continue programs/events that can draw them close to the grassroot NIDOA USA Chapter members, Nigerian organizations, and the general Nigerian community as an umbrella organization.
Thirdly, NIDO was set up to foster the spirit of patriotism, networking, and cooperation among Nigerians in diaspora, to bring together Nigerian professionals and experts in their different fields and skill set; to harness those talents for national development. First off, NIDO is a give-back organization not a take back organization. The incoming Board must maintain integrity by working selflessly to implement the goals and objectives set before them by following the structure.
No one respects us when we gather to lament on what we should be getting from the government instead putting strategies on how to add value to our communities and nation. Strategies on how to put smiles on the faces of common, underserved and less privileged Nigerians. We need to understand the structure. Strategies on how to build a sustainable and affordable healthcare system, educational system, infrastructure, agriculture, technology, empowerment for Youth and women, consistent creation of awareness and educating fellow Nigerians on all things possible for a better and united Nigeria.
Strategies on how to deliver Nigeria from recession and bring value to our currency, the naira. There is work to be done. Action is needed. No ceremonial leadership. All these and more when done selflessly, with focus and consistently will turn things around for the good of our communities, our people and our dear nation, Nigeria. First understand the structure, know the purpose, and play by the book.
How can NIDO become more effective and more accepted among Nigerians in the Diaspora?
This is a very funny and questionable question. Who is NIDO? What is NIDO? The acronym NIDO means Nigerians in Diaspora Organization. This means that every Nigerian living outside Nigeria is eligible for membership. So, by default all Nigerians in the united states are members. We all need to do be real to one another, do the right thing and achieve collectively. The idea is for Nigerians who see and know how things are done in their different foreign countries of residence to come together as patriotic Nigerians selflessly and willingly to safe our falling nation and change the narrative for we, the people.
The sorry situation is that most Nigerians love to be on the fence and worry about what NIDO did and did not do instead of folding their sleeves and collectively embark on a patriotic journey for a better nation. Now to answer your question, NIDO will become more effective when Nigerians come down from their high horses, respect and support the leadership, stop the blame game, stop the creation of mushroom organization, and come under one umbrella as Nigerians to serve our people and nation.
The creation and successful implementation of NiDCOM was the drive and push from NIDO members working with different government leading to NiDCOM being signed into law by the Vice President, H.E Prof. Yemi Osibanjo in 2017. You see, NiDCOM was fought for by NIDO for all Nigerians not only for eligible members. Same was Diaspora Bond, the processes were put together by NIDO members while working with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The outcome and success are story for another day. All we need to do is to come together for national growth. The ball is in our court to make NIDO more effective and acceptable. Our professional, ethnic, and religious organizations or associations are very important, but it is very crucial we devote time and self for the Nigeria of our dream as a people collectively. We can only do that under one umbrella with a better and stronger voice. Division breeds weakness. Cooperation breeds strength.
What is next for you as far as NIDO is concerned? What future roles do you envisage for yourself here in the US or back home in Nigeria?
LOL. Once a NIDO member always a NIDO member. No alumni. That is true leadership. I will continue to support and play my part in my local chapter in the state of Maryland and answer the call when needed at the national level. Every resource in my possession that is needed for the administration to succeed will be made available.
My administration put together some structures that need to be managed, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the database of Nigerians in the United States and some ongoing projects which are the Youth and Women Entrepreneur Programs, Feed Nigeria Fund, Medical Mission, Strategies on the control of Human Trafficking and education.
I will support where and when I am needed. Here in the US, I will continue with work and business, start my MBA program and doctorate in Public Health by God’s grace. I Hope to complete and launch at least 2 of my books in 2021. Regarding role in Nigeria, I will continue to give back to my mentees in Nigeria. My soon to be announced corporation with a partner in the West Coast is tailored to serve the Nigerian people. For other roles in Nigeria, time will tell and soon.
There have been stories of conflicts and wrangling within NIDOA. How can we achieve internal cohesion and unity in NIDO?
Yeah, that is true, there are ongoing conflicts. This is not actually a fight but a restructuring strategy for a healthy, better, creative, respected, efficient, and effective NIDO Americas USA. NIDO needs to remove all ambiguity from Its bye-laws. NIDO needs to be firm and have defined direction for every Director on the Board and reiterate Chapters responsibilities. There should be checks and balances and Directors who are non-functional should be sent back to their Chapters after a specified period and ask that the concerned Chapter(s) send a new Director.
Also, screening, and periodic evaluation would help generate passionate, patriotic, goal-oriented, and like-minded Nigerians. With the ongoing restructuring process in NIDOA USA, we have had a reconciliation meeting at the Embassy of Nigeria, Mediation by the District Court and peace talk by Board members to save the organization, but the offenders would not bulge. We await the court’s ruling.
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