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Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, Job Creation and Delta State Example

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Delta State

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It is evident that the actions and inactions of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, in the past six years of his administration, not only supports but seamlessly aligned with the saying that the development of initiatives that focuses on social dimensions, and consist of introducing comprehensive plans to enrich human capital and enable citizens to grow through education, training and support, are the major attributes/preoccupation of good leaders.

This opinion was arrived at after reading/listening to Okowa in the last month speak at different events on the efforts his administration is making to curb youth unemployment in the state.

One thing is evident; Delta as a state may be unconnected with the argument in some parts of the country that the greatest militating factor is leadership, the biggest failures is leaders’ imagination and most stubborn refusal to admit the need for change.

Out of many instances, this intervention will focus on two examples.

The first was at the occasion of the 2021 International Youth Day Celebration, organised by the state’s Ministry of Youth Development in Asaba, the state capital, and had as theme Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health, the governor said that for the nation to effectively tackle the challenges of youth unemployment and restiveness in the country, there must be a deliberate effort by governments at all levels, individuals and other stakeholders, to give agriculture its rightful place, qualifies him as one of those outstanding leaders. Some natural resources as oil and gas are exhaustible, but agriculture was as old as man’s existence and would outlive man, adding that its importance in the provision of employment and food for man could not be overemphasized.

The second was at the 2021 Annual Lecture and Symposium organized by Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism (RCDIJ), held on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, at Sheraton Lagos Hotel, Lagos.  The lecture had the theme Rebuilding Trust in a Divided Nigeria: Advancing the Conversation.

Governor Okowa said in part; “We also have a deliberate policy to tackle youth unemployment through skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes. I believe that the way out of the unemployment quagmire is to equip the youth with the technical know-how, vocational skills, values and resources to become self-employed, as distinct from one-off empowerment.

“This is what my administration has done by instituting various skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes, which include: Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP); Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); Rural Youth Skills Acquisition Programme (RYSA); Girls Entrepreneurship Skills Training (GEST); and Women Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition Programme (WESAP).

These programmes he said are trainee-centred and service-oriented. The sectors and activities covered include agriculture, agricultural value chain services, vocational skills-based microenterprises and cottage enterprises.

Furthermore, the training and mentoring processes aim beyond raising entrepreneurs to producing leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and effectiveness. I am pleased to let you know that after six years of faithful implementation of these programmes, we have trained and given business support packages to several thousands of youths.

Following the success of these interventions and other efforts in promoting technical education, Delta State was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria.

Also in 2020, Delta was adjudged to be the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Indeed, there exists a torrent of lessons the federal government on one hand, and the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme handlers must learn from the above account particularly as there exists within the government at the federal level a long history of inabilities to come up with, and implement a well-foresighted plan as demonstrated/demanded above.

These particular failures/failings have forced many Nigerians at different times and places query the Amnesty handler’s intelligence and in some cases concluded that most of the coordinators lack a distinct set of aptitude a leader must demonstrate in three central contexts of work; the accomplishments of the task, working with and through other people, and judging oneself and adapting one’s behaviours accordingly.

There exist other concerns expressed in the past about the Amnesty programme.

First, apart from stakeholders questioning the wisdom behind teaching a man to fish in an environment where there is no river to fish or training a man without a job creation plan, how will FG explain the fact that the amnesty initiative which was programmed to empower the youths of the region via employment has finally left the large army of professionally-trained ex-militants without a job.

In fact, the region and of course the nation is in a dire state of strait because unemployment has diverse implications. They pointed out that security-wise, large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed, and any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will take us nowhere.

The second arguments thrive on the belief that the amnesty programme in the estimation of the Nigerian government is succeeding, as there is relative peace in the region. And since the exploitation of the region is going on unchecked with the privileged political class flourishing in obscene splendour as they pillage and ravage the resources from the region at will while the people of the region diminish socially and economically.

But looking at commentaries, the Niger Deltans with critical interest, are not particularly happy that the FG has abandoned the original amnesty document as proclaimed by Yar’Adua which was meant to stand on a tripod-with the first part of the tripod targeted at disarmament and demobilization process; the second phase to capture rehabilitation which is the training processes, while the third phase is the Strategic Implementation Action Plan.

This last phase, they noted, was designed to massively develop the Niger Delta, but unfortunately ignored by the federal government.

Regardless of what others may say, proper management of these teaming youth and integrated development of the region are the panaceas to determining the success or otherwise of the programme. Like Comrade Evah, the National Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, rightly noted recently, when asked to comment on the performance of the current Niger Delta Amnesty Programme.

It is only by engaging these teaming youths through employment creation that the incessant youth restiveness can be arrested.

To copiously quote him, he said in parts; the current coordinator has just arrived. The current coordinator is less than one year in that office and we have told him that we want all our boys who are yet to be trained. If he cannot train all of them, we will tell him that he is a failure.

We want him to train them because they are just roaming about. They can become another threat to our homeland. Let us train them.

The resources in the Niger Delta can be used to create industries to absorb them. If the amnesty office can buy fishing trawlers and train our people in ocean rowing, fish processing, it will create job opportunities for our people. There are abandoned fishing trawlers in Lagos.

The Amnesty office can buy them for this purpose. The number of people that will be needed to do that job will double. We will discover that the number of youths presently trained will not even be enough. We need more than 10,000 people for amnesty to go and engage in seafood processing.

If we make use of the Atlantic Ocean for the seafood trade with our youths and we have fishing trawlers, we can feed the Niger delta and even export fish. All these are solutions that we have given to them. We, therefore, want the new coordinator to be practical. What the previous ones did not do, he should do it; train our youth in seafood processing and marketing and engage the idle brain, he concluded.

Indeed, Comrade Evah, in my view, may not be wrong.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Delta 2023; Why Justice and Equity Must Prevail Over Sentiment

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Delta 2023

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It is common knowledge that recently, the Ijaw leaders, youths and women predominantly residents in six councils of Delta State, with these councils domiciled within the Delta South Senatorial zone, insisted that their ethnic nationality must produce the next governor in 2023, as they have made huge sacrifices, contributing to the socio-economic sustenance of state and supported other ethnic nationalities over the years emerge governors in the state.

Though alluring in outlook, what, however, qualifies as a worrisome, worrying as well as newsy development is that another ethnic nationality in the state, the Urhobos of Delta Central Senatorial zone are also of the views that the year 2023 is their turn to produce the governor.

Essentially, their argument comes in double folds. First is predicated on the alleged political power rotation arrangement in the state between the three senatorial zones.

The second stems from the first but focuses on the logic that since the Central Senatorial zone kick-started the governorship arrangement in May 1999 when democracy re-emerged in the state and, in 2007, after completing their two terms in office handed over power to Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri man of Delta South Senatorial zone (Delta South senatorial district is made up of the Ijaws, the Isokos and the Itsekiri ethnic nationalities), who at the expiration of their two terms handed over power to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta North.

It is, therefore, reasonable to argue that, having completed the circle, the position naturally comes back to the centre which was the starting point for another round of gestation.

Tragically unique is that this line of belief has blossomed and flourished, in spite of the recent declaration by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, during the quarterly media interaction that there was no formal agreement in which zoning was discussed and ratified and has, without doubt, heightened political tension in the state and ‘polarized’ ethnic nationalities against each other.

For a better understanding of where this piece is headed, there are three distinctions to make.

First, in the geographical landscape, Delta State could be likened to the ‘proverbial dot’ in the map of Nigeria. But the people, in material terms, have through hard work, planning, improvising established themselves in all sectors; finance, science/technology, sports and education among others.

Appreciably also, it daily manifests signs of a people that have left behind third world challenges of illiteracy and poverty, to become a successful centre for the dissemination and distribution of the best human capital resources across the nation.

Secondly, the state, to use the words of Governor Okowa, is a microcosm of Nigeria because it is populated by different ethnic nationalities. It has had inter-ethnic conflicts/clashes, fatal boundary disputes, especially over oil-bearing land, and political tensions’.

Thirdly and very fundamental is that to arrive at the answer that will give every man his due without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, this piece will depart mundane and parochial senatorial consideration for a more liberal and sophisticated approach such as demographic validity, ethnic specificity and socioeconomic contributions.

With the above highlighted, it becomes relevant to make a detour and face the kernel of this intervention.

Catalyzing the process will elicit the following posers; are the Urhobos right in their present demand for the number one position in the state, bearing in mind that their illustrious son is in the person of Chief James Ibori, occupied the same exalted position for two terms as explained above?

Will it be considered right, fair and in line with the spirit/dictates of equity to allow power to go back to Urhobo ethnic nationality when the likes of Ijaws, that is unarguably the second largest ethnic group in the state and others such as the Isokos, have not enjoyed similar opportunities? Must the state downplay, fail to give details to, and offer tribal/ethnic relevance and economic contributions on the altar of flimsy senatorial dichotomy?

Beginning with the first question, the answer at the face value is but a simple ‘yes’.

However, beyond this simple answer, peripheral argument and other cursory perspectives that could not hold water when faced with embarrassing facts particularly, justice and equity; there are sincere reasons that characterize Ijaw ethnic nationality’s present agitation for the number one job as not lacking in merit.

The facts are there and speak for it.

Apart from the above declaration by the state number one citizen (Senator Okowa) that; “there was no formal meeting where an agreement was reached on zoning and that is the truth as at today, that whatever we are doing or talking about today is about fairness, equity and how to define what is fair and what is equitable and hinged on justice’, the Ijaws, going by available records, have been active in the socio-economic and political affairs since the days of Western and Mid-Western regions, Bendel State and now Delta State.

In view of this spiralling fact, equity and justice should be the defining approach to the above debate. As argued elsewhere, in the present Delta State, the Ijaw massively supported Olorogun Felix Ibru and Chief James Ibori from Urhobo ethnic nationality, Emmanuel Uduaghan (Itsekiri) and Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa (Anioma) ethnic nationality as governors.

Away from the support given to other ethnic groups to produce state governors at different times and places, the Ijaw ethnic nationality, like other ethnic groups in the state, is in my opinion littered with illustrious, self-contained and quietly influential sons and daughters that can eminently govern the state.

As an illustration, with the likes of Barrister Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, current Deputy Governor of Delta State; Senator James Manager, four tenure senator; Dr Braduce Angozi, former Commissioner of Agriculture, Delta State; Dr Patrick Akpoboloukaemi, former DG NIMASA; Chief Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, former Minister of Police Affairs; Chief Sheriff Mulade, National Coordinator Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice; Elder Goddey Orubebe, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, among others, an Ijaw nation cannot be described as lacking in human resources needed to move the state forward.

Presently, the truth must be told to the effect that Delta as a state has benefited from remarkable exploits and contributions of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, be it in natural resources, human science and all other fields of knowledge. The state is indeed indebted to them for the wealth of knowledge they provided.

Thus, as the debate rages, one point we must not fail to remember is that the fundamentals of democracy guarantee the individual’s right to go against the masses and say no according to the dictates of his conscience.

It also guarantees the right to call for change, when people cling to tradition out of fear and frustration’. Likewise, the present challenge in the state demands a deliberate deviation from a political party and sectional interest, to achieve collective state interest anchored on equity and justice.

Finally, “the destiny of the ship is not in the harbour but in sailing the high sea” and so shall our collective responsibility be, not to destroy this great state (Delta) but join hands to nurture and sustain it.

If we are able to manage this situation and other challenges, it will once again announce the arrival of a brand new great state where peace and love shall reign supreme. But, then, no society/state or nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without fairness and equity!

If this is the true position, I see no reason why other tribes should not support the Ijaw governorship ambition in the state. It is a common palace in politics that whoever contributes to the common purse, must draw from the commonwealth.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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How to Validate Start-up Ideas With Design Thinking

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Design Thinking

By Otori Emmanuel

Innovators are concerned about building a product that will have a huge impact on the lives of people by increasing the quality of living standards, addressing a pain point or an alternative that is cost-effective for its consumers.

With these great thoughts comes a big question that has to be answered before launching a product or service and it is the question of “is there a market”?

The addressable market size becomes a question to answer in order to ensure that when a product is manufactured, it will find users or consumers who are willing to utilize the product based on the offer that is being given.

One of the techniques that most successful start-ups in the world has applied to ascertain whether a product will sell or not is called Design Thinking.

Leading Change

One of the failures is the assumption that there is a market, is one that can be seen or witnessed in solutions that have been made for people. An example is the construction of an overhead bridge for pedestrians to avoid crossing the expressway. However, the humans who this provision has been made for usually ignore the bridge and use the expressway to connect to their routes, which even makes their transit riskier than the use of the overhead bridge.

Why would anywhere risk their lives to cross an expressway when there is an overhead bridge beside them?

Failure in the consideration of what would drive people to use the overhead bridge is what is lacking and why the preference for the use of the expressway.

Would these same people use the overhead bridge if there were possible factors considered before making the designs? The answer is an absolute yes. The failure in the use of the overhead bridge is driven by the fact that the normal tendencies of human behaviour were not considered before constructing the bridge.

Human-Centred Design

Design thinking takes into consideration the natural tendencies of human behaviour before designing a solution. This will ensure shared responsibility from both parties such that there is already a market with reasonable demand to capture a market share that can sustain the business when eventually presented to the users. The failure of most start-up ideas is embedded in the emotional attachment that founders have to their ideas which makes it difficult for them to be open to feedback from prospective users. However, a fact-based finding should be prioritized against emotions when creating a solution.

How Design Thinking Drives Innovation

There are five stages in the design thinking process

  1. Empathize

Being able to empathize with customers most especially when it is a challenge or pain point that makes the purchasing or usage of a product or service difficult for them gives an opportunity to learn closely from them as it then creates an attitude that makes them become difficult customers because there are bottlenecks that hinders the what they expect to be an ideal purchasing process. Customers also have a reference point of a better offering and would always voice out. Active listening to their challenges becomes great feedback for start-ups. This stage consists of interviews in getting to know what the ideal scenario is for prospective customers.

  1. Define

Having interviewed the prospects, it then becomes necessary to begin to define what the challenges are from all the opinions gathered from several interviews conducted with stakeholders. The age group of those facing these challenges, their income level, experience, education and location becomes parameters to pay attention to.

  1. Ideate

The aim of conducting interviews and surveys by visiting the field is to be able to generate a product or service that has a fit for the market. All the feedback that has been given now needs to undergo divergent or convergent processes where divergent takes the several opinions and create solutions around them while convergent thinking helps to narrow down to the best idea. These two thought processes help to come up with what the proposed solution to be developed would be.

  1. Prototype

Prototyping involves making a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a minimum viable product is one that is made with the minimum resources in order to furthermore see how customers interact with the product or service in its pilot or beta phase. The feedback from the usage and engagement would then help to determine whether a full product would be manufactured or not. For digital products such as web or mobile apps, tools such as Figma or Adobe XD can be used to make a prototype.

  1. Test

The testing stage helps to pick the ideas that work and move very fast to implement them. If there are impediments or bugs, then it has to be corrected. When the product passes the testing stage, a complete product category can now be created and ready to make entry into the market.

The first two stages in the process of design thinking help to look out for evidence by carrying out Primary Market Research (PMR) to ascertain by means of qualitative and quantitative analysis the fact there are pieces of evidence to either support whether a challenge really exists or not for a solution to be created.

Founders should learn to embrace what the primary market research presents in order to avoid losing big as a result of the assumptions of what they either expect the market to be or their emotional connection to the product.

Emmanuel Otori, the writer, has worked on the GEM Project of the World Bank, Conducted training for entrepreneurs and professionals at the Abuja Enterprise Agency and has over 8 years of experience working with over 50 SMEs across Nigeria. Please visit my LinkedIn profile here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/emmanuelotori/

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King of Boys 2 (The Return of the King): The Gender Imperatives

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Timi Olubiyi Small Businesses

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

In Nigeria and beyond a trending movie this time is the King of Boys 2 (The Return of the King). It is a seven-part series Nollywood movie, streaming on Netflix platform on the internet.

In my view, the storyline of the movie can easily pass as a reflection of the dark side of politics in the country, Nigeria. It tells the story of Alhaja Eniola Salami (real name Sola Sobowale), the lead character, as a very powerful businesswoman, and an influential political figure.

She is the eponymous King of boys, heading a table of gang-lords and whatever deal any of the other men on the table makes, they are obligated to give her a percentage as the King.

Despite the elated performance of Alhaja Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale) in the movie, the heavy criticism of her role is the focus of this piece. Alhaja Eniola’s criticism was no surprise at all I must submit, having played a significant role that many believed was best suited for the male gender, and this made the condemnation of her role in the movie severe.

In Africa, gender equality is a lip service phenomenon and it is not only in entertainment but also prevalent in the business world and indeed in politics and governance. From observation, women leaders are basically in their minority, even in the military, education, and religion. Their acceptability is usually low and this has existed for several generations and has become a norm in homes, businesses, governance, and most spheres of African life.

Undeniably, politics and corporate leadership in most African nations bear a masculine face and Nigeria is not an exception. Women are viewed to have very limited access to decision-making processes in all domains. More so the continent particularly instils a culture and norms that women are subordinates and in some cases are perceived as lesser beings than men principally in leadership. Leadership is the action of leading a group of people and it is connected to governance, management, and/or administration of corporate entities.

Though women and men have different biological and physiological make-up, conversely, women may still share common features with men in terms of educational qualifications, socio-economic status, and occupation, among others. The biological makeup which is associated with gender is what is widely acknowledged and valued in leadership, rather than personality, competence, and character.

This perception is particularly challenging for women mainly because effective leadership transcends gender. So the continued criticism of Alhaja Eniola on her role in the movie is largely tied to gender disparity.

Painfully, it is well documented in the literature that leadership is a role perceived as a masculine role on the African continent. So regardless of the capacity, experience, competence, knowledge, displayed by women they are not seen as having parity with men. For this reason and despite women’s share of the population, women remain underrepresented in leadership across the continent.

For instance in Nigeria, the World Bank reported in 2020 that the labour force in the country has 44.82% of female representation. The big question is how many of these females hold key leadership roles? Furthermore, the report ranked Nigeria as 128th out of 153 countries in a survey and the country has remained within the 100th and 130th position out of these 153 countries, over the last 10 years (2010 – 2020).

In the same vein, out of 53 countries in Africa, Nigeria holds the 27th on the World Bank’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020. This available data implies that as a nation Nigeria still has much to do in attaining gender parity and having meaningful representation for women.

It suffices to say the trend is not due to a lack of competence or leadership traits on the part of women but that the public has accepted the culture as a way of life on the continent.

Remember, when partisanship, political pressure, and gender bias are taken into account, the gap and differences become sharper and more obvious. Even though generally, women are perceived to have an advantage over men on honesty and ethical behaviour index which are key elements of leadership, these traits in women are rarely considered.

Some of the known and cited barriers to female leadership are sexism, stereotyping, sexual harassment, family demands, maternity, and institutional mindsets.

In fact, the obstacle females face begins in the womb, families that prefer sons may abort daughters. For these reasons and more, women are not only ignored in leadership but are likely to continually be in vulnerable employment, paid less than men, and even be more unemployed than men if this disparity remains ignored.

It is noteworthy to mention that it is time for opinion leaders, captains of industries, governments, religious leaders, policy, and decision-makers to improve on gender matter advocacy in leadership and discourage the social structures and family values that completely favour men over women.

The world is evolving and the concept of effective leadership has moved from an emphasis on “who” the leader is to “what” the leader can do.

So, with this conception, attention should therefore be placed on improving on selection approach of a leader with gender-neutrality.

Capability and ability should be the key determinants of a leader particularly in the business world and in governance, where competence is expected to drive performance. It is noteworthy that key aspects pertinent to leadership such as self‐confidence, honesty, humility, trustworthiness, responsiveness, education, experience, competence, and integrity which are not gender-specific should be the most important attributes to consider when considering a leader and not the gender.

In my humble opinion, there is no shortage of qualified women to compete for any leadership role, be it in governance, military, business, corporate, or academia, we just need to improve on the political will.

Even though in Africa there are few or no regulations on gender matters. Nigeria can still do more on the established gender-mandated regulations.

For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has a regulations-mandate of having a minimum of 30% of females on boards of Nigerian commercial banks this can be reviewed upwards to 40% if not to 45%.

Then as a capital market operator in Nigeria, I am aware that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a code that recommends that publicly listed companies should consider gender when selecting board members, this code ought to be reviewed to have specific gender-based rules to improve female participation. Such regulations where applicable should be duly monitored along with proper enforcement. Furthermore, governments need to intensify gender policies to address the gender imbalance in the polity.

Finally, to have greater participation of women in all spheres of Nigerian society and indeed Africa, the governments and all stakeholders should engage in programmes and policies that would empower women politically, socially, and economically.

This is because women can be major stakeholders in the developmental project of any society if given the opportunity and platform. Culture and customs such as women are required only to take care of homes, and girl child marriages should be discouraged across the continent. More importantly, education must be a priority for all. Good luck.

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article? 

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments.

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