interviewBy Abdul-Rahman Abubakar
Ambassador Obinna Adim is the Special Adviser on Youth Empowerment to President Goodluck Jonathan. He explains ways to empower the youths through leadership training.
Weekly Trust: How do you intend to improve the lot of youths in the country?
Amb. Obinna Onimo: Economists have been predicting that the new boom is going to be in Africa; all over the world they are saying after China, Africa will be the next economic boom and it saddens my heart that we have not developped the people, the leaders who are going to manage this economic boom. A nation without proper youth development strategy and programme is doomed. I believe that Nigeria as the giant of Africa cannot afford to be left behind. I am offering an integrated youth development programme in all the local government areas, states and national level. We did an assessment and we found the country to be spending a lot of money on youth programmes, and the rating of Nigeria is low in youth development. So, what I want to discuss with the various governors, who are spending a whole lot of money on youth development but not in a proper way. We need to have an integrated youth development programme where every state has the same strategy and is running the same programme. That way, our rating will be high and we can get the funding.
How do you intend to fund this programme?
We have been talking to international donors that have promised that they will match every budget or fund for youth development, if we put the right structure of youth development programme in place. What is happening in Nigeria today, the unrest, the insecurity is as a result of long abandonment of the youth and we should stop politicizing youth development issues. The first thing is to identify the problem, second step is to put out an integrated youth development programme together, these programmes are going to be running at local governments, states and national levels. And it should be done with sincerity of purpose, because without sincerity of purpose, nothing works, without passion, nothing works, without vision, nothing works. So these are the three factors we have to identify.
What have you done to commence the project?
I have travelled all over the country to meet different youth groups; I have met young people who had finished their education in the United Kingdom, America and other parts of the world. I have discussed with them and they are saying that in Nigeria everything is all about money. That there are no role models and this is dangerous for a society. A society that does not have role models is dangerous. If a young man doesn't have who he looks up to in a country, that is disaster. How are we moving without the future leaders, the future generation? It is time for all parties to come together and say 'let's do it'. And there is too much talk. Too much seminars, conferences, workshops and all that; it is time to do the work, to carry out the change, touching the lives of the youths, it is time to orientate the youth because that is key.
Do you have support of governors on this programme?
First of all, we are talking with the international organizations that are willing to help, because without money, this cannot be done. We have had meetings with various international organizations and they have said, we have a problem with our youth programme, there is no audit trail. A person comes for a training programme, after the training he disappears, nobody has his record to see how he is fairing in whatever programme that he was trained. So, based on the information they have given us, we are putting up an integrated youth development strategy which also falls under the African Union Youth Charter, which we will now present to the governors. We are not going to take their money, we want to add value. You know a lot of people say in the several meetings I have held, that we are coming to take their budget away from them. No, we want to double their budget, if they run that programme the way we want, it will add more value on the youths in their various states and local government areas.
What does integrated youth development strategy entail?
We are still working on it based on the information given to us. First, we want to develop youth leaders, because the problem is we do not have proper youth leaders. You find out that the youths who had gotten political positions or certain positions did not do well. And the youths are clamouring and saying it is time for change, but the youths are not ready for the change, they are not ready to take the mantle of leadership. So, we are concentrating on developing youth leaders. We are partnering with the Institution of the North in Alaska. Alaska is a success story; we want to take them so that they can learn about the Alaska, Malysia, Singapore, UAE and China success stories. So, by the time we keep taking 74 youths every year for this programme, we are churning out youth leaders. And we have put down a structure whereby if they come back from the training, they will become the ambassadors of the training. And they go to their various destinations and start spreading the word and they will be empowered both in entrepreneurship skills and other aspects. They will be constantly busy, because there will be more training for the next people and these ambassadors will carry out the training for a fee.
How soon are you kicking off?
We have already kicked off. Since I was appointed in November last year, I have travelled to 25 countries and I have visited all the states in Nigeria. We have coordinators in the six geo-political zones and each state has a coordinator and those are the platforms we are going to use to run the programme.
Are there pilot schemes on ground?
Yes, we are doing pilot schemes. There are pilot schemes that will be run in Nigeria. I am also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Pan African Youth Council. The US State Depart is giving a lot of funds to the Pan African Youth Council, about $1.5 billion. That is why we synergised them together, and Nigeria through our efforts is one of the countries that will run this pilot schemes. The agriculture programme is coming from the Pan African Youth Council. All the pilots on ICT, agriculture and other sectors are going to be run through Nigeria, because Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa.
How are you going to select participants?
We are going to invite 10 people per state. The first training is going to be by the Institute of the North in Alaska. This Institute is a foundation of Governor Echo. Echo is former governor of Alaska who used to be the Minister of Interior in the time of Richard Nixon. The Institute has programmes that can develop the youth leaders and they have various people who will come to Nigeria to choose the 76. They will then be taken to America for the next phase of the training. We are also talking with the Clinton Global Initiative. From the Institute of the North in Alaska, they will go to the Clinton Global Initiative; from there they will go to the Bush Foundation. In all these institutions they will go, they will see world leaders coming to lecture them, mentor them. I believe they will come back with the right ideology.