Securing the future of Abia youths through human capital development initiatives

By Eagle Okoro

A certain Latin phrase says, “Nemo dat quod non habet”, meaning that “no one can give what they do not have”.

The scripture reinforced the above expression with the story of an encounter between Peter, John and the lame man at the gate of the temple, called Beautiful, soliciting for alms. 

The biblical account contained in Acts 3:1-8 tells us how the cripple looked up expectantly to Peter and John for generous financial gift, when they came close to him. 

However, contrary to his expectations for money, Peter bluntly said to him, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.” And the scripture further says that Peter held the man by the hand and he stood, firmed up and began to walk.

The fundamental question one may ask is, which is better? The expected financial gift or spiritual healing that caused the man to regain his ability to walk? Of course, the answer is very obvious! 

Again, a renowned Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. 

The foregoing anecdotes truly define Gov. Alex Otti’s thinking and approach to the economic empowerment of the unemployed Abia youths, who look up to him for employment, handout and/or palliative, otherwise called “stomach infrastructure” in our local parlance. 

As we know, stomach infrastructure merely provides a temporary economic relief to the beneficiary. It is like giving fish and feeding the beneficiary for one day. So, what happens thereafter? This explains why the governor, a sound economist, would never subscribe to “empowering” the youths by means of handouts or stomach infrastructure.

And it is least expected that any wise and reasonable unemployed Abia youths are expecting to be given fish. Rather, they are anxious and determined to avail themselves of any opportunities to develop and harness their latent talents and skills in order to be able to feed themselves for life. That is to say they appreciate what it means to be taught how to fish and not given fish!

Thus, like Peter to the lame man, the governor has been strategic in his approach and style of empowering the helpless and jobless Abia youths.

Therefore, instead of offering handouts and stomach infrastructure, the governor has genuinely enunciated a well-packaged programme for youth development via different skill acquisition and capacity building initiatives.

This is the governor’s own idea of youth empowerment and preparing them for self-reliance and sustainable economic growth. This is the only gift that can be enduring and capable of making the economically crippled Abia youths rise on their feet to fend for themselves, become independent, gainfully employed and productive to contribute to Abia’s overall socio-economic development.

So, in place of the traditional handouts and donation of wheelbarrows, motorcycles and refurbished tokunbo vehicles to the youths as empowerment items, associated with the previous administrations, Gov. Otti has deviated from such a deceptive and demeaning gesture that had left thousands of the beneficiaries between 1999 and 2023 still looking largely beggarly, hungry and unproductive. 

His personal conviction is that every unemployed Abia youth should proudly acquire a skill to be able to fish and fend for themselves all through their lifetime.

It is against this backdrop that he has continued to introduce one form of skill acquisition programme and training or the other. 

For instance, in February, the government announced its readiness to establish tuition-free schools in the three senatorial districts, with a focus on providing skills for the state.

The Commissioner for Information and Culture, Prince Okey Kanu, disclosed this at a news briefing after the state Executive Council meeting.  

According to the commissioner, participants for the one-year residential programme will be trained in skills, such as solar power assembly, POP designing, painting, masonry and tiling, amongst others. 

He said that at the end of the training, the participants would receive financial support to kickstart their own businesses, in line with the government’s emphasis on self-sufficiency”.

Pursuant to the government’s objective on youth training, the governor, a few weeks ago, sponsored 300 persons of Abia origin to Nasarawa to be trained in sophisticated mechanised agriculture by CSS Farms, one of the foremost mechanised farms in the country.

Speaking at the regular monthly media parley on Friday, June 22, 2024, the governor said: “These 300 people were drawn from the 124 political wards, and the whole idea is that they would be able to train others as they come back.

“It is the government’s plan to equip these beneficiaries with the seed money to start their own agricultural establishments, with the mandate to employ and train at least five interested persons within their locality.”

Thus, training the Abia youths in agriculture and agricultural value chain portends a great future for them, in terms of economic independence, self-employment and self-fulfillment as well as food security for the state.

This is the government’s set objective for the Abia youths in both the short and long term. It is the governor’s preoccupation toward expanding the frontiers of employment generation and securing a promising future for them. 

So, Gov. Otti is ultimately offering a better alternative to Abia youths, which is to help them through group training to develop and harness their God-given talents, skills and capacity to become job creators, rather than job-seekers.

It is, therefore, instructive for the unemployed youths in the state to close their minds to the master-slave handouts and stomach infrastructure and embrace the robust skill acquisition and capacity building initiatives already emplaced by the Otti-led administration in their own interest and overall growth and development of Abia, God’s Own State. 

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