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The Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, has hailed the former governor of Rivers State and present Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on the occasion of his 53rd birthday anniversary today.

The party announced this through a press statement signed and released this morning (Sunday) by the newly-elected State Chairman of the APC, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree.

In the statement, the APC applauded Amaechi for providing focused and unwavering leadership for the party and its members in the State.

“It is a thing of joy that our leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has provided the needed focused and purposeful leadership for our party and members in Rivers State. We couldn’t have gotten it better.”

The party thanked God for the gift of wisdom; good health and staying power which has seen the Minister traverse the delicate political terrain of our state and nation despite several natural and man-made obstacles.

“As you turn 53 today, we can only thank God Almighty for bestowing on you the needed wisdom, good health and resilience to confront the vicissitudes of life especially in the political arena in Rivers State and Nigeria. We have no doubt that the good Lord will continue to remain your bedrock of strength in the years ahead.”

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Professor Charles Dokubo and the Stench of the Presidential Amnesty Programme

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“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

                                                      –Chinua Achebe

The concept of leadership is universal, cutting across several boundaries. Leadership  is an important ingredient in the activities of government; the determining factor between success and failure in a society.

Because of its infinitely defining nature therefore, Leadership is serious business and essentially demands an innate ability to foresee, a commitment and dedication to serve, the selflessness to be equitable and honesty to be accountable, all of which underpin the operative words of Chinua Achebe’s quote above in ‘unwillingness or inability of leaders to rise to the responsibility’, buttressing yet that being in a position of leadership is not in itself an end, but only a means to an end.

The Niger Delta region in Nigeria, adjudged the world’s largest wetland, representing over 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings has for as long as time been characterized by ecological squalor, high degree of unemployment, teeming youth restlessness, developmentally barren communities, and a heavy air of hopelessness, all of which have over the years been augmented by poor leadership both in the region and at the federal level.

This situation ignited appalling bloodbath, sabotaging of oil installations, kidnapping,   piracy, oil  bunkering,  guerrilla attacks on the security agents and fierce militancy which held the region spellbound for many years, causing Nigeria’s oil production at a time to drop to as low as about 900,000barrels per day from 2.3  million bpd, costing the nation about N8.7 billion daily. This was critical to the economy for a country that over 90% of its income derives from crude, with over 200 million in population.

The amnesty programme, introduced by late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009 has since proven to be a recipe for peace in the hitherto restive region, but that peace which paved the way for oil companies to resume normal business activities and provided the necessary boost to the oil-reliant Nigerian economy is fast becoming fragile given the documented cases of corruption in the leadership of the programme.

As it turned out, most of the militants were jobless youths, driven by their conditions into living dangerously in the creeks. The three phases of the amnesty programme being Disarmament Programme, Demobilization Programme and Reintegration Programme were thus conceieved to ultimately reintegrate these militants back into society and so they were placed on monthly stipends, made to learn trades while others secured university admissions to study in  Nigeria and abroad.

It is this reintegration phase that to a large extent shows the success or failure of the amnesty programme, and until the present regime headed by Professor Charles Dokubo, the programme seemed well on course.

Sidelining the mandate for which the Amnesty Programme was established, the leadership of the programme under leadership of Dokubo is being rampantly abused.

The programme is now obviously derailed given the festering corruption it has been caught up in and it would seem Professor Charles Dokubo does not have a good understanding of the dynamics of the program, the region or is simply too pre-occupied with inordinate interests to give a hoot.

It is sad indeed that even with the capacity of the programme to transform the economy of the region and Nigeria’s at large, its implementation has been compromised on  the platter of mediocrity and self- aggrandizement.

Several allegations of mismanagement and embezzlement of money allocated to the Presidential Amnesty Programme have been made against the office.

Thousands of beneficiaries whose names made the original list do not receive payments anymore as their names have been reportedly swapped for ghost names, while beneficiaries who await calls for their various techno-vocational training have been left in limbo.

Appearing too elitist to identify with the common people of the region whose demands have remained the same from the onset, Dokubo does not engage with the core people behind the struggle in the region as reports have it that since he was appointed to head the programme, he has never visited any state, clan or kingdom in the Niger Delta, which sounds absurd, given the place of assuring peace, development and security which are the bedrock of the amnesty programme.

Dokubo lacks the knowledge or ability to deal with the grassroots, the true ex-agitators and prefers dealing with the white-collar ivy leaguers with little knowledge of the terrain and ghost ex-agitators, thereby mortgaging the essence of the programme.

At the Kaiama Amnesty Centre, mismanagement and vandalisation of equipment worth billions of Naira in the starter Pack Warehouse at the centre is one of the sad reminders of Dokubo’s incompetence.

In like manner, the Ondo State VTC commissioned several months ago with equipment at the center worth billions of naira, lies rotting away with none ever sent there for training, while stupendous sums of money are constantly awarded for training.

There has been reports of the award of fictitious contracts going on at the agency designed to siphon money from the system; as payments are often made for supplies never delivered; with contracts sold and awarded for projects that never served the purpose of the programme.

Immorality has also reportedly gained prime place in the regime of the prof by indecent relationships with female staff and female contractors while contractors now bring women to get contracts.

Funds meant for ex- agitators’ training are wantonly looted to the extent that about nine thousand ex field agitators who still await call to be fully engaged by the government are yet to be recognized and carried along by Prof. Dokubo’s team.

What’s more, the non-payment of tuition fees of students sponsored under the amnesty programme in tertiary institutions has resulted in these students being asked to withdraw, which might well be the summit of the ignominious charade by the amnesty office.

The office of the programme is reported to currently be in debt of over 20billion Naira and still accumulating. This is clearly a pointer to leadership failure, looting and mismanagement of resources in the amnesty agency.

Chicanery in government offices is not new in Nigeria, but after holding sway for so long, the coming in of President Buhari with his gospel of anti-corruption elicited huge breaths of relief from Nigerians who have been at the receiving end of the cankerworm.

With these grave cases of corruption in the leadership of the amnesty programme of the federal government, it can  be reasonably expected that the president will be seen to take a decisive action on the matter, since the plan of the House of Representatives to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations is yet to see the light of the day for reasons not clear.

Dokubo himself alluded to the importance of working in close relationship with leaders in the region when he newly came in, but that spirit and resolve seem to have been vitiated by corruption.

According to his inaugural speech; “I have come to the conclusion that the Amnesty Programme would be better managed and better results achieved, if the managers of the Programme work very closely with leaders in the Niger Delta. In a nutshell, as the Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, I intend to work very closely with you leaders in the region and other key stakeholders of the Amnesty Program.”

He may also unwittingly or subtly have alluded to the fact that there would be incidences of corruption when he admitted he will make mistakes.

“I am determined to radically improve on what I met on ground at the Amnesty Office. I am not perfect. I am most likely going to make mistakes along the line, especially given the peculiar nature of the Amnesty Programme.” And he did.

It is obvious that the leadership of the presidential amnesty programme has woefully failed in carrying out its mandate, and the situation demands that the government wades in urgently and put an end to the embarrassing reports of thievery and debauchery emanating from the office.

No time in the history of the programme have there been stentorian cries for the removal of its boss, as in the instant case with Dokubo, whose appointment is beginning to raise eyebrows, questioning the criteria with which he was appointed.

The Pan Niger Delta Youth Leadership (PANDLEAF) believes that leadership failure is the nucleus of the problems confronting the Niger Delta region and according to its leader, Mr. Akinawa, “We can’t fold hands as youth and expect change. The time for us to take action is now and that is the intent of PANDLEAF; to awaken the youths of the Niger Delta for common good where leaders have failed.”

Lending its voice to the rot in the amnesty programme is the Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-agitators under the auspices of Creek Dragons who have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently remove the current coordinator of the programme, Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo.

The former creek warlords in a statement released to the press maintained that Prof. Dokubo is alien to the Niger Delta struggle for emancipation, accusing him of incompetence and alleged that the entire amnesty program has become a caricature, while stressing that his removal from office will better the amnesty program in moving forward and achieving its aims and objectives.

For that matter, the office of the presidential amnesty programme is one the president should of necessity be very much interested in, as the stench of rot wafting from the office across the region it is meant to serve is becoming intolerable and stands at variance with the vision and resolve of Mr. President as it concerns uprightness and accountability in public offices.

The kind of person needed to man the affairs of the office is one well vested with knowledge about the core issues of the region and objectives of the programme as drawn by the federal government. A person who commands the respect of leaders in the region as well as the confidence of the ex-agitators. This crop of people exists but have seemingly been constantly sidelined because of the politics involved in the whole thing.

Apparently, the Profeessor may have gotten this far by his dis-ingenuity and it is not a hidden fact that he has also been expending colossal amounts of money to secure his being retained as head of the amnesty programme, but things cannot keep on going the way they are with different results expected.

Stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians are now champing at the bit for a quick and worthy change of leadership in the office of the presidential amnesty programme.

Otherwise the fragile peace that has so far been enjoyed in the once violent region may simply crumble.

Manny Ita, a Public Affairs Commentator writes from Bayelsa.

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Isabel dos Santos and the Economic Empowerment of African Women….By Haley

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At a United Nations debate in New York, Isabel dos Santos, who is currently the richest woman in Africa, spoke of the economic empowerment of African women as a key to transforming society. This and many of her other hopeful and encouraging messages have inspired many citizens in African countries, mainly young women, to pursue their ambitions in business.

Dos Santos believes that some of the most promising and successful businesspeople in the world have been African because of the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit, however, has been weighed down by the stigmatization of women in the workplace. This has robbed the economy of valuable innovators and has barred women from achieving their ambitions. But by ensuring that young women can access the same education, job opportunities, and potential for growth as men, dos Santos believes that she can change this attitude and instill a national confidence in women.

This type of thinking falls in line with her more general philosophy of reform: “First the seed, then the future.” This dictum seems to urge against immediate change and, instead, encourages slow and steady growth. The seeds that Isabel dos Santos thinks ought to be planted are also tied up in the economic freedom of women – by creating jobs, providing training, and breaking sexist stigmas, she believes that women can experience increased financial stability while giving their home countries more influence in the international economy.

Dos Santos’ Vision of an Entrepreneurial Africa

Isabel Dos Santos  has spent a lot of time planting these seeds in Africa, focusing her efforts in her home country of Angola where she meets with young people and speaks with them about the power of entrepreneurship. Sometimes, she visits them in small, personable rooms at universities and other institutions, other times in much larger ones during her speeches and debates. Most tellingly, she refers to famous African entrepreneurs as a “great family” and invites everyone with the motivation to work hard and come join them.

She often encourages young women to leverage the world’s increased reliance on technology and artificial intelligence, which she refers to as “digitalization”. She believes working toward innovations in technology is key to increasing Africa’s presence in the international economy while flooding the continent with unique employment opportunities. With just a computer and internet connection, unemployed or underpaid citizens can find more work, sometimes with the higher wages that are more commonplace in developed countries, to support their families and stimulate their local economies.

During a conversation with students at the University of Warwick interested in developing Africa, dos Santos tells a young woman who is eager to accomplish her ambitions “now” that she has to be patient and have not just a goal but a string of subgoals to reach it. She goes on to encourages the student to involve herself as deeply as she can in the decision processes that influence that goal, and also to understand that sometimes it’s important to just focus on school, other times on a career or starting a business. This type of advice for strategic hesitance can be found in many of her speeches.

Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola’s long-time former president. Much of her wealth came from her investments and her previous position as the chairwoman of an oil company owned by the state called Sonangol. Dos Santos considers herself an independent businesswoman and investor and has become Africa’s first females billionaire. Forbes ranks her as the 9thwealthiest billionaire in Africa for 2018.

A Beacon of Hope in a Male-Dominated Market

For young businesswomen in various African countries, her success story has been a beacon of hope. But dos Santos has told various reporters that her rise to riches was marred by the sexism she had to endure in a male-dominated African business world. She has no shortage of stories concerning prejudice and discrimination based on her gender, such as during business meetings where the people she’s negotiating with would look to her male assistant, advisor, or lawyer for validation though she already stated her offer. She is also frequently asked what business her husband is in when her wealth is made clear.

Despite her tribulations in the business world , Isabel dos Santos has maintained a charitable and hopeful perspective on life and takes on many projects geared toward improving small communities and local economies. One of these projects was in Humpata, in the province of Huila, where dos Santos helped establish a strawberry field, “planting the seed” to empower citizens. This project gave 120 women a place to work and a new income. On her website, dos Santos says:

“Creating opportunities and employment for women means betting on the progress of the communities themselves. When they thrive, women invest their income in the family, health, and education. I value this as a sense of duty, commitment, and dedication. The impact that women create around them is powerful and transformative.”

She calls on other African entrepreneurs to give back to their countries by investing in similar projects. Though they seem small-scale, she believes that with enough support, this type of philanthropic work can create a value chain large enough to impact the national economy. As a result, smaller communities will have more prosperous citizens and influence. Should those new entrepreneurs be African women, then dos Santos hopes that their success will help chip away at the stigma that women are less competent than men.

This is all part of one of Isabel dos Santos’ larger goals to increase the prosperity of African countries as a whole. She plans to accomplish this by working from the ground up, focusing on the individual, such as the promising young men and woman of various African countries. By empowering them, she is, in turn, empowering their communities. This creates value within towns that have historically not had the chance to prosper, and by strengthening local economies, the national economy itself is bolstered.

“This is the true transformation of a country,” she says. It starts with a little hope and promise, with planting the “seeds”, and then, through the hard work of a community’s individuals, a brighter future can be earned.”

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5 Years of Spreading Luck – Everyone Needs a Little Help

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In business the role luck plays in success and personal achievement is rarely discussed. If luck is mentioned, it is done with slight condescension, and usually dismissed as a product of hard work, not deserving significant attention. While hard work is paramount – and I have written extensively about the importance of working hard – history and my own experiences show that there is often a large element of success that hard work alone cannot explain. It is simply not true that “you make your own luck.”

I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed. How did I get from there to where I am now? Of course, hard work, resilience, a long-term vision – but also luck.

A year later after earning my Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos, I applied to join a new generation bank, Allstates Trust Bank. The bank’s one-page newspaper advertisement demanded a minimum 2:1-degree, but I applied regardless, submitting a cover letter and filled out application with my 2:2-Economics degree.

By a stroke of luck, my application was reviewed by the Chairman/CEO, a painstaking man who carefully read my cover letter and was drawn to the confidence in my words. “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more.” He read those words and took a chance on me. Though “unqualified”, he decided to throw me a lifeline, an opportunity.

I was invited to join the shortlist, followed by a long series of interviews and even more tests. At the end of a very rigorous process, I received good news – I had a place as an entry level analyst. Even now, I wonder: What if the Founder had not personally gone through my application? What if my application was rejected at the very beginning? What if I never got the opportunity to work at Allstates Trust Bank?

The story continues: within 12 months at the bank, aged 27, I went from analyst to branch manager – the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time. I was hard working, energetic, creative and prioritised getting things done, but it was also good fortune that my bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo took notice, and then, believed in me. They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. They recognised in me the raw materials needed to make a good leader and were prepared to invest in me and my ability. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving.

This position of branch manager was a solid platform which launched me into several top leadership roles. When we, a small group of hungry, determined, young outsiders, took over struggling Crystal Bank, it was as a direct result of the preparedness and exposure that we received early from our superiors and mentors. Without the intervention and goodwill of these people in my career, I would not have been prepared as I was to take on far greater roles. These learning opportunities laid the pathway to future achievements. Put simply, I was lucky enough to be identified and trusted so early on in my career, and this put me on a unique road to success. I keep this in mind – it is humbling and also drives much of what I do today.

When I left UBA as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2010 to pursue other interests, I made a vow that through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I would “institutionalise” luck and democratise access to opportunities for young Africans.  I promised to leverage the success I have enjoyed, to spread luck and hope, provide opportunities and to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs to succeed. Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today. I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people who gave me a chance early in my career. It has been a lifetime goal to pay this forward in a transformative and impactful way.

Over the past three decades I have spent as a banker, investor, and turnaround expert, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of entrepreneurs, like me.  Many of them young people, with incredible dreams and business ideas but without the experience or the access to mentoring and support required in order to build successful businesses. But most importantly, they have not yet been exposed to the right opportunity.

Our entrepreneurs are hard at work across the continent, identifying gaps in the market for specific products and services, and bridging these gaps with their innovation and ingenuity. Yet, many of these budding entrepreneurs often lack the capital, the networks, the training, the support to take their small business to national or regional scale. All they need is a helping hand, some luck, someone to believe in them and take a chance on them.

This is what the Tony Elumelu Foundation offers: a platform that empowers African entrepreneurs– from business management training, to mentoring, to funding to networking – championing their cause and giving them a global voice to actualise their ambitions. This is precisely why I launched the USD$100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs. Indeed, these may be the next UBAs (United Bank for Africa).

So, when I am asked, “Tony, why are you and your family doing this? What is in it for you?” I smile and recount my own story of luck. Luck is real, it is powerful, and I am committed to spreading it as far as I can. I am a beneficiary of luck, and I am passionate about sharing it across the continent, to all 54 countries.

I want our young aspiring entrepreneurs to apply. I want you to be a part of this global movement for good. I encourage you to be bold enough to let luck find you. There will be 1260 places open from January 1, 2019. Will you be among the lucky ones this year? Take a chance on yourself. Your future may begin today. Apply now at TEFCONNECT.COM

 

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