Young leaders in the Niger Delta region have advocated for strategic economic engagement and affirmative leadership roadmap as panacea for development and a means to make up for the huge capital being invested in the region.
This is as a result of their determination to take full advantage of the untapped potentials in the oil-rich Niger Delta region and further drive the region to its deserved destination.
The leaders unanimously adopted this position as a way forward for the region on Saturday during the Niger Delta Young Leaders Webinar Conference, with theme: “Leadership and Economic Challenges in the Oil Niger Delta, Solutions And Prospects”.
They assertively advocated that the region set aside its culture of mediocrity and faulty leadership process. They also pushed for an urgent blueprint for technology and broadband infrastructure, as well as support and encouragement for young women.
Lending his voice to the call, former lawmaker representing Akuku-Toru/Asari-Toru Federal Constituency of Rivers State, Dr Dawari George, harped on the need for the region to define its own problems. He noted that in spite of the huge capital going in as investment into the region, the Niger Delta was still plagued in mediocrity.
He regretted that the raw materials that abound in the region have not been properly harnessed to facilitate development and create economic relief for the region and its people.
He emphasised the need for more superior ideas and ways of reasoning geared towards building a communication bridge between the leaders and the led, just as he reiterated that majority of leaders in the region lack ideas to run with.
“The Niger Delta can lead without a symbol of authority,” the former House of Representatives member said.
Convener of the discussion and chairman of the Nigerian Young Professionals Forum (NYPF), Mr Moses Siloko Siasia, stressed that it is important for the voice of young individuals to be heard, considering the “times we are in as a people and a country”. According to the NYPF boss, it is time to change the narrative and bring in those who are well-oriented.
While hailing the leadership of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) for promoting local content in the country, he added that revolutionising the agricultural sector is necessary to diversify and create value which would, in turn, reflect on the country’s GDP.
Mr Siasia further highlighted on the importance of regional engagement and partnership, insisting that governors in the Niger Delta region were working with political concerns, rather than economic progress. He, however, commended the Akwa Ibom State governor for his contribution and initiative in driving the state’s aviation sector with the establishment of Ibom Air, a project he described as a “pride” to the region.
“Leaders are not remembered after their reign for roads and bridges, they are remembered for their deliberate efforts in human capacity development and building of strong institutions before and after their reign,” he stressed.
Similarly, special adviser on Youths to the Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Comrade Engr Udengs Eradiri opined that accountability should be a key character in the Niger Delta region. This was even as he questioned whether the Niger Delta had any economic development plan, adding that leadership was a key factor affecting the region, as many in the helm of affairs are oblivious of the needs of the region.
“There are so many youth organisations headed by young people who are not knowledgeable,” he said.
Engr Eradiri thus, suggested a re-organisation of youth groups, stressing that these micro-organisations were not active in their various fields. He said there is a dire need to engage ethnic youth organisations, profile and equip them to prevent further abuse.
Special Adviser to the Ondo State government on Entrepreneurship Development, Hon Summy Smart Francis, decried abandonment of the region by the Nigerian government, emphasising that the Niger Delta is not considered a long-term venture for the country, as the region is seen as just a temporal money-making venture. He likened the situation of the Niger Delta as a “country robbing from itself”.
He recommended that it has become necessary for more young Niger-Deltans to be in positions of leadership and at the centre of power. He highlighted pervasive poverty, education and infrastructure as major issues hindering development in the region. “Young leaders should be encouraged and promoted,” he said.
Supporting the call for emergence of youths on the frontline of leadership in the Niger Delta, special adviser on Tourism to the Cross River State government, Ubi Franklin proffered a decentralised chain of command which could cater for the average man. This was even as he advised that schools within the Niger Delta region begin to teach history, adding that education was beyond the four walls of a building.
He charged governors of the region to embrace unity so as to promote development in the Niger Delta which according to him, ought to be a tourist site but instead, has been marked as a danger zone by many foreign nations.
On the issue of unemployment, Franklin noted that the region was underdeveloped thus; “many youths after service go out to other regions to find employment, and end up developing those regions as against theirs.”
Mary Akpan, a writer, public speaker, and social entrepreneur, on her own part, noted that the problem of the girl child in the region is basic education. She regretted that many young girls lacked access to education in the region and that many of the schools are poorly equipped. While highlighting the ills of human trafficking in the region, she called on the government to make the safety of the girl child a priority, emphasising that safety of women in a society is paramount in nation-building.
Those who also spoke as speakers at the conference webinar include the deputy speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Amarachi Nwanyanwu, Mr Otuya Okecha, Mr Richard Akinaka and Mrs Merlyn Tamunoemi.
The forum attracted over 500 participants across the Niger Delta who joined in the webinar conference and they all unanimously gave commitment to champion a new narrative in the region that would bring about sustainable growth for all.