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TRIALS, TRAVAILS AND TRIUMPH OF DELTA STATE FOREIGN STUDENTS YOUTH EMPOWERMENT TRAINING PROGRAMME: AN INSIDER’S REPORT – By Bayagbon Usimo

trainees1TraineesThe Delta State Youth Empowerment Programme (DSYEP) was an initiative aimed at equipping the youths of delta state with the requisite technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills needed to develop sustainable livelihood (empowerment)

Statistically, Nigeria has a youth population of about 67 million, aged between 15 and 35 years, 42.2% of these young people don’t have a means of livelihood, while only about 20% have more than a secondary school certificate. These figures reveal that the majority of the youths in our country find it hard to make ends meet, thereby making it imperative for effective youth empowerment strategies to be initiated in our country.

The Delta state government, recognizing this gap, quickly keyed into meeting and addressing some of these critical needs, through its youth empowerment initiatives.

The Delta state Youth Empowerment Programme  (DSYEP) 2014, on the island of Trinidad and Tobago as well as Barbados is the first of its kind in Delta state; the brainchild of His Excellency, the immediate past Governor of Delta State Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan was instituted under the umbrella of the Delta Beyond Oil initiative and its mission was to harness the production potential of Delta state youths, with the ultimate objective of launching an era of rapid and sustainable social and economic development, geared towards transforming the state into the most peaceful and industrialized state in Nigeria.

DSYEP success story officially began in May 2014 after the highly publicized application process, screening and transparent selection of successful candidates by the Ministry of Higher Education, under the leadership of Prof Hope Eghagha, the Honorable Commissioner for Higher Education. Other members of the project’s central working committee were former Delta state Commissioners, Mr Ebifa Ijeoma, (Youth), Olorogun Kenneth Okpara (Finance) and Mr. Charles Ajuyah, SAN, (Justice), at the time of inception.

They were complemented by the ever vibrant and courteous staff of the Ministry of Higher Education as well as other administrative personnel from the other Ministries mentioned, who were drafted in and subsequently constituted into a sub-committee to handle the program with utmost and commendable dedication from the get go, beginning with the orientation exercise at the famous Songhai resort centre in Agbarho, Ethiope East LGA, Delta state.

As to be expected of every human endeavour however, where there are no challenges, there are no victories and upon the successful exercise and return from the orientation at Songhai in July, 2014, and all was set for the smooth departure of the selected candidates to depart to Trinidad and Tobago for the commencement of their academic programme, when some critical but external issues emerged, which were not within the powers of the Ministry to fully address.

These seemingly intractable issues, which required negotiated rather than administrative resolutions, emerged unexpectedly and lingered from July, after the orientation till October 2014 and in the process, not only delayed the take off date, even after the completion of necessary travel arrangements by the end of August, but posed a major obstacle for the DSYEP plans, when the government of Trinidad and Tobago placed a ban on Nigerians with entry visa into the island, on October 17th 2014, due to the presence of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, which suddenly reared its ugly head in Nigeria.

The Ebola scourge was eventually conquered swiftly and within a couple of weeks too in Nigeria, which impressed the Trinidadian Government to eventually lift on October 23rd 2014, following the World Health Organization WHO’S declaration that Nigeria was Ebola free.

The joy and happiness of the DSYEP trainees knew no bounds words were insufficient to describe how relieved they were, when departure messages were sent across from the Ministry of Higher Education which subquently led to the mobilization of the trainees from Asaba to Lagos on the 1st of November 2014.

However, the joy of departure was short-lived following unforeseen problems with departure logistics, as well as airline landing permit issues, thus forcing the Delta State government to keep the trainees together at the Lagos airport Hotel for a period of 22days.

This singular act, of not disbanding the project at this critical stage and in view of all the emergent and resolved obstacles hitherto experienced since inception, essentially showed proof of the Delta State Government’s commitment to the success of the program.

It is also pertinent to note that the over three weeks of delay spent at the hotel, while the travel logistics were sorted out, greatly helped the trainees to develop a spirit of togetherness and a solid bonding which fostered a close relationship above all, irrespective of how disappointed they were, and also eventually served them well during the course of the training in Trinidad and Tobago.

DSYEP finally took off when the successful 150 trainees and 5 cheaperones were airlifted from the Murtala Mohammed international airport on 1st Dec, 2014 on a 12 hour journey to the Island of Trinidad and Tobago to begin their training at the National Energy Skill Centre (NESC) and BIMAP Barbados.

Upon arrival at the island, they were lodged in a home away from home, in an impressive hotel establishment, with a beautiful ocean view, but even inspite of this scenic and peaceful learning environment, the trainees were faced with certain difficulties worthy of note, including the change in cultural setting and currency transactions, the inimitable language barrier and the food/menu differences, amongst others.

They however braced up to these challenges and motivated by the burning zeal in every Nigerian and most especially Deltans to succeed irrespective of the odds, as encapsulated in the unshakable slogan Delta nor dey carry last, these challenges were surmounted in no time.

With the initial existential challenges surmounted, the academic experience posed a new and different setting; an experience which was very beneficial to the success of every trainee during the course of the program based on the simplified means in which knowledge was passed on to the trainees and the ever ready instructors at the various institutions of learning.

As was to be expected, this exposure to a new and novel academic setting was to give rise to the demand for educational aids, which was swiftly and commendably attended to by the then Delta State Governor, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, who approved the provision of operational tools like Laptops to every trainee in the programme to further improve the learning process and outcome.

On May 29, 2015, a new political administration came into power in Delta State, when Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa was sworn-in as the governor to take over the helm of governance from Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

And in keeping with standard expectations usually asscociated with every other change of government, there were certain financial obligations ranging from Accommodation bills, school fees to stipends and other upkeep allowances inherited by the new administration and great kudos and comprehensive commendation and gratitude must go to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who, as a lover of Education himself, swiftly responded to the situation and brought succor to the trainees in far away Trinidad and Tobago and the Barbados.

On November 8, 2015, the trainees finally landed in Asaba after a successful training cum academic programme and a journey that has been nothing short of historical, considering the experiences and interactions, cutting across different ethnic societies, they have had which in very ramification, are worthy to take back home with them.

It is important to also stress at this juncture that that the trainees were selected both on merit from across the 25 local government areas and also in the recognition of certain political patronages and promises that transformed into the fulfilment of political promises made by politicians to their constituents across the 25 local government areas, with the selection of deserving candidates for the training programme.

Regular reports received from the well structured monitoring initiative set up for the programme confirm that as ambassadors from Delta State, the trainees comported themselves in a manner worthy of emulation and their impressive academic performance at the end of the programme certainly speaks for itself, as some of them were given various awards of excellence.

They have done Delta state proud and despite the fact that they did have ups and downs, what had been destined to the glory of God Almighty must definitely be and there is absolutely no doubt that their achievements as trainees in a foreign land will surely bring pride and glory to the name of Delta state.

Speaking exclusively in conversations and discussion upon their arrival back home in Asaba, Delta State, most of the trainees were unanimous in expressing their collective gratitude to God Almighty for the successful completion of the study without Whom a project of this magnitude would never have been realized.

The trainees and indeed all those all those involved with the project from inception to fulfilment also expressed profound gratitude to the Delta State government for this once in a lifetime chance and for all the expense and sacrifices towards a better future not just for themselves but for the benefit of their families, immediate environment, the state and country at large.

“Our hearts go out to the one with life changing thoughts, with futuristic ideas towards the betterment of a growing generation, a man of excellent caliber and great deeds which triumphs among historical achievements; His Excellency, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. Whatever history remembers of you would most definitely include your commitment to see youths succeed and take the lead as Deltans”, one of the trainees said with reverence.

A key member of the administrative team, Hon. Usimo Bayagbon also spoke in the same vein, expressing the same sentiments with special salute to the then Delta state Commissioner for Higher Education at inception of DSYEP 2105 Prof. Hope Eghagha, whom he described as, “a man of amiable character, uncommon humility, a leader of men, manager of people, a professor of our time and a man with unprecedented educational vision”, even as he added that “your dedication to the success of this endeavor can never be over emphasized. We appreciate you for the father that you are and we assure you that your effort will not be in vain”, Bayagbon said.

Speaking further, Mr. Usimo Bayagbon said, “Also, I would love to appreciate the political heavy weight of our time, one time this and one time that, a man of the people, Hon Charles Emetulu, former Delta State Honorable Commissioner for Higher Education, who succeeded Prof. Hope Eghagha at the helm of affairs at the Ministry, upon his call to greater responsibilities by the Governor of the state.

“Hon Emetulu, the one we ‘Yepites’ nicknamed “Talk and do”, your contribution and quick action speaks volume of your personality. God bless and preserve you. Truth be told, the trainees were quite skeptical about your intention towards the programme, upon ascension to the helm of affairs of Delta State, owing to the hitches we had but these fears allayed in no time at all, by your fatherly response to our every concern and you showed yourself to be a great man whose commitment to the development of human capital is second to none”, he said.

Mr. Bayagbon however showered the most resounding accolade for the Governor of Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, stressing that the new Delta State helmsman wasted no time in responding to the needs and assuaging the fears of the trainees who had felt that they would be stranded and abandoned in a far away land, with the change of governorship baton in the state.

Addressing Governor Okowa respectfully, Bayagbon said, “We appreciate most profoundly your efforts and commitment to the success of the programme and while we look forward to the maximum utilization of the skills garnered by these trainees from the programme, pray that your reign as the Governor of Delta State will be richly blessed with peace and prosperity as your mandate will never fail to fulfil its purpose”, he said.

Others who also came in for special appreciation include the then Commissioner for Commerce and Industry and now Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr. Kingsley Emu, whom the trainees describe flamboyantly as a charismatic personality, a positive thinker, a man of his words; the like of which is hard to find, a man of many ways and well thought out strategies, which will surely benefit the state as a whole.

They also had kind word for the team, noting that appreciation would not be complete without acknowledging the men and women who worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the program, the staff of the Ministry of Higher Education, the Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Higher Education, Hon Bayagbon Usimo JP (aka General Josh rtd), known by all as the people’s General, a gladiator in strategic coordination, a team player and diligent worker who is highly motivated and with a burning desire to serve and strong sense of collective-operation, teamwork.

There is also the Director of Finance, Mr. Paul Ataine, described as a tactical guru in accounting, highly organised and methodical, a man with the ability to highlight values necessary to meet individual, Consultant and Government obligations; Bradouyai Timipere .V,  known as the mama of ‘yepite’ and described glowingly as an enthusiastic and self motivating personnel who is able to work under pressure and deliver within strict deadlines; Barrister Obiageli Idaboh, known for her precession, highly organized and methodical with excellent time management and prioritisation skill.

Also on the list of appreciation are Mr. Enwemnwa Chiedu Collins, the Director of Administration in the Ministry of Higher Education and Miss Onashe Oke P, all of whom the trainees expressed their warm gratitude to, asserting that only  God can richly reward them in a manner that befits their inputs, efforts and time put towards the success of the programme.

The incumbent Commissioner of Higher Education, Engineer Jude Sinebe,  was also not left out as the trainees and the team commended his desire to handle the program at its final stage, especially the committed efforts he put in to ensure the safe return  of the trainees, and while congratulating him on his appointment as the Speaking on behalf of the original team that initiated the DSYEP programme, Bayagbon Usimo expressed the gratitude of the former staff of the Ministry to the present Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education, Engr Jude Sinebe and others who ensured the successful completion of the project, saying “We know that the Ministry of Higher Education, is in worthy hands and pray that God wisdom will fully direct your decisions.

“We appreciate the program consultant, Ms Donna St Hill for her efforts all through the program, we can’t thank you enough but your contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed and we pray that our God will bless and prosper all your future endeavors.

“This appreciation can never be complete without giving honor to whom it is due, a mother, a confidant, a woman of virtue and the perfect coordinator always on top of things even when hope seems too frail and when the future is unclear, you stood by our student an never wavered in your commitments to their success story, we attest to the fact that without your motherly presence a lot would have gone wrong. “Mrs. Ladi Franklin may your light never go out and may God bless you and perfect all your efforts in Jesus name.

“And also especially to Honeybell Ogunye of Yone Travels, who handled the transit arrangements and went to great and extra lengths during the delay period and even made some very personal financial commitments at a time when bureaucracy appeared to have stalled certain approvals.

“History would remember everyone that was involved in one way or the other for this life changing experiences for our youths, which your efforts have exposed them to.

“Thank you and God bless Delta State”, he concluded with a huge sigh of relief and satisfaction for a job well done.

 

Bayagbon Usimo JP, was the Special Assistant to erstwhile Delta State Honourable Commissioner for Higher Education, Prof. Hope Eghagha and was drafted in as Project Co-ordinator and Strategic Aide to the Project Consultant to facilitate and network the coordinating process including, visa process, documentation, ‎communication with the foreign consultant and direct negotiations in fact finding between and across all the oil companies within Delta and Rivers states. 

 

 

 

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