CONSCIOUS engagement of the youth and innovative approach to the education of youngsters as well as regular orientation on new skills have radically advanced Anambra State within the past 31 years.
Leveraging eclectic mix of courses over the last 31 years, investment in youth development is one venture with which Anambra State masterfully charts through waters that capsised her contemporaries.
Despite inheriting a load of blighted young ones, the state quickly thawed this Achilles’ heel into a forte through signature policies encouraging youth inclusion and general participation in governance. Hence, from a swarm of vastly poor, mostly unemployed illiterate or semi-literate youth population widely lacking in exposure, but versatile in clannishness, violence, short-cutting, substance abuse, brigandage, armed robbery, 419, cultism, among others. Anambra welded these liabilities into big assets that have resulted in the state’s development matrix.
THE outcome, 31 years after, is so obvious that some other states have a reference point. Hitherto, the state was known for her teeming number of youthful merchants who were school dropouts. The rate of boys leaving school to pursue trading was sky high, because there was no incentive to remain in classrooms while ‘easy’ money ‘littered’ say Onitsha or Nnewi streets and markets.
Not many boys fancied the lull and throes of academics. Being in the frontlines of inter-community land ownership, thuggery and and boundary wars became niches for mean, young men, while young women of easy virtue found another name for ‘enterprise’ in brothels for which unwanted babies (packed in cartons) dotted cul-de-sacs and rendezvouses in cities and urban centres. In no time, young women and girls also started feeding robbery gangs with manpower recruitment from where some of them formed their own rings and led dare-devil operations in banks and highways.
OF COURSE, with people aged 35 years and below, constituting over 70 per cent of Igbo population, nay Nigeria, their number was never in short supply.
WHAT worse dynamics primes any young state for implosion more than the foregoing scenario? This is why whatever pyrotechnics, clearly beyond histrionics, with which Anambra harnessed this burden into a badge of honour deserves red carpet on a day such as today.
Anambra made youth development one of her priorities– even when it is still seen as second fiddle or infra dig in some states.
RATHER than reaching out for scattergun, a succession of administrations went for cutting edge policies that pitched youth development as unique selling point (USP) and ipso facto rubbed off on sustainable development. Governments set shops on youth as a market of new things in the area of human capital.
Rather than doodling or fiddling with analogue miscues, innovative initiatives were floated, creativity received boosts, schemes launched, the youth motivated to man crucial levers and wheels of strategic sectors of economy. In concrete terms, over 20,000 youths became entrepreneurs following introduction of one-youth-one-skill programme which ran under Phases I – V as facilitated by Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) between 2013 and 2021.
TO FURTHER engage the youth, agencies like Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade, Anambra Road Maintenance Agency (ARMA) and Anambra Traffic Management Agency (ARTMA) as well as Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), for instance, were established or re-calibrated at different times for youth inclusion. There were youth-oriented empowerment programs, innovation hubs like film villages, sports entertainment and night life were encouraged in different cities to engage busy young hands in productive vocations.
SOON, Anambra youth became integral part of governance with political and decision-making structures given youth flairs or reconfigured to suit or attract young and vibrant bloods. This was done deliberately by several regimes in Anambra over the past three decades.
Government even went as far as collapsing existing ministries into hitherto Ministry of Youth Empowerment and Creative Economy, for instance. Hence, in no time, qualified and good-to-go young ones were weaned into positive change agents actively participating in running affairs at local, state and federal levels.
WORLD beaters of youthful age were prioritised in leadership recruitment and moved up to membership of highest decision making organ of government, the state executive council where the likes of Mr. Mark Okoye, for instance, was elevated to the post of Commissioner for Economic Planning, Budget and Development Partners after a stellar performance as special adviser to the governor.
Although many more young go-getters were appointed as aides, the way the state legislature gave unprecedented vent shows that it is a conscious motive of the entire state. Even currently, from Speaker Uche Okafor and other principal officers, to the entire lawmakers of the state’s Assembly, two-thirds of legislators are youths. The same scenario is also playing out in House of Representatives where all six members flying All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) flag are all youth until two lost their mandates in court and some carpet crossing.
HENCE, from leaders of tomorrow, Anambra youths became owners of today. Also, a native of Anambra is the young woman who has become a globally reputed writer and activist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. That is yet a youth of the state.
YET these numbers merely rub its surface if weighed against Anambra’s success story and medal haul in internally generated revenue (IGR) through the digitised Anambra Internal Revenue Service (AIRS) that was headed by Dr. David Nzekwu who was succeeded by Mr. Richard Nwora Madiebo, both men in their youth. Findings show that yearly, IGR exponentially grew from N17billion in 2018, N26billion in 2019, N28billion in 2020 to N30.9billion in 2021 and will hopefully continue, given the innovation berthed by Madiebo. This is how Anambra has edged ahead other states with engaging youth.
THEREFORE, youth development has made Anambra the true Light of the Nation in various sectors that keep decorating the state’’s trophy cabinet with laurels.