PROFESSOR EPIPHANY AZINGE, SAN
Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Supreme Court Complex
Posted On 04/09/2010 08:07:55
Permit me to preface my remark by congratulating His Royal Majesty, Asagba of Asaba, Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien on his 84th birthday Anniversary. Your majesty, in congratulating you, let me also commend you for your visionary leadership which has found expression in social transformation and cultural renewal in Asaba. You also deserve pubic acclamation for your unrelenting and courageous pursuit of the upliftment of Asaba and Asaba people in the political equation of Delta State and Nigeria. Let me assure you that in the fullness of time, history will record you as one traditional ruler who dedicated his lifetime to the service of his people, armed with intimidating intellectual credentials, fertility of mind, international exposure and profound understanding of how to chart a new future for his subjects.
My discourse this evening is titled: ASABA YOUTHS AND ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL REBIRTH. Time will not permit me to engage in serous intellectual analysis or definition of terms and concepts used in the topic. I have therefore carefully avoided a strict legal definition of the term “Youths” and contextually will categorize Youths as Asaba men and women between the age bracket of 18 – 60 years.
It is however inevitable to address the topic without an attempt to compartmentalize the age group of people listed as youths along the following classification:
1. What percentage of this group are educated?
2. What percentage of this group are public servants?
3. What percentage are in Business ?
4. What percentage are in Politics?
5. What percentage are in DIASPORA?
6. What percentage are certified deviants; threats to peace and security; social rejects and economic ally dependent.
I can say without equivocation that the percentage of the age group listed above that are educated cannot exceed 25%. Note that education here is limited to school certificate. As regards percentage in Public Service, one can conveniently talk of 15% . If the word “business” is used loosely to cover any type of unclassified job, then we can talk of 25%. About 10% are involved in Politics – I mean Politics and not political thuggery. 7% are in Diaspora while the rest hover around threatening the peace and security of the town.
By Rebirth, I mean actions or activities that can refocus our people and give them new direction. I mean also actions that make people work in concert and unity, create harmony and purposefulness, provide leadership, inspire younger ones for positive change and throw up role models for the young generations of Asaba people.
My message on Economic Rebirth is that it will be fatal imagination to think that government alone can develop Asaba. This has never happened anywhere in the world. Without prejudice to the good faith effort of the present Administration to improve an infrastructural facilities, Asaba is still a far cry from being a model capital city. The youths of Asaba have a critical role to play in championing an indigenous initiative to develop a mega city in the Asaba capital territory. With the input of captains of industry, business moguls, influential entrepreneurs, and seasoned technocrats amongst us, a mega city is no a tall order in our guest for economic rebirth in Asaba. But the major rule has to be played by our youths in Diaspora. We must challenge them to provide the needed linkages required to attract the right investors that will enables us achieve this objective. What I have in mind are namely:
i. Building of shopping malls and world class entertainment centres;
ii. Harnessing the potentials of the river Niger and its banks as a catalyst for development of Asaba;
iii. Attracting investors through utilization of the Private-Private Partnership initiative. This can cover all aspects of commercial life in Asaba. Again our sons and daughter in Diaspora can serve as a veritable instrument in setting the machinery in motion.
iv. The last issue I want to discuss as a catalyst for economic rebirth is the Establishment of Private Universities as serious economic venture. I am aware of the efforts of few Asaba sons in this regard. Let me however state that Asaba youths must come together to support the Private University initiate. A world class private university in Asaba will not be out of place at this point in time when we are privileged to have a world class scholar as our traditional ruler. I want to believe that His Royal Majesty will have a say on how this can be achieved at the shortest possible time.
Over and above building up Asaba as a mega city, let me use this medium to enjoin Asaba Youths at the commanding heights of government to use their privileged position to attract public offices and government presence to Asaba. Any Asaba son heading a government parastatal or indeed any top business conglomerate can only be judged by his capacity to site a branch of his office in Asaba. This is a challenge that confronts Asaba Youths in government. Government cannot do this for us. Our ability to accomplish this will set us truly on the path of economic rebirth.
At this time of economic meltdown and deregulation, the thought of industrialization does not sit properly with liberal economists. But serious scholars no longer bother about them since the collapse of the security market and the blitz of world wide recession. I am a strong advocate of industrialization especially in an environment where the youths are restive and the labour force is idle. Asaba sons deserve meaningful and respectable employment through Rapid Industrialization. This is a challenge for Asaba Youths who have the financial muscle to champion this initiative.
Inextricably, intertwined with the idea of industrialization is the need to make Asaba an attractive tourist destination for Nigerians and foreigners alike. Again we cannot imagine that this is the responsibility of government alone. On a private-private partnership, the tourism potentials of Asaba can further be explored. The Majestic Niger of the “Lander brothers” and MUNGO PARK holds a lot of attraction to historians and many tourists abroad. A commercial boat or yatch can be designed to ply the river on guided tours of the strategic routes. Similarly the relics of Royal Niger Company, palaces of past Asagba’s of Asaba and other historical, cultural or religious monuments can form the thrust of making Asaba a tourist destination. I challenge the youths of Asaba to seriously explore this potential as a vehicle for economic rebirth.
Asaba people deserve empowerment – I mean genuine financial empowerment. It is the responsibility of Asaba youths to create necessary channels for empowerment of Asaba citizens. Since we do not control the reigns of government at the top, it behoves those who are Commissioners, Directors-General, Chairmen or Chairperson of parastatals, Members of House of Assembly, Permanent Secretaries, Principals, Vice Chancellors, Chief Executives of Organizations etc to endeavor to empower Asaba citizens around them. On the theory of trickle-down economics, it is expected that those empowered will in turn assist those at the lower end of the ladder. This is for me a process of economic rebirth and emancipation of our sons and daughters that presently are steeped in poverty and penury.
It is indeed the collective responsibility of Asaba Youths to strive to place qualified Asaba sons and daughters in strategic positions to enable them influence things in favour of Asaba. I imagine that we have a databank of all Asaba graduates, their disciplines, their qualifications, their present jobs and positions, their career prospects and their ultimate ambition. This should be for us the pattern of identifying those that we can project for sensitive appointments. Our future depends on how well we can utilize our brain-bank for the positive development of Asaba and her people.
Part of our political rebirth process will depend not so much on assuming leadership but on providing leadership to our Amoma brothers and sisters. His Royal Majesty has done this admirably and commendably. But Asaba youths are still expected to provide similar leadership at all levels of government and even in the private sector. But we must not limit our horizon to Amoma. We are expected to provide leadership in Delta State and indeed the entire South South. These are challenges that we must rise up to. Asaba sons and daughters are now expected by 2011 to represent us at the House of Representatives and the Senate. The issue of Governorship is negotiable. And negotiate we must. The basis of negotiation for 2011 will be dependent on concessions to be extracted for 2015. That is the path to political rebirth.
Our process of political rebirth must not accommodate any attempt to make us appear apologetic of Asaba Status as a state capital. Rather Asaba Youths and all well meaning Asaba sons and daughters must continue to pressurize that Asaba’s development must be in accordance with its political status of a state capital.
More significantly, it is the responsibility of Asaba Youths to ensure that our political elites are ready to collapse all competing political interests under one leadership and be prepared to speak with one voice on Asaba affairs. The divisiveness, lack of cohesion and disharmony does not paint a picture of a people at the threshold of political rebirth. This is a major challenge for Asaba Youths. It is an even greater challenge for Asaba Politicians.
I have in this short discourse highlighted the enormous challenges facing Asaba Youths. As a Scholar, I must not fail to express my displeasure at the rate at which our sons and daughters are dropping out of school. I hope to address that issue at another forum. But as regards Economic and Political rebirth of Asaba, I challenge Asaba Development Union and other social groups like FALCON, ASDEV etc to champion the process.
Let us create an informal forum for meeting of Asaba sons and daughter in strategic positions to discuss Asaba destiny. We should also develop a report back system whereby critical decisions reached are referred back to His Royal Majesty periodically.
May I also urge that a special fund/account be established for prosecuting the realization of the objectives articulated above (including having the account details published on the website) to enable Asaba sons and daughters wherever they may be world wide donate to a worthy course.
Lastly, may I appeal to Asaba Youths to always remember that our personal fate in life is inextricably intertwined with the destiny of Asaba. It is therefore our duty and indeed responsibility to push for her economic sustainability and political respectability. SO HELP US GOD.
AHABA, IGWE! IGWE!! IGWE!!!
ASAGBA AHABA, AGU! AGU!! AGU!!!
LONG LIVE HIS ROYAL MAJESTY
LONG LIVE ANI AHABA
Thank you and God Bless.