• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
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The backside of kidnapping in the southeast


Onyebuchi Onyegbule

Excess energy, too much time finding no use ventilate kidnapping in the Southeast. Example, Abia State: It’s difficult to find any federal government investment apart from two learning institutions in Umudike-Umuahia.

Aba is entirely built on private enterprise, but years on, successive administrations have watched its infrastructure collapse and probably now decaying. Yet, Aba is one city that can become the hub of African economic tigers if imaginatively handled. The two known industries in Umuahia – the Modern Ceramics and the Golden Guinea Breweries – built by Michael Okpara in the 60’s have received no significant new additions and have over a decade remained non-operational.

Lately we hear that the ceramics industry has resumed operations but with minimal impact yet. With badly damaged infrastructure and mounting insecurity, Aba entrepreneurs have fled to Lagos or Ghana leaving the optimistic ones to continue with the minimalist business of buying and selling.

Year after year however, graduates flood the job-market fired by the hope to get something, someday, but that day hardly comes. Resort to crime begins to gain lure for this frustrated group. But there’s a way. It is to look for the industries that have the fit to absorb youth energy and time comfortably and use them as a springboard to launch into other industries. I can quickly consider agriculture, sports and music.

The University of Agriculture, Umudike does one good thing. Teams are formed to take the results of research innovations to the villages and teach people how to put them into use. I have seen them demonstrate home-grown technologies in cassava-flour-making and its various applications in the confectionary industry. Good idea but wrongly tracked.

The recipients, mostly village women are not quite literate and largely impoverished. What if government provides incentives for graduates to tap into these innovations? Such could be to take up the cost of acquiring the needed skill, support the university department to provide more of such innovations and encourage private investors to commit money to research, production and marketing.

The result would be a belt of enterprises manned by skilled personnel, backed by a research think-tank and funded by a solvent entrepreneurial class. In the next five years, the look will be different. I’m yet to see sport grooming-institutions for youths in the zone, yet there’s a yearn for it in both the South-South and Southeast. Entrepreneurs are lately beginning to understand that there’s money in sports, yet, there is no coordinated effort to net it in.

The first they can do is, develop interest in the sector, get coached on various aspects of it: planning, marketing, training, equipment-sourcing, infrastructure-development like building of stadia among others. Some of these can be done solo or in partnerships.

When such capacities are built, youth energy and time, find habitat. Again, there’s hardly a music school in the two zones , with bare-faced talent and minimal exposure youths there come up with most of Nigeria’s best music, films and many other forms of creative art.

Properly managed, the music industry can be as lucrative ,if not more lucrative than the oil and gas. Youths find comfort and self-expression in such vocations. Not just this, as local and international stars begin to emerge, so will new role models other than the presently crime-infested ones come on stage. The import of that is that criminals can be separated from the currently frustrated and misled. The later find expression, the former face justice. But before then, state governments in particular have to show commitment not just concern.

A situation where they often complain of lack of funds even for the very programs they were elected cannot help the coming of this new dawn. Ironically too, one hears of billions missing and notices a greater focus on reelection strategies when the challenges of their incumbent seating still remain glare. These are the contradictions that don’t comfort the people.

The other worrying irony is that the kidnappers fail to understand that their people, who they take captive, are already disillusioned and incapacitated, yet they pounce on them as culprits of their misfortune whereas, both are victims.

I would like to think that part of the wider combat against kidnapping would be for state governments to gradually begin to attract their indigenous entrepreneurs back home. This means consultations with community heads, youths, women’s groups, churches and of course, the security forces to constitute a stake-holding network.

The notion is that kidnappers come from somewhere. If their kin, community and peers turn against them, their safety ebbs and exposes them to the teeth of the law. Precisely, the vice can be approached through mindset-changing, complemented by physical development and security mobilization. It is surmountable.