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By: Comrd. F. B.l Onyekwulisi

One major reason stifling social economic growth and development in Imo State is the failure or inabilities of past governments in the State, to develop a realistic and workable module to boost youth development and empowerment in the State.

It is interesting to note that youths in Imo State, constitute over 70 percent of the entire population.This clearly reveals that youths are crucial to the success or otherwise of the development of the State.

Imo State cannot have a buoyant and workable economy when the youths are completely neglected in the overall developmental plans of the State.No nation or State can succeed or thrive when the youths are docile and in limbo.

The disadvantages inherent in neglecting the youths could lead to rise in social vices which fuels insecurity, thus can lead to economic stagnation of the State.

Youth development is also central and key to the socio-economic and political growth of Imo State.The State has not had it so good, because policies and programmes on youth development designed by past administrations failed to address core issues that will uplift the youths in the State.

The Ikedi Ohakim administration unveiled an ambitious programme that targeted mainly for the youths when it introduced the 10,000 jobs initiative. That policy, as well articulated it looked on the surface, however crumbled, because it did not address the basic issues affecting youth development in Imo State. The 10,000 jobs Initiative was a one stop measure which was to create jobs, not only for the youths in the State, but for non youths as well, who were also beneficiaries of the transient programme.

The Scheme was poorly conceived and shabbily implemented, the twin factors which may have forced the Okorocha administration to discard it on assumption of office in 2011.

Governor Rochas Okorocha did not fare better in youth empowerment and development. It also failed to address fundamental basics, required in addressing development and empowerment of Imo youths. It had no roadmap, as some of the policies it conceptualized for youth development in the State, were faulty from conception to implementation, thus was unable to completely address and boost youth development in the State.

Furthermore, “The Youths Must Work Programme” Okorocha introduced was a quick fix measure, which in the long run collapsed because it was unable to address the fundamental and basic issues affecting Youth development and empowerment in Imo State.The programme did not capture the expectations of Imo youths as it extensively focused on providing menial jobs such as security jobs, for Imo youths some of whom were graduates of law and Medicine, etc.

The Okorocha administration never realized that with high number of tertiary institutions in the State churning out hundreds of graduates yearly, the Youths Must Work Programme was not broad enough to capture the divergent expectations and yearnings of Imo youths.The programme was not only haunted by poor implementation, it was also unable to holistically engage the ambivalent youths of the State.

The above narration underscores the fact that youths in Imo State have been consistently plagued and hunted by porous policies of the government that failed to galvanize them for the betterment of the State.This is one of the core reasons why youths in the State remain the way they are – stagnant, unproductive, unprogressive and have rather remained perpetual instruments for social vices to thrive in the State.

The consequences of a neglected youth is like a ticking time Bomb, that can explode. But God forbid, Imo State cannot be a victim. There is urgent need, therefore, for an all encompassing programme which will tackle the myriad problems bedevilling youth development and empowerment in Imo State.

Thus, Governor Hope Uzodinma (Onwa Oyoko), should therefore avoid the pitfalls or mistakes of his predecessors in the area of youth development in the State. He should learn from unpopular history.

The success or failure of his 3Rs tripod programmes: Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Recovery can only be realized, if he places considerable emphasis on youth development and empowerment in Imo State. And he must start from the basics.

The key to the success of his policies on youth development can be achieved by ensuring full engagement and integration of Imo youths in all sectors of the State. However, I commend Governor Uzodinma for articulating an ambitious and workable framework on youth development and empowerment for Imo youths as contained in his manifesto.

To complement his vision for our youths, l propose the Imo Youths Empowerment And Development Scheme (I-YEAD Scheme), an initiative that will enable Imo youths realize their full potentials, become active and pivotal players, partners in the present administration’s commitment to take Imo State to the next level.The Initiative is an all round Development road map, a holistic approach to get Imo youths assimilated into the developmental plans of the State.

We must start from the scratch which is to address and reposition the education sector in the State to prepare Imo youths for the challenges ahead particularly in a changing, dynamic and competitive global economy.

Part of the process of achieving this feat is to complement it with the introduction of the Imo State Education Opportunity Programme (ISEOP). The goal of this programme as contained in Governor Uzodinma’s manifesto is to make Imo State a knowledge driven economy and accelerate development through manpower engagement.This initiative can only be feasible if it is youths driven.

Also the establishment of a Graduate Entrepreurship Scheme (GES) as conceptualized by His Excellency in his manifesto is also a salutary development. This will reshape and sharpen our graduates youths to posses the capacity to become a new generation of creative enterprising graduates, prepared for immediate post school employment and self reliance.

The proposed Imo State Development and Rehabilitation Council (ISDARC), by Governor Hope Uzodinma, should as a matter of urgency focus on empowering our youths through various development initiatives that will make our youths to cease to become perennial job seekers but employers of labour.

I strongly commend the idea in Governor Uzodinma’s manifesto to establish linkages with Diaspora Learning Centres abroad to encourage our undergraduates youths to embark on exchange learning programmes abroad with government support.

The establishment of a Job Placement Centre (JP Centre), is also another welcome development by His Excellency which is aimed at enhancing job search and placement, internship (IT) and other career related programmes for Imo youths graduates/graduands.

His administration’s proposed provision for necessary Guarantees and Grants for Start Ups for our youths through the proposed State owned Development Finance and Investment Corporations is salutary.

Worthy of applause which in my view will be instrumental to the success of youth development in Imo State is plans by the Uzodinma administration to establish Skills Acquisition and Vocational Centre together with Zonal Technology Incubation Academy (ZOTIA), in Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu Zones in the State, to fill in the current skills’ gaps and to usher in industrial revolution in the State and beyond. Yes, such centres shall provide the required platforms for our youths to unleash their great potentials for the benefit of all and sundry.

Engaging our youths for a new Imo State is crucial to the development of the State. The Uzodinma administration deserves applause for preparing programmes that directly affect the well being of youths in the State.

He will surely engrave his name on the sands of time if he pursues with vigour the lofty programmes and initiatives of his well thought out programmes for youths in the State and escape the flaws made by past administrations in the State on youth development.

To be cont’d.

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