By Effiong William
The concept of youth development in Nigeria has, in the last two decades, gone through a lot of political refinement which has created variations on what the concept is, and what it is not.
The variations seem to hinge youth development mainly on empowerment which is a fragment of what it supposed to be.
However, the concept of youth development in postmodern world is best expressed in mentorship, discipline, training, leadership and quality empowerment, a path not new to Rt. Hon.(Barr.) Onofiok Luke, which is the reason he has over time equipped the youths intellectually for leadership, administration and governance.
He began this right from his University days as a student leader where he advocated for students’ welfare and interest especially the poor and created a common ground between the institution’s management and students for negotiation on any issue. Since then, he has not relented in investing time and resources to see that youths are not ignorant about the essentials for good leadership and governance.
One may infer that his many years of pursuing this ideal, vis-a-vis his doggedness and excellence, has necessitated numerous invitations extended to him to participate in youth fora and institutions in order to educate the younger generation in line with postmodern best practices.
For instance, as a guest lecturer, keynote speaker, lead presenter and panel discussant at various Universities as well as at national and international fora, the Federal Lawmaker takes his time to give thrillers on personal development as a strategy for occupying leadership positions in future.
Recently, while delivering a lecture at the Arthur Jarvis University Guest Talk Series in Calabar, Cross River State, Luke extolled the leadership qualities inherent in youths, informing them there was so much the young minds could confer and offer to good governance of various units of the society.
Aligning with a well-known and well-researched PYD model, (Heck & Subramaniam 2009), the former Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly believes that the Five Cs of positive youth development comprising Competence, Confidence, Connection, Caring and Character are qualities necessary for teeming youth leaders.
This was one out of many outpourings of his knowledge to awaken the consciousness of the young minds in matters of development and governance.
It is worthy of note that the hunger for youth development has soared beyond control due to the seemingly unending marginalization, abandonment and deprivation of “tomorrow’s leaders” from the affairs of governance across all levels. Hence, Luke’s voice in the wilderness could not have come at a better time than now.
Since 2011, Luke, as a member representing Nsit Ubium State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, developed and consolidated on his love for education and economic empowerment of the youths for sustainable development.
His Constituency Transport Scheme (CTS), the Seed Capital for Business Start-up (SCBS), and the Constituency Education Support Grants (CESG) are three potent youths empowerment schemes he instituted and sponsored as part of his constituency development projects.
Not only that, he founded the The Onofiok Luke Legislative Internship Programme (TOLLIP), Nigeria’s only stipendiary internship programme designed to train youths on Legislative basics, leadership, entrepreneurship, community development and volunteerism, together with peace-building, and conflict management/resolution. The programme was later adopted and enlarged by the state legislature into what is now the Akwa Ibom Legislative Internship Programme (AKILIP).
Political pundits say the State House of Assembly gained vibrancy in the legislature’s tripodal mandate areas of lawmaking, oversight and representation under his leadership as Speaker between 2015 and 2019. And it is safe to conclude that, that was why the House received and passed into law over 50 life-touching bills, including the bill which sought the creation of N3 billion fund for youth development in the state in his time.
This is the aggregate of his desires; to have a crop of youths who have old heads seated on young shoulders. Little wonder Senator Effiong Bob, while presenting a paper sometimes ago on the topic: “ The Role of the Legislature in the Development of Akwa Ibom State in the Past 25 Years”, said “ … this happens to be an opportunity some of us never had”. Obviously, he was referring to Luke’s many youth-centred initiatives.
In the light of this, our youths must therefore learn from the past and realise the present for the future which owes a lot of promises to them. For great thinkers, the best way to select a leader is to first select his past records in human capacity development; his youthful mind and more importantly, his novelties in initiating everything human. This is certainly the leader for this generation. Luke is the future we can see and call ours.
* William writes from Ikot Edebe, Nsit Atai LGA, Akwa Ibom State