By Essien Ndueso
We don’t want godfathers to nominate people to fill slots. You can only force the horse to the river but you can’t force it to drink the water. Let people who are genuinely craving to start things, do things, be independent and create wealth for themselves, let them visit the website and register.
• Engr. Ufot Ebong
Nicodemus Ibanga an indigene of Obot Akara was until recently, a relatively unknown young tailor who struggled hard to make it in his vocation with little or no success. He had a small shop with his sister sewing vests for funerals, ceremonies. But like Peter in the bible, when he heard the clarion call on Akwa Ibom people to rise to the faith of greatness through ingenuity and hardwork, he knew his long wait was over. Nicodemus was quite prompt to subscribe to the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment scheme. When AKEES came, he took the opportunity and signed up. He subscribed to AKEES, adopted it and went around nursery schools and has sewed over 2,000 physical education uniforms for them. He is now making money from almost nowhere. In recognition of this effort, Governor Udom Emmanuel directed that all Akwa United football club T-shirts, polos, and vests to be sewn by him. He has taken 11 youths off the streets and employed them in a business he started with only his sister.
It is no longer news that over 1,650 people have been employed in the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment scheme (AKEES), an initiative of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, in his one year in government. The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Technical Matters and Due Processes, Engr. Ufot Ebong, in a recent interview brought to fore the efforts of the Governor Udom Emmanuel-led administration.
Reading through his thoughts, it could clearly be seen that when Governor Udom Emmanuel was elected into government, he quickly set out to solve one big problem of creating wealth and generating opportunities for the unemployed in the state, as he had repeatedly assured during the electioneering campaigns.
One avenue the governor chose was by encouraging his crème of supporters, especially the women to get themselves into cooperative societies so that they can access the numerous empowerment schemes floated by his administration. In other places, such women usually exist as political liabilities and only obtain favour at political rallies after adorning in beautiful attires and dancing, cheering and clapping their hearts out to make the whole function colourful.
The Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) was designed to reduce the unemployment rate by reawakening the spirit of enterprise in people to start creating wealth for themselves. People have many ideas on how to create wealth, but 90 to 95% of them would rather complain of lack of capital. However, beyond the capital, most important in business are innovation, focus and perseverance. And so through AKEES, it is no longer the norm of merely distributing money as empowerment, which usually resulted in its being squandered as a result of poor business plan and business management techniques.
AKEES as clarified by Mr. Ufot Ebong, was designed to guide and not to share money. It is not a platform created for politicians to sit in their comfort zones and recommend their supporters to taking slots.
According to the helmsman at the Technical Matters Bureau, “before we started AKEES, we looked at how other countries are able to reduce unemployment rate and create wealth for their people. One of the methods adopted is the franchise system, which does not require money, but honesty. Someone with a franchise will give you his produce; you use that to make money and return his money and then take the commission. For example, the man selling ice cream is not the owner; he sells, takes his commission and returns the main money to the owner. The Igbos are using it to fill their supermarkets. They would go to the manufacturers of those products, pack them in and sell. The only element required is honesty not money.
Through the franchise system, 85 new small businesses that were never in existence have been created, in line with the slogan of AKEES that is, ‘off the streets, in to work; earn while you learn’. It is not a training programme as participants start earning money from day one. They are afforded opportunitieMake mistakes, people are there to correct you or you correct yourself and still focus and before you know it you are already a billionaire.
Another system we use is the common facility. It is simple to understand. Nike and Adidas are the largest producers of T-shirts and polos but they don’t have one single sewing machine, needle or thread. All they have is design ideas on what they want their T-shirts to look like. They go all the way to East Asia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Philippines, countries that are of the same developmental stage with Nigeria – third world country – to sew the T-shirts.
Through the common facility, they are able to reduce unemployment rate to 2-3% while that of Nigeria is about 50-70%. About 300 metres road is filled with sophisticated sewing machines that individuals cannot afford. The machines are stationed there for the general populace who can sew to go and make use of them.
The common facilities are in about five locations. At Ikot Ekpene, where raffia is being used to sew South-South traditional wears, a machine which can sew raffia into cotton has been established. An elated Governor Emmanuel who has been impressed with the quality of products, has ordered that they should be sold at the international market.
Through this scheme, design and sewing machines are available to every Akwa Ibom indigene who is into the business of sewing. Such persons can access the facilities by registering on the website www.akyes.com. This in itself saves them the stress of waiting to purchase their own machines. With this almost free standard machine in place, the days of traveling to Aba and Lagos for certain designs are over.
Confirming this, Nichodemus described Governor Udom Emmanuel as the “driving force, who has given us the spirit of dakkada that we have all dakkada, and because Dakkada is a spirit, it has really motivated us.”
I’m from Ikot Ebuk, and I don’t know Engr. Ufot Ebong from Adams. I’m not a politician and I don’t even have any politician in my family neither do I have a permanent voter’s card.
I’m the CEO of SUNICK Clothing. I’m into production of T-shirts, polos, jerseys and sports wears. I started with my sister and we have been working with schools and other organisations supplying them sports wears. We had the challenge that we would have bulk order but less equipment to execute the job in order to deliver to the clients. When I heard about AKEES, I keyed into it by proceeding to register online and then approached their office with my proposal and feasibility study to them. It happened that sometimes I couldn’t afford to transport myself to the schools.
When I approached AKEES, they didn’t give me any money. They only acquired the machines that we were using, now being placed as a common facility. That has helped me to deliver my work at ease.
With me here is one of my employees, my Director of Trainee and Service Manager, Unwanaobong Ekwere, from Ikot Udobia in Etinan Local Government Area, a University of Calabar graduate, who had been moving from one office to another for three years after her youth service in search of a job, but to no avail. She availed herself the opportunity on hearing about AKEES by registering online and that was how she got employed as a Service Manager.
AKEES was conceptualized by Governor Emmanuel to fill the gap and propel the state towards an industrial boom. For people who are under the illusion that AKEES’ freebies are only reserved for supporters and members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or highly connected people in the society, nothing could have been more untruthful. In the words of Engr. Ufot Ebong, “we don’t allow people to sit in local government areas and issue forms and allow people to register because over there, you will start having human interference; where a young man of a poor family who has never been called to attend any mobilisation, but has the urge to get assistance to do something to help his poor sick mother at home is being denied that opportunity because he has not been coming out for (political) mobilization. Nobody would even call him. That is why we said we don’t want any political interference.”
In other words, any son or daughter of Akwa Ibom and who sincerely wants to ‘dakkada’, is welcomed to come and discuss with AKEES and doors of partnership would be opened.
NICODEMUS IBANGA: EPITOMIZING THE AKEES STORY
By Essien Ndueso