By Onyedika Okafor

Too many Nigerian undergraduates dread the bleak prospects in the labour market. Unemployment in Nigeria is rife and needs not much elaboration. The bright face worn by fresh graduates on their convocation ceremonies soon evaporates on the thought of what lies ahead. Despite this grimness, many individuals and organisations have not relented in changing the tide. The Uhere Study Centre, Nsukka, stands shoulders high in attempting a reversal of this ugly trend.

Uhere Study Centre recently organized a seminar for students of the University of Nigeria Nsukka to shed off their worries of the perceived fight over jobs upon graduation. Pharm. Obinna Ekwunife, Director of centre, explained that Uhere is a non-for-profit organization and a brain child of the Education Cooperation Society. Uhere, a private male hall of residence, seeks to facilitate proper academic and moral education of students, both resident and non-resident students. The seminar was successfully organized by the Information Technology Academy (ITA), a pet project of Uhere and an avenue through which students of UNN acquire the Information Technology skills which is today the bedrock of any serious economy.

The purpose of the seminar was not to assemble students to teach them how to prepare an impressive CV nor how to perform excellently in a job interview; it had a different agenda. The guest lecturers were three-year ago undergraduate students of the Electronic Engineering Department of the University of Nigeria and also former students of ITA. Today, these gentlemen unlike most of their colleagues live a comfortable life without having the need to engage in endless search for job vacancies. The question is: how did these ‘boys’ manage to surmount the challenges every other person is complaining about?

Chidubem Njeze, a Senior Partner at Pyrich Ltd was the first to speak to the capacity crowd at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium of the University of Nigeria. He spoke passionately on ‘The Educated Slave: Developing the Entrepreneurial Mindset.’ He was followed by Chimezie Emewulu, the Managing Director of Seamfix Ltd who talked on ‘Developing Enterprise Web Application: What you Need to Know and the Nigerian Enterprise Web Application Industry: Career and Business Opportunities, Challenges in starting up an Enterprise Web Application Company’. The last speaker, Ezeukwu Osuagwu, the Executive Director Projects, Seamfix Ltd discussed ‘The Energy: Self Motivation and Self Actualization’.

Chidubem spoke vehemently against the general perception among students, the conviction that there are no jobs out there. But he was quick to point out that jobs are available only for those who have something exceptional to offer. He spoke against the timidity of young people towards starting up their own enterprise. As an experienced employer, the reason he gave on why school leavers do not get jobs is because many of them have nothing tangible to offer to enterprises willing to get their services. These set of people he called the educated slaves – those who call themselves graduates and yet have nothing ‘upstairs’ to back that up.

Chimezie was quick in concurring to Chidubem’s position on the need for quality improvement of graduates. He went further to proffer a solution for students especially those in Engineering and Physical Sciences. To make these set of students marketable on graduation, he suggested the acquisition of the knowledge of at least a software development language before graduation. He frowned at enormous capital flight from Nigeria due to the importation of software solutions, a situation that can be reversed if students put extra effort in learning software development languages. He cited India that make billions of dollars annually from software alone.

Ezeukwu ended the interactive session by stressing the need for students to put in their best in everything they do so as to surmount the mediocrity mentality of a typical African man. The mentality of being satisfied with the little we have achieved, he said, has caused us enormous delay in the development journey of this country. He called for renewed spirit of perseverance, dedication and hard work among students. He illustrated the need for the character of determination with the story of the challenges they encountered during the process of establishing their software development company.

The seminar has ended. The speakers have spoken and the listeners have listened. The question remains, are these bunch of students that left this seminar venue going to contribute enormously to the economy of Nigeria upon graduation. Are they going to be the force behind the age-long attempt to shrink the foreign exchange deficit of Nigeria? Whether this seminar will end up producing the next generation of young entrepreneurs or employees ready to replace the expatriates, time and only time will tell!

Onyedika is a student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.


The Dream is Here: UNN at 50!

Nwachukwu Egbunike

I remember so clearly that chilly morning, as I walked up the rocky gates of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to begin registration as a fresh man.  There were motley banners, from the good to the bad. Usually the October rush is a competition by the various groups on campus to attract and catch young lions and lionesses who still have their names written in pencil. However, more a decade later, it has not dimmed from my consciousness the inscription on one particular poster which cried that ‘the dream is here!’

As a student of medical laboratory sciences, I had the unique privilege to savour two campus of the University of Nigeria – Nsukka and Enugu. The red earth of the ‘adopted’ home of Nnamdi Azikiwe, rains down torrents of fond memories. We were accommodated in Ziks Hall – then it was an exclusive male affair, with only the ‘E’ block reserved for the ladies.

The day started with a combo affair of burger – okpa and bread. It took a lot to adapt to the rather chilly nature of Nsukka, especially during the harmattan. Not even the hot water provided any comfort for the exacerbating early morning cold. For as soon as you stepped out the ‘shower’ it practically seems as if one has embraced ice.

Nonetheless, the walk from Ziks flat to NSLT was rather a journey. As all freshers are wont, we were always running through and fro Jimbaz to NSLT for lectures. What a spectacle, we must have made, and I suppose most freshers still evoke. Nsukka was fun! ‘Scientific’ was a daily affair, haggling with the food vendors for hot sizzling fried yam, plantain and fish. Sleeping – rather than studying – in the library or in ‘prefab’. Those nights of TDB, moving to Abuja in droves all in an effort to convince oneself that we are serious students, only to take black coffee and doze all night.

Enugu had a certain tinge of artificiality which was absent in Nsukka; being the home for the so called professional courses – Medicine, Law, Accountancy and Architecture. Those in the management sciences were perceived as the scum of the campus but really were envied. These guys had time which we cannot afford, though we inwardly craved for it.

Donning our lab coats or suits most of us paraded Ogbette Main Market like peacocks. Of course, who dared eat in the refs located within the halls? Nwanyi Marere was a rush, guys falling over each other to grab a space before her large steaming pot of white rice. The tinge of being big lied in the quantity of meat or fish that adorned ones meal. The amazing thing was that most of us only survived on okpa for breakfast or nothing.

The politics of Enugu campus was quite peculiar. The ABF – All Believers Fellowship has the campus in the pouch. It took a lot of wrangling to extricate SUG politics from them. The eternal rivalry between the various constituents in the College of Medicine – MBBS, Med Lab Sciences, Medical Rehabilitation, Radiography and Nursing – trickled down to students politics.

The SUG elections of 2002/2003 session saw the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHST) going into an alliance with those in Law. The deal was that the presidency went to Law while FHST produced the vice president. This was instructive because our sister faculty in the College of Medicine also had a candidate standing for president. This unhealthy competition amongst those who should form the health team at the service of the patient unfortunately seems to characterise Nigeria’s health system. Despite all these, friendships were forged that have broken the rancid barriers of professional pettiness.

Nonetheless, the dream remains aflame in the recesses of men and women who have sucked from the bosom of the university. “University of Nigeria, my alma mater, hail and rejoice for her noble ideals!”

And the Winner is: Peter Obi

Nwachukwu Egbunike

“Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), having satisfied all requirements of the law and scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner,” chief electoral officer Josiah Uwazuronye announced at the electoral commission headquarters in the state capital Awka reports Reuters. Obi’s victory was also been carried by AFP and Next on Sunday, February 7, 2009, a day after the elections.

Reports have it that Obi  “scored 97,843 votes, according to electoral commission INEC, beating former state governor Chris Ngige of the opposition Action Congress party, who polled 60,240 votes. Former central bank governor Chukwuma Soludo of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took 59,355 votes while ex-state governor Andy Uba of the Labour party polled 26,106 votes.”

Anambra elections had generated so much tension and trepidation. For the very fact that the state though laying claim on being “The Light of the Nation” had been in perpetual political darkness. A blank out that has persisted despite being one of the southeastern states with the greatest number of Igbo elites. Besides, it is trite to note that the apprehension surrounding Anambra polls was not unfounded. Elections in Nigeria had never been easy. Things have so degenerated that with each passing polls, the violence and godfatherisim had risen to idolatry pitch.

Recounting a couple of days back on Facebook, I  was challenged by a friend to declare my stance on the Anambra elections. By the way, the level of political consciousness by the upward-mobile Nigerian youths is more palpable on social networks especially Facebook. This new class of internet warriors, have definitely had enough and are desirous of a change in Nigerian polity.

Back to the hard knock I received, knowing that I come from Anambra State, a fellow citizen who supports Peter Obi could not understand my reluctance to stand behind the APGA candidate. It all started with an innocuous post I hoisted asking why people have behaved as though there where only two candidates: Soludo and Obi.

The response of this friend of mine was that: voting Ngige is like lowering the standards, he only built roads and looted. How long are we to continue to vote on sentiments and pettiness and not on track records and integrity, purposefulness and accountability… vote Peter Obi and if you have any blemish on the man put it up for debate, I challenge you. I figure his only blemish is that he has refused to lead the PDP way, share the money.”

While I shared his sentiments, I knew for certain that a vote for Andy Uba was tantamount to sending Anambra State back to the dark ages or even worse. The man whose avarice for power has led him – with his brother – to violate the state and the courts. Nonetheless,  I am no Soludo-solution-messiahship crowd follower. The reason is clear, if he has any integrity left, he should not be in PDP. Some claim his got brains, sure I don’t dispute that. However, we’ve had a PhD from Harvard as governor in Anambra (in the 3rd Republic) and that didn’t change much. Unfortunately, the bank stench has put Soludo’s brains and capabilities to question. He was the boss at CBN, the bulk stops at his table, period. Soludo should go back to the classroom, that is if they allow him. Because with the current sub-ethnic muddle in UNN, I doubt if he will find a warm welcome.

For Obi, I have always supported him. He limes the image of an intellectual and his integrity so far – save the cash incident in Lagos – is ‘without blemish’. However, I fear a certain sluggishness on Obi’s part. It was so palpable when i visited home. There seems to be so much talk and no work. Or rather his was operating at a higher level that people don’t seem to know where his heading. That in itself is no compliment but a failure of leadership.

Thus my hesistancy to lay my beat on Peter Obi. As much as we need men who have honour, nonetheless, honour alone cannot change things. Unfortunately, none of the contestants in the Anambra polls, in my opinion possessed the dual qualities of competence and veracity. It was like the proverbial saying that the blunt knife has no handle and the one with a handle is dead blunt.

Despite my misgivings, I am glad that Peter Obi won the election. While one may explain his lack lustre first term performance on the crazy situation that saw him more in court than in the government house, Obi should know that this time around he has no excuse. Anambra people have spoken loud for the heavens to hear. The elections that ushered him in, though garnished with irregularities, seems to be the best in recent history. Please Mr Peter Obi, this time around do not betray trust of your people. Work and change the face of Mama Anambra. If you take this plain counsel, history will not forget, neither would Anambra fail to remember.

Painting while ASUU Strikes

Kenechukwu Udeh

uhere painting2

A debate is being waged, a debate whose outcome is supposed to determine in the long run the turn of events for our dear country. ASUU has called a halt to all academic and tutoring work in protest to the state of affairs in the nation’s universities. While I eagerly await an amnesty and/or bail out – hopefully with Oshimolole’s intervention – from this lethargy, I went for a work camp packaged by Uhere Study Centre, Nsukka.

Most students all over the country are jobless, with so much time (days became weeks and then months) and yet nothing to do with it. Many of us now spend our days watching one movie after another, sometimes viewing as many as five a day (a killer for the future intellectual), roaming/touring the different cities with no real purpose, engaging in endless conversations from which we hardly gain anything constructive. Don’t quote me, but there may be a correlation between the violence and kidnapping in some flash spots in the country with this present bitter holiday. After all, the saying goes that an idle man is the devils workshop.

Being stiff tired and bored to death, I jumped at an invitation to participate in a work camp organised by Uhere Study Centre, a private hostel for male students of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Uhere is a project of Education Cooperation Society (ECS), a registered charity in Nigeria. There were fifteen of us and the aim of the two-week camp was to paint a block of classrooms at the Holy Infant Nursery and Primary School Onuiyi Nsukka.

uhere painting3

Being armature painters, we had to learn the art of painting. Little did I know that it takes a lot to roll, dab, cut and mix paint? While we cheerfully made a mess of the painting, we excused our lack of professionalism to the fact that as students we are more at home at using our brains than our hands. And can you believe it; we were not paid for this job. It was free. That was what Uhere Study Centre has made us realize, while it may be easy to whine and bewail our condition, we call all make a difference. Thus, the work camp was a synergy: Uhere and ECS sourced for donations to buy the paints and feed us for two weeks, we contributed our labour while making the kids in the primary school in Onuiyi happy.

Other activities of the camp included soccer through which the campers learnt team work as well as kept themselves fit, movies nights and also a number of documentaries, after one of us exclaimed that everything here is beautiful. Excursions to Kogi State and S.J rapids in Eziagu, get-togethers where the campers were able to interact fraternally with one another. It was a camp of fun and work. The spiritual needs of the camp were provided by Opus Dei, an institution of the Catholic Church.

I was lucky to attend this camp; many others lacked a similar opportunity. It will be a massive encouragement, if many of our youths sort to use their day in constructive ways such as these and if the opportunities were afforded them. In this way we can have youths, leaders of tomorrow who not only dream or have heard of serving their nation as leaders but who really know and have lived out what it takes to serve society. By the way, in case you need a painter – this article is my ad – just call me. You would not be disappointed.         

Udeh is studying Economics in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.