Opinion Youth

Youths’ Widening Industry Cluster- Emmanuel Onwubiko

Of the nine or so books churned out within the last calendar year by some dozens of Scholars and Professors is this particular one titled: “The NYSC and Covid-19 Pandemic: issues and perspectives”. 

The authors including the Director General of the NYSC Brigadier-general Shuaib Ibrahim(as he then was), gave us synopsis of what the management has in stock to provide economic stability post Covid-19 Pandemic season.

Subtitled: “Outlook of the Future of COVID-19 in Nigeria”, the authors wrote as follows:

“The Covid-19 is a global pandemic whose wide spread has resulted in a downturn in global economic activities. Various countries of the world have been affected in different ways and different control mechanisms have been deployed to manage the situation. The nature of the virus makes it difficult to detect, hence, it is difficult to estimate the number of people infected.”

The scholars posited that; Nigeria is perceived as an urbanized population with about 49.66% of the population resident in the rural areas. The average household size for the rural and urban household is 5.9 and 4.9 persons respectively.

The authors proceeded thus: “Social distancing has proven feasible in urban settlements but rural settlements live communally and would experience difficulty in isolation because there is not enough room for isolation. The rural households are labour endowed and generate a large share of their income through the supply of labour services”.

The economic downturn, they argued creates further inconveniences associated with increased consumption and lower income available.

The population distribution, according to them also indicates that the aging population (the perceived most vulnerable to the disease) dominantly reside in the rural areas; hence, a breakout in the rural areas would be catastrophic because it would increase the death rate by a significant margin.

In their thinking therefore, the apparent best measures have been deployed by every country to meet their contextual conditions till an appropriate vaccine is provided.

They stated that Though the accelerated expected time frame for its effective distribution is between 12-18months, there have been heavy investments to ensure the time frame is reduced by half.

These were the projection they made in terms of Policy Implication.
 
The affirmed that the Government’s need to increase investment in data collection and storage has been revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  
The insufficient data on the socio-economic distribution of the Nigerian population they said has been exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This has made the provision of palliatives and relief resources to vulnerable individuals/households ineffective. 

They canvassed that Periodic data collection projects must be implemented by the government with the cooperation of the related agencies and the private sector

Improving data collection and storage would have a significant role to play in socio-economic development. Aggregation of data is often proposed because the data collected is processed with various government entities, centralization of data would help to reduce data fragmentation and would make data easily accessible when needed.”

These views were captured in the book “The National Youth Service Corps and COVID-19 Pandemic: Issues and Perspectives”, by Shuaibu Ibrahim, Victor Semawon Akran, Ben Japhet Audu Maryam Hamza.

What has emerged is that the era of the Covid-19 pandemic has come with its own peculiarity and has left economic imprints on the sands of time going by the number of jobs in the small and medium scale businesses that were lost during the prolonged lockdowns which were put in place by political policy makers to check the consequences and to bring down the rapid spread of the disease amongst the most productive class of citizens. These much were espoused by the writers of the aforementioned book. 

But for the two years that Covid-19 posed formidable economic challenge, some of the public officials overseeing certain offices in the public sector were able to somehow come up with some innovative ideas on what to put in place to ensure that the economic disadvantages that Covid-19 Pandemic unleashed are not felt in a very big way by the youths who are obviously amongst the most productive class of citizens.

One of those institutions whose mandates speak to the issues of the wellbeing of youths is the National Youths Service Corps. The Covid-19 period has therefore proven that with good and functional leadership, it is possible to literally actualize the dreams captured in the catchy novel by the black American Poet which goes thus: “All God’s Children need traveling shoes,” authored by the respected Maya Angelou.

The following is how a book reviewer elucidated on the blurb of that beautiful book by Maya Angelou. The reviewer states that “In 1962 the poet, musician, and performer Maya Angelou claimed another piece of her identity by moving to Ghana, joining a community of “Revolutionist Returnees” inspired by the promise of pan-Africanism.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes is her lyrical and acutely perceptive exploration of what it means to be an African-American on the mother continent, where color no longer matters but where American-ness keeps asserting itself in ways both puzzling and heartbreaking. As it build on the personal narrative of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Gather Together In My Name, this book confirms Maya Angelou’s stature as one of the most gifted autobiographers of our time.
 
As exemplified by Maya Angelou, we can now see that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership, (The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe). 

That good leadership capacity is manifested by how so well the NYSC management navigated through the twists and turns brought about by Covid-19 Pandemic. So what exactly is that economic panacea worked out by the very innovative management team piloting the affairs of the NYSC as appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari?

The answer to this interrogatory is not far- fetched. The leadership at the NYSC headed by the recently promoted Army General- Major General Shuaib Ibrahim appear to have worked out the innovative idea of adopting the implementation of industry cluster as a way of finding lasting solutions to the economic consequences thrown up by Covid-19 Pandemic. Two academics have a beautiful narrative of what industry cluster is as captured in their term paper titled “Industry Clusters and Economic Development”.

These scientists are Timothy Slaper, Ph.D. the Director of Economic Analysis, Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana University Kelley School of Business, and Grace Ortuzar the Economic Research Associate, Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

Hear them: “For more than two decades, policymakers and economic development professionals have stressed the importance of encouraging and supporting industry clusters to promote job creation and economic growth.”

“A cluster-based approach, according to them starts with the industries and assets that are already present in the region and regional stakeholders pursue initiatives to make those industries better.

An approach for creating entirely new clusters in a region is a strategy to improve overall business environment conditions, by upgrading skills, access to finance and infrastructure, by streamlining government rules and regulations, by supporting local demand, and by being open to foreign investment and competition.

They said while clusters of industries that are present in a region do not necessarily need public sector strategies in order to exist—the industries cluster regardless—the right policies and strategies can help the businesses within a cluster become more successful and competitive. A cluster-based strategy is not, in other words, necessarily organized around attracting large entities from elsewhere.

They then posed the question; What Makes a Cluster?
They then respond thus: “Simply put, industry clusters are regional concentrations of related industries. Clusters consist of companies, suppliers and service providers, as well as government agencies and other institutions that provide education, information, research and technical support to a regional economy. One might say that clusters are a network of economic relationships that create a competitive advantage for the related firms in a particular region. This advantage then becomes an enticement for similar industries and suppliers to those industries to develop or relocate to a region.”

“Think of it this way: if you wanted to relocate your smartphone application development company from your basement in Loogootee, would you move it to Vermont or to the Bay Area? On the other hand, if you made artisanal cheeses in your barn out back and wanted to expand, would you move to the Bay Area or Vermont? Whether you know it or not, your decision on relocation is informed by the presence of strong industry clusters.”

Developing industry clusters, they argued has become a key goal for regional economic development as clusters have been shown to strengthen competitiveness by increasing productivity, stimulating innovative new partnerships, even among competitors, and presenting opportunities for entrepreneurial activity.

Michael Porter and others have identified which industries tend to cluster together. This serves as the analytical foundation for cluster-based economic development strategies that may target certain types of industries to locate in a region to strengthen a cluster, or they may target regional resources to help bolster a developing cluster. A cluster-based development strategy may not be easy or quick to implement, but the supporting argument is that it beats a piecemeal or scattershot approach to generating jobs. Instead of looking at specific industries or types of companies, cluster analysis detects the potential spillovers of technology, skills and information that cut across industries, workers and resources. 

A respected national daily The Guardian presented it thus: “The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has commissioned North Central Skills Acquisition and Entreprenuership Department (SAED) as well as garment, bakery and water factories, in Keffi, Nasarawa State to boost the country’s internally generated revenue (IGR).

The garment factory, the newspaper reports is equipped with over 100 industrial sewing machines and other equipment needed for the production of high quality kits for corps members, while the water factory has three packaging lines for the production of table and dispenser water.

Speaking at the commissioning of the factories in Keffi recently, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa thanked the Director-General of NYSC, Maj-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, for redefining and reinvigorating the scheme as a whole, while stressing the need for skill acquisition.

The governor said: “You have done wonderfully. I have attended several of your events, one of which was the opportunity to visit the NYSC museum you established.

“You came in and redefined NYSC. You set up a museum, acquisition centres across the country and, today, you have been able to have a revenue-generating NYSC, making returns to the Federal Government for the first time in the history of NYSC.”

On his part, lbrahim said the inauguration of the new factories has shown the commitment of the scheme in expanding its revenue generation platforms.

He said: “They will also serve as additional training avenues for corps members enrol for relevant vocational skills under the SAED programme. This complex is also unique in the sense that it has the highest number of NYSC factories located in the same place.”

For these efforts, the DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the National Youth Service Corps, Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim has been conferred with the most distinguished Fellow of the 2021/22 Hall of Fame of the chartered Institute of Public Resources Management and Politics, Ghana. 

The conferment was performed not long ago at the NYSC National Directorate Headquarters, Abuja, by the Executive Director, West African Region of the Institute, Dr Richards Kpoku, assisted by the Executive Director, Corporate Strategy and International Training, Alhaji (Engr) Abdul-Azeez Salawu and the Head of Administration and Correspondence, Nigeria Office, Lanre Sadiq.

Kpoku said the institute decided to honour the Director-General for his exceptional sterling and leadership qualities, giant strides and outstanding achievements since he assumed duty as NYSC helmsman.

He commended Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim for his integrity, as well as establishment of NYSC bakeries, water factories, NYSC Radio and TV stations and the resuscitation of the Scheme’s garments factories, including the intervention of Corps Members in providing free medicare for indigent Nigerians through the Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers.

“The NYSC has made great impact under your watch and it has become a global brand as a result of your leadership excellence and dexterity. “You have brought great patriotism into the Scheme and made it a force to reckon with at the global space. “You are a renowned public service administrator, security and defence strategist, academic and renowned author”, he said.

The Executive Director also commended the Director-General for his incorruptible statemanship, which he said made him qualified for the institute’s Chartered Fellow of the 2022 Hall of Fame.

Ibrahim used the occasion to offer some insights on the NYSC and said the Scheme has been fostering national unity and integration since inception and will continue to do so. The DG added that while at the Orientation Camp, Corps Members are exposed to the rudiments of leadership, discipline, Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship among others that would prepare them for leadership roles He added that Corps Members have been adding values to their host Communities across the country.

He informed the visitors that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Corps Members produced sanitizers, disinfectant Soaps, facemasks, and other innovations to combat the disease. They also provided freeonline coaching for graduating students in secondary schools”, the DG said.
 
Ibrahim stated further that other African countries like Gambia are making efforts to set /up similar youth organisations like NYSC in their countries.

He said the NYSC would inaugurate its radio and television stations two days time in order to boost the publicity drive of the Scheme.

The Director-General also noted that Corps Members have been contributing immensely to the growth of both the public and private sectors. Predictably,  many good corporate citizens are identifying with the NYSC. 

In line with its empowerment initiatives for youths, the Executive Director of Activate Success International Foundation (ASIF), Mrs. Love Idoko-Uloko, in partnership with Nestle Nigeria PLC, has presented grants to corps members at the headquarters of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Abuja.

Five corps members were given cheques with the sum of N400, 000 each.

In attendance were the Director General of the NYSC, Maj.-Gen Ibrahim Shuaibu, directors and other management officials of the NYSC.

Also in attendance were the representatives of Nestle Nigeria PLC led by Mr. Segun Oloidi, Director, SAED, Mr. Hilary Nasamu, the team members of Activate Success International Foundation (ASIF) led by the Executive Director, Mrs. Idoko-Uloko, the award recipients, other corps members and guests.

Idoko-Uloko said that the partnership with the NYSC started in 2018 and had grown over time.

She thanked Nestle Nigeria PLC for making the grant price available and for their consistent support in the past three years.

The representative of Nestle Nigeria PLC, Mr. Segun Oloidi, stated in his address the commitment of his organisation to youth development. He pledged the continued support of Nestle Nigeria PLC to ASIF and NYSC.
Maj.-Gen. Shuaibu encouraged other organisations to support the NYSC scheme.

He hailed Activate Success International Foundation and Nestle Nigeria PLC for their support to the scheme and encouraged the recipients to utilise the funds to grow their businesses and set examples for others after them to follow. In what may seem a report card on the gains of the industry cluster the DG recently said the NYSC remits over N1bn to federation account in two years.

DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Shuaibu Ibrahim, a brigadier-general (as he then was), says the scheme remitted over N1 billion into the federation account between 2020 and 2021.

Ibrahim now a Major General said the money was generated from different business initiatives established by the NYSC.

He disclosed this at the weekend when Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Tijjani Bande paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.

“…in an unprecedented feat, the Scheme remitted over one billion Naira generated as revenue from its various ventures to the federal account between 2020 and 2021,” he said in a statement issued by the scheme’s Deputy Director Press and Public Relations Emeka Mgbemena.

Findings show that the NYSC Ventures were created in 2012 as training and mentoring platforms for corps members interested in entrepreneurship development. Initiatives and funds generated through the ventures are expected to contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
 
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was a National Commissioner at the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission.

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