THERE is a yellow rainbow across the skyline of Abia State, a syndrome pervading the state. The colour, yellow, is ubiquitous in all nooks and crannies and has transformed into a mental construct. There is yellow everywhere. Governor Theodore Orji has painted Abia yellow with his Youth Empowerment Programme.
For a visitor to Abia, the sea of yellow vehicles on the roads, all bearing the emblem of state and signaling the spirit of magnanimity of the leader is a sight to behold. The vehicles come in a variety of form, model, brand and make. They also come in classes. There are the long caravans, the small taxis, the mini buses that do the long inter-state journeys, the tricycles and the posh trucks of class and comfort. They all bear tell-tales of the glories of Abia and speak about a government’s effort to re-construct the society by empowering the people.
Indeed, the Abia Youth Empowerment Programme is a dynamic apparatus of the Ochendo administration geared towards reining in the youth and empowering them with a means of livelihood. It is a welfarist policy and one of the most successful policy thrusts of the government. Orji has deployed this process to engage and harness the potential of the youths of Abia and thereby focus their minds towards meaningful endeavour. Borne out of a bitter experience of a generational youth deviance, which manifested in the regime of criminality by the Abia youths, with the vice of kidnapping almost grounding the state, the empowerment programme is an effort at social reconstruction and capacity building. The resultant effect is the prevailing social stability in the state.
One key mechanism in the empowerment scheme is the donation of free vehicles to jobless youths to enable them engages in transport business. All vehicles under this platform are painted in yellow with the emblem of state hanging on the roof. With the countless number of such vehicles on Abia cities and communities, the project has turned Abia into a yellow state with a yellow syndrome.
Today, the Abia yellow automobile has transformed into a symbol. In a quite significant manner, the vehicles speak of the passion of the leader for the large and sensitive segment of the society – the youth. It has become a dynamic vehicle for driving and delivering democracy dividend in Abia. On Monday, July 21, Ochendo, in his well-honed manner, painted the headquarters of the Bende Local Government yellow. It was a day for the three local councils of Arochukwu, Ohafia and Bende. Lined up in the open field and in waiting for the arrival of the governor were over 200 brand new vehicles, all painted in yellow, which were later distributed to deserving youths free of charge. Thirteen other beneficiaries received N2 million each as empowerment grant to enable them groom small-scale businesses.
By the time he mounted the rostrum to speak, Ochendo went back through memory lane and recalled the state’s recent history. There was a time when youths in the state went berserk and took to criminality. This experience, according to him, was what inspired the vision of the Abia Youth Empowerment Programme. “In my campaign, I promised the youths of Abia that I will initiate a different form of empowerment from what they used to know, as well as initiate the political inclusion of the youths of Abia if I am returned to power for a second term as the governor,” the governor declared.
The Ochendo’s administration is investing huge sums of money and resources in running and maintaining the Empowerment Programme. This vision has also been leveraged by the efforts of the first lady, Mercy Orji, through her pet project, The Hannah May Foundation. The first lady runs a large-scale free training programme in her Skill Acquisition Centre and other free humanitarian services under The Hannah May Foundation– a pet project of Her Excellency, for rendering help and selfless support to all vulnerable groups in the society. The foundation had in the past-distributed Wheel Chairs, Artificial Limbs, Foodstuff and other consumables; and also built and furnished bungalows for some homeless families and widows. The Hannah May Foundation has worked in tandem with the governor in the responsibility of empowering women and youth in Abia State, with a vision and mission to show love, by making life meaningful
The Governor’s son, Chinedu alias Ikuku, has become a charismatic icon of the youths by virtue of his Youth Foundation programme, which he runs through his 14-man committee. Her Excellency’s Skill Acquisition Centre has to date trained over 850 youths in a six-month intensive programme in tailoring, sewing, fashion designing, fish farming, interior decoration, photography, GSM operations, etc.
As against what obtained in the past in Abia, when youths were given shovels, head pans and palm seedlings in a mockery of youth empowerment, Ochendo programme has been a life-changer for the Abia youth. Hear the governor: “Today, our government has changed these archaic practices and conceptions, so that our unemployed youths are empowered with sufficient financial incentives to begin their businesses; empowered as agro-entrepreneurs in our liberation farms and also empowered with brand new vehicles to begin life as transport entrepreneurs.”
The yellow train of the youth Empowerment Programme has been moving through the three zones of the state. Initiated in Aba last year, it was the first in the history of the state. But the critics of the state made a mince meal of it. Today, the governor remembers the scenario vividly: “When I commenced the empowerment of our youths in Aba North and South by rewarding our youths with brand new vehicles, buses, Keke Napep and other valuable items – our political opponents in their blind criticism accused us of empowering urchins and the dregs of the society – they in fact derided us”. But, history has vindicated Ochendo for the yellow vision is one of the most admired programmes of the state by the people.
The Abia Yellow Syndrome stands today as a symbol of a people-oriented programme to uplift the common man. It is a development mechanism that follows the bottom-top approach of developmental index. This mechanism focuses on the people’s immediate needs: empowerment programme for unemployed youths and widows; maintenance assistance to the aged; health foundation to assist the poor; agric facilities for the rural poor farmers; skill acquisition centres for poor unskilled men and women; loan grants to enable them take off in little measure; direct food relief for the poorest of the poor; borehole in rural communities to solve water scarcity problems; establishment of small-scale cottage industries in the villages where the rural community can work and also acquire experience on how to produce minor things.
The yellow colour has transformed into the proverbial silver lining on the sky, signifying a new hope, a new life. It resonates very loudly with the message of the Ochendo Promise – the promise of liberation and of a new beginning. The yellow colour, in semiotic forms, encapsulates the ideology of the liberation of a people and a revolution that has seen to the building of a new Abia of peace, harmony and security.
• Adindu is the President-General of the Abia Renaissance Movement (ARM).