Assessing Kingsley Kuku’s Amnesty Programme

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When the Amnesty Programme was initiated by the Late President Yar'Adua, most people (Including this writer) expressed morbid pessimism because I had conjectured that the programme would ultimately become part of the Nigerian experience. If I may recall, I am one of the first critics to write an article on “Why the Amnesty Programme, AP, can fail”. My reasons then were basically three.

I saw the AP as a distraction considering the hurried and ill-conceived manner it was introduced on one hand and on another Government rushed its implementation of the programme. My real fear was that the Federal Government wanted to keep the oil taps flowing in the Region without giving anything back in return. For a problem has spanned five decades, I expected that the FGN would engage in broad-based stakeholders before arriving at a well-thought out can arrive at well-thought out solutions and strategies of implementing the programme. I also considered that some of the State Governors had spent so much money on security votes, part of which they divert to their private pockets. Such State Governors opposed the idea of the AP due largely because of the shoddy record of Alaibe until the Presidency made a loud statement that it was the only way out the quagmire.

While the AP was commendable, the strategy adopted by Timi Alaibe was at best peripheral – paying each repentant militant was paid the sum of Sixty-five thousand Naira (N65, 000.00) per month. If the Federal Government has set aside the sum of N10.2 Billion to be disbursed to militants, it means we are using expired drugs to cure a terminal disease. So I had my misgivings because of the tokenistic approach the entire process at that time lacked of transparency and accountability hence there was a nugget of criticisms about the modus operandi of the AP.

I also felt it was not proper for the Federal Government to negotiate directly with militants because of the public perception that it would put s stamp of legitimacy on militancy. Again by dolling out cash, I felt the goal of rehabilitating them to acquire skills and integrate them as indispensable members of our civil community was negative. It was the cash-and carry approach and the high-handedness of the former Amnesty regime that culminated in series of crises. Most people also reasoned that money would lead to divide and rule among the heads of the various group and this could lead to the endgame of coordinated militancy in the Niger Delta Region.

However, the Kingsley Kuku strategy appears to have yielded robust results and my earlier fears have been allayed. Since Hon. Kingsley Kuku mounted the saddle, there has never been any reported case of youth violence at the Training camps. He quickly went to Ghana to resolve the misunderstanding between the ex-militants and some tenants where they were domiciled. So in terms of timely decision making, the Amnesty Chief is not only alert but consults widely before taking actions. For me strategy is what matters and Kuku has got the strategy right. One of the fundamental tenets of management is that once the leader gets the strategy right, the followers can manage themselves. This is just what Kingsley Kuku has done.

Owing to my keen interest in the rehabilitation of Niger Delta Youths, I have taken more than a passing interest in the entire gamut of the process ranging from selection of trainees, career selection and guidance, and idenfication of the appropriate training suitable for the recipients. The process of networking with credible training Institutes across the world requires enormous dexterity and experience, and Kingsley Kuku has demonstrated that to the satisfaction of all objective-minded watchers of the programme.

I attribute the success of Kingsley Kuku to a couple of factors. He has been involved in the Niger Delta struggle and that has given him first class knowledge of the needs of youths in the Region. Thus, in managing the process, he gets the youths emotionally involved to appreciate the essence of the programme and what they stand to gain when they painstakingly undergo the required training and acquire the requisite skills. Bringing his age-long passion to bear on the youths and inculcating high moral values in the recipients is a radical departure from the first phase of the Amnesty Programme.

Essentially, the selection of skills and programmes for the repentant militants is a critical component of managing the process. Vocational and specialized training in Boat Building; Under-water/pipeline welding, Information and Communication Technology; Sea faring, piloting, marine engineering, among others are suitable for the Niger Delta environment. He is also visionary because such skills are relevant to the emerging hydro-carbon industry. Well informed reports and my personal observations shows that the Amnesty Chief makes frequent visits to track the progress of trainees especially those engaged in postgraduate studies. This gesture does not just give a strong lubricant for recipients to take their studies seriously but also provides enormous psychological support for them.

In all modesty, Kuku has turned around the fortunes of the programme such that thoe who had earlier criticized the programme have seen the wisdom behind the programme. Whereas this article does not intend to chronicle the achievements of the Amnesty Programme, it is difficult to ignore the fact that on 20 April 2011, 38 ex-militants were sent to the United States for skills acquisition training, as part of its post-amnesty programme. This batch of trainees was meant to specialize in Marine Mechanics at WyoTech, in Daytona, Florida. The programme provides training in inboard gasoline-powered marine engines, outboard motor mechanics. I knew when the Amnesty Chief in July ferried 96 youths to the Philippines to acquire sklls in Seafaring. A huge chunk of Niger Delta Youths are in Ghana for underwater and pipeline welding. Some are in India studying ICT, which has become indispensable in a fast globalizing world. About 30 youths were sent to the Jim Business School in Malaysia, 212 to Ghana for vocational training, 20 youths to South Africa for training in piloting and others in Rusia and the United States. So far, the Amnesty Programme under Kingsley Kuku has sent over 1800 youths for training abroad.

In appreciation of the strides made by the Amnesty programme, the Akwa Ibom State Government keyed praised the Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programme of the Federal Government and expressed gratitude to the coordinators and made a passionate plea that the 155 ex-militant beneficiaries of the state government's Integrated Farmers Scheme. This has been accomplished within the framework of the programme. The lofty Federal Government Amnesty Program which was procured at great material, financial and human costs must be accorded commensurate attention and pursued vigorously to a logical conclusion in view of the devastating consequences on national stability posed by the collapse of the ongoing peace process.

Perhaps the most critical success indicator is the peace in the Niger Delta Region which has led to the increase in the production of crude oil. Today, Nigeria produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude oil per day. To consolidate on the peace already achieved, the Amnesty Programme partnered the School of Communication Studies, Pan African University and a seminar series was organized. The main aim such seminars was to generate the ideas and modalities that could shape a new thinking in community relations by companies operating in the Niger Delta region and elsewhere in Nigeria. This is not to say the Programme does not have its gray areas.

My major concern is that when these youths with skills come back to Nigeria, they will be enthusiastic about practicing what they have learnt. Nigeria's inability to industrialize poses a great challenge. More importantly, some of the skilled people will be self-employed hence they need robust starter packs. This underscores calls for the adequate funding of the Programme. The Nigeria Local Content Office should streamline policies on how to accommodate the youths in the Marine, Tourism, ICT and petroleum industries. It is also critical to incorporate non-militants because the frustration and environmental injustice in the Region affect everyone. My consolation is that President Goodluck Jonathan is in a familiar turf and would see reasons why more resources should be committed to sustain the peace in the Region.

It was Ralph Emerson who said “It is hard to go beyond your public. If they are satisfied with cheap performance, you will not easily arrive at better. If they know what is good, and require it. you will aspire and burns until you achieve it. But from time to time, in history, men are born a whole age too soon” My verdict as a stakeholder and a social critical is that the Amnesty Chief is generously endowed with a team building spirit, the ri8ght organizational skills, the passion and above all the right strategy hence his monumental achievements on the programme.

Idumange John is a Certified Business Analyst, and Fellow, Institute of Public Management, Nigeria

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Articles by Idumange John