What is Unique about the Amnesty Programme?

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I was at the Omagwa International Airport Port Harcourt, waiting as usual, to hear any announcements about either the arrival of an airplane or delay in the arrival of a plane and maybe outright cancellation of scheduled flights. While the waiting lasted, I overheard a couple of people six may be seven persons discussing the peace and successful strides the Amnesty Programme had achieved for the past one year. While about five of them endorsed the programme as a huge success, one of them bellowed “What is so unique about the Amnesty Programme, AP, and how is it different from other development initiatives? One of the discussants said since the baton of leadership changed, his initial picture of the AP also turned from pessimism to optimism. I see the new person as passionate and determined to improve the lot of the youths, he said. Then the announcement came that we should proceed for boarding.

One lesson I learnt, which has remained indelible in my mind is reaffirmation of the aphorism that everything rises and falls on leadership. It also occurred to me that the most enduring quality of a leader is to lead by example, which means having a feel of the people you are leading, knowing their plight, feeling their pulse and then understanding their psychology and instilling discipline in them. I also pondered that if lions from the wild can be tamed and domesticated, why not human beings – no matter the hostile. What raced through my mind was the dexterity, the passion and the spirit of service he Hon. Kingsley Kuku has inoculated into the youths. This is the never-give-up spirit that will make all Niger Delta Youths acquiring skills in Sri-Lanka, South Africa, Ghana, the Philippines, the United States of America, Ukraine, Russia etc succeed.

Any close watcher of the Amnesty Programme will attest to the fact that the impact of the programme is felt even in the air. While I attribute the momentum of the programme to robust commitment of the President Jonathan administration, part of the success story is a function of the handlers of the programme. I am told that no organization can be better than its leader, and a good leader not only conceives a vision but evolves the mission and strategy through which organizational goals are achieved. Significantly too, the ability of the leader to develop strong organizational culture enables people to buy into the vision and even run with it.

Whatever gains that have been made in the Amnesty Programme for the past couple of months should be seen as a vigorous pursuit of the overall transformational agenda of the Federal Government. The Federal Government has rolled out its economic agenda in which N880 billion has been earmarked for power; N300 billion for roads and N571 billion for investment in the oil sector. In his economic transformation blueprint, priority attention is accorded human capacity development; Information and Communication Technology and the development of intermediate manpower.

I peeped into the mechanics of the AP and identified some unique features, which are fifferent from other programmes such as School-to-Land; National Poverty Eradication Programme; the Graduate Employment Scheme and other failed national programmes. The first unique feature is the emphasis on skills acquisition. As the Chinese proverb rightly says “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.” Past empowerment programmes never emphasized skills acquisition but employment without skills and a tokenistic approach towards empowering the youths, hence they failed and never endured. Those who conceived the laudable programmes never considered any sustainability criteria.

The second unique element of the AP is that it is based on the principle of peace and non-violence. The recipients received robust tutorials on non-violence and how best to acquire skills to be relevant the work place and the dynamics of the economy. One of the resource persons at the Obubura Training camp Professor Uwazie, the AP is a form of “peace education with social justice all around it” among students in the country, promised socio-economic development and would solve problems, added that it was also capable of inculcating leadership skills in the Nigerian youth. Governance and leadership had been an inherent problem among others in the Region, suggested that young graduates should be given leadership positions at local, state, national and international levels to display the peace knowledge they have acquired” he said!

The wide scope of the training components is also unique. The entire gamut of skills acquired by the recipients range from Ocean diving in Sri-Lanka; under-water welding in Ghana; Boat building and seafaring in the Philippines and piloting South Africa. Some Niger Delta youths are undergoing their postgraduate courses in Russia, Ukraine and the United States of America. A sizeable number of youths have been sent to South Africa. A substantial number of youths were also sent to Israel for agricultural training, India for ICT and to Poland, for crane operation and pipeline welding. These are skills that are of strategic economic interest, which the oil-rich region buoyed. The fact that oil production has risen to 2.8 billion barrels per day is an eloquent testimony that peace has returned to the hitherto beleaguered Region.

On a conservative estimate, a total of 20, 163 ex-militants in the Niger Delta region have been trained at the Post-Amnesty Training Camp and sent for skills acquisition. The training package is holistic in that it provided recreational facilities for the trainees, in addition to the existing ones.

More importantly, of all the critical success factors, the human element appears to be more pre-potent. The human element referred to here is the leadership traits of the Hon. Kingsley Kuku. The Amnesty Chief performs four key roles. Granted that his schedule of coordination and Monitoring is very demanding, he forges the interpersonal relationship and ensures that decisional premises are communicated to role incumbents across the hierarchy of the organogram. This logically leads to the creation and maintenance of interpersonal networks that facilitate the accomplishment of goals. Hon Kingsley Kuku's dexterity is such that he knows every trainee in any country by his or her first name. This way, he builds a very strong organizational culture, which serves as a linchpin for building trust and growth.

Similarly, the Amnesty Chief dissociates himself from minor functions except they are related to planning, organizing leading and controlling. He is like Marx Weber of sort who holds tenaciously to the tenets of impartiality. He does not interfere with the functions of subordinates. Kuku has developed an uncanny ability to understand and manage emotions in interpersonal relationship. This of ossifies the bonds of trust and confidence among the workers across hierarchy. In addition, the Amnesty Chief is imbued with high analytical ability to solve complex problems. When this is added to his emotional intelligence of cementing relationships, it logically follows that he does self audit, self appraisal blended with superb communication skills.

While I am not in the least ready to eulogize Kingsley Kuku's administrative abilities, there are some personal qualities that make him these personal qualities are underpinned by sound ethos. That is why the reward system is based on productivity, performance rating and other competencies. I have understudied him and my conclusion is that while his position as a former Law Maker provides a very sound basis for his leadership role, he is also driven by an inner passion- a passion to burst the performance ceiling irrespective of the odds facing his projects. Career choice is also another gift. He does not allow only the experts to do the selection; he gets himself involved in choosing what is best for the recipients.

Perhaps the most unique thing about the Amnesty Programme is that the helms man runs an open system, which provides a synch between the environment ala the output, the process and the output. At the input end, the Amnesty programme manages people money, materials and technology; these are fed into the organization, the result is a work flow that, which is the transformational process. The output we are expecting are the skilled pipe-line welders, seafarers, marine engineers, boat builders, the ICT experts, pilots and other skilled workers capable of manipulating economic processes.

In a dynamic global economy, I think and strongly so that the Amnesty Programme constitutes a comprehensive model for skills acquisition and capacity building in the West African sub-region, which economies are lagging. Ultimately, the Amnesty Programme operators will constitute the engine room for building skills and capacities. These are the programmes and methodologies that make the Amnesty programme UNIQUE. With the sustainability indicia ingrained in it, the Nigerian Amnesty Programme shall be a toolkit for skills development programme in continental Africa.

Alabo Dickson, writes from Maitama,

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Articles by Alabo Dickson