BY HUGO ODIOGOR
Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil, Africa Operation and publisher of Hints, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, believes we need data if we must address the challenge of unemployment in the country. The Harvard trained lawyer also speaks on his duties as Odogwu of Onicha Ugbo in Aniocha North LGA, Delta State.He was invested with the chieftaincy yesterday.
Can we start by asking what is your vision as the 11th Odogwu of Onicha Ugbo, especially now that we are no longer in the era of communal conflicts and war fares?
One of the major challenges, in the immediacy, is to ensure that the people of Ishiekpe are united and there is peace in my domain. As the Odogwu, I am the leader of the whole of Ishiekpe village. I am their representative in the Ono-Otu and in the Obi-in-Council. Within the wider Onicha Ugbo town, my role will be to assist the king in making decisions that will uplift the welfare of our people and make our people live in peace.
Onicha Ugbo people are generally peace loving, we do not engage in conflict with other towns. Sometimes we do have issues but such issues come and go, they do not lead to major conflicts.
Secondly, I am very concerned about the future of our youths. As part of the event leading to the Odogwu installation ceremony, we have planned a youth empowerment forum. I really get disillusioned when I see young people leaving school and having nothing to do. There is a willingness to work but there is no work for them. The next temptation is to go into crime. But if you direct them, properly, then you can prevent that.
We need to know the people that are looking for work and what type of qualifications and skills that they have. We need to have a data base that people can work with in trying to help our young people consciously to find work.
Where some of them are not qualified in the right perspective, the next option will be to encourage them through scholarship, to go for master’s degrees to improve their CV because sometimes you find that people go to the universities to study courses that will not enable them to find jobs easily.
These are the things we are taking up with the youth forum scheme. We brought resource persons from different backgrounds to speak to these youths on how to prepare for life and make them realise that they are not alone and that there is a genuine effort to try and help them out.
We are making conscious effort through a committee to work on this issue, not just in Onicha Ugbo alone, but for the entire Umu-Ezechime where, as you know, I hold the Isagba title in all the 13 towns that make up Umu Ezechime kingdom. I believe that those of us that have been successful in some ways in the zone, there is a huge challenge to reach out and I think that the starting point is to have a data base, and teach the youths on how to apply for job. After that, we are to set up a permanent secretariat that is going to deal with these data. We want to set up data for some of our people that are in position that they can help us find work for some of these young people. So that will be the first in town.
For so many years I have been involved in the economic empowerment of women, providing them with trucks to convey farm produce. This is going to receive greater impetus. Then there is of course infrastructural development of Onicha-Ugbo. I will like to see how we can galvanise our people to see what we can do to promote the development of infrastructure.
We are very keen on St. Pius Grammar School renovation project.We want to set up a Trust Council in that direction to help expand St. Pius Grammar School and see if we can export education to other people. There are a lot of things on ground.
On the political front, I want to play a role. What I want to do is to make sure that Anioma gets its turn in the gubernatorial position. I have said it openly that I am not running for an elective position. You cannot be an arbiter and at the same time trying to put yourself up as a candidate. But that does not mean that I am excluding myself from the political process.
Right now I am employed and I am focusing on that, but to the extent that I can help to influence things to get the right people in position, I will do that, but where tomorrow takes us, I don’t know; in terms of elective office I’m out.
Apart from being the Odogwu, you are also the Isagba of Onicha Ugbo and of Eze Chime kingdom. How are you going to combine the responsibilities of the Isagba and the Odogwu at the same time?
There is a precedent; my grand father was the Ashi Obi and the Odogwu of Onicha Ugbo; he held both titles. But I have asked questions and people told me that I can continue with both titles because the Isagba title, which is a social title, cuts across the 13 towns that make up the Ezechime kingdom.
It really does not involve my sitting in Obi in Council in those towns. It is an honour and recognition on me by these communities, it does not permit you to attend the meetings of Obi in Council in those towns but when they have something that requires my assistance in areas of development of infrastructure, they call on me. But as the Odogwu of Onicha Ugbo, I represent the people of Ishiekpe in Obi in Council. The Odogwu is a traditional and an Obi in Council title. As the leader of Ishiekpe people, I have to contribute my quota in this process of decision making in the town and help to resolve conflicts that may arise from time to time or take decisions on how to develop the town. Our ancestors were wise enough to introduce the concept of representation in running the office. Since I am still in employment and may not have time to tackle the day to day activities of the office, I have appointed two able hands in the persons of Mr. Onnekanse Kachikwu who is at Onicha Ugbo to attend to the daily traditional issues and Mr. Chris Ibeashi who also contested for the Odogwuship. They will stand in for me in the day to day activities and call me when there is a big issue. That goes to prove the point that we have made progress in process of reconciling the parties.
The Odogwu title will continue to attract interest because we are not in a military era, we are in a democracy and people will aspire for the office, those who did not get it will always have a nostalgic disappointment of what they failed to accomplish. I think that sense of disappointment is not going to disappear over night. This is not just for the Odogwuship, but also for all the major Onotu titles that are zoned to the different villages that make up the town.
History is a different thing and it takes time to change things, it also takes care of where the pain or the emotions are from. If you don’t understand this, trying to solve a problem is a waste of time, the best way to go about it is to understand the passions of those who are aspiring to contest and those who believe that it is their birth right and it should not be toyed with.
Once you understand that, you discover that the dimensions of the worries are really not as complicated as they look. It is just that when people present the issues, they do it from emotional point of view, but once you knock off the emotion, are you going to deny the people who have been here for over 200 years?
Apart from your career as a lawyer and a corporate player, you have strong passion for writing and publishing. What really motivates you in life?
I have always loved writing. My first published work was at the age of 16; so I have always written, I have always published. Whether there are serious books or sector publications, I just like to let out my thought and let them influence people. That is the driving force. If I leave the oil company today, writing and publishing is one area I will turn all my attention to.
You will find that a lot of institutions have been able to hold me down in terms of coming in as visiting professor, lecturer on part-time basis or on sitting basis. I do that to give back to society. I do it for free.
It give gives me joy because it helps me practice that for which I went to school.
Sometimes we can get carried away by business and the drive to make money.
But at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what really gives you joy. Seeing a published work gives one satisfaction, seeing a debate contribution that helps to influence changes notion or changes ideas is very important, more satisfying than a million dollars in a bank account.