A former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government (SSG) under the Alamieyeseigha administration, Prof Steve Azaiki, was one year older on Friday, June 2. The founder of the Azaiki Public Library in Yenagoa, which houses the most modern museum in the Niger Delta and the Institute of Science and Technology, played host to the first International Conference of Science, Technology and Education in Nigeria in December 2014.
He is a visiting Professor/Fellow to a number of institutions, such as the Institute of Petroleum Studies, University of Port Harcourt and the Interregional Academy (University) of Personal Management (IAPM).He was elected president of the International Society of Comparative Education, Science and Technology.
Aside being the National Coordinator of Nigeria National Think-Tank, he is alsothe president of World Environment Foundation For Africa (WEFFA), whose progenitor, World Environmental Movement for Africa (WEMFA), was borne out of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Ukraine.
He has contributed immensely to the establishment of the Niger Delta University, launch of a Development Fund to fast-track the pace of infrastructural development in Bayelsa shortly after its creation and was the pioneer commissioner for Agriculture.
Azaiki was appointed into the Governing Council of the Federal University of Technology, Akure in 2009 and the Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island by the Bayelsa State Government in 2014.
A Professor of Agronomy, Institute of Potato Research, Ukrainian Agricultural Academy, now University of Life and Environmental Sciences, Kiev, Ukraine, with specialization in Psychopathology (Plant Protection), he attended National University of Life and Environmental Sciences for his first, post graduate and doctorate degrees, as well as the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (MBA in Project Management), University of Abidjan, Cocody (Certificate in French Language) and Ukrainian Agricultural University (Certificate in Russian Language.
His only venture into active/competitive politics was in 1992 on his return home from the old Soviet Union after bagging his Ph.D., when, after networking with prominent chieftains of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), he announced his interest in vying for the Senate, even though his age was below 35 years in what he described as a strategic move aimed at giving his Epie-Atissa people a voice and consideration.
Asked how he feels on his birthday and if he is fulfilled, Azaiki said: “I believe I have been able to make some positive contributions to my community and society at large, in terms of physical infrastructure, building of primary school, church, museum, public library, hotel, etc”. Regarding the country’s leap towards self-sufficiency in food production, the agriculturist said Nigeria has not done well in the area of agriculture, even though he acknowledged the current efforts of the Federal Government to make that a reality. “We need to change young peoples’ mindset on the way they see agriculture. We also need to create the enabling environment for rural dwellers on how to maximize their yields.”
As the world marks the environment day next week, the environmentalist and activist lamented that degradation in the environment, especially in the Niger Delta, has not abated and offered some solutions.
He bemoaned: “The Niger Delta is like a volcano waiting to erupt. The place is still devastated; the ecology/ecosystem of the region is completely gone. The whole of the area need remedial measures.
“Gas flaring must stop and illegal bunkering must stop too. Destruction of pipelines must stop immediately. These are the challenges. Stopping gas flaring will be a big step.
“Allowing the people that the oil is in their underbelly to participate is crucial.”
With regards to vocational and comparative education in Nigeria, he said: “Nigeria has not done well in the area of budgeting for education and commitment.
“The country’s education is below average and in areas of comparative and vocational education, we have not even started.” What would he do differently in these areas if he were in government? He said: “I, as a person, cannot do much, but my strength will be in selecting the right people into governance; people who do not see government as a source of getting mega rich.
“We need to be united; we need to respect one another.
We must see government as a place to serve and not to be served. We need to learn to graduate our ambitions; one person at a time.”
According to a former President of South Africa, Mr. Thambo Mbeki: “Azaiki is a reflection of the ideal African; I have interacted with him for several years now. He is a man of great vision.”
“I have met resourceful persons; yet, I cannot but note that this young Nigerian is an asset to our continent,” Mbeki wrote in his foreword to Azaiki’s authorized biography, Steve Azaiki: The Yenagoa Boy.