By Onesirosan Agbajoh
The Presidential Amnesty Programme for the people of the Niger Delta, has become a success story and a pointer that the government is committed to addressing the age-long neglect and marginalization of the region which has remained the economic nerve-centre of the country.
The programme, initiated by the late President Musa Yar’Adua and sustained by the Muhammadu Buhari administration, has not only brought peace to the region but has also advanced the quality of education and professional skills of young men and women in the region, people who, in the past, had battled with low self esteem occasioned by social economic deprivation..
As a young lady from the Niger Delta, a beneficiary of the scholarship programme to study in the United States, I can testify that if the successes recorded through the intervention of the Presidential Amnesty Programme is replicated in other programme and policies of this government, Nigeria will be a better place.
Without sounding immodest, the Presidential Amnesty Programme under the watch of Prof. Charles Dokubo as the Special Adviser to Buhari on Niger Delta Amnesty, has given the programme a new lease of life, and I wish to suggest that the success recorded be sustained, and improved upon.
As a Nigerian immigrant to the US, I felt unsafe, but as a new Lawyer, I feel empowered. A USF Law graduate, at law school, I was a dreamer activist and have helped to establish a scholarship scheme for undocumented law students. In 2017, I received a scholarship from California Bar Foundation where I also passed the California Bar Exam in December 2017.
Despite what some may say, Africa is full of highly educated, motivated, accomplished professionals. I was raised by one of them, a Nigerian lawyer, my mother, Barr. Mary Oyibocha-Agbajoh
I have also observed that though intervention like the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta, African immigrants now attend colleges at higher rates than native born Americans and are more likely to be holders of higher degrees in maths, sciences, and law, and would probably begin to provide the world with new crop of highly skilled professionals in all fields of human endeavour.
What I have become today would not have been possible if the administration of President Buhari, on assumption of office, May 29, 2015, had scrapped the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta. I came to America at the age of 12 and I came by myself, and like most immigrants, I wasn’t versed in the intricacies of American immigration law. I didn’t have special legal training then, but now through the scholarship programme, I am a proud lawyer and now helping others with immigration issues.
Now, should such programme which has successfully transformed my life and many thousands of young Niger Deltans not be sustained, improved upon to serve as a catalyst for brining sustainable peace to the region? It would be practically impossible for my likes and many others who have been empowered by the scheme to turn around and take to crime against the state that has given them much to live for.
Becoming a lawyer has allowed me to reclaim my safety in America. With my law degree, I’ve armed myself with the knowledge and training to fight back, for myself and for others in my community.
This is why it’s so important for young immigrants across America to remember where they are coming from. Remember your country and your family and use your background as an inspiration to fuel your success. To all the young immigrants of color: you too can become a doctor, an engineer, or a lawyer.
However, this success story will not be complete without commending and appealing to the President, to take a critical look again at the Presidential Amnesty programme for Niger Delta, by improving its funding on the leadership of Gen. Paul Boro (retd) who has translated the President’s dream of a better Niger Delta into a reality.
* Agbajoh, a lawyer, is resident in Abuja