By Vincent Ujumadu- Awka
The Nnamdi Azikiwe University Business School has begun research to find out the causes of declining apprenticeship in the commercial town of Onitsha in Anambra State.
The research project is being sponsored by Dr. Obiorah Okonkwo, an aspirant for the Anambra State 2021 governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Members of the research team for the project are the director of Unizik Business School, Professor Austin Nonyelu, the deputy director of the school, Dr. Chinedu Onyeizugbe Professor Ezinne Nnabuife, Dr. Ebele Onyima and Dr. Rosemary Anazodo.
Okonkwo, who said he was once an appreciate, wondered why the present generation of youths was no longer interested in serving people who usually prepare them to be able to face the rigor of business.
The research project, titled, “Invigorating Igbo entrepreneurial behavior through enhanced apprenticeship scheme: A study of Onitsha market,” would generally look at the Igbo entrepreneurial spirit that made them tick in the past.
Okonkwo described the Onitsha market as the fulcrum of Igbo development, adding that it must not be allowed to die.
He said, “The Onitsha Main Market holds a very special place in my heart, as that was where I had my first stint in business, although briefly.
“I was born in Gombe in December 1965 and was a baby in arms when my family, like all Igbo, fled the north as a result of the pogrom that ultimately led to the civil war.
“Following the war, my father, like every Igbo male, picked up the pieces and reestablished himself at the Main Market dealing in beverages or what our people commonly call provisions. Unfortunately, a few years later, he took ill forcing me to combine my high school education with managing the business and his apprentices.
“That basic trading experience, in many respects, helped my business instincts and also instilled in me a deep sense of industry and hard work that has defined my life’s journey to date.
“Thus, when the UNIZIK Business School in July 2019 honored me with the Philanthropist of the year award, it was only natural for me to try to give back by endowing a major research project on the future of Igbo entrepreneurship, drawing primarily from the role iconic the Onitsha Market has played in the socio-economic transformation of the Igbo nation, particularly since the civil war.
According to him, the research project would, among other things, interrogate Igbo entrepreneurship culture and the apprenticeship system around which it is historically built, with a view to reinventing both in the light of emerging realities.
He urged the Onitsha business community to key into the project, noting that doing so would help to improve the business climate in the state.
The Director UNIZIK Business School, Prof. Nonyelu, while expressing gratitude to Okonkwo, said building sustainable businesses that would last beyond their founders should be a concern to all.
He observed that the Nigerian economy has been characterized by multifarious problems which had led to the collapse of many companies and businesses that were performing well in the seventies and eighties.