The Presidential Amnesty Programme is partnering with Maersk Line Training Centre, a Denmark firm, to locally conduct a post-engagement training for the over 30,000 ex-militants currently undergoing various forms of training all over the world, Olaoluwakitan Adebowale writes
Chief Ernest Shonekan, Nigeria’s Interim Head of State in the troubled days that trailed the annulled June 12 1993 Election, had arrived well ahead of everyone for the event billed for 9am. Though gradually succumbing to the cruel hands of old age, Ernest Shonekan remains alert and incredibly his old self; intelligent, thorough, arresting and composed.
A quintessential corporate man, the lawyer’s boardroom successes locally and internationally largely built for him the larger than life image, which eventually catapulted him to the highest office in the land at a time the country was in its most trying time. That act of taking him out of the comfort of his corporation to preside over the affairs of the nation at the time clearly demonstrated the confidence and faith the nation reposes in him.
Kingsley Kuku, Special Assistant to the President on the Presidential Amnesty Programme, was scheduled to meet with him on this occasion. Shonekan and some of his lieutenants had in fact been at their desks from early in the day, waiting for his arrival. Kuku, who doubles as Chairman of the Amnesty Programme, showed up shortly after. A small crowd made up largely of Shonekan and his team members, Kuku and his aides and a pocket of journalists and cameramen quickly gathered to take up every position in the little conference room of the Lugard House in Ikoyi, Lagos. All eyes focused on the presidential aide as they waited anxiously to know what his mission was at the Lugard House.
Kuku cleared his voice and all now in rapt attention, he began: “I am here on behalf of the President to express his appreciation for the support you have been giving him and to brief you about the Presidential Amnesty Programme’s visit to Denmark to assess facilities of the Maersk Line Training Centre and to explore the possibility of forging a partnership between us and them to provide a post engagement training programme for the over 30, 000 Niger Delta ex-militants now undergoing training in various fields across the World. Sir, a lot of people admire you greatly in this country for what you are and represents, you are a role model to many young people in the country and a developer not just in the South West but in the country as a whole. You have been in business and in public office, there is a link between what we are doing and what you represent.
“The Niger Delta went into crisis since 1998, our people resulted to force, our leaders under the leadership of our father, Chief Edwin Clark, engaged our youths, spoke and appealed to them and they abandoned the use of force, that is the difference between what happened in the Niger Delta and the Boko Haram case today.
“Today under the Amnesty Programme, there are over 30, 000 young men and women undergoing training around the globe with some in universities in the United Kingdom, USA, and even Malaysia, we have provided jobs but we have realized that yearly millions of our youths are coming out of school and unless we are able to provide two million jobs for young Nigerians yearly, we can’t make progress. We fervently need your assistance, particularly in the area of job openings for the Niger Delta trainees, Niger Delta is basically marine, an area we are convinced Maersk Line will be of great help. The same way you have helped this country, we will want you to help the Niger Delta. What we are looking at is the sort of jobs we can provide these people to stabilize the situation in the Niger Delta.”
He described their visit to the Maersk Line training facilities in Denmark as very enriching, stating that the report of the facility tour and discussions with the management has already been submitted to President Jonathan. He handed a copy of the report to Chief Shonekan as well, explaining that Maersk Line has accepted to set up its training facilities in Port Harcourt to carry out the exercise locally. The idea, he said, will not only make the facilities available in the country, it will save the nation the foreign exchange that would have been expended on the programme if it was to be done outside the country.
He restated his plea to Chief Shonekan to get involved in the programme and the President’s proposal to provide two million jobs annually, stressing that he was convinced that once the elder statesman charts the way, the corporate world as a whole will rally round it.
The former Head of State pledged to embrace the programme and render any assistance that may be required of him to enhance the job creation exercise. The corporate czar noted that the idea was realizable with the economy still in good stead, stating that it was gratifying that the economy was doing well. He, however, enjoined the authorities to note that “the name of the game now is competition” as everyone is competing against the other. Chief Shonekan, a board member of Maersk Line, was optimistic that the company will partner with the Programme.
A senior member of the Shonekan management team adds his voice: “All those who have the interest of this country at heart must ensure that the degradation of the Niger Delta is redressed. We are in the early stages of this relationship, we can assure, however, that the Maersk Line Training Centre will be able to train the trainees on onshore and offshore activities to make it possible for them to be engaged. He suggested that the entire private sector was involved in the amnesty programme, particularly in the area of providing industrial attachments for practical trainings for the trainees.