Barr. Onofiok Luke.

By Benjamin Jimmy

Robert Kennedy once said: “ this world demands the quality of youths: not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease”.

As the race for 2023 governorship in Akwa Ibom State intensifies, it has become an open secret that almost all the known aspirants in the contest have unveiled programmes, though not specific, for the youths of the state. Interestingly, these youth development programmes are, in no small measure, full of pathfinders for the future and aspirations of all Akwa Ibom youths within and outside the state.

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However, what seems too cold for comfort in all the programmes unfolded so far is that there appears to be a missing link between youth programmes that are pathfinding and those that can seamlessly snowball into actuality or reality within a foreseeable time, and without turning into a rock of ages that never cleaves. Rightly or wrongly, programmes for the youths in this 21st century that are still finding path may be likened to a mouth-watering policy in an endless wait for execution, because the youths have come to a place of understanding that programmes meant for their metal, social re-engineering and growth perhaps will be considered lifeless if such only begin and end in pathfinding; and not to actually bring an ideal change and end their longsuffering which has turned them into bearers of frustrated tales who are, of course, immune to a distance.

In the midst of all the youth programmes is a ‘think tank’ programme l consider as the mother of all the programmes of the 2023 governorship aspirants for the youths. This very lofty, visionary programme is Onofiok Luke’s Youth Leadership and Development Programme.

My admiration for Luke’s youth development programme is not prompted or propelled by its linguistic colourings, nor is it about its well articulated ideas in craft forms like some others, but the practicability of turning the youths of Akwa Ibom into entrepreneurs of note and the huge relevance of it to the realities all over the faces of the young ones makes it a catch-in for me. My admiration is further fixated in the fact that this programme has turned all those who were involved in the first and second batches into entrepreneurs who now employ others. This is the programme he has berthed specifically for the youths.

I may not know all the aspirations of the youths of the state; their present and the attainable future, regrettably, but l certainly do know that the programme is a future in present and the present in future.

When Onofiok Luke, for instance, initiated and sponsored the first ever Stipendiary Internship Programme for the youths in the state known as The Onofiok Luke Legislative Internship Programme (TOLIP), where youths were selected across board and equipped for Legislative, leadership and entrepreneurial development, many had no inkling whatsoever that it was one initiative with hosts of potentials to transform lives from what they were to what they are today.

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This did not happen by a sudden flight, but it came through as a result of Luke’s intensive study and research into how economies of countries such as Singapore and China were able to craft a programme for the youths that has brought about a tremendous impact on their lives.

When Luke became the Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, he had to widen the scope of TOLIP to become AKILIP – Akwa Ibom Legislative Internship Programme. The essence was to enlist the support of the government, because he intended to involve more youths and create more wealth. Consequently, more youths were selected across the three senatorial districts of the state and turned into big entrepreneurs.

Interestingly, Luke did not stop at just creating wealth for the youths, apparently because of his closeness to them, but became more engulfed in this such that he midwifed the passage of a Bill for the creation of three billion fund for Youth Development in the state. This commitment was to realise his worried dreams of making the youths wealthy as early as possible in life.

Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke has always been passionate about issues concerning the youths generally. Any wonder that this craving pushed him into duty to advocate for youth inclusion in governance when he was the Speaker, Youth Parliament. The then president, late Umaru Yar’adua, was moved by his humanistic outpourings to initiate the process of youth inclusion in governance as a way of harnessing the potentials and leadership aggregates of more youths.

Within the period he was there, more voices were given to the hitherto deafening silent youths and more of them who were on the periphery, or, still, on the fringes of inadequate self- realisation occasioned by our wounded democracy as was handed over to us by the military were mainstreamed into the centrality of the nation’s governance.

What grew my admiration for him as fast as it happened then was his unwavering oratory and rhetoric like that of Plato of ancient Greece, in consistently demanding, advocating and pushing for matters relating to youth development. Perhaps this could explain why many have said that Luke knows how to define reality; has many times done so; knows how to say thank you; has many times done so too, and in between these, knows how to serve.

Upon completion of his tenure as the president, Nigerian Youth Parliament, however, Luke, it seemed, had gone away with all the symphony and rhythmic drumbeat of the office as his voice that used to split any inhibition to youth development and resonate good initiatives was moved to the next stage of service: all for humanity.

Despite all these pioneering efforts, Luke was not swollen by them, nor was he shrunk by any slightest appearance. He has continued to walk the same path of youth liberation; the path where he believes social justice should be served and that done as a service, rather than as a reward.

Apparently very aware that destiny was making a pathway for him, Luke began leadership studies within and outside the country. By my personal fact-findings, Luke had studied the lives, times, the successes and the failures of world leaders and why those who failed did so. These studies, one can guess, and rightly so, have equipped him with the right information for the kind of development the state needs now.

Luke had also studied policies of international governments across the globe, to, primarily I guess, understand governance structure and what policies are for what development. All of these academic engagements and knowledge holdings, interestingly, are ready now to find expression in the leadership of our state and ultimately, in the transformation of humanity. Luke is indeed pregnant with those studies and learnings that must be given an outlet and that done in 2023.