Entrepreneur decries intellectual poverty amongst Ijaws in Niger Delta region

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An entrepreneur in the oil and gas sector, Mr. Keniebi Okoko, has identified poor mental disposition of many people in Bayelsa State as the cause of poverty in the midst of plenty.

Okoko, who spoke in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on yesterday in Yenagoa, said that poverty of the mind is worse than material poverty.

He said that it was ironical that whilst the state was endowed with abundant natural resources, the people had not been exposed to the right kind of education to develop their mental abilities.

“Well, I believe that Bayelsa as a whole needs to focus on education.

“Mental poverty is worse than financial poverty. If a mind is not developed and equipped, a man cannot give what he does not have.

“Our people are not completely exposed to good education systems.

“Our people are not well travelled like other tribes, if you look at our rich natural endowments, you wonder why we cannot harness and turn it to wealth.

“If you look at Singapore, it is an Island with no oil deposit, but it has oil refineries.

“Our state, Bayelsa is larger than Singapore and we have so much oil and gas deposits and other minerals, yet development seems to have eluded us because we lack the right mentality, we need to think right.

“The Ijaw man is a determined man to succeed, if you give the Ijaw man the right playing ground, he will perform, I can assure you. So I believe that what we should do as a people is to focus on education”, Okoko said.

He, however, said that the emphasis on education should not be restricted to classroom education, but should include skill acquisition for the less privileged who might not be able to afford university education.

“Classroom education is one aspect and outside classroom education is another aspect. Not everybody can experience education in the classroom or to the university level.

“There is a proverbial saying that all fingers are not equal. But you can balance the gap of the fingers.

“Creating skill acquisitions with the right personnel to man them gives you the opportunity to train the less privileged on the skills that can develop them,” he said.

Okoko commended the Seriake Dickson-led government in Bayelsa for the investment it has made in the education sector and called for more of such efforts in the sector.

“I think the governor has given it a good try. I think that the intentions are good. I believe that he has genuine intentions for the job, and I believe he has tried his best.

“My duty as a leader is to try and add to what he has done; to build in any way we can help the government to improve where they have stopped in any capacity we find ourselves with good suggestions.

“Trying to develop a good road map to drive the Ministry of Education, to push his policies forward and help him being that I am in the same party with him”, Okoko said.

Okoko, who is aspiring to run for Bayelsa Governorship election slated for November 2019, however, said that Bayelsa youths faced poor prospects for beign neglected over the years.

The current administration will conclude its tenure on Feb. 14, 2020 and governorship election will be held in November 2019.

Okoko said that what was required to reverse the trend was to change the orientation of the people to look inward rather than expecting seasonal hand outs from the political class.

“The young people do not have hope so they are looking for any means. Give them back hope. Sell leadership through qualities, be transparent and open to them. Take them through processes of trainings.

“Mentorship, who is your mentor or who are you mentoring? Who are you looking up to? Why do you wake up in the morning? What is the core reason for your existence?

“Have someone you look up to. I have someone I look up to everyday. I have three people I look up to – Professor Kimse Okoko, Pastor David Ibiyomie and Bishop David Oyedepo.

“By any standard, these are men to look up to. So, I aspire to want to be like them. Who are these young men looking up to?

What are we selling to them as leaders and parents ?” Okoko asked. NAN