Ahead of the 2019 general elections which hold in less than 100 days, activities to woo potential voters have commenced in Taraba State.
Just as the candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Sani Danladi, received defectors from the party of a former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan, United Democratic Party, UDP, last weekend, the latter’s governorship bid appears threatened despite the claim of having structures capable of ensuring success in the forthcoming election.
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Meanwhile, the incumbent, Darius Ishaku, has continued to reel out his scorecard in the last three years of his administration, having picked the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to seek re-election against the candidates of 27 other political parties published by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Ishaku, who is famous for the saying, ‘give me peace and I will give you development’, is leveraging on his achievements ahead of the polls.
The latest in the state’s polity is his milestone aimed at reducing youth restiveness and dependence on government through the office of the first lady, Mrs Anna Darius Ishaku.
Since his emergence as governor of Taraba, over three years ago, the office of the first lady, with the support of the state government, launched a pet project aimed at empowering women and youths to reduce the rate of unemployment in Taraba.
The empowerment project, which was channelled through an NGO, Hope Afresh Foundation, under the supervision of the first lady, is aimed at promoting entrepreneurship through skill acquisition.
This, in turn, has reduced restiveness among youths and dependence on government.
No fewer than 663 women and youths across the 16 local government areas of the state, in the last three months, have been trained in various skills and empowered with starter packs to float their own businesses.
The skill acquisition training, executed in partnership with the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, in three years, has empowered over 6,342 beneficiaries across the state.
At the closing ceremony of the second batch of the skill acquisition training, held in Jalingo on Monday, the first lady, Anna Ishaku, explained that the pet project was part of her contribution to repositioning the economy of the state which prides itself in agriculture.
She noted that the essence of the initiative was to reduce the rate of unemployment among the teeming youths and over dependence on government, for beneficiaries to become self reliant and job creators.
“Only those who have skills will get jobs which stands as a recipe to adequately fight poverty and hunger”, she said.
“Today, each of the graduates of the second batch will automatically become self dependent and self supporting to start his individual businesses.
“They will also be benefiting from start-up packages, courtesy of the state government, which has made them not only self employed but also employers of labour who would be able to put food on other peoples’ tables by providing jobs”.
On the expectation of the state government from beneficiaries, she noted that “to whom much is given, much is expected”.
She went on, “The state has invested in you and it is important for you all to also give back to the state by being productive. The growth of Taraba state is a collective responsibility and that is why the government is investing in her citizens.
“Utilize the start up packs effectively to grow the state’s economy by training others in your community who might not have the same privileges as you all. “
The project manager, Helen Douglas, who reeled out the successes of the project in the past three years, said the idea was borne out of the worrisome state of unemployment in the state.
This, she said, was evident in the fact that “thousands of youths parade the street jobless, a development that has forced some of them to engage in drug abuse, armed robbery and other social vices inimical to the peace and development of the state.”
On the latest beneficiaries of the skill acquisition training, Douglas explained that “231were trained in tailoring, 58 in welding, 163 in computer appreciation, 97 in hairdressing, 39 in makeup and headgear, 42 in baking and catering and 33 in cosmetics production.”
She noted, “The first batch of the programme trained 5,679 trainees which were carefully selected across the 16 local government areas of the state and the two development areas. The beneficiaries are now self reliant and employers of labour.
“It may also interest you to know that 64 trainees of the first batch are now trainers and are doing excellently well in their diverse entrepreneurship”.
Director, Entreprenuership Development Centre, EDC, Central Bank of Nigeria, Eedris Bawa, who trained the beneficiaries on how to start business, reiterated the importance of youth empowerment in realizing a virile economy.
According to him, more investment in the most active population of the nation, especially in the area of skill acquisition and entrepreneurship, is required.
He noted that developed economies across the globe pride themselves in investing in their citizens and promoting entrepreneurship.
Bawa, who commended the office of the first lady for sponsoring the training however urged the Federal Government to support such initiative to avoid states’ dependence on federal allocation when they can generate revenue through small and medium enterprises.
The Permanent Secretary, Taraba State Ministry of Poverty Alleviation, Lawan Yakubu, in his remarks, reminded the beneficiaries of the consequences of selling the starter packs given to them by the state government.
He explained that selling the starter packs is equivalent to stealing, a gesture he noted would not be condoned.
He used the forum to reiterate his ministry’s commitment to the cause of lifting the vulnerable through various initiatives for the good of all and sundry.