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There is no Future for any Nation outside Youth Empowerment- Marcus Ekure, CEO/MD of Blackconcept.


Marcus Ekure F.O. is a top notch motivational speaker and youth developer who has traveled round Nigeria and some African countries on account of Youth his Empowerment/Enlightenment programs and initiatives. He has been featured on many television and radio programs across the Nigeria states and partnered with numerous Non-Governmental organisations (International Campus Aids Projects, Wisdom Generational Youth Foundation, African Center for Leadership, Strategy  and Development, ATAMU Social Club of Nigeria, Ejiro&OtiveIgbuzor Foundation, Action Aids, Ghain, etc ). He is currently the CEO/MD of Blackconcept Nigeria limited, National Operations Coordinator, Global Youth Empowerment Network (GLOYEN); a youth based NGO dedicated to empirical youth empowerment across West Africa and beyond. He is also the Vice President/founder of Democratic Delta Youth Movement (DDYM) (www.ddym.org), a socio-political pressure group dedicated to supporting and promoting good governance within the Niger Delta region. More so, he is the President/ Founder of Urhobo Progressive Youth Association (UPYA) (www.upya.org.ng) certified by the Corporate Affairs Commission (AYouth based NGO with the primary objective of supporting and promoting a healthy and non violence society through practical youth empowerment). 

In his quest to curb the menace of youth restiveness and criminality in Urhobo and the Niger Delta region of Nigeria by getting the youth off the streets, he invented a database solution (both online and hard copy data bank) were unemployed graduates and artisans do go and submit their curriculum vitae (CV's) which many have benefited immensely from since its inception in 2011. He is also the President of UPYA (Urhobo Progressive Association) Leadership and Skill Acquisition Institute with campuses in Warri and Ughelli. Currently, he has a Youth Army/followership of over one hundred thousand who he constantly relate with through social media, bulk SMS platform, quarterly seminars, workshop, TV and radio programs.

“These youths have built confidence in us because we feel and share their pains genuinely, people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care”. His passion and ultimate goal in life is “seeking ways to help people actualize their dreams irrespective of the benefits he gets in return”.

Last year, precisely 14 to 20th of May, 2014, the news of my adoption made headlines in many print media, both local and national; Vanguard, Daily independent, National Mirror, Tribune and the likes. However, bad as the experience which lasted for 12 days may be, it gave me a reflective opportunity to indulge in a retrospective introspective and prospective appraisal of Nigeria. Tupac Shakau of blessed memory was renowned for saying “if we fail to spread our riches among the poor, they will spread their poverty amongst us”. The truism inbuilt and implication of this observation makes more meaning at the saying that underpowered youths in a community is tantamount to a time bomb sitting on top a keg of gun powder.
In the bush, I was told by my adopters that the society is and not fair and they felt the best way of melting vengeance on the society which refused to give them jobs as graduates, scholarship as students, good and lasting infrastructures, affordable and quality health care as bonafide citizens was taking their destinies into their hands through the power of guns. However, given the opportunity to express myself during a cross examination session, without fear or favour to any politician, I skillfully cleared the air that it is not the society but the leadership that is bad. In my exact words, “it is not the society that is bad but the leadership of the society.  The society including you and me are all victims of this bad leadership which has stigmatized us as a people, constituting the worst form of institution for the younger generation who are often termed leaders of tomorrow. But there is hope for tomorrow and there are better ways of seeking justice, fairness and equity in the light of ill leadership predicaments which has consciously bedeviled us”. As pleasant and articulate my admonition was, rather than bring glory, it attracted a slap. But for the swift interventionism of  the General, hell would have been let loosed on me as one of the foot soldiers would  have battered my head with the nuzzle of his riffle  owing to my admonition to the people who were supposed to be their brothers keepers, perhaps stemming from their  misconception of my admonition. Like I heard one saying, after releasing a dirty slap on my face, “you wan teach us our job, abi”?.  The most unfortunate thing about it was that most of them were graduates and each, with a bad experience or life encounter that necessitated his indulgence in their new found career.
Be that as it may, it surpassed my wildest imagination in all as to why it should be someone like me, bearing in mind  our youth empowerment efforts  and stride at the Urhobo Youth database/ empowerment center, where I am the president,  to see that the youths are positively empowered and constructively engaged. But much more surprising to me were their individual stories or ordeal that led them towards choosing that path in life. The second day in the thick forest marked the worst for me as my hands and legs including that of my then fiancée were tied under a heavy down pour without a roof over our head. We joined our faith together, bearing in mind the biblical inclination that a faith as little as a mustard seed can move a mountain and the experience of Elijah who seized the rain for years through the power of his faith, but the more we prayed, the more heaven opened for more rain. We got drenched in a pool of water that gathered roundabout us and were there for 9 hours. At a point we almost gave up on hope, the rain subsided and our new found brothers in the bush lit fire to heat us up from the arms of cold. Each night that passed had its own ugly experiences, not necessarily from our armed brothers but either one or combination of wild animals roaring in the deep of the night and fear of beast devouring one in the bush, fear of being bitten by poisonous snakes or scorpions, fear of another down pour, fear of stray bullets or accidental discharges and fear of security operatives discovering the camp and engaging in gun duel with our landlords just to mention but a few.
Less I forget that very night, while enjoying the heat of the fire together with some of the foot soldiers on duty who also got drenched by the rain, like the days of old; it was now time for story telling as each narrated story of his experience that made him chose that path. The first one who happened to be an engineering graduate from one of our polytechnics, told us how he passed all aptitude test and interviews in one oil company but was shortchanged at the point of engagement because there was no back up (aka connection). Another gave a story of how he failed English language just because there was no five hundred Naira to bribe invigilator. As that wasn’t enough, another narrated how he searched for job 15 years after graduation to no avail, instead ended up becoming an okada rider. According to him, before long, the era of government placing barn on okada operation dawned in Delta state couple with his wife who coincidentally gave birth to a twin, the challenges of life became more real that diligence in legitimacy and patience was no longer feasible. At this point, the one who failed English language for lack of five hundred Naira (N500) asked me a question,’ Mr Marcus, as UPYA President, and as a self acclaimed youth developer who understands the pains the youth of today are going through, if I meet you along the road and request for a thousand Naira help, would you give it to me even when you have it?’’  I replied yes, but he underrated my response saying it was because i was in trouble. But I made him understand that even though there are many who are not willing to help, there are still good ones out there.
Today it is very sad that we are in a society where people are loaded but nobody needs them. Our government gives priority attention to the microscopic proportion of the entire population of the youths which are violent and restive, either by way of arm struggle,  militancy, hostage taking  or thugery but  gives less attention to a larger chunk of the population who are  non violent, creative and articulate to their fate. The result of evil gaining triumph over good is a general tendency or propensity to perpetrate evil rather than good.  The fight against terrorism, youth restiveness and criminality cannot be won in the face of this societal imbalance and sectional favoritism. 
If our illustrious sons and daughters and government  spend one quarter of the amount they spend  on servicing security and  hiring military operatives, who most often cannot ensure security, to blow siren and guard them on realistic youth empowerment, the war against terrorism, kidnapping , youth restiveness and other  forms of criminality would be won before long. By youth empowerment, I don’t mean political youth empowerment or youth empowerment on papers that most of our politicians pride on. The reason the youth empowerment of government and many individuals over time fail to yield fruit is not farfetched. It is not enough to train youths without finding out their areas of interest. That is where we get it wrong atimes. Before now, the trend was, teach a man how to fish so he could fish for himself rather than giving him fish. But beyond that, we must find out if the man is interested in fishing because if we teach a man who is not interested or passionate about fishing how to fish, it would amount to a marriage in a forest. That is exactly what I mean. Realistic youth empowerment begins with mental re-orientation. If you give a gun to an untrained man, it becomes a danger to himself and the society. We know our leaders are failing us, but we the youths have also left so much to be desired. For instance we have seen youths who would come to our office and be negotiating for a portion of money meant for their empowerment on the ground that they are not interested in the training. The depletion of our societal value system has toiled dangerously on the psyche of majority of the youths that for any youth empowerment vision to work, it must start with sound re-orientation. We must first find out their areas of passion, thereafter, think of possible ways to establish them after the training. Above all, skill acquisition is not enough; it should go with sound leadership training. This is the very reason we set up the UPYA Leadership and skill acquisition institute platform as well as the ‘’OPERATION ONE PATRIOT, ONE EMPOWERED YOUTH, ONE YOUTH ONE SKILL’’ and the ‘’OPERATION KEROSINE STORM’’ through which many dying dreams and vision are given reasons to live again.
 As factual as that may be, it is worthy of note here that the job cannot be left in the hands of government alone as all hands must be on deck in other to drive the ship of our peaceful coexistence and tranquility to a peaceful shore. The duty of social responsibility and social entrepreneurship is that of both the government and the individuals. The government must create an enabling atmosphere capable of giving the youths a place to stand so as to move their world.  The morality and well being of today’s youth irrespective of their background should be a collective responsibility rather than self-centeredness (me-and-my-family syndrome) that is sinking our nation today.
If truly the youths are the future leaders and if truly we desire a bright and sound future for our father and mother’s lands, then we must start building pillars of destiny for these youth. Hostage taking, youth restiveness and criminality are all products of both failed leadership and failure in individual responsibilities on the part of the private sector. There is urgent need for capacity building and utilization.
The amount of resources government and individuals spend on hiring security operatives to guard them, if ploughed into getting our youths off the streets would go a long way in reducing the scourge of youth restiveness and criminality. So many of our illustrious sons and daughters have found safe haven outside the shores of their states (in other peoples’ land) and country and are gradually forgetting their origin for fear of the unknown.  To say the worse, many do not even wish to be buried in their father’s land anymore.
Be that as it may, it should be noted that to be buried outside Urhobo land for instance does not erase the stains of Urhobo in us as once Urhobo remains an Urhobo even in the grave. Against all odds, the reality staring us in our faces at the moment is the fact that we have to take responsibility for being who we truly are and prioritize this issue of youth empowerment, human capital and community development towards combating the menace of kidnapping and other forms of youth restiveness and criminality.
This piece would be incomplete without stressing the fact that our youth have their part to play in this. Until the average youth understands and the takes their place in society, things would continue to go wrong for us. The youth must also take responsibility for their future by eschewing over ambitiousness and all forms of blames and embracing values of honesty, diligence, self developments and respect for constituted authorities.

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