Raymond Ozoji, Awka
“We are preparing our students to be job creators rather than job seekers.” That was the hallmark of the address delivered by the provost of the Federal Cooperative College Oji River Enugu state, Dr. Owan Obodagu Tonica, at the 23rd matriculation ceremony of the institution held Friday 30th April, 2021 at the matriculation arena.
The matriculation ceremony was an occasion for the college management to lay emphasis on the importance of entrepreneurship and wealth creation through cooperative societies. It held that students of the college were mentored and trained on how to maximize their innate potentials and education acquired from their respective disciplines to create their own enterprises and explore business opportunities especially in the agricultural sector. The management added that gone were the days when people relied on non-existent white-collar jobs after graduation from school. That the current status quo in the country portrayed the fact that government can no longer shoulder the responsibility of providing jobs for the thousands and thousands of graduates shunned out from tertiary institutions across the country. Hence the dire need for entrepreneural skills for self-employment and reductions in unemployment rates especially among youthful Nigerians.
Provost of the Federal Cooperative College Oji River Dr. Owan Obodagu Tonica during his speech reiterated the pivotal role the college plays in grooming students on areas of specialisation and where they can also have comparative advantage on investments. According to him, the benefits of being a member of a cooperative with specialty in an area cannot be overstressed as such arrangements have made many employers of labour and financial heavyweights in the society. Again, the provost was emphatic that no student who successfully went through the rigors of practical sessions in their respective courses ever graduated from the school and became a job seeker. Instead the individual would have been well-equipped on how to source for grants and soft loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria and other financial institutions to enable him to set up his enterprise. This, the provost said, would be most achieveable through membership of cooperative societies.
Owan said, “We are all aware of the emphasis of the present administration on the development of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and entrepreneural skills in our youths. The Federal Cooperative College Oji River has accordingly put in place the following projects: An entrepreneurship development centre, constructed a sheep/goat pen, expansion of poultry farm, acquisition of two modern tractors to introduce our students to the practice and application of mechanised agriculture and consumer cooperative shop. All these projects are aimed at equipping our students for self-employment after graduation; thus preparing them to be job creators rather than job seekers.”
To drive home his message further, Dr. Owan opined that in order to ensure that students of the college really got the requisite mentorship and trainings, they underwent exercises in National Diploma in Cooperative Economics and Management, National Diploma in Banking and Finance, National Diploma in Computer Science, National Diploma in Business Administration and Management coupled with Higher National Diploma programmes. He noted that all the programmes of the college were fully accredited by the National Board for Technical Education.
While expressing profound gratitude to the Federal Director of Cooperatives as well as the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for their tremendous assistance towards the realisation of some projects in the college to include construction and painting of the perimeter fencing of the college compound, construction of college ark, ongoing construction of an ultra modern one storey building administrative block and a host of others, the college provost maintained that it was pertinent to also place on record some projects being executed currently by the college management viz: a 40 rooms capacity female hostel, a 40 rooms capacity male hostel, construction of internal roads, construction of Students’ Union Government secretariat complex, to mention just a few.
In spite of the foregoing, the provost was worried about decline in students intake this year probably due to COVID-19 related issues. According to him, apart from the dwindling economy, parents seemed to be skeptical in sending their wards to school for fear of contracting COVID-19 even though he allayed their fears saying that the college has put preventive mechanisms in place; that the college has equally made frantic efforts for medical doctors to visit the college clinic regularly. Dr. Owan however appealed passionately to the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, corporate organisations as well as public-spirited individuals to assist the college in addressing some challenges which include rehabilitation of the college auditorium, construction of one storey ultra modern electronic library complex, landscaping of the premises because of the peculiar nature of the soil topography, provision of sports and recreational facilities, employment of more academic staff in the college and a host of other pressing needs.
Responding, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Mohammad Sabo Nanono represented at the matriculation ceremony by the Zonal Director Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Southeast region Enugu, Mr. Kehis Felix, held that there was no form of empowerment greater than being a member of a cooperative outfit. The minister observed that a country like India has gone beyond cooperative societies and now dealing with what the minister mentioned as self-help groups. The minister explained that the self-help groups were groups that broke away from cooperative societies due to government bureaucratic bottlenecks. He said government was willing to partner the Federal Cooperative College Oji River in its resolve to produce viable entrepreneurs, noting that cooperative societies are domiciled in all sectors of the nation’s economy. While admonishing the new students, the minister stressed the need for the new entrants to avoid unholy relationships like illicit sexual expeditions, cultism and most importantly, shun examination malpractices to enable them to realise the essence of their sojourn in the institution.
Guest lecturer on the occasion and Head of Department of Cooperatives and Rural Development Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Dr. Paul Chuks Okonkwo, decried the attitudes of parents who dissuaded their children from cooperative studies, saying that the biggest cooperatives were owned by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Dr. Okonkwo also disclosed that a country like Kenya has cooperative universities where they train potential entrepreneurs from cradle. Though he said it was unfortunate that such veritable platforms were non-existent in Nigeria, the country could do more if priority attention was paid to cooperatives. He also suggested to the Federal Government to galvanise N-Power beneficiaries into cooperatives to enable government to deal with them as members of cooperatives not as individuals who will only squander the N30,000.00 monthly stipends upon receipt. The guest lecturer also admonished the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency in the current economic meltdown, use cooperatives efficiently and effectively to empower young Nigerians trooping out from the universities, colleges of education, colleges of cooperatives, polytechnics and other institutions of higher learning without prospects of getting jobs anywhere in the country. Hence the need for organised cooperatives in the country while appealing to the Federal Government to establish the Ministry of Cooperative Societies to independently handle the diverse nature of cooperative societies in the country.
On his part, former Vice Chancellor Michael Okpara Federal University of Agriculture Umudike Abia state and Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Hilary Odo Edeoga, opined that cooperatives were very vital instruments in the agricultural value chain. Prof. Edeoga maintained that only cooperatives could access loans and grants locally and Internationally. Edeoga who was also the former Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources Enugu state, stressed the need for the college authorities to intensify marketing of the school to the general public, pointing out that not many people are aware of the existence of the college. He said there was need to upgrade infrastructures in the college to create a serene, tranquil and very habitable environment for staff and students within the college premises. A HND student of Cooperative Economics and Management in the college Master Maduagwu Samuel Chinonso said the school has qualified lecturers and that facilities are intact for students to use at their disposal. He also added that certificates obtained from Federal Cooperative College Oji River are genuine. Another matriculating student Miss Okike Philomina of Cooperative Economics and Management HND cadre, said she would abstain from all forms immorality and any act capable of cutting her destiny short so she can realise her primary aim of being admitted into the college. She also observed that the college has zero tolerance to examination misconducts as anyone caught in the act would be made to face the attendant consequences.
The provost of the institution also re-echoed why the matriculating students and others on campus should be very conscious of their actions and companies they keep to avoid unnecessary and undue peer group influences.
Dr. Owan said, “I have no doubt that if you apply yourselves assiduously to your studies and obey the rules and regulations of the college, you would in the end achieve the noble objectives for which you are here, while assisting to sustain the tenets the college stands for and at the end, contributing your quota towards the development of our great country.”