THE ROLES OF BUSINESS IN PREVENTING VIOLENCE IN ELEME
This article attempts to consider the appropriate role of the profit-making free enterprise system in helping to alleviate the causes of cultism and other violent crimes in Eleme.
The free enterprise system is a crucial element in any programme for improving conditions in any society. Eleme as host to over 200 multinational and national corporations has been described variously. Some authorities have christened Eleme as “The Industrial Hub of Nigeria”, some referred to Eleme as “The Capital of Nigeria’s Oil and Gas”, and while officially Eleme is known as “The Heart of Nigeria’s Economy”. Yet the primary problems of Eleme over the years have been chronic unemployment and underemployment, especially among the youths.
Agreed, Nigeria is a middle income, mixed economy and emerging market, with expanding financial, service, communications, technology, and entertainment sectors; but oil and gas remains the mainstay of the economy and still accounts for more than 90% of GNP. In 2014, Nigeria ranked as the largest economy in Africa and 21st largest in the world in terms of nominal GDP. This disclosure explained the contributions of private sector to Nigeria’s national economic development.
The concept that the private sector be involved in overcoming the challenges of poverty and crisis in urban and rural areas is not new. The civilized world testified to its potency in solving the problems of crimes and social decay. It is called “Private-Public-Partnership”. A partnership between the government and private industry to train and hire the hard-core unemployed persons helped solved American Whites and Negroes employment dichotomy, bridged the gap in their standard of living, and eliminated the falsehood and flimsy excuse that the Negroes are unemployable. It can also work in Eleme.
“Business and industry are our last hope”, said Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, the eminent Negro Psychologist and Educator. “They are the most realistic elements of our society. Other areas in our society – government, education, churches, labor – have defaulted in dealing with Negro problems”. These problems range from segregation, discrimination, slums, poverty to violence. The situation in Eleme today is no different. The crisis in Eleme is a result of nearly 60 years of inequities. The conditions that breed despair and violence in Eleme (in addition to the above) include ignorance, deprivation, poverty, unemployment capped with unending environmental devastation. The marginalization and subjugation of the hapless people of Eleme is enough to force the impatient youths to carry arms. Eleme suffers both local and national oppression. The Eleme people are not Negroes but in reality, we share almost the same experiences and problems due to our powerlessness and disadvantaged position, as minority-of-the-minorities endowed with abundance natural resources. Eleme is oil rich but deeply impoverished area.
The cult clashes and other violence crimes going on in Eleme today is an outbreak of a longtime suppressed anger against perceived abuse orchestrated by oppressive and exploitative maneuverings by business and industry operating in Eleme on one hand and the corrupt Nigeria government on the other hand. People naturally need decent lives, freedom of self-discovery, and not a kind of a forced all-good white-washed behavior. Poverty, rights infringement, frustration, cultural dislocation, social-economic marginalization, religious alienation, and environmental degradation are salient crimes that generate salient violence.
Unfortunately, Eleme and Eleme people are complicit in the whole episode. Eleme’s definition of “Host Community” is the most obsolete, myopic, and self-centered in the whole world; and this has always been to the advantage of corporate organizations. Our “Host Community” by definition is always limited to immediate family or two, exempting all other members of the larger Eleme community. We are blinded to the fact that it is the entire Eleme community at large that bears the brute of environmental pollution and social decay that arise from the company’s activities in Eleme.
The segregation and discrimination inherent in our concept of “Host Community” makes mockery of Eleme when considered from the backdrop that the population of Eleme indigenes is less than 200,000 people. “The smaller the size of the ‘community’ the better”, a Public Relations Manager of one of the companies in Eleme told me in a chat recently. Penny Wise Pound Foolish!
The private sector has the capacity to make a solid contribution that can address the ongoing violence in Eleme. Some of the areas in which they can contribute include:
a. Job Training and Employment.
b. Economic Development.
c. Promotion of Entrepreneurship Culture.
d. Provision of Low-Cost Housing.
f. Value Reorientation.
1. Job Training and Employment Companies desirous of solving the security challenges facing Eleme could hire the so-called “hard-core” unemployed, and engage them in “on-the-job-training. The aim is not only to keep these youths off the streets but also to give them skill, make them earn a living, and equip them to be employable in the future. This deliberate policy to make the hard-core unemployables to become employable persons is economically viable and socially honorable compare to a situation where companies employ these persons and lay them off after sometimes without giving them skill or improving their educational standard to make them employable elsewhere. It is a disservice to the nation and also dangerous precedent when these persons that have been receiving monthly salary are rendered redundant without alternatives with which to move on in life.
Another bad scenario that most companies operating in Eleme are guilty of is to place these youths on monthly salary, called “security fee”, for doing nothing. Experience has shown that once the payment is stopped, they take to arms to terrorize both their previous benefactor – the company – and the society; because they are neither useful to the company, nor to the society, nor to themselves.
On the job training provides someone with what to fallback to after employment.
2. Economic Development This involves corporate organizations creating a sort of “Eleme Economic Development Programme”, a joint central body to pull resources together to extend loans to indigenes to venture into viable businesses.
Companies can also embark on infrastructural development such as roads construction, building and equipping of hospitals to render wholistic health services, provision of safe water and electricity among others.
3. Promotion of Entrepreneurship Culture In order to develop and support the needed managerial capabilities in Eleme a number of small business programmes can be conceived and established, and loan programme made available to help institutionalized entrepreneurship culture in the area.
This programme should be designed to enable companies:
a. Participation with private lending institutions,
b. Provide necessary guarantee for private loans, and
c. Offer counseling and managerial assistance to grow and sustain the enterprise.
4. Provision of Low-Cost Housing Poor housing is a major problem in Eleme. It is shameful to state that in oil-rich-Eleme people still live in Mud-Thatch Houses, with poor sanitary conditions. Companies can carry out joint ventures with public housing authority to construct low-income houses for Eleme citizens. This is more productive and beneficial than dishing-out cash on quarterly basis to people who only end up lavishing the money recklessly, with little or nothing to show for it.
5. Education Education is a powerful instrument of socialization and individual refinement. Education is power. Eleme need education now and not further deprivations. Business and industry in Eleme will be creating a peaceful and stable society when they sponsor the provision of basic literary and mathematical skills training to their own disadvantaged employees and where necessary, to those of other companies.
6. Value Reorientation Companies can act as institution of value reorientation and attitudinal change through the elimination of corrupt practices and exhibition of exemplary lifestyle. Eleme, a once disciplined and highly cultural society have been bastardized by the activities of some personnel of these companies. They indoctrinate our youths with money and questionable lifestyles. Their behavioural influences dictate social direction in Eleme. Therefore, the companies have an important role to play to ensure attitudinal change.
Finally, companies can as well create a joint local clearinghouse groups to exchange experience gained with employment of “hard-core” unemployed and with investment in poverty alleviation. This will open up opportunities to those who are marginalized or restricted by the ill-conceived definition of host community, and eliminate all barriers to their choice of jobs, education, and housing.
All hands must be on desk to remove the frustration of powerlessness among the disadvantaged people of Eleme by providing the means for them to deal with the problems that affects their own lives.