From IPAYF, Honour Comes For Onyema
For his role in quelling youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region, as well as developing the initial template that ushered in the Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the founder of Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) and chairman of Air Peace Nigeria, Chief Allen Onyema, was recently presented with a prestigious award by the Independent Pan-African Youth Support Parliament (IPAYP).
The continental organisation, which is dedicated to the enhancement of the African Youth Charter, also decorated Onyema as patron of the forum.
Presenting the award at the Head Office of Air Peace in GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, the Global President of IPAYP Comrade Obinna Sixtus Nwoke, commended Chief Onyema for using FEHN Foundation to train restive youths in the Niger Delta region, thereby helping to keep Nigeria together.
“I’m one of the beneficiaries whom you spotted, trained here in Nigeria, sponsored to South Africa and University of Rhodes Island in the United Stares, where I got certificate as a global trainer on non violence methodology.
There’s no gain saying that you exposed me to the world through your vision. Today, I have come back to you, as a refined and renewed Global Youth Leader.
We are hereby bequeathing you with this Patron honour meritoriously,” he said. Nwoke further noted that, “this is a platform founded on the premise of giving open dialogue for implementation of resolutions reached by interaction between state agencies as well as youths in civil societies.
I feel highly emotional, but a lot of us here do not know actually where I’m coming from. I almost tried to avoid this, but I’m someone who believes in seeking the face of God in anything I do. A lot of things have been basterdised in this country to the extent that when genuine things happen, people begin to think it’s about money”
This partnership with Air Peace Nigeria would not only be a step in the right direction for the local space, but also a springboard from which many big organisations will see the value in investing and sowing in youth voices.” In his response, Chief Onyema recalled his experiences in the creeks of Niger Delta, thanking the organisation for finding him worthy of honour.
“I feel highly emotional, but a lot of us here do not know actually where I’m coming from. I almost tried to avoid this, but I’m someone who believes in seeking the face of God in anything I do. A lot of things have been basterdised in this country to the extent that when genuine things happen, people begin to think it’s about money,” he said. According to Onyema, the current president of IPAYP was among the first set of Niger Delta youth trained by his foundation, through a partnership with Shell.
“I’ve not seen this guy in a long while; he was one of the Niger Delta boys, whom I started with.
He was praising me during his speech, but you don’t owe me anything; I owe you something. You people don’t know what you did for me; that I’m where I am today is because God used you guys to make me.
If I didn’t succeed in training and transforming all of you from the creeks of the Niger Delta, I may not have been where I am today.”
He continued: “A lot of people had come before me; the military had tired their effort, the police had tried, the international community had tried, it didn’t work, until one Allen Onyema came on board.
Today, the entire country is enjoying the fruit of what we did in that region.” While urging Nigerians to cultivate the habit of giving honour to whom honour is due, the Air Peace boss stated that, “I endangered my life, the lives of my staff and members of my family in our effort to arrest the situation; I remember at a point, their leaders (militants) were looking for me to kill because our activities were destabilising what was happening there.
It was the training and transformation of you guys that gave rise to what you are seeing today, whether it’s amnesty or whatever,” he said.
Through the Foundation Chief Onyema succeeded in training Niger Delta militants in non-violence culture at the University of Rhode Island Center, United States, which transformed their lives for good.
“Nigerian may not have taken notice, but the international community was wowed. That was why the American government started supporting what we were doing. So, the credit should go to you and people like the late Stanley; you guys made it happen by receiving that training and changing. After that, Shell sent another 23 and then another 60.
When they saw what was happening, they started making it a bi-monthly event, training and transforming these boys.”
The success story of the FEHN’s partnership with Shell actually informed the decision by the late president Umaru Yar’Adua, through the instrumentality of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to bankroll the training of 600 Niger Delta Youth.
“We begged the militant leaders to send their commanders for a trial. It was the final training and transformation of those boys, who have turned to become my staff at Obubra that set the pace for amnesty in Nigeria.
It was only during the award they gave to me on November 23, 2014, at the oriental Hotel Lagos, that a lot of people knew who facilitated the amnesty programme,” he said.
He attributed the peace in the Niger Delta region to the efforts of FEHN, which has trained over 72 per cent of youths under the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“Some of us have made sacrifices for the peace enjoyed in the Niger Delta region today. Credit should go to people who set the pace for peace in the region, which has brought about peace in Nigeria. Peace is key to national economic development.
I endangered my life, the lives of my staff and members of my family in our effort to arrest the situation; I remember at a point, their leaders (militants) were looking for me to kill because our activities were destabilising what was happening there. It was the training and transformation of you guys that gave rise to what you are seeing today, whether it’s amnesty or whateve.”
The level of progress achieved in the country today is traceable to the peace in the region where oil and gas activities are taking place. Since 2004, these peace efforts have been on going.
“It is for this reason that we must commend FEHN for running the most successful demobilisation, disarmament and rehabilitation programme in the world.”
A completely detribalised man, Chief Onyema takes delight in touching lives using the foundation as a tool. “Today, I’ve set up Air Peace and a lot of people are talking nonsense, without knowing where I was coming from. I set up FEHN in the first place because I wanted peace in my country.
I believe in one Nigeria; my wife is from the north. The MD of Air Peace is Yoruba and our employment policy does not recognize tribe, religion or creed because that’s how I was brought up. I want to use Air Peace to engender unity in this country and all I want is support.
The only thing you have succeeded in doing with this award is that you’ve encouraged me to do more, and that more I will continue to do,” he assured. Chief Onyema also canvassed support for the incoming government led by Muhammadu, urging Nigerians, irrespective of their political leaning, to make it a point of national duty to support the in- coming government as one of the necessary steps needed to make democracy work.
He predicated his support on the need to allow democracy flourish through building of institutions that should factor in youth empowerment and peace building for all sections of the country.
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