Azaiki: The Yenagoa boy is a year older
Astute administrator, former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government (SSG) under the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Prof. Steve Azaiki, was one year older yesterday, June 2. He is the founder of Azaiki Public Library in Yenagoa, which houses the most modern museum in the Niger Delta and the Institute of Science and Technology, which played host to the first International Conference of Science, Technology and Education in Nigeria in December 2014.
Azaiki is also the author of Thoughts on Nigeria; he is a visiting professor/fellow to a number of institutions such as Institute of Petroleum Studies, University of Port Harcourt, and Interregional Academy (University) of Personal Management (IAPM). He was elected president of International Society of Comparative Education, Science and Technology.
Aside being the National Coordinator of Nigeria National Think-Tank, he is also president of World Environment Foundation For Africa (WEFFA), whose progenitor, World Environmental Movement for Africa (WEMFA), was borne out of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Ukraine.
Azaiki has contributed immensely to the establishment of the Niger Delta University, the launch of a development fund to fast-track the pace of infrastructural development in Bayelsa shortly after its creation and was the pioneer commissioner for agriculture. He was appointed into the Governing Council of Federal University of Technology, Akure, in 2009 and Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, by Bayelsa State Government in 2014.
A professor of Agronomy, Institute of Potato Research, Ukrainian Agricultural Academy, now University of Life and Environmental Sciences, Kiev, Ukraine, with specialisation in Phytopathology (plant protection), he attended National University of Life and Environmental Sciences for his first, postgraduate and doctorate degrees, as well as Federal University of Technology, Owerri, (MBA in Project Management), University of Abidjan, Cocody (Certificate in French language) and Ukrainian Agricultural University (Certificate in Russian language.
His only venture into active/competitive politics was in 1992 on his return from the old Soviet Union after bagging his Ph.D., when, after networking with prominent chieftains of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), he announced his interest to vie for the senate, even though he was below 35 years in what he described as a strategic move aimed at giving his Epie-Atissa people a voice and consideration.
“I believe I have been able to make some positive contributions to my community and society at large, in terms of physical infrastructure, building of primary school, church, museum, public library, and a hotel, etc,” Azaiki said when he was asked how he felt on his birthday and if he is a fulfilled man.
On governance in Nigeria, he noted: “I feel that we are making too much noise on infrastructure and not so much on capacity-building. We lack resource persons and people mistake population with resourcefulness.”
Also, the agriculturist noted that Nigeria has not done well in the area of agriculture, even though he acknowledged the current efforts of the Federal Government to make that a reality.
According to him, “We need to change young people’s mindset on the way they see agriculture. We also need to create the enabling environment for rural dwellers on how to maximise their yields.”
As the world marks the environment day next week, the environmentalist activist lamented that degradation in the environment, especially in the Niger Delta, has not abated and offered some solutions: “The Niger Delta is like a volcano waiting to erupt. The place is still devastated; the ecology/ecosystem of the region is completely gone. The whole area needs remedial measures. Gas flaring must stop and illegal bunkering must stop, too. Destruction of pipelines must stop immediately. These are the challenges. Stopping gas flaring will be a big step. Allowing the people, that the oil is in their underbelly, to participate is crucial.”
With regards to vocational education in Nigeria, he said: “Nigeria has not done well in the area of budgeting for education and commitment. The country’s education is below average and in areas of comparative and vocational education, we have not even started.”
What would he do differently in these areas if he were in government? He said: “I, as a person, cannot do much, but my strength will be in selecting the right people into governance; people who do not see government as a source of getting mega rich. We need to be united; we need to respect one another. We must see government as a place to serve and not to be served. We need to learn to graduate our ambitions; one person at a time.”
Former President of South Africa, Mr. Thambo Mbeki, wrote in his foreword to Azaiki’s authorised biography, Steve Azaiki: The Yenagoa Boy: “I have met resourceful persons; yet, I cannot but note that this young Nigerian is an asset to our continent,”
Individually and in collaboration with other academics such as Professor of Economics and Education, Geo Jaja, and School of Education, Bingham Young University, David O. Mc Kay, to document and publish extensively on the Niger Delta and Nigeria, to author several books and articles.
These include Geo-Jaja, M.A. & Azaiki, S.: Poverty and Human Capabilities in the Niger Delta: Lessons Learned from the IFAD/UNDP non-Market Approach); Poverty in the Niger Delta: Is National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) the Answer?;
Convergent and Divergent Trends in the Niger Delta Development; Methodological Aspects of Potato Culture Research (Azaiki, Prof. A. A. Bondarchuk, T. M. Oliynik, M. M. Furdyga and O. V. Vyshnevska at the Institute of Potato Research);
Agriculture: An Agenda for Change in the Niger Delta (edited by Azaiki and Nkasiobi Oguzor), as well as Azaiki’s Inequities in Nigerian Politics (2003); Oil, Politics and Blood (2006); Oil, Gas and Life in Nigeria (2007); The Evil of Oil (2009); Thoughts on Nigeria (2015) and Oil, Democracy and the Promise of True Federalism in Nigeria (Azaiki, Prof. Augustine A. Ikein of Niger Delta University and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in 2008).