A Nollywood actor and film maker, youth activist and founder of After Campus Youths Initiative, Mr. Sammy Udiminue, who is on official assignment at the United Kingdom in this Skype chat with our Lagos correspondent, ABRAHAM AKPABIO, said it was high time Nigerian leaders re-invented their mindset to look at the larger picture of what is in the best interest of Nigerians and do, as well, restore confident to the people, youths in particular. The Akwa Ibom indigene graduate of Economics from the University of Lagos (LASU)-turned-actor, also applauded Governor Udom Emmanuel's prompt response in restoring peace in the state; his perception of Nigerian film industry, etc. Excerpts:
Youths across the country were recently protesting peacefully against the existence of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) before it was hijacked by hoodlums, which lives, private and government property were lost and destroyed. How do you react to this?
My heart bleeds with the level of destruction we watched on satellite television stations. It is quite unfortunate that such happened in our country, when we were trying to recover fully from months of Covid-19 lockdown which had harsh economic consequences. Some of us outside the country watched the horrendous damage done to businesses and infrastructure, and above all, lives that were lost. As a person, I am saddened by the lives of patriotic youths lost and the quantum of destruction done. I commiserate with the families of those who lost their loved ones and pray God to console them and heal our land. Thank God for the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution set up by government of each affected state for victims of SARS-related abuses and Lekki Toll Gate incident. To my understanding, #End SARS protest was all about protest against inefficiencies, corruption, structural imbalances, faults and all the shenanigans of the political class in our present day society. The youth need a new Nigeria devoid of my mentioned points above, they want to be fully involved in governance, to contribute meaningfully to the general development of the country.
You are the founder of 'After Campus Youths Initiative', how would you assess the average Nigerian youths and their roles in nation building?
An average Nigerian youth is a workaholic, not lazy and does not want to depend on parents or government, rather, finds ways to make ends meet. A struggling type that does not want to soil his or her hands in bad things, etc. I had the zeal founding a non-governmental organization, 'After Campus Youths Initiative,' before graduating from the Lagos State University (LASU) as a result of not wanting to be a burden to my parents after graduation, and that really helped me and other partners. Today, the NGO has engaged and encouraged many youths in many aspects and made them self-reliant, thereby contributing positively to the economic development of our nation as a whole. If I were to wait for the government after graduation, I don't know what could have happened today. Again, my parents played very vital roles in my upbringing. My father, a renowned lawyer, Mr Sam Udiminue, was always there for me, telling me not to think of what he or government could do for me, rather, what I could do to impact myself and the society in general. Youths at this point have crucial roles to play in the nation building. They are the evolver of social, economic, political and cultural transformation and the driving force for change. They play vital role in the constructive process of building social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability in a nation in an inclusive and democratic way. They are ultimately the social actors of change. To me also, youths are ultimately the building blocks of the nation. The stronger the youth are, the more developed the nation is.
What do you think is the way forward for a united and workable nation Nigeria?
Let me start by saying that we are operating democratic system, a government of the people for the people and by the people. Therefore, we should give it all the assistance it requires to be sustained. Blunders have been made to the nation by our leaders, past and present. The followers also played their parts. The state we are now is not for blame game. We all must accept our mistakes and wrongs. We have the capacity to right the wrongs. It is the place of our leaders in particular to re-invent their mindset to look at the larger picture of what is in the best interest of Nigerians; that is, to serve the nation instead of themselves. They should listen to the demands of the governed and ensure peace, security and stability in the country. Besides these, the nation needs a reset now. There should be a drastic cut in cost of governance, state should be allowed to explore their resources and endowments as well as introduce a very stern and severe punishment for stealing public funds and corrupt practices.
Youths as you rightly say are the social actors of change. What do you think government should do to address the demands of the youth?
In the first place, let's look at what the youth are demanding for: end to bad governance, stop banditry and herdsmen/farmers clashes, create jobs, inclusive government with 50 per cent youths, electoral reforms, improved security, drastic cut in cost of governance, end corruption and police brutality, government should hands off ownership and management of businesses at all levels, total disbandment of SARS and newly created SWAT unit by the Nigeria Police, minimum educational qualification requirements, age and tenure for political office aspirants, elective and appointees; resort to unicameral legislature for lawmakers to make right laws, reduce PHCN bill and petrol pump price, end ASUU strike, etc. Be that as it may, all tiers of government should as a matter of urgency implement policies that would address the grievances of citizens as there are so much pent-up anger in the land as a result of deprivations and poverty. In order to make the country prosperous, government should create opportunities for the youth in which they can feel free to get quality education, learn skills for making the desired level of changes in their economic and social sectors. It is high time government started making efforts to win back the hearts of the citizens, and should begin also to show sincerity in service delivery. I am so happy on what my state government (Akwa Ibom) is doing in areas of youth development and rapid response to issues.
Akwa Ibom was also affected on the issue of #EndSARS protest which was hijacked by hoodlums and property destroyed, and the state government responded promptly. What is your take on the state of our state generally?
Thank God for internet-cumsocial media. Some of us outside the country are monitoring stepby-step development in different parts of our country. As a concerned Akwa Ibomite, I have gone through and listened to our governor's broadcast during the unrest period, titled: 'Let there be Peace'. As good people of the state, let's heed the clarion call by the governor to desist from lawlessness and give peace a chance because with a peaceful society, we can jointly usher in a much better living atmosphere. The photograph of the premises of our state broadcasting corporation (AKBC Radio) I saw for example, was not only unfortunate and disturbing but highly condemnable. We should continue to uphold the virtues of peace, hospitality and social responsibility which set us apart as one of the most peaceful and secure states in Nigeria. Looking at Akwa Ibom generally, the ongoing administration deserves commendation in all spheres. Governor Udom Emmanuel has proved himself to be the first among those that have ruled the state with the requisite integrity and trust, and posterity will remember him for this. His entrepreneurship goals programme he recently announced for youths in the state to create over 1000 jobs for them is a step in the right direction and will add more values to his administration's vision, mission and value system. A leader who spent a lot of his time working for the state as Governor Emmanuel has done, and ensuring job creation for young people through his industrialization policy deserves support, collaboration and encouragement.
As a Nollywood actor and film maker, what is your perception of Nigerian film industry?
The Nigerian film industry has really grown and it can be better. Though we have so many challenges but I believe soon, we will get to our desired destination devoid of politics and intrigues. Can you remember the number of movies you have featured in? I have featured in a lot of movies, over 50.
What would you consider the greatest setbacks in the Nigerian film industry and what do you suggest government should do to boost this sector?
his sector is piracy. It is killing the creative industry. I want the government to come to our aid and help in eradicating this challenge of piracy. Other things I see are inaccessible to funds, lack of right locations for shooting. Government should also help us to access funds, right locations and high technical equipment for production. Again, government should take the industry serious and look into it as one of the biggest, also for job creation for our youths, with good percentage in annual budget.
What are your advice to youths in times like this?
Youths have spoken loudly. They should embrace peaceful dialogue in the course of their agitations against the disbanded SARS and remain law-abiding. I am sure, henceforth, as a government that listens to the plight of its citizens, will make amends by accepting the demands of the youth. Youths in Akwa Ibom in particular should take advantage of the Federal Government's empowerment programmes designed to address issues of unemployment as well as Governor Udom Emmanuel's entrepreneurship goals programme to create over 1000 jobs for them in the state, as government is now interested in the welfare of the youths in particular and commitment to addressing issues of unemployment and bad governance in the country.