Q&A: Hon. Uka Emmanuel, Chairman, Committee for Reorganization of Artisans in Imo State

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Hon. Uka Emmanuel is the Chairman, Committee for Reorganization of Artisans in Imo State. In this exclusive interview with our correspondent, Nwachukwu Livinus, he spoke on the mandate of his committee, efforts to help artisans in the state and lots more.

Alaowerri: May we meet you Sir?

Uka: My name is Hon. Uka Emmanuel. I am the Chairman, committee on reorganization of artisans in Imo State.

Alaowerri: What are some of your antecedents before joining the government?

Uka: My antecedents are in the area of human development, skills acquisition and ensuring that the right things are done in the right time and at the right place.Hon Uka

Alaowerri: What is your committee doing to help artisans in Imo State?

Uka: What my committee is doing is based on the mandate given to us the State government to reorganize all the artisans in the state and bring them under a block. These artisans include mechanics, bead makers, hairdressers, coil rewinders, radio and television repairers, computer repairers, plant and generator repairers, tailors (that is fashion designers), aluminum fabricators, plant and heavy duty machinery repairs…

Alaowerri: That is quite a long list…but comparing Imo and other neighbouring states like Anambra and Abia, do we have a big market where the services and products of our artisans can be showcased like that of Aba and Onitsha?

Uka: Imo is the eastern heartland and people from Onitsha and Aba are coming to patronize the artisans’ village in Imo state. Ours is located at Naze, in about 10 acres of land.

If you go to Enugu, Osun, Abuja and many other states, they all have artisans village. And the essence of what we are doing is to bring all our artisans together for better results. We cannot achieve this without carrying all and sundry along.

The people’s governor, whom I call: “The Pride of the New Generation”, deemed it fit that we should bring all artisans in the state together. And by the grace of God, we are harmonizing them under an umbrella body; a platform known as Association of Artisans Development (ASSARD), Imo State, led by Pastor Reginald Obi.

Alaowerri: Looking at the Governor’s vision of job, job, job; is this a plan to help thousands of Imo Youths that are unemployed?

Uka: Yes because when you train a trainee, he becomes a trainer; and he trains another trainee and it becomes a continuous process. And the job, job, job; factory, factory factory mantra will be actualized. When people of like minds in the same trade and the same craftsmanship come to together you have established a factory. So that is what the concept is all about.

Alaowerri: Are there plans to help these artisans with incentives like soft loans and enabling environment because one thing is to have a skill and another is to finance it?

Uka: The essence of bringing them together into the various clusters of their trademanship and craftsmanship is for easy accessibility. You cannot give soft loan to someone who does not belong to a known association that is recognized by the state.

Take for example, the ten million naira given to the Imo Pilot Transport Association (the Keke operators) by the state government as revolving loan because they have a platform. And they were registered as a corporative society.

Alaowerri: Who is an artisan and how would one be a member of ASSARD?

Uka: An artisan is someone who does his job or plies his trade using a manual tool or machinery. ASSARD office is at Atta Street, Stadium Lane and one can meet the leadership to join.

Alaowerri: What activities and programmes do you have for ASSARD?

Uka: We will give them soft loans and help them access funds from international donors such as the United Nations Funds for development programme, which enable youth artisans get with free tools, free training and workshops.

Alaowerri: Are there plans to link them with their counterparts from other parts of the globe so that our products will be exposed to the world?

Uka: Yes! Our trip to Turkey with His Exellency accorded us opportunity to meet different artisans who are in different trades and craftsmanship. We interacted with them and they are coming to improve on what we have. There will be an interface. We met with those who are into printing, tailoring (e.g. Galvaro Lorenzo, a top brand designer) etc.

Alaowerri: Are there plans to take this project to other parts of the State?

Uka: What we are doing now is harmonization and development. Immediately we get it right, we will go to Orlu and Okigwe zones to replicate same. However, there are clusters already in these areas.

Alaowerri: An average Imo graduate would opt for white collar job over artisanship. How will government bridge the gap between (free) education and artisanship?

Uka: As I said ab initio, when you train a trainee, he becomes a trainer; and trains another trainee and it becomes a continuous process. This will reduce the quest of our teeming youths and graduates looking for white collar jobs. If they know that as tailors, they can design and sow and get paid for services rendered, they would discover there’s no need for white collar jobs.

I, for one, am a tailor. I am also a graduate and have read to a certain level, but am still a designer. So am an artisan. I design most of my clothes or I instruct artisans who were my trainees to design them for me with little discount. They are now employers of labour.

Alaowerri: Lastly Sir! What are some of the things your committee have achieved and others that are yet to be achieved?

Uka: We have succeeded in harmonizing all artisans under one umbrella and made resolutions as follows:

  1. That the name of the umbrella body for all artisans in Imo State is “Association of Artisan Development” (ASSARD).
  2. That all artisans should fuse into ASSARD for the protection of artisans interests.
  3. We resolved that all the artisans heads should submit their list to the government through the State Chairman of ASSARD for onward presentation to the Chairman,  Committee for the Reorganization of Artisans, Imo State.
  4. We resolved that there will be an election of ASSARD executives in April, 2016.

Interestingly, all the artisans concurred and thanked His Exellency for remembering the artisans in the art of governance.

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