I walked into the long hall and made past the executive seat at the head of the long table. If there was anything I learnt as a child, it was to abhor respectable positions whenever you are invited for such a meeting. The seats down the line were perfect for a beginner like myself though they were in the same range with the ones nearer to the executive chair at the head of the table. I pulled out a seat and sat down waiting for the event to begin.
Few commissioners walked in followed by some notable entrepreneurs in the state. I felt inferior being in such meeting but with my IV I was a Boss among the Bosses. Elder Ufot Ebong walked in and beamed a smile as I returned same even when I knew he was surprise to see me at the meeting. Finally, the governor walked in and took his seat at the head of the table and the man at the door closed the door as we all stood up for a prayer session.
“Where are those media entrepreneurs?” The governor asked searching the faces within the table. “Techforest?” the convener called and I identified by standing up. “Rocket World?” the man called again and a huge man with a protruding tummy rose from somewhere at the middle of the table. “Those are the guys we can trust,” the convener said as the governor beamed a smile and the meeting continued.
“I am so disappointed that of all I do to make this state an entrepreneurial hub the effect is almost not felt,” the governor began looking rather sad. I brought out a jotter with “techforest.ng” boldly written on its cover and started taking down the notes. “You see, I started with empowering startups in Akwa Ibom, then we invested in Agriculture and now the metering company, the syringe and all of that, yet you see our youths still wasting away on the street, Jobless” he concluded while leaning on the executive seat.
“What is the problem?” The Governor asked looking in the direction of the AKEES Boss. “Sir,” Elder Ebong began. “We started with the empowering of youths in small and medium scale enterprises. Recall your excellency, that over 5000 youths were empowered in different fields including photography, tailoring, computer skills, etc.” he explained while I hurried to note the figures on my writing material. “Your Excellency, when we noticed that we needed huge turn over in terms of revenue to the state, we had gone into building of industries which will aid exportation while creating employment for our youths,” the AKEES Boss concluded or so he seemed.
Some commissioners at the table spoke on their contributions to the growth of entrepreneurship in the state and the investors listed their challenges while attempting few investments in Akwa Ibom. The governor assured everyone of his readiness to make the state an entrepreneurial hub. I looked at the time and noticed 3 hours was already spent in this brief meeting. Then suddenly, “the media?” the governor called and I sat up since I knew we had only two media practitioners in the meeting.
“What are your observations?” the governor asked looking at my direction. My huge colleague made to wave, signaling no questions or observations from his end. I quickly shot my hand in the air less the governor closed the session. “Yes techforest.” He said reclining once again in his seat. I stood up and made to strengthen my suit as all the eyes on the table stared in my direction.
“Your Excellency,” I began. As the first two words oozed out my libs, I suddenly realized the future of over 4 million youths out there depended on what I was about to say. It was either I sang the governor’s praises without saying anything at the end or hit the nail on the head and disappoint the convener who had carefully chosen me for such exclusive meeting.
“Initiating AKEES was one of, if not the best programs you set up when you resumed office. As the AKEES Boss has rightly said, the program offered the youths an opportunity to learn, explore and be empowered. But recently for the program to go into other ventures rather than empowerment seems to make the whole idea a confusion. Presently, we have young entrepreneurs with good business plans but lack the necessary finances to register their startups. Get an office space and maybe some necessary equipment to kick start in the path of being great businesses employing other youths and creating solutions.” I stated.
“Your Excellency, it is rumoured that AKEES has not been properly funded and that is why the ideas of these young entrepreneurs cannot be empowered as the program’s core values suggested. Therefore, Your Excellency, I will suggest that at least a hundred businesses in Akwa Ibom State get an initial funding under this program with a seed funding of at least 5 million naira. Just like the Goodluck Jonathan’s YouWin program, some beneficiaries will rise to become great businesses while some will definitely fail but in all, such seed funding will go a long way to change the landscape of entrepreneurship in the state. Thank you, Your Excellency.” I said taking my seat.
At this point the governor readjusted in his seat and bent over the long conference table, “Ubong,” he started with a deep but solemn tone. “I established AKEES with the intentions you are already aware. The program has already done great by empowering a number of youths which you are also aware. Today we are exporting tomatoes and other agricultural products courtesy the program and as you know Elder Ebong, my SSA has recently given some scholarships to some students in Obot Akara out of his benevolence. This shows the kind of heart he has and his good intentions towards the youths of this state.”
“We decided to go into the building of factories because we were scared of the mismanagement of this funds by our youths who always remember that they need to marry or buy a car once you give them seed funding for their startups. However, the factories too are built to accrue some revenue to the state and save for export which will in turn bring in a turn over for the state. Now for your request of funding at least a hundred startups in Akwa Ibom with at least 5 million naira each I will say…” at this point the governor chatted briefly with his SSA then continued.
“I know young men like you are doing wonderfully great in different areas. I have been following your work in techforest and my SSA has told me your intention to run a successful media and software development company. Many of such other ventures needs funding too. What I will do is 5 million naira for a hundred startups is 500,000,000 million naira. But I am aware of the challenges of starting a business in an economy like ours, therefore in the 4 quarters of 2018 I will grant 4billion naira to AKEES for the empowerment of 400 startups in Akwa Ibom State. I know when someone learns to walk, he must surely fall, therefore 5million naira will be given to the startup founders first and when we watch how the business grows we will then add the remaining 5million naira making it 10million naira each to help the business stand up strong. But the entire money will be paid into AKEES account and techforest will be our number one beneficiary”
As the governor made the last sentence I jumped out of my seat, rushed out and embraced the governor giving him a peck on the cheek. “Mbakara adodo die” my wife’s voice jolted me to reality and I noticed my hands was roving all over her as I was kissing her. She has woken to notice this funny act while I was still asleep holding a meeting with the governor on the empowerment of our youths. With a disappointment that the whole meeting was a dream, I walked to the convenient to ease myself before returning to continue in my sleep. “Indeed, just maybe, there is a package for startups from AKEES come 2018,” I thought as I adjusted to get more warmth from my wife. “Sorry dear,” I whispered.