Empowering People Is A Passion – Andy Chukwu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Empowering People Is A Passion – Andy Chukwu

Posted: Apr 2, 2016 at 2:28 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Popular Filmmaker, Andy Chukwu has found a new passion. The prolific actor, director is at the moment coordinating his state’s government project tagged: Street to Skills. He speaks with Hazeez Balogun about the project.


How did you come about the Street to Skills programme?

Let me give you a rundown of what Street to Skill is all about. It is a programme designed to move Ebonyi youths off the streets and highways of Nigeria. By research, it has been proven that over 60 per cent of hawkers round Nigeria are from Ebonyi State. If you ask 10 hawkers on the highway where they are from, you will discover that like seven would be from Ebonyi and it has caused a lot of embarrassment. I have faced serious embarrassment. In fact, a colleague, has told me, ‘my friend sit down there, is it because you make movies and people buy it, you think you are too much, you should be selling cotton bud in traffic.’ I was angry because this person saying this has not made one good movie in his life. We got so angry and began giving a rundown of our films and he couldn’t say one that has won an award. If he didn’t see those people on the streets, he wouldn’t have said that. It deals negatively with the image of Ebonyians. Aside the dangers involved in street hawking, these boys die on a daily basis. One of them fell inside the water running from KAI on third mainland bridge, the other one fell from Maryland bridge, before he could even land, a BRT bus rammed into him. They die like that everyday. Last week, I got a call at First gate, FESTAC, in respect of an accident, I was told the person is from Ebonyi, I got there and saw the lifeless body of a boy selling chips.

Before now, I have been identifying with them as an actor. When I see them and ask them where they are from, they tell me Ebonyi. There is no dialect in Ebonyi that I cannot speak at least a little. I will just chat them up and they are happy to see their brother who is an actor. Then some of them I can help on my own, I just do that. Sometime in 2007, 2008, I made a proposition to the then government, unfortunately, nobody gave it attention but November last year, the deputy governor sent for me and I went. He said there is a project government wants to do, they want me to coordinate it for them. I agreed. He said I should see the secretary to the government, I went there and he started talking about this. When I said I should come up with something, I quickly remembered ‘Street to Skills’ and we called it ‘From Street To Skills.’ Like I said, it is designed to move Ebonyi youths off the streets.

Are you impressed with the turn out?

Yes. If you look behind me, this is batch B. The turnout is encouraging considering what we passed through when we started. I didn’t know I was going to have up to 500 people at the end of the day because they initially didn’t want to register. They said government is trying to tactically put down their names so that they would deport them. Another said, it is the Lagos state government that sent us to come and masquerade under the umbrella of Ebonyi, gather them and take them to Lagos State government. I said, this is not what the registration officers can do, I had to go out there with the liaison officer, the ICT guy and every other young men from Ebonyi I recruited. We all moved into streets. We gathered them and even had to involve Ebonyi State development association-it is an umbrella body of the Ebonyi communities in Lagos. We told them, ‘gather your people wherever they are, we will come and talk to them.’ We started building confidence in them and within two weeks, the turn out became encouraging.

Will you describe yourself as the mouthpiece of Ebonyians?

In Lagos State here, yes, but the mouth piece of the government is the secretary to the state government but I’m coordinating for them here in Lagos. It is a nationwide project.  It is a continuous thing, if we finish here in Lagos, we can move to Anambra State then to other parts of the nation. The initiator of the project is the state governor, Engineer Dave Umahi.


You said you wrote to the then governor in 2007, 2008, why didn’t he do anything about it?

I’m not sure he saw it. God works in mysterious ways. I was in a mechanic workshop one day in FESTAC and a young man walked up there with a black bandage on his big toe, blood gushing out. I asked him what happened; he said he hit his big toe on a stone. I asked if he has treated it, he said no, he just tied it. He sells ice water. I said ok, ‘go to that pharmacy, let them treat you.’ He went there and came out and I asked him, ‘if you find any other thing to do, will you leave this hawking? He said: ‘now, now.’ I asked him what he would love to do if he is not selling ice water, he said, ‘panel beating.’ I asked the mechanic if he can train the young man, he said yes but I will pay N35,000 plus a carton of beer, malt and a packet of cabin biscuit. I said, the beer the malt and biscuit I can buy now but the N35,000, I will pay later. He said no problem. I bought those things but when he discovered that I met that guy there, that I didn’t know him from Adam, he removed N15,000 and asked me to pay only N20,000. The guy learnt that work and he is on his own today.


How are you going to ensure that they are adequately empowered to start off with the skill they have acquired?

I have no doubt in my mind that the governor will adequately empower the participants. Apart from empowering them, he has also made provision for stipends for them in the course of the training. The governor is prepared to carry this project and very ready to see that everything works according to plan.