Thursday, 2 June 2016

Government should focus more attention on youth employment—Salvation Army Territorial Youth Secretary

 Okechukwu Onuegbu

Major John OkparaIhedi is the Territorial Youth Secretary (Youth Coordinator) of the Salvation Army. He hailed from Akpo, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. publisher, OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU recently had a chat with him at Akpo, during the 2016 Divisional Youth Convention, Anambra East Division of Salvation Army, at Youth Fellowship Headquarters, Akpo. The excerpts:

What is the significance of the Salvation Army’s Youth Convention at Akpo?

It is a Divisional Convention although the Division invited other divisions of our church to attend. It was purely sponsored by the people or members of the division. We expect all our divisions to hold annual convention in preparation to the national one. Our annual national Convention is coming up on August at Onitsha. And the national convention would be attended by our members from all part of the country and abroad. We are expecting people from America, Canada, etc. in the event.

Our divisional youth convention gives the youths at the grassroot opportunity to participate because the one at national level may be too far for them to attend due to financial and other constraints.

People involved in football, athletics, volleyball, and other kinds of event in our conventions. The aim is to expose them to sports and other competitions geared towards enabling them to discover their talents. You know that most youths are so much talented without knowing how to maximize or use them to better their lives.

Therefore, our various conventions expose and empower people to understand the gifts God in them and effective means of using it to achieve their goals in life, and to serve God perfectly. You will agree with me today that youth of today even in other religious and church denominations sometimes develop lukewarm spirit in things of God. But when you call for spiritual programme like this which involves preaching, sports and other activities they will be interested to come.
So, our aim is to bring youths closer to God so that they will become good citizens of Nigeria and God Ambassador.

How effective is your programme in addressing poverty and unemployment in the country?

It may not be hundred percent; but above average because the one we held last year at Illesa, Osun State brought many youths back to the basis, which is serving God. So, I believe we achieve at least 70% of our aim in organising the events.
The programme empowers youth to be self sufficient in life. There are skills acquisition centre in all our programmes; we gather and train youths to be employer of labour not job seekers after graduating from schools.

Do you think the youths are actually taking your programme seriously?

Yes! Youths take our events very serious that is why the numbers of those in attendance doubles each year. Most of them spend heavily on transportation; travelling from north or south to participate in our programme while holding in any part of the country. That shows that they are really in love with them. Even when some may not have attended with a direction, many usually return home with salvation and skills they acquired in the programme.

Do you think that other church denominations are doing great for youths through their programmes as well?

As a National Youth leader of my church, I do mix up with other churches. And I can tell you that churches like the Redeemed, Anglican, Winners, Assembly of God, and MFM have different programmes like this. We are even trying to set-up a football League like MFM and Redeemed are doing. We don’t want our youths to go wild like tenable in the western world where many do not go to church. Other churches are doing a great job to bring the youth together.

However, there are little problems in some churches today because so many are busy entertaining members. You made no changes in people by sharing money and drinks to them. You impact them when they have giving their lives to God. We in the Salvation Army are trying our best to impact positively on our youths. This is to stop them from participating in the riot and other antisocial vices happening in the country. You know these things are been perpetrated through the youths. The politicians and others using them have their children abroad. That is why we train our youths because if they are been trained and engaged, they will not be chance to get involve in those happenings.

I am also appealing to our government to look inward and see the havoc unemployment is causing in the country. If people are working, vices will be reduced in the county. Because when they are engaged, they will be too busy to indulge in those things. Therefore, I am calling on the government to focus more attention on the youths education, training, empowerment and employment.



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