Recently, the Southern Atlantic Polytechnic, Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State, commissioned the Enterprise and Business Development Center. The founder of the institution, Pastor James Bassey, spoke with GILBERT EKEZIE on the progress made so far, hinting that the world’s Information Communication and Technology (ICT) giant, Microsoft is partnering with the institution.
He also disclosed that the polytechnic will train young school leavers to acquire practical trading experience from experienced traders.
What inspired you to establish Southern Atlantic Polytechnic?
Southern Atlantic Polytechnic is a private institution and business school that is committed to developing high standard of entrepreneurship. We are bringing professors, PhD holders, captains of industries, entertainers and all class of Nigerians who have made it in their various fields of endeavour to come and build a new crop of leaders. Through the school, we want to mentor our youth and retired public servant, who are aspiring for leadership positions, people who want to go into businesses to become entrepreneurs. So we are building an enterprise center that will re-engineer and reconstruct the life style of our people to give them a sense of business. You saw the number of young men and women that were running around political leaders during the 2019 elections, they are graduates with degrees, masters and PhD holders. The elections not only opened my eyes; it has also revealed a lot of burden. Whether in Akwa-Ibom, Abia, Sokoto, Abuja, APC or PDP, APGA, they have the same thousands and millions of followers. At the end of the elections, governors, ministers and lawmakers have also emerged. But we will not have as many as 50 ministers, 36 governors and there is no state that will have up 300 personal assistants. The others have fallen back to the streets. And so, we want to lay emphasis on entrepreneurship and business development.
Considering that many institutions offer various courses, what will the poly be known for?
I love what is going on in eastern part of Nigeria on business and trade in Igboland. We have done all the studies, how the people can serve their master between seven, eight years and go out and become millionaires and billionaires. After doing the study in Alaba and Idumota markets in Lagos, I want to build on that. We will bring in those who are trading to talk to our students. If you go to Alaba or Idumota markets today, you will see young men who are millionaires that did not go to school, but they went through tutelage. They were trained by various masters in the market place. Southern Atlantic Polytechnic will train young school leavers and at the end of the day send them to acquire practical trading experience under experience traders. Again, if you go to Ariaria market in Abia State today, you will see that the people are less concerned about who becomes the governor because everybody is busy there. From that point of view, I am moving Ariaria market to Akwa-Ibom State, to my polytechnic. I am moving the traders, the shoe makers, the fashion designers and the furniture makers. In fact, it was in Ariaria market that I discovered the secret of producing exquisite furniture, which we have started producing in our school. We are going to import knowledge from the diaspora and from our people. If you go to churches, 80 per cent of young people are unemployed; we will give them a means of livelihood. Such people should come to Southern Atlantic Polytechnic, to our business team. We will change them and give them a new way of thinking; we want to build capacity. While we are importing technology from China, Korea and America and from other parts of the world including Dubai, we also want to import the technology. The technology in Ariara market is enormous. We will bring the technology in fashion to combine with what we have because our Fashion and Design Departments will be a brand. We are going to go into fashion programme like a factory. We will build capacity that will enable us train fashion designers, who will not just develop fashion styles for the school but go into corporate and massive production of all kinds of fashion. Our engineering and carpentry workshop is the first of its kind. We will build our carpentry department to produce all classes of furniture, kitchen items and closets. We will also bringing in a special machine that can design any kind of doors and chairs. Once the entrepreneurship centre is commissioned, we will go into massive production of furniture for schools, corporate bodies, individuals and governments.
How about the Information Technology department?
On Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), we have over 200 computers and we are deploying millions to train young school leavers, civil servants on ICT, web design and other areas of telecommunication and ICT in modern business development. We will also bringing in printing machines and so we can do a lot of things. We want to build our people to become great business people.
How far have you gone with accreditation of courses?
Well, a team from the Ministry of Trade and Commerce and National Board of Technical Education (NBTE) came to inspect the polytechnic in February; I am happy that they came. The team saw what we have on ground and was impressed. We want to do more because we want Southern Atlantic Polytechnic to be one of the best in Nigeria. We have what it takes because we have land mass of over 15 hectares which is able to take in the polytechnic, hostel and other facilities. Now we are working on other structures like the banking hall, supermarket and a police station by the side of the polytechnic. We have also completed the Science Laboratory Technology; our library is one of the best. In terms of Electrical and Electronic Department, we have equipment and our manpower is up to date. I appreciate the Executive Secretary of NBTE for sending the team to Uyo to inspect our school.
How many of the physical projects have been completed?
The Entrepreneur and Business School is 90 per cent completed; and the extension of the Science Lab Tech is also 90 per cent completed too. Our Engineering and Physics Departments are completed and we have ordered for more equipment to give the school 100 per cent because at the time the NBTE team came, we had about 85 per cent of our requirements. We have already ordered the remaining 15 per cent from China and the goods have arrived Akwa Ibom State. After installation, we will invite NBTE again for verification. So we are in the middle of the town to serve those who are coming from outside Akwa Ibom State and those who are coming from other parts of the world.
Could you talk on your partnership with Microsoft?
On May 22, we commissioned the Enterprise and Business Development Center in collaboration with Microsoft Account Imagine Academy. The idea of bringing Microsoft Academy is a plus for the school, state, South-South and the South-East. We are the first to take advantage of the Microsoft Imagine Academy in the region. We have also put in place lots of programmes for various skills because that is what the Federal Government is emphasising now. Microsoft, as an organisation is happy to associate with what Southern Atlantic Polytechnic is doing in the area of skill, enterprise and business development. And they are bringing their technology, expertise and equipment to boost our curriculum.
What are the available courses for the take-off of the polytechnic?
There are about five to six courses that the NBTE has giving us a provisional approval to take off with after their inspection. They have given us approval for Science Laboratory Technology, Electrical Electronic, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Public Administration and General Administration. On the Public Administration course, we have built a strong network with many professors and heads of departments of different universities and they are coming to develop a curriculum for the training of civil servants, for the empowerment of the local governments, especially those who are in protocol management and those who are serving at all levels of governments in federal, states and local government. We are developing this programme in order to retrain and train those who are going to assist in the governance of the state. Public administration is a very important course that can be used for the development of both the local and state government workers, including those in the academia. In the electrical electronics department, we have the best. Our machines are there but we are going to do all things in business development and offer scholarships to those who are not capable of paying school fees. Based on my background as a pastor and as a man who is from a low background, I will work more to see that scholarships are giving to people who deserve it and I will also want to partner with local, federal and state governments to see how we can make impact on ICT development. We have also opened discussions with other bodies such as security agencies in the states, police and army officers and all the agencies of government to see how we can collaborate with them in training their wives and house helps on dress making, cake making, ICT and catering, so you can in the comfort of your office learn a trade. We have also opened discussions with churches and mosques in Akwa-Ibom and neighbouring states to see how we can move entrepreneurship development to their door steps. The idea is that if you have five to ten people in your house, locality, church, mosque or in your environment, our team of engineers and experts will come to interact with you, train you on any area of your need and give you the wherewithal and support before you come to the school. So we are building a relax system of training which is the first of its kind. There is no age limit in learning, we will come to you; we will train you, equip you and send you forth to become a great man or woman. I discovered that most people spend time on watching television. We want to take that from them; the five to six hours that you spend watching television, you spend it to equip you with a trade. If you can’t go to school, we will take the school to your house. It is an idea of taking entrepreneurship and the school to peoples’ houses. I want to see how we can share our knowledge, bring people from business world, the academia and those doing practical things to share knowledge with them, so that as you leave the school environment you go straight into something. It is not enough for people to finish school, spend one year doing NYSC and yet nothing thereafter. So before you come out, you must go and do something. We also have what I call Young Entrepreneurship Scheme, where we bring in secondary school leavers who want to go into businesses, who want to learn one trade or the other and train them and build them into trading businesses.
How do you get fund to execute these huge projects?
The most important thing is not the funding, first; it’s the thinking, it’s an idea, idea comes before funding. But where you have an idea you need money to support it. It is sad that there is disconnect between the business people and the banking industry.