By Femi Salako
Unto the Kukus family of Arogbo Ijaw was a shinning star born on Saturday February 14, 1970. Although, it was be admitted that the new born that has now turned out a globally recognized environmental activist was delivered to his humble family in a modest and small package. This further lend credence to the aphorism that most great products are delivered in small packages.
The birthdays of most great men are often than not heralded with glowing tributes, heartfelt felicitations and princely celebrations. Dr. Kingsley Kuku is a man who has given his all for the sake of Ijaw nation and the cause of Niger-Delta; he therefore deserves a nothing short of a kingly birthday celebration.
The story of Ghana cannot be told without making mention of Nkwame Nkrumah. The same way the liberation struggle in South Africa will always be dominated by the name of late Madiba, Dr. Nelson Mandela. No research work can be done on computers without giving ample credit to the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, while no narration on social media revolution could ever be completed without the name of Facebook founder, Mike Zukerberg. And of course, any research work on internet search engines must be repleted with the name of Google. In the light of these, the story of lasting peace restoration and transformation of the lives of former agitators in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria cannot be told without making mention of the invaluable contributions by Dr. Kingsley Kuku.
Some aristocrats were born great while a host of others actually laboured to attain greatness in life. There is no gainsaying the fact that Kingsley Kuku did not only toiled for greatness, but he did become great by making huge personal sacrifice and risking his life. Although, Kingsley Kuku will only turn 48 on February 14, but his contributions thus far to his Ijaw nation and Nigeria at large clearly outweighed that of so many people that were born decades before him. There is no doubt that the place of the Arogbo Ijaw born politician and environmental right activist has been safely reserved in nation’s history and posterity.
An unusual patriotic commitment of Kuku was noticed when he hurriedly left the venue of his wedding party to attend to a pressing communal issue at Arogbo Ijaw. He had instructed his best man to hold forth for him at the reception party. This was no doubt a rare patriotic sacrifice by Kuku on his supposed day of conjugal happiness.
Many years of the selfless commitment of Kingsley Kuku to the Niger Delta struggle was rewarded with his appointment as the Special Adviser on Niger-Delta Affairs and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme during the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Kuku had promptly gone ahead to confirm the assertion that only a prepared mind can make the best use of opportunities. The architect of Niger-Delta quickly hit the ground running by rolling out plans that transformed the lives of 30,000 former agitators and restored the crucial but elusive peace to the nation’s oil sector.
One of the notable contributions of Kingsley Kuku to the Nigerian oil sector was the scaling up of the nation’s daily crude oil output from 680,000 barrels to 2.2 million barrels. The nation’s daily oil production now stands at over 2.7 million due to the gains of the amnesty programme. Kuku had also assured in his book that a daily crude target of 4.5 million barrels is achievable, if the amnesty gains can be sustained.
The first concern of Hon. Kuku upon assumption of office as Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme was the immediate disarmament and demobilization of 30,000 ex-agitators; a move that was swiftly followed up with their aggressive foundational trainings. Many of the trained agitators have since graduated and turned out as responsible citizens that now give back to their various societies. A good number of the ex-agitators were enlisted in flight training schools at Oxford, England and Lufthansa, Germany. Some other equally undertook helicopter training in Italy. It must be noted that nearly all the students that were enrolled for flight training are now qualified pilots.
It was to the credit of Kingsley Kuku in his capacity as the Amnesty Programme Chairman that well over 800 of the ex-agitators were enrolled in 72 universities in United Kingdom. Record also has it that more than 300 of the repentant agitators were registered in various universities across the United States of America. Another appreciable number of the ex-agitators were given academic lifelines in leading Malaysian and Ghanaian universities.
The less academically endowed amongst the repentant agitators that could not secure overseas university placements and those that chose not to travel abroad were enrolled in the best Nigerian private universities. Kuku saw to the enrolment of more than 700 of the former agitators in Igbinedion University, Okada in Edo state. Another 400 were also registered in Benson Idahosa University, Benin. A good number of the former agitators also got enrolled at the prestigious Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti. Another 156 were likewise sent to Novena University for undergraduate programmes.
It is worthy of note that some of the repentant agitators that studied Law at Igbinedion University had successfully completed their Law School attendance before Hon. Kuku left office as Chairman of the Amnesty Programme. Another remarkable highpoint was the fact that some of the students were able to graduate with first class division in their programmes. In all, Hon. Kuku was able to successfully enrolled more than 2,000 students in Nigerian universities alone, while another 2,000 students were also enrolled in overseas universities.
Kuku was a pioneer member of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), and the second spokesman of the Council. He was signatory to the historical Kaiama Declaration before he contested and was elected as a member of the Ondo State House of Assembly. Kuku was made the Chairman of the House Committee on Information. He had also served at various times as Special Assistant and Head of Conflict Management Unit at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Kuku has prepared himself early in life as a conscientious activist with a distinction. He was a student leader while in the university and was once the National Mobilization Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Despite his young age at the time, he was quite active in the struggle to return the nation to full democratic governance. It must be noted that the experience gathered by Kuku in the cause students unionism had helped in a great deal to prepare him for leadership positions in the nation. The same experience had also helped in conditioning his mind to stay resolute in his fights against injustice and maladministration within the socio-political space of Nigeria.
Hon. Kingsley Kuku attended St. Patrick Catholic Primary School, Arogbo, Ondo State from 1977 to1983. His secondary school education was at Ijaw National High School, Arogbo, Ondo State between 1983 and 1988. Kuku later proceeded to Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti where he obtained a Bachelor of Education degree in English Language. His quest for further knowledge took him to Igbinedion University, Okada in Edo state where he obtained M.Sc. in International Relations and Strategic Studies from 2011 to 2012. Kuku also obtained a certificate in Dispute Resolution at the University of Cambridge in 2008.
Hon. Kingsley Kuku truly deserved all the accolades he has gotten so far in appreciation of his efforts at transforming lives and restoring lasting peace to the Niger Delta. He was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate in Political Science – Phd (Honoris Causa) in November 2013 by the Igbinedion University, Okada Edo State, for his role in the advancement of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. Kuku had also been given the privilege of being a guest speaker at the internationally renowned institute for International Affairs, Chatham House, London where he delivered a paper titled, Amnesty in the Niger-Delta: Sustaining Peace and Surmounting Challenges.
Kuku was also a guest speaker at the Global Institute for International Affairs, Wilson Centre USA where he spoke on “A Briefing on the Niger Delta: Where Things Stand”. He took advantage of the opportunity to narrate his struggles and that of his team at the Amnesty Office in reversing the tide of calamity in the Niger-Delta.
Kingsley Kuku has repeatedly over the years proven himself as someone with insatiable hunger for knowledge. Since the time he left office as the Chairman of Presidential Amnesty Programme in 2015 till now, he has attained Graduate Certificate In Public Leadership from the prestigious Kennedy School Of Government, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Currently, Kuku is on the final lap of his Juris Master Degree at the Emory School Of Law, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, concentrating in International Human Rights Law. Boldly, Kuku would return to Nigeria as a greater human asset, having armed himself with better certifications, greater worldview and profoundly humane whole for the good of humanity.
Contributions of Hon. Kuku to the restoration of peace in the Niger-Delta was again appreciated by the then first family of the United States when he made the list of some notable personalities around the world that attended a special dinner for President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Effort of Kingsley Kuku was again in April 2015 appreciated when he got selected as one of the recipients of the Honorary Citizenship of the State of Georgia in the United States by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC).
Kuku is a huge respecter of family values despite the distractions of his many national and international engagements. This no doubt explains why he has been happily married with responsible children.
The doyen of Ijaw nation is wished many more year of selfless contributions to his father’s land and humanity in good health, sound of mind and all round fulfilments. Many happy returns of the day KKK.
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