It is my pleasure to address you today as Visitor for the 2015 Graduating Class Ceremony. On this memorable day, I congratulate the graduates who are being conferred with diplomas today.

Let me also take a moment to appreciate all those whose contributions helped make your education possible. They include your parents and guardians who toiled and sacrificed to support you through school, the lecturers who taught and motivated you to excel in your intellectual pursuits, and the school administrators who laboured tirelessly to provide a conducive learning atmosphere. To all these people, I say a big thank you.

As you step out into the world today, it is possible that the hope and idealism that filled your heart when you commenced this journey four years ago may have begun to wane. And I understand why. Everywhere you turn today the world seems to be faced with one crisis or another. Here in our country the economy is in dire straits following the sharp fall in the price of oil in the international market, while the army of the unemployed keeps swelling on a daily basis.

While we are no doubt passing through difficult and turbulent times, and though our economy may be in crisis and our confidence shaken, the overall economic outlook for Nigeria remains bright. We are also deepening democracy and maintaining a peaceful and stable country, so the opportunities exist for you to make the most out of life.

I dare you to dream big, to be confident of yourselves and to envision a great and wonderful future. But just because you dream big doesn’t mean life owes you a free ticket. You must roll up your sleeves and work hard to realise your dreams. So you should rid yourselves of any form of procrastination, cynicism and apathy. Don’t wait for things to happen; you make things happen. You must be bold, creative, optimistic, and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit.

During your time here, I imagine that you must have participated in team projects where you learned the values of self-discovery, problem solving and effective communication. It is now time to put the knowledge you gained from your education into practice. So, go and be creative and determined to make a difference in the society.

The biggest economic challenge in Nigeria today is youth unemployment. Unfortunately, our current educational system has adverse effects on the mentality of the graduates that we produce; they have a job seeker’s mentality. It is my conviction that polytechnic education holds the key to solving our    unemployment problem. Polytechnics offer highly technical, vocational and entrepreneurial education to enable graduate youths function as wealth creators and job creators, in addition to giving them employability skills.

There is a deep uneasiness I feel in my spirit when I look at the state of polytechnic education in Nigeria today. It is very unfortunate that polytechnics that should drive Nigeria’s technological development and national prosperity have been relegated to the background in our educational system. Most of our polytechnics are plagued with problems of funding gaps, infrastructure deficit, poor teaching staff and abysmal maintenance culture.

The Delta State Government under my  watch  is committed to reversing this trend because I am fully persuaded that no meaningful national development can be achieved by any nation without sound and qualitative technical education. I strongly believe that the future lies with technical/vocational education, not certificate acquisition.

Therefore, the National Board for Technical Education should step up its efforts for effective monitoring and supervision of Polytechnics. Furthermore, the NBTE should put the necessary machinery in motion for Nigerian polytechnics to begin to run Post Graduate Diplomas and Master’s Degree programmes, especially in their respective areas of specialization, as is currently the practice in many technologically advanced countries. This will certainly help to elevate the status of polytechnics in Nigeria and bring them at par with the universities.

Technical education is a cardinal programme of our administration’s S.M.A.R.T agenda because we believe that until we get our youths to acquire the requisite  technical  and vocational skills, we are not building a future for them. Currently, three of our technical colleges are being revamped and refocused to equip students with the requisite knowledge and entrepreneurial skills for business, trade, and commerce.

In the same vein, our polytechnics shall be restructured and refocused for appropriate specialization in response to the dynamics of the 21st century marketplace. Students must be taught entrepreneurship, personal branding, leadership development, business and crisis  management, as well as current trends in business and  ethics. These will be complemented with regular skills building and training programmes to upgrade and update their knowledge base.

The Delta State Polytechnic Ozoro should strive to broaden and deepen the education it offers with emphasis on multi- disciplinary research and practical life skills. Government desires that this school should rank among the top ten polytechnics in the country in no distant time. While we are committed to supporting this institution within the limits of available resources, it is also imperative that the management of the school devise creative means of income generation to augment statutory subventions. The times that we live in call for innovation, critical thinking, and paradigm shift on the part of all.

Indeed, the two flagship programmes of our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme are anchored on the principle of technical education. Participants under the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and the Skill Training and   Entrepreneurship   Programme   (STEP)   who   have     just finished their Orientation Programme at Songhai-Delta have commenced their vocational/technical training at various skills training centres in preparation for life in business and commerce. With careful planning and determination, we are hopeful of creating thousands of jobs every six month-cycle through both entrepreneurship schemes.

Finally, I urge the management, staff and students of this citadel of learning to brace up for the challenges ahead and be ready to chart a new trajectory and lay a solid foundation for the technological advancement and economic prosperity of our dear country.

Speech at the 2nd Convocation of the Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, at the Convocation Arena.