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Unizik Business School releases maiden research on Igbo Apprenticeship (Igba boyi) model

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…As Guber Candidate, Okonkwo Harps On Value Reorientation

By Gabriel Chy Alonta

History was made in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, following the public presentation of report of the first ever research on Igbo Apprenticeship (Igba Boyi) model by the Unizik Business School (UBS).

The over 18-months research was titled, ‘Reinvigorating Igbo Entrepreneurial Behaviour Through Enhanced Apprenticeship Scheme in Onitsha Markets, Anambra State’ and was sponsored by Dr. Obiorah Okonkwo, through his Pro-Value Humanity Foundation.

The presentation took place on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, at ASUU-NAU Secretariat of the institution, Orient Daily reports. 

The research team comprised 5-man member including, Prof. Nkemdili Au. Nnonyelu (Principal Investigator), Prof. Ezimma Nnabuife, Dr. Chinedu Onyeizugbe, Dr. Rosemary Anazodo and Dr. Blessing Onyima (Co-Principal Investigators). The research team also employed over 50 research assistants, this paper gathered.

Presenting the research findings, the Principal Investigator, Prof. Nnonyelu, decried the decline in Igbo apprenticeship scheme, which, he said, was because of devaluation of family values and unbridled quest for materialism. To make the scheme more attractive, he postulated that the apprenticeship scheme be reconceptualised to eliminate any form of stigma attached to the ‘Igba Boyi’ model.

The principal investigator said, “Majority of Igbo traders in Onitsha went through the tutelage of ‘Igba Boyi’ under different masters, and this was critical to their business success.

“The study reconceptualised the ‘Igba Boyi’ model as ‘Apprenticepreneurship’ or as ‘Nkwado Ogaranya’, as a way of sustaining the values behind the Igbo spirit of enterprise. “We also found that the devaluation of family values and the new orientation of get-rich-quick mentality were some of the causative factors that have affected the state of Igbo apprenticeship”.

Nnonyelu, a professor of industrial relations, then noted that apprenticeship had helped to inculcate values and advance entrepreneurs as co-creators of wealth and employers of labour, stressing the need to restore the lost glory of apprenticeship practice in Igboland. He said Igbo have, over the years, been pacesetters in commercial and other entrepreneurial activities.

He said the research was a product over two years journey and thanked the benefactor for providing the N15 million research grant, even as he commended his team for their dedication and commitment throughout the research period. He said the research would be an interface between the academic institution, the business school, and the industry.

Dr. Okonkwo, while responding, called for the immediate implementation of findings of the research, which, according to him, would go a long way in reducing the unemployment rate in Anambra state by 50 per cent, or at least, provide a leeway for youths to thrive in businesses.

He, a gubernatorial candidate for Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) in the November 6 Anambra election, reiterated the need to rebuild ethical infrastructure and value reorientation of youths to restore the lost glory of Igbo apprenticeship scheme in Anambra state, South East and beyond. 

The benefactor said the gesture was a way of giving back to society, especially having had a short stint in business in Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra state. He noted that entrepreneurs need both financial and intellectual capital to thrive, hence, the need for mentorship and tutelage to take youths out of the streets and reduce poverty.

The chairman of Pro-Value Humanity Foundation, then, added that the outcome of the research would revitalise the seeming dying spirit of apprenticeship in the region, assuring his continued support to the intellectual community if elected as the next Governor of Anambra State. 

Speaking on his 10-point agenda for economic and social transformation, the ZLP gubernatorial candidate decried the poor conditions of teachers and intellectuals, and assured that he would give due attention to teachers at all levels. He said he would change the school curriculum into skill-based, measuring up with the demands of the 21st century. He, therefore, urged his audience to vote him as the next governor of Anambra state, come November 6, assuring a quality representation. 

In a remark, the Director, Unizik Business School (UBS), Prof. Emma Okoye, thanked the benefactor for his commitment and financial support, even as he urged him to extend such support to other Igbo states like Abia, with highest clusters of SMEs. He said the research would help to solve problems facing businesses in the region, and thanked the research team for their painstaking effort. He said UBS is equipped with quality and expertise needed to undertake all forms of research, business proposals and plans.  

While declaring the event open, the university vice-chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, represented by the deputy vice-chancellor (Academic), Prof. Frederick Odibo, said Igbo constitute a life wire of commerce in Nigeria and have contributed to the growth of entrepreneurship internationally, noting that the enterprising nature of the region could be traced to ‘Igba Boyi’ scheme. He thanked the benefactor, and the team for delivering on time, while expressing optimism that the outcome of the research would further strengthen the leading role of Igbo race in commerce.

Dr. Onyeizugbe, who spoke on the research methodology, said the research employed a concurrent mixed approach, and listed Main Market, Ochanja Market, Bridge Market, Spare Parts Market and Building Material Markets as five markets studied in the course of the research. 

Onyeizugbe, who doubles as the deputy director of UBS, remarked that the research would help to institute structure to enhance Igbo apprenticeship and entrepreneurship to bring back wealth to the state, and expressed optimism that with time, the research would be expanded to other markets in the south east.

Prof. Nnabuife, had, in a discussion of the results of the research, said the implementation of the research findings would revive the declining Igbo apprenticeship scheme in Anambra state and beyond, while noting that apprenticeship had become a global phenomenon. 

Earlier, Dr. Onyima, a member of the research team, x-rayed the qualitative data collection approach employed in the study, noting that it was not enough to use only a quantitative approach. 

Orient Daily reports that the event was preceded by a maiden town hall meeting of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University community and the ZLP gubernatorial aspirant, Dr. Obiorah Okonkwo, on the state of polity. The event was held at the institution’s auditorium, where Prof. Uche Nwogwugwu, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, represented the vice-chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone.

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