December 30
08:01 2020

Onari Duke is a Nigerian lawyer and philanthropist. She is the founder and Chairman of ‘Child Survival and Development Organisation of Nigeria’ (CSDON) a non-profit organization taxed with promoting the well-being of Nigerian women, children and in particular cancer patients.

Onari was born and raised in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Nigeria. She was the former First lady of Cross River state and is the wife of former Governor of Cross River State Donald Duke. Onari is a graduate of Law from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. It was during her period there, she met up with her husband who was also a graduate of the Law Faculty from ABU. She is also a certified mediation/dispute consultant.

Onari is the managing partner of Duke and Bob Manuel; a Law firm situate in the heart of Calabar, Cross River state.

The intention to create a children Hospital in Nigeria came after she had almost lost a child due to the lack of speedy medical care and the exorbitant medical rates available in some American medical centers and hospitals. Currently, Onari serves as a member of the Board of the United Bank of Africa (UBA).

In 1999, when we arrived in Calabar upon Donald’s resumption of office as Governor of Cross River State, we came to understand that because people in the state preferred civil service over entrepreneurship, the State was often described as a ‘civil service state’.

We reasoned that to record reasonable achievement, we must set a foundation of belief and ownership in the minds of our people. We were convinced that before any economic infrastructure could be developed, a collective shift in thinking was imperative. This meant a mindset shift from civil service traditionalism to entrepreneurship.

Consequently, incentives like tax freedoms and government patronage of products and services offered by indigenes were extended. The era witnessed the emergence of the Mirage Hotel, Channel View Hotel, Le Chateau Hotel, Ekondo Bank and other SMEs.

Donald’s vision was to create an entrepreneurial economy for Cross River State and make it Nigeria’s leading creative and entrepreneurial state, and open to new ideas with people.

Like the Asian Tiger economies, Donald learnt to do what developed economies did, but at a lower cost. He was therefore able to attract a continuous influx of investment to propel the state’s economic growth.

Unfortunately, there was a decline in the momentum gained which may have led to a drop in businesses in the State. However, I strongly believe that a good number of Cross Riverians are poised to seize the opportunities being presented by the government and other activities like the Carnival to operate successful businesses rather than wait for civil service jobs.

All over the world, most of the economies that are vibrant are the ones with a deliberate policy of promoting SMEs. Through the UNCTAD Empretec initiative, we carried out capacity building interventions for SMEs and held a series of trainings on managing businesses successfully. I am happy to share that two of the businesses that attended our flagship 6-week programme, HiQuality Bakery and Tuns 7 are today doing very well.

The South-South Entrepreneurship Development Centre is doing a marvelous job and I hope that most of our youths are taking advantage of the Centre’s presence. Had it been situated in any of the other six South South states, our participation would have required the payment of transport and hotel accommodation. So, I urge all our young people aspiring to be entrepreneurs to take full advantage of this opportunity to get basic business education at an incredibly low price subsidized by CBN.

A person who is willing and able to convert an idea or invention into a successful innovation is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about taking risks and is widely regarded as the engine for job creation and economic growth.

Let our young leverage the power of technology to start their small businesses. With recent advances in technology such as the internet, business opportunities have increased for young people. While some people may still have reservations about the impact of the internet, its transformative effects on business are evident. A huge percentage of businesses by young people is internet-based.

Regrettably, our school system prepares and furnishes our children to become job seekers, instead of job providers. That is why it is pertinent to begin the mindset change toward entrepreneurship from our young people in school toward making the next the generation a creative and innovative people. This will help to inculcate in students, a sense of confidence and preparedness to navigate the real world after graduation.

On my part, I am facilitating an Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDIn) in Calabar to create space for the development of creative ideas taking into consideration the peculiarities of our immediate environment such as the Carnival, our solid minerals, the huge forests resources, the rivers and many natural and human resources available to us.

The main objective is to encourage and enhance the probability of students becoming successful business owners through the creation of products, ideas production, packaging, or sales as well as to motivate students by introducing direct practices in various craft industry, where they can learn to create products and measure the power of their creativity and imagination. Furthermore, it will provide opportunities for students to participate and demonstrate their works in the exhibition of SME products that will directly help their confidence and improve their competitiveness.

For us to achieve our dream of an entrepreneurial economy, Government, the civil society and individuals must all work together. Government has a role to play in creating an enabling environment through making business-friendly policies. For the government to truly demonstrate that it is committed to entrepreneurship, our public office must have a business perspective. They need to understand the impact that government rules can have on businesses.

Processes also have to be put in place as a guide for the citizens. In many ways, our policies will only be as pro-enterprise as the way we administer them. Therefore, when we design our work processes, we need to think from the viewpoint of the business end-user, and not just as administrators. Businesses want transparency of rules, convenience, and as far as practical, certainty in processes.

The other critical variable is the people for whom policies and processes are made. Notwithstanding the above, even if we have the best policies, processes and best business environment, it would amount to nothing if we do not have the entrepreneurs – the people themselves. We need more people who view entrepreneurship as a viable and attractive career option.

Entrepreneurship is not confined to the business world. We also want entrepreneurial public officers. There are opportunities to be entrepreneurial and innovative in your daily work. Every time you have to devise a solution for some problem, you have a chance to think out of the box, take a risk and propose something innovative!

Challenges of Entrepreneurship

Whether it is lack of financing, extremely hard business climate, absence of consistent energy and power, corruption, the very long hours, legal hurdles, crippling tax burdens, or the huge cost of insurance, doing business in Nigeria can be very discouraging.

Benefits Of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has a lot of benefits both for the entrepreneurs and the society in which these businesses are carried out. Some of these include:

  1. Being in control of your life: Owning a business puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. Entrepreneurship provides entrepreneurs a chance to take decisions that suits their own wishes.
  2. Opportunity to make a difference: Creating your business is akin to creating a world of your own and making a difference. This is sometimes expressed in the form of social entrepreneurship, which focuses on finding solutions to some of the most pressing and challenging problems of society.
  3. To make a profit: Owning a business provides entrepreneurs a chance to offer services at a mark up. This, over time, becomes profitable. Reaping high profits by being an entrepreneur is one of the most important factors that motivate people to become one and take up all the challenges associated with it. Owning a business or a firm is the best way towards accumulation of wealth.
  4. Helps people work to their full potential: Many entrepreneurs just merely turn their passion to business. They find their work to be extremely enjoyable. They consider their business as an instrument of self-actualization and self-expression. Owning a firm or a business acts as a test for the creativity skills, abilities, and determination of an entrepreneur and is taken up as a challenge towards success.
  5. Offers a chance to pursue their interests: Most entrepreneurs don’t believe their work to be actual work. Most of them establish businesses closely associated with their interests. As such, there is no particular age for retirement of entrepreneurs.


The time to re-make Cross River State an entrepreneurial economy, is now. Remarkably, in the midst of the apparent recession, business opportunities remain. Whether in the leisure, health, agriculture, finance or any other sector, let each identify where their God-given talent and passion lie and begin to give expression to it. Let’s all come on board, and forge ahead in our year of jubilee and Let somebody praise the Lord for the gift of a state as endowed as Ours.

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December 2020