Joe Ukemenam is a Professor of Criminology and has been a member of the Employment Tribunals of England & Wales since 1990. He currently serves the United Nations as the Expert on African Development & Confliction Resolution. He is the Chairman of the Africa Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS UK); Chairman of the Enugu State Diaspora in the United Kingdom and Ireland and a Visiting Senior Researcher at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Nigeria.
He is the Chief Executive of Reform Corporation – an International Development agency as well as a Mental Health Act Manager at the East London NHS Foundation Trust. Joe is also a Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Labour Executive member, leading the BAME Labour Mentoring and Political Education programmes. Joe is author of several academic books and publications focusing on African SMEs in the British Economy, Policing in Britain and the Dilemma of Information Logic in Britain Up to 1991. His current research interests are crime fighting in Nigeria.
1) What is your current position?
I am a Professor of Criminology, a member of the Employment Tribunal of England and Wales; CEO of the Reform Corporation and the United Nations Special Envoy on African Development.
2) What are your proudest achievements?
One stands out. To have served as a boy soldier at the age of 10 in the Nigeria/Biafra war (1967-1970) and to come through the three years of the war’s trauma to bag a PhD in the UK, while self-financing my education. I have more but this impacted my life the most.
3) What inspires you?
The pioneering works I do and those that need to be done. For example, I set up and ran the first Diversion from Custody for Mentally Disordered Black Offenders in this country. I became a founding member of several black self-organisations including: the NUJ Black Members Council; British Society of Criminologists, European Society of Criminologists, Association of Race Equality Advisers; Association of Black Probation Officers; TUC Black Members; SERTUC, African Communities HIV Forum amongst others. Currently, I have over 650 Black community organisations and businesses in UK and Africa for whom I deliver management consultancy interventions, mentoring in business development, capacity building and investment readiness initiatives.
4) What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
The biggest obstacle I have encountered is not having significant numbers of people before me to assist and support my development. As such, I spent needless amounts of time searching, navigating and inventing the wheels at nearly every corner of my career. At most points, I did not even have anybody to provide me with a simple reference for a position. For example, when I wanted to join the NUJ in the 1980s, after graduating with Higher Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication in London, there were not many people to sponsor and support my membership of the NUJ, yet I needed it at the time in order to secure a job in the media.
5) Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
I am a religious person, and can only say God and my father because no single person lifted me up or showed me the way forward. It was that bad. The words of wisdom from my father assisted me not to give up and to seek alternative ways of navigating around the challenges I faced.
6) What is the best aspect about your current role?
The best part is the opportunity it provides for me to lift others up in a way that I was not able to experience. People can now seek and receive quality advice, guidance and intervention directly from associating with me or consulting with me. This is true in the areas of criminal justice, employment relations, business development, access to business finance, international development, community building and development. With these, I am able to reach out far and wide into the communities touching individuals, communities, governments and nations.
7) And the worst?
That would be the glass ceiling syndrome that exist for black people in this country plus deep rooted discrimination. The existence of these have hindered and excluded generations consistently.
8) What are your long term goals?
I would like to be able to positively influence and assist more lives and people at most levels of the society. I would appreciate public appointments which would benefit from my experience and skills which in turn would enable me to do more for the diverse societies.
9) If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change? I would change discriminatory practices because they impact negatively on all aspects and sectors of society, and undermine British development and progress in real significant terms.
10) If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why?
Nelson Mandela as he epitomises wisdom and compassion in a crazy world.