By Adewole Adeoye
One reason Gov. Rauf Aregbesola is succeeding in Osun State is by taking care of a large number of youths in his state, home to 3.4 million people (2006 census), in which at least 60 per cent of that population comprises the youth. Youths are restive, irresistible and could easily be swept into criminality if left idle. Aregbesola knew they could be a time-bomb and could disrupt his programme, so, he diffused the ‘bomb’.
Today, the state is reaping abundantly from the spin-off of the initiative tagged OYES, or Osun State Youth Empowerment Scheme, put in place as a stop-gap to cut down on unemployment and infuse into the youth positive work ethics and culture, discipline, tenacity of purpose, self-sustenance, resourcefulness and respect for the environment. The state is the safest in the country in terms of crime rate, and it is the clear leader in employment, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Youth restiveness is hardly in the front burner and prostitution hardly exists.
This also translates into good governance as Aregbesola, already a focused man, is able to forge ahead in executing his six-point agenda for the state, an enhanced co-existence among the various ethnic and religious groups, while entrepreneurs are at peace in their business transactions. The magic wand is rapidly and tangibly contributing to the state’s economic growth as prevailing peace is attracting investors, while the governor is busy establishing more industries equally in the three senatorial zones.
It is much easier to destroy than to build. Only, and only the Federal Government could say exactly how much it spends daily in executing the wars against insurgency in the North-east, militancy and kidnappings in the south, an amount which could have been channeled to other useful purposes if youths in those regions had been taken care of in the first place.
However, arm-chair critics say the project is too demeaning and condescending, for instance, for a graduate to be cleaners, forgetting that depending on who handles the knife, it could save lives if used by a surgeon but could destroy if handled by a robber. The unemployed youths know where the shoes pinch. On acquiring the needed skills offered by the scheme, many of them have exploited it to their maximum advantage as many more have continued with their life ambitions in tertiary institutions or in other forms of gainful engagements.
Many more have established small and medium scale industries through co-operative societies, becoming employers of labour, instead of being weighed down by frustration and depression, capable of turning them into social outcasts. It is a part-time job of two to three hours daily, with participants reporting for work thrice weekly. Corps members have no offices, thus saving the state government enormous amount in running the paraphernalia of office; they are only smartly kitted for group identity and morale-boosting. After a week in training, they are deployed to productive services in identified areas of socio-economic lives and paid a monthly allowance of N10,000 to help them to cover basic needs. The N200 million spent monthly on the scheme has the tendency to reflate the economy as the amount largely circulates within the state. The cadets are work-ready, exceedingly competitive for the economy and the society and, while in service, they are armed with new skills, entrepreneurship and mentoring preparatory to a more gainful employment and challenges. They work in every part of the state.
Isaac Akinyele, 25-year-old pioneer of the scheme, is now an undergraduate at the ObafemiAwolowo University and for six years before the enrolment, a regular companion of Osogbo streets. In those years of joblessness and seeming directionless, he sometimes preferred to be dead. ‘’No one wanted to identify with me especially in the family and among friends, because once you showed up, they knew you were an additional burden. I once contemplated joining a criminal gang which operated outside the state, but I held back, believing in God and the governor,” he declared.
Twenty-eight-year-old Mukaila Alabi holds a higher national diploma certificate from Iree Polytechnic when he joined as a cadet. He has moved to the next level: now a teacher in one of the government secondary schools in Ilesha. ‘’Before I joined, (the scheme), I thought I was at the last bus stop of my life. Nothing just didn’t work for me, and because I am the first in a family of six children, I thought a spell had been cast on me. And if it was a spell at all, Ogbeni Rauf has removed it.”
It is time governments at local, state and federal levels adopted the good practice in removing their unemployment albatross. And as Mukaila put it, ‘’It is now time for us the youth, nay the people of the state, to reciprocate Aregbesola’s gesture by voting for him again, to carry on the good job, complete what he has started and take us to the Promise Land.’’
Adewole Adeoye is a public affairs analyst resident in Osogbo, Osun state