Apart from the new intake of another 20,000 youths, over 40,000 have been taken off the streets in the state of Osun and have been productively engaged since the establishment of Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme in 2011. In this interview with SOLOMON ODENIYI, the Commandante of the scheme, Colonel Enibukun Oyewole (rtd) bears his mind among others on the ups and downs of the programme. Excerpts:
The Birth of OYES
OYES, being the brain child of Governor Rauf Aregbesola was conceived as part of his six points integral action plan in 2005 while nurturing the ambition to contest the 2007 gubernatorial election where he promised to take in 20,000 unemployed youths and engage them profitably in his first 100 days in office. When he got his mandate on the 26th of November 2010, within 98 days of the administration, he was able to launch the OYES scheme where the first batch was admitted. The formation was as a result of the high rate of unemployment among youths when he was vying for the governorship position. He saw that the situation was not healthy for the state’s development and since 2011 that the scheme was lunched; we have been able to do three more. Presently another set of 20,000 beneficiaries are undergoing training and would be admitted.
Criteria for Beneficiaries
The criteria are very simple. We first look at the international definition of a youth which gave it as those within the ages of 18-35. So anyone who wishes to engage as a Cadet must fall within the stated age brackets and must have minimum of a secondary school leaving certificate.
You do not have to be an indigene of the state before you are admitted into the scheme, all that is required is that you must reside in the state. As I speak, there are people from 23 states other than Osun participating in the OYES scheme.
Misconception About the Scheme
OYES is a volunteer scheme and by international best practice, volunteer schemes may or may not earn you money, but because we are quite aware that the youths we are taking in as volunteers need stipend to buy the rudimentary items of living, they are paid N10,000 which many may think is small. However, majority of the volunteers only work for hours per day, between 7am and 10am. An able body that has gone through our trainings and is aware of the Omoluabi and Apalara ethos is not likely to go and sleep after 10am, perhaps, what is natural for him to do is to find something productive to do again for the day. Many of our cadets have taken up this philosophy that Mr Governor call MSI which is Multiple Sources of Income. By the time you are finished with the task each day, you must go and find something else to do and most cadets have keyed into this.
So, between the period of 11am and 5pm, I can assure you that those who engaged themselves in something else are earning more than the N10,000 stipends given to them and that is the essence of the training they are exposed to. During this training, they are taught something new and after the two years volunteer works, they will go and be able to earn more money than whatever they earn in OYES.
Benefits Of The Scheme
It is one of the ways a youth can render his services to the state and the generality of the community he lives in. Also, as being said, a man is a progressive being as he continues to increase in education, experience and exposure. We try to expose our cadets to collaboration in the areas of serving other agencies and receiving some extra money, but above all, building their résumés to be able to meet requirements for experience, that is called collaboration. This in some cases do not last more than six months and after that they are likely to be disengaged but we take them through existing programmes.
Existing Programmes The Cadets Are Taking Through
There are array of activities spanning through all artisan works, agricultural value chain, ICT and even allowing them to further in their education. You would recall that Mr Governor sent some cadets to Germany for Agricultural training, some went to India and Pakistan for ICT and Info Geometric, some to Ghana for ICT among others. Many are now employed into Adulawo Technology Village in Ilesa. Many went to Abuja for renewable energy training and there are comparative studies to Rwanda, Kenya and on and on. You will also find our cadets in many of our universities and higher institutions of learning. All these are geared towards making them a robust human being so that after the two years, they can stand on their own.
Effects On The State
I will divide this into the tangible and intangible benefits. The tangible ones are that the restlessness dominant among youth has been considerably reduced. Also, we have some of our cadets earning more money than the regular employees of any system because they have been taught how to manage their income, some through contributions, some through cooperative, loans, they have been encouraged to go and buy land and build houses. Many of these young people are not just having lands but have built their houses, these are just the tangible things. Let me give a testimony of a cadets who is into the supply of cooking gas at Ife who now has a business valued over N4 million. He started with taking bike to campus to deliver gas, he is now an owner of his own pickup and three gas outlets. We also have Dr. Mofolake Kehinde, a PhD holder who was in OYES and was encouraged and shown the way and given the opportunity to study at the University of Ilorin.
I am not saying all my cadets are like that, there are still some we are labouring on but we hope that the successful ones will serve as sources of inspiration to others. A part of the tangible is that all our streets are clean, the inter and intra cities roads are well maintained, the verges on both side are well kept .
As for the intangible, first is the effect on the economy of the state. When there is a high velocity of money changing hands, the velocity of money is said to have increased and it is only the increase in the velocity of money that gives room for general prosperity of a community. For example, if a man has N200 million and he keeps it to himself without exchanging hands, the money is of no use to anyone but the N200million earned by 20,000 of my cadets in a month at N10,000 each, what do you think they are going to do with it, will such cadet go to Lagos to party? No. He stays here and spends the money. The velocity assists in reducing poverty in the state.
Another instance of the intangible benefit is that of the National Bureau of Statistics declaration that Osun has 3% unemployment rate, the lowest in the whole federation. I am not saying it is only OYES that has made this possible, but the OYES scheme is a greater part of it. One reason being that cadets in OYES are not youth that are just standing aloof, they are a group of people that are affecting other youths that are not in OYES, the domino effects of what we are doing radiate to other youths in the state. If you look at the Social Security Investment Programmes in this state, OYES is part of the scheme as well as other programmes that are of benefit to youths, all these add up.
Talking about security, there are hardly armed robbery attack that has been successful in the state, as youths themselves are very wary of committing crime or doing anything that would put them into trouble. This is because they are aware that what they are looking for they would be able to get it if they work.
Also, in the area of health, the indices of wellness has been far higher and better than many other States, this is because we are able to keep our streets clean which intrinsically have affected human beings.
Another benefit is that organizations have come to understudy the scheme on how it could serve as a template to solving the high rate of unemployment among youth. Take for example, many governors sent representatives to Osun in 2012/13 to come and study, with a view to establishing a scheme similar to this. We had representative from Niger, Zamfara, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Kwara, Ondo, Oyo among others. More than that was the World Bank which saw the relevance of OYES as the youth unemployment solution and after a lot of understudy, they came up with YESSO. From the name, it sounds similar and they are not bothered and they got over 36 million dollars to establish YESSO in states of the federation.
The Federal government under Goodluck Jonathan also came to understudy OYES and they started with YOUWIN, added SURE-P and other programmes. Under Muhammadu Buhari administration, the engagement of youth through NPOWER is a direct study and duplication of what OYES is doing. You might not consider this as benefits, yet, they have cumulatively made our youth robust.
The Ongoing Recruitment
The recruitment is the fourth batch. During the first batch 20,000 were admitted, second batch was a fill up only 2000 persons were taken in. 20,000 were admitted for the third batch and same number will be taken for the ongoing recruitment which the training has started on the 27th of August. We have had 42,000 cadets under our belt that have passed through the training of OYES. Over 250,000 applied in the first batch, 150,000 for the second, 75 for the third and over 80,000 have applied for the ongoing fourth batch.
The application is free and internet based, so there is no contact with anybody. After submitting your application electronically via our website, we automatically generate those who have degrees from higher institutions of learning. Why we do this is that whatever number of them we have will be deployed to school to teach, this being one of the recommendations given at the education summit in the state in 2011 which showed us the way to go in improving education without straining ourselves. Volunteers with degrees will be taken to schools to help impact our pupils, it is not debatable. However, we will carry out verification from our end to ascertain if truly an applicant possesses the degree. After this, we have bias for women as directed by Mr Governor. The reasons are that there are more female than male in the state.
Allocation Of Cadets To Local Governments
We allocate cadets to various local governments in the state by weighing the population as well as the land mass and the requirements in each council, with which we allocate the number of cadet that will go to each council.
What Is The Trainings Like?
The training lasts for 3 weeks. It is meant to break down the young people, mould them, make them responsible to be able to respond to simple instructions, be time conscious and be able to turn out decently. These are the basic requirements for any human being.
We also train them in consciousness, awareness, socially, culturally, economically which is class room based. We have our instructors and our resource persons coming from various higher institutions, some of whom are doctors, professors and other responsible and innovative persons. Their stay in classes is after they have had rudimentary parade training. They must also be aware of what it takes to live an attitudinal lives, what it takes to live an economic independent lives and how to become a successful entrepreneurs, these are the things we take them through.
Mechanism To Look After Disengaged Cadets?
I can assure you, if you go to higher institutions of learning, you will find participants of OYES that have been able to save up to further their studies. If you also check the artisans in the state, you find out that many who participated in the OYES scheme are doing well there. Same can be said of ICT. I make bold to say that even in the armed forces in the country, you would find participants of the scheme. Many of them are in SSS. I know of two in the EFCC. Many are now farmers, if you go into the civil service both state and Federal level, they are there. Let me also tell you that 60% of the employment in SUBEB is allocated to OYES cadets, the same with TEPO. Greater than that is that OYES cadets are delights of employers, because they are discipline, time conscious, aware of themselves and their environments among others.
There have been lots of challenges and part of them is the ego of some of my cadets who are degree holders from premiere universities in the country. They feel so big that earning a degree does not require them bending down to use their hands, but I usually give them an example that I am far older than them , I have more degrees than they do and I am not afraid to bend down to work. If you have been in any of the OYES gathering, our battle cry is ‘OYES OYES’ and they respond by saying hardwork hardwork .While hard life will kill within a snap of the finger, with hardwork you will always get something to eat perhaps, you may not be rich but you will never lack anything.
What Other Challenges Do You Face?
The misconception is another one which I have earlier answered. Apart from that there are still a few percentage that are lagging behind in the progress March. We recognise them while we have the understanding that human beings cannot move at the same pace, we are being patient and tenacious with them and we remain passionate about their situations just as we are working hard to bring them up.