It is sad that the renovation of roads is considered a major achievement by our leaders, instead of human capital development that holds the key to moving us forward as a people and a nation
What is the greatest legacy an administration can leave in a state? Beyond the building of new roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure, there are other seemingly intangible social and human investments that have great impact on the lives of citizens and the capacity to transform the society. An example of such social investment programmes is the Osun State Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), under which thousands of youths in the state are trained and empowered to handle the challenges of life for their own self-development and for the benefit of the state.
READ ALSO: Osun recruits 20,000 youths for OYES scheme
Even in these dying days of the outgoing administration in the state, the government is not relenting on its novel social empowerment scheme as another set of 20,000 youths were recently engaged in the scheme and are at the moment in camp for their initial leadership training. The youths, who are between the ages of 18 and 35, will be in the camp for ten days receiving lectures on leadership; social, cultural and economic studies; attitudinal studies and physical training, to ensure their holistic development. As the OYES Commandant, Col. Enibukun Oyewole (rtd.) put it, the youths will be taught how to get jobs easily and how to be enterprising, economically independent, hardworking and virtuous, before they are deployed to local governments for service to their communities. A total of 42,000 youths were said to have participated in the scheme so far.
Many other bodies have recognised the value in this empowerment scheme as seen in the World Bank/Federal Government’s Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) and N-Power Programme. The ten thousand naira paid monthly to each of the participants for the two-year duration of the scheme has gone a long way in helping the participants as many of them saved it to establish economic ventures from which they are earning a living today.
OYES was launched in the early days of the Governor Rauf Aregbesola administration to check the high rate of youth unemployment in the state. The age bracket of the scheme is within the international definition of a youth (18-35). Youths from 23 of the country’s 36 states have participated in the scheme, which is not restricted to the youths of Osun State alone. The OYES success story has also been replicated in different forms at the national level through different social security investment programmes.
The programme is also believed to have boosted security in the states as many of the youths that would have been otherwise idle and used by unscrupulous persons for devious purposes in the state were productively engaged in the scheme. Activities of the cadets include artisanal works, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and agricultural value chain, which saw some of them travelling to Ghana, Spain, Pakistan and India and Germany. The training is also believed to have ended the era of frequent youth protests and brigandage in the state. The participants are also taught how to manage their money well, thereby laying a sound foundation for their economic future.
The OYES scheme has many success stories of cadets who have gone on to become economically independent. The stipends paid to them also helps to move the economy of the state forward, as the 200 million or so it pays to the participants monthly is spent on consumables within the state, thereby making small local businesses in the state to thrive, leading to a situation where the state was recognised as having the lowest poverty rate in the country and the third lowest unemployment rate, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The unemployment rate in the state reportedly dropped from 25 percent in 2014, to 12 percent in 2010, and 3 percent in 2018. Other gains of the scheme include the cleaner environment as some of the participants were involved in the clearing of roads and drainages.
Also among the success stories of the scheme are those of many of the participants who have gone on to establish their own businesses and are now leading successful lives. Also very important is the way the scheme impacts on the character of the participants. It teaches the youths the importance of community service. Life is all about service and it is important that youths are taught to be less self-interested, but committed to serving their communities and nation in whatever way they can. Many of the great leaders of the world were involved in community service and activities at the early stages of their lives. These helped to sharpen their interest in public service and leadership. Some of them, like the former
President of America, Barack Obama, rose to become very important personalities. Some actually became Presidents and other national leaders. The cadets are also taught the benefits of hard work and focus, which are becoming rare among today’s youths.
One lesson from the OYES scheme is that development is not only about the building of roads and bridges, which will eventually become dilapidated and have to be rebuilt. It is also about building character and inculcating in young persons a sense of responsibility and service to the community and the nation, which will last them throughout their lifetimes and eventually lead to the transformation of the society.
It is only when the right ethos and virtues are inculcated in our young persons that Nigeria can expect the youths of today to rise up to the challenges of tomorrow, contribute their quota to the development of the country and play the role of expected of them in taking the country to greater heights so that the future generations of Nigerians can have a brighter future.
It is sad that as Nigerians, we are still battling with the ordinary basic things of life such as the provision of food, potable water, roads and shelter. It is our inability to master the provision of these basic necessities that has made the building of roads a major achievement of our governments. After almost 58 years of our existence as a country, it is sad that the renovation of roads is considered a major achievement by our leaders, instead of human capital development that holds the key to moving us forward as a people and a nation.
In this regard, the good example of the Osun State government in trying to develop human capacity, especially of the youths is a good legacy that is worthy of emulation by other states in the country. It is also a legacy that should be sustained by succeeding administrations in the state.