BY NIYI AJIBADE
Most likely the most memorable programme of the outgoing Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s government is the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) programme.
Conceived as part of Rauf Aregbesola’s six points integral action plan in 2005 while planning 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 November 26, 2010, within 98 days of taking the oath of office, he was able to launch the OYES scheme and the first batch were admitted. The formation was as a result of the high rate of unemployment among the youth when he was vying for the governorship position. He saw that the situation was not healthy for the state’s development and since then, the Aregbesola government had launched three more batches while another 20, 000 were just admitted last week.
The scheme defines a youth, as someone between 18 and 35 and it is open to all residents of the state. Enibukun Oyewole, a retired colonel and the Commandante of the Scheme, recently said that people from 23 other states in Nigeria resident in Osun are participating in the programme. Though a volunteer scheme, meaning that participants are not normally entitled to any gratification, they are paid a monthly stipend of N10, 000 that some may think as being too little but the youth work only for three hours daily. Another benefit is the multiplier effect this stipend has on the local economy in the state since the money is definitely not one that the participants can use to junket all over. A story was told of a young man who graduated five years earlier and was still being housed by his father who joined the scheme and handed over the entire stipend to the father. The old man, speechless and could only cry wondering who helped his son to be strong enough to give him money which he has never done in his life till then.
The participants, also called cadets, are given other forms of training before being deployed. Some include artisanal training, agricultural value added chain, information and computer technology among others. They are also taught how to write more compelling resume which positions them for better jobs as they exit the scheme. Some were also fortunate to be sent for further training in Nigeria and outside and they are since contributing their quota to the growth of our society while they have become more responsible citizens. Another benefit according to Oyewole is that the OYES has helped tremendously in combating the usual youth restiveness which has become endemic especially with the high level of unemployment in our country. Osun State has never witnessed any form of riot since the scheme started as the saying goes that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
“In addition to that is that we have some of our cadets earning more money that the regular employees of any system because they have been taught how to mange their income, some through contributions some through cooperative loans they have been encouraged to go and buy land and to build houses hitherto the Yoruba’s axiom that when hunger has been out of poverty the rest is laid to rest, no hunger has always been out of poverty, it should be housing. Many of this young people that are landlords not just owing lands but have built their houses, these are just the tangible things. Let me give a testimony of a cadet who is into the supply of cooking gas at Ife who now has a business valued over four million. He started with taking bike to campus to deliver cooking gas; he is now an owner of his own pickup and 3 points to sell gas. 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, “ Oyewole added.
Another benefit is that some organisations have come to understudy the scheme on how it could serve as a template to solving the high rate of unemployment among the youth. 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, and Oyo among others. More than that was the World Bank, which saw the relevance of OYES as the youth unemployment solution, and they came after a lot of understudy they came up with YESSO. From the name it sounds similar and they are not bothered by it they claimed it was borrowed from the OYES but decided to name theirs OYES and they got over 36 million dollars to establish YESSO in the state of the federation. The Federal government under President Goodluck Jonathan also came to understudy OYES and they started with YOUWIN, added SURE-P and other programs. Under Buhari 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 recent recruitment was the fourth batch into the Scheme. During the first batch 20,000 were admitted, second was a fill up as only 2000 persons were taken in. 20,000 were admitted for the third batch and same number will be taken for the ongoing recruitment of which the training started on August 27. We have had 42,000 cadets under our belt that has 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 scheme is biased in favour of females as 60% of the total intake to be women while 60% of the total intake too is from the local governments in the state. After a training, which last three weeks, the cadets are posted to local government areas while those with degrees are posted to schools.
The different challenges that the OYES is facing notwithstanding, it is a signature scheme that every Osun person should be proud of and one of the signature achievements of the Aregbesola government.