Over 40,000 youths have been taken off the streets in the State of Osun since the establishment of the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) in 2011. Solomon Odeniyi engages the Boss of the scheme Col. Sam Oyewole
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 having 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 taking the oath office he was able to launch the OYES scheme where the first batch were admitted. The formation was as a result of the high rate of unemployment among the youth. He saw that the situation was not healthy for the state’s development and since 2011 he launched the scheme we have been able to do three more . This year another 20,000 would be admitted.
Criteria for OYES
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. 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’re admitted into the scheme, all that is required is that you must reside in the state. There 23 states order than Osun participating in the OYES scheme.
OYES is a volunteer scheme and by international best practice all volunteer’s scheme may or may not earn money because we are quite aware that the youth we are taking in as volunteers do need a stipend to buy the rudimentary items of living so they are paid 10,000 which many may think is small however, majority only work three hours per day that’s 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. Many of our cadets have taken up this philosophy called MSI which is Multiple Sources of Income by the time you have finished with the task each day you must go and find something else to do and most cadets have keyed into this and 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.
Benefits of the scheme
It is one of the ways a youth can render his services to the state and to humanity and the community which he lives in. 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 even it is more than collaboration because this in some cases do not last more than six months it is just a temporary deployment and after that they are likely to be disengaged but we take them through exist program training , during this training they are taught something new after the two years volunteer works they will go and be able to earn more money than whatever they earned in OYES and their MSI after two years
There are array of activities spanning through all artisan works, agricultural value chain, ICT and even allowing them to further in their education and in preparation for that you would recall that the 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 Technical Village in Ilesa. Many went to Abuja for renewable energy training and there are others engaged in comparative studies in Rwanda and Kenya. Our cadets are in many universities and higher institutions of learning towards making them a robust human being so that after the two years they can stand on their own.
The Effects of These on the State
I will divide this into the tangible and intangible benefits. The tangible ones are that the restlessness dominant among the youth has been considerably reduced. I can make bold to say that in the over seven years that the programme has been in existence there has not been any riot in the state or protest which means our cadets are teachable. We have some of our cadets earning more money that the regular employees in any system because they have been taught to manage their income, 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. Hunger has always been out of poverty, it should be housing. Many of this young people that are landlords do not just own land 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 at over N4million. He started with taking bike to campus to deliver gas. He is now an owner of his own pickup van and three points to sell gas. We also have Dr. Mofolake Kehinde, a PhD holder who was in OYES and was 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 pray that those ones that are successful will be a bright light that would serve as a source of inspiration. Now to the intangible, all our streets are clean, the inter and intra cities roads are well maintained the veggies on both the left are well kept. The intangible is felt in the economy of the state. The velocity of money changing hands is said to have increased. This increase gives room for general prosperity. For example 20,000 of my cadets that earn N10000 a month each are not likely to go to Lagos to party. He stays here and spends the money. The velocity assists in reducing poverty in the state. Another of the intangible benefit is that of the National Bureau of Statistics declaration that Osun has three per cent unemployment rate, the lowest in the whole federation. While the average for the state was 25% in 2014 and the average hitherto 2010 in Osun state was over 12% . I am not saying it is only OYES that has made this possible, but the OYES scheme is a greater part of that. If you look at the Social Security Investment Programmes in this state OYES is part of the scheme as well as other program that are of benefit to youths in the state all these cumulatively, add up to give Osun the three per cent.
Talking about security there are hardly armed robbery attacks in the state. The youths 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 working.
Also in the area of health, the indices for wellness have been far higher and better than many other states, because we are able to keep our streets neat.
Another benefit is that 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. Take for example many governors sent representatives to Osun in 2012/13 to come and study with a view to establish a scheme similar to this. We had representative from Niger, Zamfara, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Kwara , Ondo and Oyo. The World Bank saw the relevance of OYES as the youth unemployment solution and they came to understudy us and they came up with YESSO. From the name it sounds similar and they are not bothered by it. They claim it was borrowed from the OYES but decided to name theirs YESSO and they got over 36 million dollars to establish YESSO in the states of the federation. The federal government under Goodluck also came to understudy OYES and they started with YOUWIN, added SURE-P and other programmes. Under Buhari the engagement of youth through MPOWER is a direct study and duplication of what OYES is doing. These benefits cumulatively make our youths more robust.
The ongoing recruitment
The training has started on the 27th of August. We have had 42,000 cadets under our belt that 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 schools 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 improving education in the state 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 look at women as directed by the governor. The reasons are that there are more females than males in the state. Also women are more responsible than men and considering the fact women are more likely to make more mileage than men given resources to start with. Sixty per cent of women are taken into the OYES scheme. OYES is divided into local governments and we take the 60 per cent from all the local governments. What we do is to give command to the system to generate a particular number of cadets with 60% females in a given a local government.
Allocation of Cadets to Local Governments
We allocate cadets to the various local governments in the state by weighing the population as well as the land mass and the requirements in each local government. When we get these numbers together and the bias for women has also been considered they are ready ed for the trainings.
What are the Trainings Like?
The training lasts for three 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, social cultural economic which is class room based. We have our instructors and our resource persons coming from various higher institutions some of which are doctors and professors and other responsible and innovative persons. Their stay in the class is after they have had a rudimentary parade training drill. We also have what we call train the trainers these are those who gone through various trainings in order to prepare them for the task of training our cadets. They must also be aware of what it takes to live an economic independent lives and how to become a successful entrepreneurs these are the things we take them through within the three weeks.
Mechanism to Track Disengaged Cadets?
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. Even in the armed forces in the country you will find participants of the OYES scheme. Many of them are in the DSS. I know of two in the EFCC. Many are now farmers If you go into the civil service both state and federal level. Let me tell you that 60 per cent of the employment in SUBEB is allocated to the OYES cadets. All these are not only to tell you how we have been monitoring our cadets who have passed out but to tell you that even while they were inside they are been looked after.
There have been a lot 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 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’. There is a sharp difference between hard work and hard life. The governor directed that our cadets should know the value and ethos and benefits of hard work but please don’t ever give these cadets hard lives. While hard life will kill within a snap of the finger but with hard work you will always get something to eat perhaps, you may not be rich but you will never lack anything however, you may be fantastically rich like one of my cadets who is into gas distribution and another one in Iwo who is a plumber has been going from city to city from Abuja to Lagos to work on new houses.