He promised in 2006: “within the first hundred days of our assumption of office, we will engage 20,000 youths. We will give them means by which they can maintain their subsistence. Our youths will not roam the streets again when we become the governor of our state”.
I remember vividly. It was in December 2006, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola; as he was referred to then was addressing a quite overwhelming mammoth of people of Ikirun town, State of Osun. He made a number of promises- from agriculture to infrastructure, education, security, commerce, revenue generation, and all. But as he started to speak on Osun youths, one could easily read a changed emotion in his voice and face.
He expressed a strong and barely controllable emotion. He wondered why Nigeria’s future- the youth could be so unfortunate. He queried why successive governments would not see the need to stem insecurity through minimal engagement of the youths. He told the gathering then that two advantages are derivable when a government invest in the youths- peace and security as well as economic viability and growth.
Between 2007 and now, seven years have gone into history. However two major incidents attract due reflections. By the time Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was making that promise in Ikirun and several other places across the state, there were no striking records of insurgencies in Nigeria. Apart from the Niger Delta militant groups whose activities were contained within oil palavers and resource control questions, Nigeria was not so divided as it is getting today. We did not have Bokoharam insurgents; at least their activities had not come to the fore as it has today.
Ogbeni probably knew that the rising number of hopeless youths in the country; particularly in the northern region was reaching alarming records, so he made it prime in his electioneering discussions that Osun youths will not roam the streets lest their idle hands became the devil’s workshop.
When he was going all over the places, telling the world that 20,000 Nigerians will get something doing to fetch money for themselves every month, the PDP said it was mare fluke. “Bawo lo se fe se e” “How would he achieve that. Where would he get the money to pay them?, they jested. But Aregbesola had answers to their doubts. Innovation is the answer.
Innovation, is described as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements in-articulated needs. And it takes deep reflections, determination for positive change as well as experience over certain challenges for solutions to come. To Rauf, it was apparent when in 2005 he was drawing his action plans on how he intended to govern Osun. He actually completed drafts of his six integral action plans about three years before the 2007 elections.
At a time shortly before the 2007 elections, he was discussing with us after a rigorous political campaign. He asked wether anybody was giving the then unfolding situation in the country any serious thought- the fact that what he and his contemporaries enjoyed in term of youth development in the early seventies were no where again in Nigeria. “I fear that unless we re-cook the books of youth development in our land, our future is very bleak”, He told us as he tutored on why OYES must be the first major initiative of his government.
Today, the situation pays off for the state of Osun. Aregbesola has fulfilled the promise of youth engagement twice within one term !!! Two sets of 20,000 Osun youths, who hitherto were just roaming the streets for close to a decade under PDP have been engaged under Aregbesola’s government. This is accomplished through what experts call effective idea that is readily available to governments and society. This idea-OYES- is original and, as a consequence, new in governance. It breaks into the market or society of empowerment. And Osun government and the people are really ripping well from the scheme. How?
Between 2011 and now, N9 billion Naira has been spent on youth empowerment scheme in Osun. That includes the monthly allowances for beneficiaries, their kits and other logistics. The beneficiaries are resident in the state. So they spend their little income within Osun. They buy food, purchase drinking water, ride on ‘Korope’ and ‘Okada’, buy clothing and all. The kits they put on were sewn by Osun tailors. It is even interesting to note that the boots they wear is manufactured in Osogbo- in the leather work and footwear unit of Industrial Development Centre IDC; located around St. Charles Grammar School area of Osogbo. IDC is a Federal Government facility that had gone moribund before Aregbesola resuscitated it. Today the centre is a skill acquisition centre where anybody can go to learn a skill. A visit to the place is charming to any imagination.
The N9 billion Naira so far spent on the youth empowerment scheme of Aregbesola could have been ‘appropriated’ by his cronies, Instead of spending such huge money on Osun youth in three years, he could have made himself and a few of his; quite richer under any guise. But what would have become of the 40,000 Osun youths who today pray for this Ogbeni. Most probably, they would have formed another version of insurgents. They would have gone deep- intimidating the people of Osun. Yes. They would; because just before God answered prayers of Osun, situation had gone berserk- such that some miscreants have cultivated the habit of collecting what they tagged “security money” on weekly basis. They used to harass ware owners along MDS area and Akindeko axis of Osogbo. Business owners along these areas must part with some money to such miscreant youths every Friday or they risk loosing their goods. Osun was going that bad just before Aregbesola came on board. And God forbid that such innovation in governance of Aregbesola was not in place to nip that ugly development in the bud; Osun would probably have had to contend with at least about forty thousand trouble making youths across the state. Banks, would have closed down like it is happening in Offa. And for the ones in operation, customers would have been “politely” told that they are closing down at 12 noon, simply because of the fear of burglary from some Nigerian youths of that space.
The good news in Osun is that the N9 billion naira and such monies are “permanently trapped”, circulating within the Osun economy. Such monies circulate within the hands of Osun people. It is not concentrated in the hands of a few. So Aregbesola would not need to ache from the truth that could come from any bank, wether World Bank or otherwise that Nigerians within the Osun space are poor. I giggled as our President- Goodluck Ebele Jonathan- attempted to respond to the reality of the fact as contained in a World Bank Report that Nigeria is one of the five poorest countries of the world. Two things attracts my reflections in Dr. Jonathan’s responses- that he agrees to the fact that his transformation agenda paid off for some of his cronies such that Nigeria’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. “Our problem is not poverty, our problem is redistribution of wealth”, said Mr. president.
“Aliko Dangote was recently classified among the 25 richest people in the world… If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries.
“Probably wealth is concentrated in very few hands and a number of people do not have access to it and that is why my administration is committed in terms of financial inclusiveness and we are working very hard to achieve this”
Another fact that worries anybody in Mr President’s responses is the fact that less than one year to the end of his six year rule as Nigeria’s president, he still says he is working hard to redistribute Nigeria’s wealth which; by virtue of his transformation agenda has been stacked in the hands of a few. Yet Mr. President flaunts this anomaly by his reference to Dangote and other few Nigerians; including Mr President himself, who own several private jets as being among the top ten jet owners of the world.
What President Jonathan needs do at this crucial point in time is to yield the advise of the World Bank that the Osun youth empowerment initiative be replicated to forestall youth restiveness and promote wealth creation in the country. President Jonathan needs to be innovative in governing Nigeria. He should search no further for way out of most of the country’s challenges. He should check his ‘shokoto’ (pair of trousers) instead of traveling to ‘sokoto’ in search of solutions to Nigeria’s challenges. The only ‘Shokoto’ so far acknowledged by any third party is found on Aregbesola. Okonjo Iweala said it, and so said the World Bank- that Aregbesola has the innovations to good government and governance in Nigeria.
DR. NGOZI OKONJO IWEALA : on Aregbesola’s good governance, June 2013.
“You have demonstrated that good governance is possible with your programmes. You have demonstrated that your youth development is possible. Your programmes so far have demonstrated that you are a good example of good government and governance.”
United States Consul-General, Jefferey Hawkins- Saturday November 9, 2013
“The economic, social and infrastructural renewal of Osun State under Governor Aregbesola in the last few years of being at the saddle of leadership must be applauded. The government’s efforts in reformation development in all facets cannot be glossed over.