By the time the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated the latest batch of beneficiaries of Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) in Osogbo on Saturday September 15, 2018, a handful of historic things had happened.
Most notably of these set of historic landmarks, is the fact that another 20,000 erstwhile unemployed youths had been enlisted in an exemplary empowerment programme that has gained both federal and global relevance, for its unusual style, vision and mode of operation.
For the past eight, this empowerment scheme, introduced right at the dawn of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s regime in 2010, has given hope in tangible ounces to a record 70,000 youths, transforming them into active stakeholders in both the state’s economy and for the nation’s ultimate good.
The success of the scheme so far, its originality and its direct impact on the fortunes of youths in Osun state, are the factors that have earned it an unforgettable badge in the annals of erasing unemployment.
One would argue that the reason why OYES has succeeded so far from conception to implementation is the fact that it derives its originality from a school of thought that dwells largely on the ideals of people-based governance.
OYES, a direct brain child of Governor Aregbesola, was conceived as part of his six points integral action plan way back in 2005 while nurturing the ambition to contest the 2007 gubernatorial election. He, and a group of his comrades (whole later formed an integral part of his administration, under the nomenclature, FORA – Friends Of Rauf Aregbesola), had taught about setting up a scheme that will wipe the dearth and impact of direct unemployment away from Osun’s sorry fortunes at the time.
One of the hit-the-ground-running moves was therefore to enrol 20,000 unemployed youths and engage them profitably in his first 100 days in office. True to it, 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.
As a revolving volunteers scheme, what OYES does and has done effectively in Aregbesola’s 8 years, is to eliminate the frustration and paralyzing effect of unacceptably high and seemingly intractable youth unemployment pervasive in Osun, nay, Nigeria, by deploying wholistic entrepreneurial and life skills into a swathe of unemployed youths, all with the strategic intention of achieving lasting empowerment for its beneficiaries.
In the words of one of the early commentators and admirers of the scheme, “the OYES scheme basically said “NO” to the idea of giving mere handouts to youths in the name of empowerment, rather, it sought how to employ youths into a skills accrual setup, where they are paid a stipend while at it, and where they are nurtured to outgrow this setup into becoming gainful entrepreneurs of their own”
These and other characteristic charismatic natures of OYES are why Governor Aregbesola received accolades from many, notably from VP Osinbajo, as the latest beneficiaries were inaugurated.
In Prof Osinbajo’s words, the OYES programme has been able to successfully set a great and exemplary precedence for youth empowerment and engagement in country as a whole, noting especially that the Federal government’s Npower Programme was designed to be similar to OYES, adding that the country would benefit greatly, if OYES could be embraced by other state governments.
The VP further noted that the Federal Government had employed 500,000 youths into Npower programme; that’s half a million youths enrolled into a programme designed to prepare for entrepreneurship life. In fact, the Federal Government, based on further recommendation from the OYES template, created a youth employment wing at the National Directorate of Employment, naming it the Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO). It has even recently introduced a sister project known as Youth Entrepreneurial Scheme (YES).
This is the seismic impact the OYES programme has had in Osun state and clearly, beyond it.
For the past eight years, Aregbesola’s OYES strategy has created a healthy flow into the state and national economies, and at the same time allowed succeeding batches of 20,000 unemployed youths to experience the benefits of serving as Cadet Volunteers in OYES.
On Saturday, in the presence of God, past beneficiaries, cheering family and friends, eminent personalities, government executives and the Governor Aregbesola himself, 20,000 other youthful beneficiaries sealed the legendary status of OYES, as they waved in appreciation, oblivious of the opportunity presented to them to partake in a scheme that has not just raised a new set of stakeholders who embrace, understand and apply the dignity in productive labour, but that will also be unarguably deemed unforgettable in the annals of fighting unemployment successfully.