Over 40,000 youths have been taken off the streets in Osun State and have been productively engaged since the establishment of the OYES scheme in 2011. In this interview , the Commandante of the scheme, Col. Sam Oyewole (rtd) bears his mind among others on the ups and downs of the program.
The birth of OYES
OYES being the brain child of Ogbeni 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 the 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 when he was vying for the governorship position. 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. So 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, and all that is required is that you must reside in the state. As I speak, 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 3 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 Mr. Governor calls 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 10,000 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 generality of the community, which he lives in. Also as being said a 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 2 years.
What are the things the Cadets have gone through the exist program?
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 Mr. 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 comparative studies to Rwanda, Kenya and on and on. You will also find our cadets in many of our universities and higher institutions of learning all these are geared 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 program has been in existence there has not been any riot in the state or protest which means our cadets are teachable. 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.
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 bright lights that would serves as a source of inspiration. Now to the intangible, a part of the tangible is that all our streets are clean, the inter and intra cities roads are well maintained the vegetation on both the left are well kept. The intangible is first felt on the economy of the state. When there is a high velocity of money changing hands, the velocity of money is said to have increased and it is only the increase in the velocity of money that gives room for general prosperity of a community. For example if a man has 200million and he keeps it to himself without exchanging hands the money is of no use to anyone but the 200million earned by 20,000 of my cadets in a month at 10,000 each, what do you think they are going to do with the 10,000 in their hands ,will such cadet goes to Lagos to party? No. He stays here and spend 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 3% unemployment rate, the lowest in the whole federation. While the average for the state was in 2014 25% 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. One reason being that cadets in OYES are not youth that are just standing aloof, they are a group of people that are affecting other cadets that are not in OYES, the domino effect of what we are doing radiate to other youths in the state, however, OYES is not the only youth scheme in the state. If you look at the Social Security Investment Programs 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 percent.
Also in the area of health the state the indices of wellness has been far higher and better than many other States this is because we are able to keep our streets neat which intrinsically have affected human beings.
Another benefit is that organizations 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, 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 ongoing recruitment
The recruitment is the fourth batch. During the first batch 20,000 were admitted, second was a fill up only 2000 persons were taken in. 20,000 were admitted for the third batch and same number will taken for the ongoing recruitment which the training has started on the 27th of August. 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 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 school 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 generate with a bias for women this as directed by the governor. The reasons are that there are more females than male 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. This form his view why he insisted that 60% of women are taken into the OYES scheme. So when you look at the parade and you see more women, that is responsible for that. OYES scheme is divided into local governments and we take the 60% from all the local governments, what we do is to give command to the system to generate the number of cadets with 60% females in a given a local government and it generates it.
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 get that and weigh the indices we come out with X numbers of cadets to A local government, Y numbers of cadets to B local government. When we get these numbers together and the bias for women has also been considered they are ready to be prepared for the trainings.
What is 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 attitudinal lives, what it takes to live an economic independent lives and how to become a successful entrepreneurs these are the things we take them through and open their eyes to not just only within the 3 weeks training but even after that on every Wednesday which serves as our parade and lecture day. The training is continuous reinforcement training, which they go through.
Mechanism to look after disengaged cadets?
I have given you testimonies of those that have built houses those are some of the monitoring, which we are doing on our disengaged cadets. I can assure you if you go to higher institutions of learning in the state and contiguous states you would find participants of OYES that has been able to save up to further in their studies. If you also check the artisans in the state you find out that many who participated in the OYES scheme are doing well there. The same can be said of ICT. I make bold to say that even in the armed forces in the country you would find participants of the OYES scheme. Many of them are in SSS. 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% of the employment in SUBEB is allocated to the OYES cadets. The same percentage is given to us. And so our cadets are even eager to make sacrifice so that when they secured permanent employment, they will be able to benefit from it. Greater than that is that OYES cadets are delights of employers, because they are disciplined, time conscious, aware of themselves and their environments, they are teachable employers will get his money value out of them among others.
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.
Our cadets even by the fact that they have joined the scheme and they know what the future holds for them are settling down as family men and women. They are getting married to other people on the happy note is that they are getting married to themselves.
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 than they do 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 hard work. There is a sharp difference between hard work and hard life though; many of us cannot distinguish one from another. I encourage and Mr. 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 he has been going from city to city from Abuja to Lagos to go and work on new houses.
Don’t you think what they are engaged in are reasons for the ego?
I told you our roads are clean that is done by the sanitation Zeist. We have about 6 to 8. They are also called deployment. This is a place you are attached to which enable you to earn the stipends. They include the sanitation Zeist involve in sweeping, the green gag involved in abstaining the vegetation among others. All cadets are required to participate in this two and public works (they are those in charge of small maintenance of our roads) no matter the certificate you came in through. This so that they can know there is leveler, a leveler that you need to bend your back and work. Except you’re physically challenged you won’t be engaged in this but we will look for something else to do equivalent during this period. The three deployment last for three to six months after which we will another three, which are sheriff, guard, Paramedics, and traffic Marshall. You would observed that this are going into services at this same time after three weeks our cadets with degrees are taken to schools.
Why not send those with degrees to schools straight, and don’t you think that is responsible for the ego?
Look a man is a working animal and any man that does not know that there is virtue, pride and benefit in hard work is not living well and you must let the young man know that. I told you I was in U.S, nobody stays in anyone’s house after 18 years of age with having anything to do. You must go and have something to do to earn money. If you do not know that apart from having your certificate if you are not working what would the certificate bring to you? Nothing. The education you had is just a template for you to be able to apply to getting other things done. See maybe because they are in a place like Osun that is why they are thinking like that. Many garbage collectors are degree holders and they are making a living out of this. Look the edge you have, as a degree holder is that you are able to simplify these jobs. Most of them when they get out of the country the kind of jobs they will do to survive will be worse than this. What stops them from doing this here and even get better with the hope you have that whatever happens there is a better situation for you after two years.
How have you been able to solve the ego issues?
We talk to a lot of them, because that is essentially what a young person needs. I schooled in the U.S for about 5 years, I was serving as a captain in the Nigerian Army when I went so I didn’t have to work unlike many that I met with. They were schooling and were also doing all manner of jobs to meet their needs even after their degrees I met some who combined two to three jobs.
What other challenges do you face?
The misconception is another one, which I have earlier answered. Apart from that there are still a few percentage that are lagging behind in the progress March we recognise them while we have the understanding that human beings can not move at the same pace, we are being patient and tenacious with them and we remain passionate about their situations and we are working hard to bring them up.
The cadets are admitted to the scheme and volunteer work for two years after which they would be disengaged so that another batch can be admitted and enjoy the benefits of OYES.