15th August, 2011
The 12th of August every year has been set aside by the United Nations Organization (UNO) to uniquely drive home a global appreciation of the youth and emphasize the imperative of harnessing the youth energy for rapid socio-economic transformation in the present age. When channeled towards positive engagements, youth energy is essentially inspired and developed with lofty ideas for social re-engineering, driven by the need for moral rejuvenation and garnished with the spirit of enthusiasm, faith and hope in the desired future. However, when we allow youthfulness to grow in its raw and unrefined nature, it embraces such negative attributes such as corruption, violence, vandalisation of public utilities, internet fraud, armed robbery, prostitution, and civil disobedience.
It is, however, sad that youths in third world countries like Nigeria, are not being given the right environment to operate. In Osun State, the situation is not different as the socio-political situation, until recently, was not conducive for productive engagements. No wonder, Osun State was thrown into jubilation when the Court of Appeal pronounced the victory of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in the April 14th 2007 election.
Aregbesolaâ€™s meritorious eight years public service experience as Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Lagos State under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, made him to have proper understanding and deep appreciation of the development challenges facing the people of Osun State.
This prompted him to develop a comprehensive Six â€“ Point Integral Action Plan targeted at banishing poverty, curtailing hunger, eliminating unemployment through creating job opportunities, to restore healthy living, to promote functional education and to enhance communal peace and progress.
One is not surprised by the recent re-brand of the state as â€˜Ipinle Omoluabiâ€™ , with a view to re-orientating the citizens of the state, especially the youth, who for the past years have become disillusioned, isolated and marginalised from the scheme of things including issues that border on their empowerment and advancement as critical actors of development and partners in progress to any people â€“ driven government the world over.
Through the novel Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O â€“ YES), at least 20,000 youths of Osun State have been trained and are now well equipped with the skills and aptitudes that will enhance the creation of wealth through a creative interplay of human enterprise. Several other peoplecentered programmes and initiatives such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); Contract Review Committee (CRC); Osun Clean (O â€“ Clean); Osun Rural Entrepreneurial Agriculture Program (O â€“ REAP); Osun Tourism Development (O â€“ Tourism); The Osun Rebranding Initiative; Payment of WAEC/NECO Fees; Settlement of the Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH) crisis among other giant strides of the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola administration, have started yielding concrete dividends of democracy, putting joy and smiles on the faces of the people of Osun State.
True to his inaugural promise of giving hope to the youths of Osun state, the O â€“ YES programme in the state has become a matter of recurrent applause which some other states in the federation are already understudying and developing to equally empower their youths. But beyond massive training and skill acquisition programmes, there is an urgent need to further incorporate the youth into the mainstream of governance for the sustainability of these laudable programmes and for future posterity. Given their dynamic nature and resourcefulness, the youth constitute a critical mass of development stakeholders which are needed to rally support for the lofty initiatives of the government at the grassroots as well as in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of policies and action plans of the government.
Governments must see to it that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus among all stakeholders of governance, including the youth and ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard in the decision â€“ making processes, including decision related to allocation of natural resources. Also, it is high time the youth are mobilised and effectively coordinated to express their legitimate views in coherent manner and ways capable of drawing prompt and favourable responses from the government. Rather than engaging in lawless activities such as drug abuse, trafficking, internet fraud, political thuggery , prostitution and vandalisation of public properties, our youths must begin to fulfill their potentials as creators of great initiatives and inventors of developmental programmes. They must inculcate and promote entrepreneurial spirit as well as the free flow of ideas through several youth exchange programmes, sporting and recreational activities, youth conferences, and must be involved in intellectual debates on issues of local, national and international dimensions, though there is a dire need on the part of our government to create a stimulating and enabling environment to encourage our youth to play their historical roles as partners in progress with the government in the society.
Against this background, it is important that Osun State government, given its progressive antecedent inaugurate Osun State Youth Commission that would be saddled with the ultimate responsibility of empowering our youth with the relevant skills and enablement that would re-orientate them as major stakeholders of governance in the areas of environmental sustainability, wealth creation, agricultural productivity, tourism development, science and technology as well as community development. This if realised, would be a bench mark for other states in the federation in the project of mobilising the youth towards the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before 2015 in Nigeria.
â€¢Justice writes from Ilesa, Osun State.