Two critical imperatives of progressive leadership in any aspect of human life are clarity of agenda and sincerity of purpose. And long before he was elected governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun had harped on the development and empowerment of youths as one of his priorities. Indeed, so important is youth development to the governor that it is strategically embedded in his administration’s Infrastructure, Social Development and Wellbeing, Education, Youth Development, and Agriculture and Food Security (ISEYA) mantra. Apart from being Yoruba for “Time to roll up the sleeves”, ISEYA is also Governor Abiodun’s acronym for his administration’s developmental blueprint.
His commitment to youth development was never in doubt from the get go, as one of the earliest actions he took was to create a job portal for data-driven needs assessment and prioritisation of areas of intervention. The job portal database store information such as fields of study, skill set, qualification and sector of possible placement.
During the launch of the job portal, where 20 unemployed graduates selected based on their performances in the aptitude test conducted at the venue were offered instant employment into the State Public Service, the governor affirmed his commitment to ridding Ogun State of criminalities by channelling the energies of its youths towards productive engagements, adding that, “we need to engage their creative energies positively to unleash appropriate skill acquisition that would bring about sustainable development for the economy by making them net-employers of labour.”
So meaningful was the job portal that a few hours after its launch, over 10,000 applicants had registered on it. A few weeks after the Ogun Job Portal was launched, 120,000 unemployed and/or underemployed youths had logged on to the portal. To date, over 300 potential employers, in both public and private sectors within and outside the state, have availed themselves of the opportunity offered through the portal to file vacancies. One of such is the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA), which recently drew nine from the pool of graduate-engineers on the portal for employment.
Perhaps it was the clarity of agenda and sincerity of purpose in the aspect of youth development which attracted the management of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to approach the Ogun State government, as early as July 2019, for possible partnership to reduce youth restiveness and the frightening youth unemployment recorded post-May 29, 2019 in the state.
Funmi Coker, ITF’s Abeokuta area manager, said that the agency was fascinated by the special interest and priority the Abiodun-led administration had accorded youth empowerment and training. She said the agency was willing to partner the state to keep more youths off the streets as the government’s youth agenda was in tandem with the mandate of ITF.
Crucially, some of the policies and programmes of Governor Abiodun on youth development overlap with other cardinals of the ISEYA mantra. For instance, youth development meets agriculture and food security when, on August 29, 2019, at the official flag-off of the FADAMA Graduate Unemployed Youths Scheme (FADAMA GUYS), the governor gave 200 automatic slots (of the initial 10,000) to selected beneficiaries that would derive grants from the Ogun State Anchor Borrowers’ Programme. The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme itself targets 40,000 farmers, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The programme ensures that farmers have access to single-digit interest rate loan facility.
Olamide Lawal, special assistant to the governor on youth and sports, revealed in February that thousands of youths had been empowered through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and Broiler Scheme under the Ogun State Ministry of Agriculture. He reiterated the government’s belief that agriculture was lucrative enough to attract many youths across the state, especially when they know there is a readily available market for their produce.
“The governor has empowered over 10,000 young people through agriculture with the unique scheme under Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and Broiler Scheme. These programmes are designed to attract youths to agriculture as government is providing end-buyer of their produce. With this motive, the youths are now attracted to agriculture and the governor deserves accolade for this kind of initiative,” Lawal said.
Other aspect Ogun State is empowering its youths is in information and communication technology (ICT). Governor Abiodun had always maintained that one of his cardinal policies was to collaborate with the private sector in a symbiotic public-private partnership (PPP) to the benefit of the state. The government has commissioned the Ogun Tech Hub and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Centre. Located along Kobape Road, Abeokuta Expressway, the governor said the centre was established to make Ogun “the one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa where start-up companies will conveniently be set up”.
Thus, the Ogun Tech Hub was as a result of such partnerships with tech enthusiasts and private sector players. The essence of the Hub and STEM Centre is to foster creativity and achievement of purpose for technologists, social entrepreneurs, tech companies, impact investors, and even ethical hackers and governments around Ogun State. The Hub also serves as a knowledge platform where citizens can connect, share, build new skills and competencies to solve local challenges that improve the quality of life of Nigerians.
There is the Abocoders Academy, an initiative of Aspilos Foundation, which focuses on training women between the ages of 16 and 35 years on programming. Also, the Ogun Kids Tech Club was created to provide enabling environment for tech-loving kids to connect and network with experienced ICT experts. In addition, the administration of Prince Abiodun commissioned a multi-purpose Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centre at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, said to be the largest ICT centre in any Nigerian university.
These and other ICT policies and programmes highlight Ogun government’s belief that knowledge gained through technology would facilitate investment and provide the much-needed high-skilled labour for investors in the state.
Finally, no meaningful youth development and empowerment policy is complete without intervention in sports. In realisation of this, Governor Abiodun has decided to establish the Ogun State Sports Commission to nurture the talents of its youths. The commission will be headed by Kunle Soname, renowned sports entrepreneur and administrator. Owner of Bet9ja, Nigeria’s largest sport betting company, Soname also became the first Nigerian to acquire a European football club in 2015, when he bought C.D. Feirense of Portugal. Soname’s rich experience, passion and network will come handy in the areas of mentorship, talent discovery, provision of sporting facilities through PPP and maximising Ogun’s sports business profile. Governance only becomes rocket science where there is no vision. In Ogun, governance is as simple as A-B-C, or should we say, I-S-E-Y-A, and youth development takes a prominent place in the effective way Governor Abiodun has so far delivered on his promises to the good people of the state.
Somorin is chief press secretary to the governor of Ogun State