Nov. 7, 2013
by Farouk Martins Aresa
The State of Rhode Island United States is where the Yoruba Elders International Society gathered to showcase field solutions to the ticking time Bomb of youth’s unemployment on 11/2/2013. We are sick and tired of promises, theories and predictions of a glorious Country in the year 3000. Fortunately, we have pockets of site studies that are bearing fruits. Mind you, critics caution that these experiments may not be sustainable.
Solutions must come within individual African countries and states, not United Nations or World Bank. So Osun State Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) engineers were invited from Osun, their World Bank supporter, experts from various fields and youths for their contributions on what is working, not what can or will work in the future. Most recognize the enthusiasms of the Governor of Osun State bent on making a difference.
So are Governors Okorocha from Imo and Kwakwaso of Kano amongst others. While Okorocha enticed primary school children with pocket money, Kwankwaso did with food for children that attracted their siblings to schools. The success of these individual states can be replicated in other areas throughout Africa. The days Fela Anikulapo sang about WATER from United Nation while we are located by Atlantic Ocean may be gone.
Each of the Governors has his critics but enough people give them their dues. A well fed child pays more attention in school than one with a hungry belly. Food or pocket money is a route to a better goal for a productive educated youth population. The youth bulge in populations around the world can be productive. Indeed, we have no choice. Biggest employers of idle youths are Boko Haram, MEND, OPC, MASSOB and as political thugs.
For a long time, we have neglected those youths that play and abide by the rules. They went to schools and colleges if they are fortunate to have parents that can afford them, but only to come out idle without productive adventures. Their heroes became criminal kidnappers of children and grandparents, converters to foreign religions that determine who is fit to live or die, and blackmailers of governments for their share of the loot.
This is the same resources that should have been planted seeds for primary agricultural industries. The fear of youths with machine guns and their leaders openly dealing with international arms dealers in terrorist camps have shot security industry into number one preoccupation of governments. They claim that, without security nothing else is possible. A vicious circle they could have prevented in the first place with job creation.
The fear that most of the experiments by individual states are not sustainable must be taken seriously. While Osun State provides food, uniform and builds schools; young university graduates are also employed temporarily in agricultures and apprenticeships that can multiply into their own businesses. These businesses can then employ others.
So far it has reduced the crime rate in Osun State. In the early eighties Jakande started Lagos State waste to riches by converting it to power to generate electricity and signed contract for subway from Yaba to Lagos that could have created millions jobs. Enemies of progress without brains in military uniforms killed both, losing millions already paid. Without planning, they made up governments according to their whims and caprices.
However, much more has to be done because Osun like the rest of the states depends on the allocation from the Federal Government. No state can base it economic program solely on allocation from outside. Each of the states must be able to generate enough income to sustain its programs. It was preached many times over that no country can depend on just finite natural resources, such as oil because of international market risks.
Ogbeni Aregbesola had been confronted on this sustainability question when he visited Harvard University. He claimed if he could only supply 25% of Lagosians demand for meat, he could make money. He wants to turn his State into economic food basket for Lagos and other states. He may have been trying to be modest because his zeal to be economically self-sufficient is betrayed by his ambitious program to employ the youths in his State and turn it to attraction like the old Western Region did for Africa.
No country in the world is worth its substance if it cannot feed its population. Food is power and can be used domestically and internationally to gain influence. Nigerians that are old enough would remember when we used to feed the whole of West Africa. Later, youths were brought up to turn their back on agricultural industries. It got so bad; we went begging in Zimbabwe. We could not find high tech farmers from our universities?
So far the Kwara cassava farming with Zimbabwe farmers has resulted in modest if not mixed results. Generous long term loans and foreign exchange concession provided may not have yielded enough in returns as takeoff for economic power. Endeavors with high initial foreign investments, which is what most Nigerian politicians prefer, take forever to bear fruits. That is why local initiative is a must in any African country or state.
Nigeria was a promising regional power in the sixties; somehow we lost focus because we were in a hurry to jump from agricultural industries to steel industry. Needless to say at this point, we were fooled. Ajaokuta Steel Industry never took off with the secondary factories and businesses that were supposed to anchor on it. We are now going back to where we should have started after wasting trillions. Sadly our local looters are worse.
It should have been realized that those we relied on would never build a competition that would rival theirs in the international market. Even if we have well educated youth population, their skill must be tailored to meet primary industries. Many highly skilled local professionals do not have enabling environment to practice. Indeed our talents are ignored for foreign engineers, physicians, welders etc. suited for laundering currencies.
What we learned from the yearly Yoruba Elders International Interactive Workshop is that we have local talents with deep mental faculties that are willing to harness the resources around their environment to make success out of our youths. The notion that Rome was not built in a day insulted these talents. We were all created at the same time and Africans spread and populated the rest of the world from the cradle of civilization.