The venue was the Conference Hall of the Aurora Hotel in Osogbo the capital of Osun State in Nigeria. The event was the Reflection Meeting over the Osun Youth Agenda, an advocacy programme sponsored by the NDI, UKAID and USAID, but implemented by Kimpact Development Initiative. For those gathered within the venue, it was time to reflect over a campaign birthed by a research driven advocacy campaign aimed at closely engaging the political leadership of the state to capture the needs of the youths earlier harvested and smartened by a team of experts. For the coordinating secretariat, local government coordinators and members of the technical committee of experts, it was time to cast a look back at a campaign that seems to have achieved so much within the less than one year it has been in existence. The campaign commenced sometime in May, 2019 and by January, 2020, it appeared as if the campaign has been on for a longer time. This impression was created by the successes the engagement has recorded within the shortest possible time.
Five days of training for the drivers of the engagement; forty two advocacy visits to stakeholders; two policy dialogues and one legislative town hall meeting amidst other communication materials, a look back at the push to put youth issues to the front burner in Osun state would reveal that the programme was one that could be conveniently described as a complete success. There are indicators of this. The 2020 budget of the state has a space for some of those needs that were advocated for. A closer look at the achievements of the campaign would reveal that a lot of strides have been made in the short journey of the agenda.
One of the core demands of the OYA campaign was the creation of a dedicated ministry for youths in the state. This, if done, would depart greatly from what was the practice in the state in the recent past when the youth component would be merged with other ministries. The OYA campaign changed the narrative. For the first time in recent time, a ministry solely dedicated to the youths emerged at the unveiling of the new cabinet members of the Gov. Gboyega Oyetola’s administration – Ministry of Youth, Sports and Special Needs. This was also capped with the appointment of Yemi Lawal,a 37-year-old man, to head the ministry. This was one of the low hanging fruits for the campaign.
One of the parameters to gauge the readiness of a government to implement a recommended proposal is its inclusion in the fiscal instrument of the state – the budget. So, it was another moment of joy when participants were informed of the inclusion of some of the recommendations of the OYA in the 2020 budget documents of the state. The OYA team were elated to learn that recommendations cutting across education, employment opportunities, health, wealth creation and agriculture were all included for implementation in the 2020 budget. They were cross ministry capturing of these items in the budget. For example, the clamour for the conversion of Ayegbaju Market into a computer village in Osogbo was one of the proposals of the Osun Youth Agenda. There is a line in the budget to create an ICT Hub in the said place in conjunction with Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. It was indeed a goal. In another instance of the success of the campaign, the state government has agreed to establish a well-equipped youth innovation hub and skills training centres in the state. Agriculture is not left out of the list. The nine old farm settlements across the state would soon wear new looks. The government has accepted to upgrade facilities there to make them attractive to youngsters who care to farm. The modern day millennial or Gen Z farmer is way different from the farmer of the olden days. He or she needs more comfort than its predecessors.
Beyond a ministry dedicated to the issues of the youths, there is a need for a more permanent institution that would be there to consider their issues at all times. The creation and or merger of a ministry is such that is subject to the discretion of the governor in charge. A governor has come now who is keen on issues of the young demographics, another might come in the next years that wouldnot be interested in creating a special vehicle purpose for the youths. This warranted the call for the establishment of the Osun State Youth Development Commission (OYDC) which is backed by relevant laws of the state. As at the time of reflecting on the journey so far for OYA, the bill seeking the creation of the OYDC is on the floor of the State House of Assembly. The Speaker in the legislative town hall meeting assured youths of prompt attention to the bill.
The OYA campaign seems a done deal. But, there are still more grounds to cover. What is next? How do we move forward after so much seems to have been achieved in so little time? The most critical step is to strive not to lose the ground gained so far. The opportunities enjoyed today might not be there even in the distant future. So, vigilance, monitoring and ensuring complete implementation of the identified budgetary allocations and promises is the way forward. The role of technology should not as well be overlooked too. A tracker should be put in place to benchmark progress made so far.