By Seyi Bakare
The recently suspended #EndSARS protests came like a whirlwind and left manifold stories and lessons in their trail. The nation had advance warning for three years but dithered and slithered. Then came a video showing members of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at their bestial best against yet another citizen, and dissent kicked off across the country, and then around the world.
And were it not for the antics of hoodlums who cashed in on the legitimate demands of the protesters to unleash mayhem on the country following the unfortunate shooting of protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, the story would have been all shades of beauty.
In Ogun, as in every other state across the country, the protesters made their voices heard. But then the million-dollar question: just how did Ogun State and its people avert the burning of prisons, banks, media houses, public buses and other institutions witnessed in some parts of the country.
How was these losses, together with the corollaries yet to be fully contemplated across the country, dodged in the Gateway State? Given the proximity of Ogun to major States in South West whatever happens in any State easily spills over into Ogun, but real diplomacy with the vital tools of good communication were at play as the protests and violence raged across the country.
Looking at youth restiveness across the country, and the dangers that dissent unfiltered and unfettered by state intervention posed, the Dapo Abiodun-led Ogun State government put in place measures that ultimately prevented the protests from snowballing into looting and burning of houses.
Governor Abiodun constantly engaged and interfaced with major stakeholders in the state, including traditional rulers, security operatives, youths, trade unions and community associations. Traditional rulers were able to monitor and control the youths. And even when the protesters chased away foreign contractors working on the Lagos/Abeokuta expressway, the governor expressed the belief that it was the right of the people to protest. He did not quarrel with them. And so Ogun was saved from the sorrows, tears and blood that might have been.
But the foregoing is not the burden of this piece. Instead, we focus on how the governor of the Gateway State has sought to advance the manifest desires and advocacy of the youths through employment generation. In an address delivered at his Oke Mosan office in Abeokuta on Monday, October 26, Governor Abiodun spread the gospel of job creation to all the nooks and crannies of the state. According to him, each local government would see at least 250 youths given employment with immediate effect.
Providing a context for the latest move, Prince Abiodun said: “We understand that many of our people are just coming out of the economic hardship as imposed by COVID-19. These are people whose economic activities have been affected by the lockdown and other difficult but necessary measures to combat and bring down the curve of COVID-19. We are irrevocably committed to the successful implementation of the Building our Future Together Agenda.
As a responsible government, we will do everything possible to ensure that all the people of Ogun State have increased prosperity and place our dear State on a sure footing towards continued development. Therefore, we will not allow anyone or group to truncate the re-emerging peaceful atmosphere in our dear state.”
In the area of youth development in particular, Governor Abiodun added, the Ogun State government is determined to unleash the creative energies of its vibrant, tireless and motivated youths, towards building a more vibrant economy, which explains why it had come up with various economic programmes that they can tap into.
His words: “In this regard, we will be launching this week, another youth empowerment program targeting 5,000 youth with 250 in each of our 20 local Governments Areas. The programme will provide skills and capacity building, as well as stipends whilst the participants, are attached to small and medium scale enterprises and government agencies.”
It is fairly well established that the unemployment issue is a time bomb which successive governments have paid lip service to. Yet there is a global consensus on the fact that unemployment is a threat to democracy. As economists Diego Muro and Guillem Vidal warn, for instance, unemployment may be considered as the worst enemy of democracy.
According to them, in times of want, individual citizens get first-hand experience of the economic crisis in the form of declining disposable income, lower social mobility, rising inequality and, above all, joblessness.
And, what is more, individuals’ negative perception of the national economy greatly affects political opinions and eventually produces a critical assessment of political institutions as ultimately responsible for the dire economic situation.
It is no wonder then that experts like Dura Altindag and Naci Mocan find that personal joblessness experience translates into negative opinions about the effectiveness of democracy and it increases the desire for a rogue leader. Against this backdrop, the latest announcement by Prince Abiodun is welcome. It is a right step in the right direction.
The measure unveiled by Governor Abiodun on Monday will no doubt reduce unemployment, calm storms and open up the economy. It will be recalled that the governor, on assumption of office, also put in place Tech Hubs to empower youths in the state in the area of ICT.
The hubs have been helping the youths to leverage on current telecommunications systems to create wealth. In the area of agriculture, it is gratifying that the much anticipated N220,000 CBN seed money has been released to each of the young farmers in the Anchor Borrowers Scheme to take advantage of the arable land in the state.
These farmers will create wealth, with multiplier effects on the economy of the state. Of course, there is still a lot more to be done. Prince Abiodun certainly means well. And with the support and understanding of the people, the Ogun State of our dreams will be built in no time.
•Bakare sent this piece from [email protected]
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