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Sunday Mirror www.nationalmirroronline.net

Interview ENCOUNTER WITH A NEWS MAKER NOVEMBER 3, 2013

We’re developing youths to lay solid foundation for the future –Kwara Gov Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, recently had an interactive session with newsmen in Ilorin, the state capital, to take an appraisal of his administration’s policy on the youth. The governor, who will be 50 in December, underscores the need for youths to enjoy top priority as a way of laying a solid foundation for the future. He also explained his government’s policy to make them meaningfully engaged and marketable. Wole Adedeji was there. Excerpts: On assumption of office in 2011, one of the key areas you promised to focus on was youth empowerment. What is your scorecard in this aspect? I want to use this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to all those who lost their families during the recent Sallah stampede in ‘Charity House’. It was an unfortunate incident and may God in His infinite mercies grant the lost souls eternal peace. May He also grant the families the strength to bear the loss. Having said that, I would say reasons for our administration’s focus on youth development is not unconnected with the fact that we are very concerned about the stages of the population of the state and the demographic of people of different shades. Statistically, we found out that 60 per cent of the population are youths. In a state of three million people with 60 per cent falling between the ages of 15 and 35, that tells you that we must give special attention to them. It is therefore not too much if government decides to concentrate its programmes mainly on developing the youth who are the current drivers of the economy, and we must ensure they are favourably positioned. As a government, our responsibility is to create an enabling and conducive environment for the youth to properly function as drivers of the state economy. We have taken various steps to ensure their interests are well protected. The first thing we went into was enumeration because if you are planning, you must know how many people you are planning for. We created offices and employed Youth Empowerment Coordinators in the 16 local government areas of the state whose responsibilities were to create data base in all the local councils regardless of being a Kwaran or not. Is the state’s data base meant for indigenes alone? So far, if you are resident in Kwara, born and have been schooling here; you are captured in the data base since we have the responsibility to take care of everyone that is based here. That is why we said we needed to create a data base. We are supposed to know those of them that are educated to PhD level, master’s degree, first-class degree, HND, OND, NCE and of course early school leavers. That enumeration gave us a figure of about 32,000 as at the time it was launched and from what I got in the last check, we are almost getting to 70,000. I mean those who have participated in the enumeration exercise. That has also given us a clue into the number of people that have registered so far. We are attending to them in stages and working towards making them gainfully engaged and finding a way of driving them to entrepreneurship. I am happy to let you know that we started with the empowerment scheme to offer immediate support to 2,000 youths; these youths have since been migrated to proper jobs. Some are taken as teachers, local government workers, to federal and state levels and they have since been replaced with another set of youths. In other words, the first set of 2,000 youths has been fully ab-

Ahmed

sorbed. You recently indicated interest in sending doctors on training via a bond scheme, what informed that decision and what form would it take? It is also another way of supporting our youths. We are trying to look at how much support we can give to the system. One of the most critical areas that need attention is the health sector. We know it will continue to run a deficit in terms of manpower. The reason is because the population is always increasing. The number of people in Kwara in 2003 is not what you have in 2011 and 2013, and development of infrastructure has unfortunately not been made to be commensurate with the growing population. There is always pressure on the existing infrastructure. In ensuring that we retain our health workers, we must create a programme that makes it easy for them to be retained and also be available to support the growing population. From experience, we noticed that once you recruit medical officers and they are posted out of the metropolis, they are off within two months as they get some jobs somewhere and move on. Perpetually, we do have shortages of doctors in areas outside the metropolis and it has been a major challenge for years now and it is not unconnected with the fact that whether we like it or not, the infrastructure support to make work at rural areas encouraging has

not been fully met. That was what prompted the last administration’s desire to construct doctors’ quarters in all the 16 local government areas of the state where we have hospitals and health centres. Our plan is to retain them. If the environment is enabling, then they might decide to stay but we would have a scheme such that every year we are able to sponsor medical doctors to go and specialise in some critical areas, especially areas that are prevalent now which is non communicable diseases. We would train personnel who would be supporting our people. Diseases these days globally are moving from infectious to non communicable. The likes of cancer, cardiac issues, kidney and liver problems are all non communicable diseases that are now prevalent. On their return from training, they would be bonded to work for the state for minimum of two years and under the bonding schemes we could post them to any location; and because you are working under a bond arrangement, you are most likely to stay there for that period. After paying their due, if they decide to move on, so be it. Therefore there won’t be a lacuna and we are not talking about medical doctors generally but about residency specialisation in some specific areas. Don’t forget that the University of Ilorin train doctors, CONTINUED ON PAGE 16

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