Ayodele Olawande: A Leadership Built On Passion, Excellence

By Dayo Joseph

One of the shining lights of the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the Honourable Minister of State for Youth Development, Engr. Ayodele Olawande Wisdom, a distinguished son of Ondo State who has made a significant impact in the lives of Nigerian youth through his innovative programs and leadership.

His dedication to empowering young people has earned him recognition as one of the standout performers in the administration. He has blazed the trail of excellence in youth development, inspiring countless young Nigerians to reach for their dreams.

Olawande’s remarkable journey, marked by dedication, perseverance, and passion, has made him a role model and a source of pride for his state, and indeed youth everywhere across Nigeria.

Born in Ondo State, Olawande demonstrated a keen interest in science and technology from an early age. He pursued his passion at the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, and later at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, where he earned a degree in Engineering.

Rise to Prominence

Olawande’s leadership skills and vision for youth development led him to found the Action Youth Movement (AYM) between 2015 and 2019, and later appointed as the ICT director for the APC in Ondo State, almost within the same period. Earlier, he had served as the Auditor for Ward 9, Akure South of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He also served at different times as APC youth leader from the ward to the state level in Ondo State.

Olawande’s exceptional abilities, commitment, and penchant for hard work soon earned him a role as the Personal Assistant to the Special Adviser, Innovation to the former Vice President, professor Yemi Osinbajo, and subsequently as the Strategic Communications Officer at Emerging Community Africa, a project of the European Union (EU). He also performed creditably as one of the field officers in the Nigerian Social Investment Office (NSIO).

Minister of State for Youth Development

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to youth advocacy, mobilization, and inclusive leadership, Ayodele Olawande was in October 2023 appointed Minister of State for Youth Development by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR.

In this role, Olawande has proved his mettle, introducing innovations that redefine the concept of youth development and making engagement the cornerstone of his highly purposeful agenda.

First, as a youth advocate and grassroots mobilizer, Olawande believes his appointment was essentially to give the youth demography a sense of belonging. He has, therefore, made accessibility and engagement the defining elements of his leadership as a minister, operating an impressive open door policy that allows any youth from anywhere across the country to engage with him directly.

Specifically, he has used his office to address some nagging challenges confronting the youth. For instance, to address the issue of police brutality and related matters that led to the #EndSars 2020 protest, the ever-proactive minister launched the ‘Young & Secure’ initiative in collaboration with the ministry of police affairs. The objective of that project was to improve the thorny relationship and distrust that existed between the youth and the security forces, particularly the police.

While he has prioritized physical engagement that allows youth from across the nation the opportunity to directly engage with the activities of his office and make requests that are specific to the realities within the communities they live; Olawande has also established a YOUTH HELD DESK in his office which receive and act on complaints and address issues brought forward by young Nigerians.

A firm believer in the abilities of youth to thrive, provided they receive the necessary and the right assistance, Olawande, has one of his major initiatives, spearheaded the establishment of the Nigerian Youth Academy (NiYA) as a skill enhancement and training centre for the youth. With a community that brings together the trained youth and potential employers, Olawande seeks to address the question of lack of skill and improve the employability of the youth.

Ever conscious of the peculiar challenges faced by youth living in local communities across the country, Olawande, a great grassrooter himself, is always looking for means to factor youth with minimal or no education, those in refers to as informal youth, into all his programs and initiatives. Consequently, the Green House, a component of the NiYA initiative, is meant to provide an avenue for youth at the grassroots level to access the same support and training available to their counterparts in urban centres on the NiYA platform.

There are also many other interventions that Minister Olawande has initiated since assuming office a little over 8 months ago. Some of the outstanding ones include the Corpreneur Support Initiative (CSI), which he implemented in partnership with the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on job creation. The goal of CSI was to offer moderate financial support to corps members who trained in different skills while on the NYSC orientation camp. So far, the project has supported over a 100 corps members across 5 States to set up their small scale businesses in areas such as tailoring, baking, bead making etc.

There is also the grassroot component of CSI which is aimed at supporting young people running small businesses in local communities across the country. Tagged G-YESS (Grassroots Youth Entrepreneurship Support Scheme), the project would ensure that youth doing their very best to undertake legitimate ventures at the grassroots are supported to earn decent income and improve their economic livelihood.

There are many more interventions and initiatives of the Hon. Minister of State for Youth Development that cannot be exhausted in a single piece of writing. But one thing has always stand out as the basis for all his thoughtful interventions as a Minister, and that is the fact that Olawande is highly connected with the youth and knows what the challenges are.

As a dedicated and visionary leader, he has continued to inspire and empower Nigerian youth, fostering a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

Impact and Legacy

Through his initiatives and programs, Engr. Ayodele Olawande has positively impacted numerous lives, providing opportunities for skills development, mentorship, and capacity building. He is inspiring young Nigerians to reach for their dreams and aspire for the greatest achievements possible.

A distinguished son of Ondo State with a remarkable journey in youth development, the highlights of Olawande’s remarkable leadership trajectory can be summarized as follows:

  • Empowered over 10,000 youths through skills development and mentorship programs.
  • Launched the Youth Innovation Hub, supporting 500 startups and creating 2,000 jobs.
  • Introduced the Youth Skills Acquisition Program which trained and supported 5,000 youths in various fields.
  • Developed the “Youth Connect” app, a digital platform connecting young people with resources, opportunities, and mentorship.
  • Introduced the “Youth Innovation Challenge” which encourages young innovators to develop solutions to social and economic challenges.
  • Established the “Youth Entrepreneurship Fund” to provide access to capital for young entrepreneurs.
  • Inspired a new generation of young leaders and entrepreneurs. International Collaborations :

For those who know Olawande, they will attest to the fact that it is not gainsaying to describe him as his generation’s “man of the people. ” He believes in collaboration and effective partnership that deliver growth and create opportunities. Hence, to deliver on some of his outstanding initiatives, Olawande has collaborated with a number of organizations as captured below:

  • Partnered with the European Union to launch the “Youth Entrepreneurship Support Program” in Nigeria.
  • Collaborated with the African Union to develop the “Continental Youth Development Framework.”
  • Worked with the United Nations to implement the “Sustainable Development Goals” focused on youth empowerment.

Doubtless, Olawande’s unwavering commitment to youth empowerment has earned him recognition and respect across the nation, solidifying his legacy as a champion of youth development.

Awards and Recognition

  • Recipient of the “Young Leader Award” at the 2022 Africa Leadership Awards.
  • Honored with the “Youth Development Champion” award by the National Youth Council of Nigeria.
  • Listed among the “Top 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians” by the Nigerian Youth Magazine.

In conclusion, Ayodele Olawande’s remarkable journey serves as a testament to his dedication, perseverance, and passion for empowering Nigerian youth. As he continues to represent Ondo State and his generation with pride, his impact will undoubtedly be felt for generations to come. We can only keep wishing the Honourable Minister greater strength and wisdom to continue to deliver excellence serve and representation to the entire youth of Nigeria.

Dayo Joseph from Ondo State,Nigeria and can be reached via dayojoe2002@gmail.com

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