Meet Mr. Aremu Kehinde, from Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State. He studied Geography, as first degree, had his masters in Environmental Management, and as he explained, is expecting his Doctorate soon. He is presently with the National Youth Service Commission (NYSC), where he has reached the height of State Coordinator, Anambra State NYSC.
He never got to that height just like we have it in some magical stories or literatures, he revealed to us while narrating his story how after youth service, he got engaged by the NYSC and started work immediately because of his hardwork, obedience, contentment and resilience.
Aremu finished service in November 1991 and began work in January 1992. His first state of assignment as an NYSC staff was in Bauchi, thereafter, he was assigned to the Corps Headquarters in Abuja. This zealous and enthusiastic fellow also found himself in Taraba as his official assignment took him. From there, he went back to FCT Secretariat.
His job took him again to Borno Secretariat, moved to Ebonyi Secretariat, and then to Anambra State, where he has been since 4th of June 2018 till date.
Mr. Aremu has made countless exploits in Anambra State’s National Youth Corps of which testimonies of his works are heard from all and sundry.
Fides: We would like to have a preview of your family background and your early childhood
Mr. Aremu: I am from the John -Cole family in Koro, Kwara State. I should not blow trumpet here, because you do not know my village. I come from a family that if you go to my village and you knock on any gate and ask for the Coles’ family, the first thing they will tell you is that we are people of integrity.
In those days when they were changing money, my father used to be the one changing money for the whole of the village. They will gather their money, and I saw that twice; people will gather their money and he will take it to the bank and change the money into new currency and bring back the person’s money. He was the church accountant for all his years. He was a teacher, when he retired from teaching, the secondary school in my village called him in to be the school’s bursar.
We were taught never to compromise on our integrity. Do not take something that does not belong to you, that’s the kind of family I was born into. We had to pray every morning, we were not forced into Christianity. That command, that you should love the Lord your God was built into us. I am the sixth of seven children, I am a twin, because, my parents lost the first set of twins that they had, and they also lost my twin sister soon after birth, I was deeply loved and jealously guided, so that nothing will happen to me.
I went to the prestigious Government Secondary School (GSS), Ilorin. It is a very popular school in Ilorin, from there, I went to the University of Ilorin.
Fides: You started work with the NYSC immediately after your service year, were you prepared for that?
Mr Aremu: I was the best goalkeeper in my set when we went to camp, so it was already taken for granted that I would be posted to Yola, in Gongola State. I would serve in Yola so I can be the keeper for the NYSC. I was very good then. When the posting came on the final day, I was posted to Takum, a village in Takum Local Government, a whole day’s journey from Yola.
In those days, just like we do in Anambra, you go and enter your bus and they take you to your Local Government. I collected my posting letter, entered my bus and sat down. I was very popular in camp, I was a comedian, my name on camp was Abasi.
So, the coach came to me and said I should be in Yola, and he did everything possible to bring me back to Yola. He even went to the State Coordinator, the State Coordinator sent for me and I told him I won’t change posting, I do not change destiny.
He said I should handover my posting letter, but I refused to allow him. I promised to be back anytime for training, and I kept my promise, I always went to Yola for training. When we went for competition, after we beat everyone in my zone, and of course I was instrumental to that, we went to Abuja for finals.
We were beaten and we came second. One day, he (Director) was going for inspection at a place called Maraba, I was on my way to my PPA with my crested vest, he saw me and asked who I was. Of course, I recognized him.
I told him, ‘you are the Director, NYSC and I am Abasi’. He shouted and gave me bread and other things. On the day of passing out, he called me and said ‘young man, you will go far’. I said Amen and we left. I went to Abuja as I had a sister in Abuja. As God will have it, few weeks in Abuja, I saw my Director, I went to buy fuel with my 504, it was not mine though, it was for my elder brother.
So, I was just cruising around Abuja with it. I went to get fuel, how much was fuel then? Ten Naira fuel. I saw him, I just went to him at the pump, I said ‘ Director Yola, what are you doing here? I just left you in Yola’. He said ‘Abasi, what are you doing here?’ I answered him ‘ I have finished my service now and I have collected my certificate, that is why I’m here and I’m looking for job’. He said he has just been posted to Abuja and I should come to see him at the head office.
The following day, I already had an appointment letter to collect at the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, I went there, I collected the appointment letter, then I decided to go see him. I traced the NYSC Headquarters, I got there and asked for Mr. Olorunshoba everybody started running around. They were asking why I wanted to see him and I asked them to go and tell him, ‘Abasi is here’.
He ran out when he was told and asked if I have gotten a job yet. I told him I just got an appointment letter with the environmental and he said he preferred I worked with NYSC. He then called one of his staff, Mr. Arokoyo, that he should give me a form.
I never knew he has just been appointment the DHRM (Director, Human Resources Management). He then gave me the form, I filled it there and he endorsed it there and told me to go. That was how I got my employment letter.
Fides: Did your elder brother quarrel with your leaving environmental job for NYSC?
Mr Aremu: No, they were excited that I have a job that can take me around, because Abuja Environmental job, would have kept me in Abuja for eternity, and I am somebody who is very adventurous, love to explore and interact with diverse people
Fides: You’ve been working with NYSC for 28 years now, what has been your motivation working with young people
Mr Aremu: One of the things that make me love the job is the excitement I have when I see young people grow from raw young people and you see then mature, become responsible and are able to impact, making contributions to the society. I have seen cultist denounce cultism because I asked them to.
I have reconciled children with their families. For me, my greatest motivation working with the scheme is the mental transformation of the young Nigerians.
Fides: What is your greatest achievement in these two years of service as the NYSC State Coordinator, Anambra State?
Mr Aremu: The most outstanding thing for me is the new thinking I have been able to bring to the psyche of the staff. With due respect to them. Before I came here, they were not really passionate about the job, but I was able to let them know that there are expectations of God, Government, parents and Nigeria from every of our activities and if we do not achieve it, we have failed.
When they entrust these young people to us, they expect a mind change, there is a thinking in them which should change, if this change does not occur, we fail; and we should not fail.
The input which was in the students must be different from the output which is the passing out corps members. If there is no attitudinal or conceptual change in the corps members, then our mandate is cut short. It will be just like a cassava that is pushed into a machine and at the other end, you are still getting cassava.
If it is that way, why then did you buy the machine. They then came to realize that from day one we meet them on camp there is an assignment for us until they leave and if there is no change, then we have no job. Everybody became passionate and started putting in their best.
There had been a change, that for me is very significant. Some people will be talking about moving from the former Secretariat at Amawbia to the permanent office complex, the new office that is about to be completed, the new permanent Orientation Camp at Umuawulu-Mbaukwu and every other less seen achievements, but for me the mindset change is my greatest achievement.
Fides: Are there parameters for measuring the attitudinal change in young persons after passing out from national service?
Mr Aremu: We operate under a system, all tools are handed over to us by the headquarters. Before coming to Anambra, I had worked as the deputy director, research and statistics in NYSC, and because of this office, I was able to develop the measuring tools to measure who this person was and who the person is after 12 months of engagement.
I had developed some tools which are still being fine-tuned. At the local government level, prior to passing out, we serve questionnaires on about 25% of the population of the passing out corps members.
They return this questionnaires to me, to check the corps members perception about Nigeria, Government, NYSC, Nigeria’s unity, Entrepreneurship Development and many others and the results I get are encouraging. We might not be there yet but I’m largely satisfied with the response I get.
Fides: Having worked in different states and met people from different cultural backgrounds, how have you been able to cope with these cultural varieties and live with them?
Mr Aremu: I mostly have what we call culture shock because the cultural beliefs in most of the northern states I was privileged to work contradict mine, but one thing stood out for me: I had to learn and tolerate the diverse culture. I met my wife in Bauchi, although she is from Cross River.
Fides: Who were you looking up to? Who is your mentor?
Mr Aremu: In all honesty, my Father was my mentor, he was a very anonymous person, I wished he lived at this time. He never stole anybody’s property, even when he had access to them. He was contented, he was deeply religious. He would always tell you the truth. By far, my father was my greatest mentor, but I have other mentors in my career, the likes of a retired Director, Mr Anthony Ani, who is currently based in Enugu.
Fides: How have you been able to build a synergy with the collaborative agencies of the NYSC?
Mr Aremu: If I want to make this interview very easy, I’ll just say ‘Na God o’
All: Laugh out
Mr Aremu: Let me tell you a little story, early in my career, the second orientation I did as a young officer in Bauchi Camp, there was no water for the first three days. I was making efforts even as the PA to the Director. The corps members were fending for themselves, looking for water to drink and bath. The corps members started a riot and all the staff took to their heels, but I stayed back because it was my job.
I calmed the situation and I promised to get them water from Bauchi with tanker. While I was coming back with the water tank, somewhere close to the camp, I asked the tanker to stop and I sat on the tanker to show off to the corps members that I brought water. My point here is this, People like dialogue, if there is any issue or challenge, talk to people.
That is why my camp, to the glory of God, is very peaceful because we do constant talking. You give the collaborative agencies what is due to them and you make sure everything is comfortable for them and make life a little easy for them