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National Youth Service Corps to be made optional?

nysc-corpers-attacked-CopyIN today’s global society, the challenge to maintain unity is even greater even though people with drastically different backgrounds and life philosophies share the same block, the same church and the same lunchroom. So how do you get along with others with whom you don’t always agree? Begin by accepting the fact that every person is one-of-a kind creation. Your opinions may differ greatly even if your cultural or social circumstances are similar.

The entire world has long realised the importance of integration among people of different socio-cultural backgrounds for peaceful co-existence in any given community. Such gave birth to the United Nations (UN), where leaders of different nations interact and manage crisis, among other things. In the America corps, for example, youths who have completed their studies are made to compulsory serve the government in whatever capacity for a year. Those who may not serve may have challenges when they seek political or elective positions.

We have the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Nigeria. But why was the programme established? What are the aims and objectives? How far has the scheme justified it establishment? Will it be good to make it optional? The scheme was established by decree No.24 of May 22, 1973 (later replaced with Decree. 51 of June 16, 1993) to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the civil war. The basic goals and objectives are to attain: A united, strong and self-reliant nation, a great and dynamic economy, a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens.

The government and people of Nigeria are not aware that sound and patriotic leadership is a precondition for the rapid social and economic development of the country. As a nation, Nigeria has been less fortunate in the kind of leadership that governed its affairs immediately after independence, a leadership whose achievements notwithstanding, was nonetheless ill-prepared and generally not properly motivated to tackle the socio-economic and underdevelopment problems in the interest of the country as a whole.

There is no gainsaying that the future of any country depends on the youths. The youths of Nigeria acknowledge this fact and have consistently laid claim to the nation’s leadership. While one may give credence to the saying that leaders are born, not made, one must also concede that leadership in a modern society requires a certain degree of preparation and orientation beforehand.

It was the need to look beyond the present and think of the future that necessitated the mobilisation of certain categories of youths through the scheme to giving them the proper guidance and orientation relevant to the needs of the country. The purpose of the scheme is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and emphasise oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians irrespective of cultural or social background.

The history of Nigeria since independence clearly indicates the need for unity, and demonstrates that no cultural or geographical entity can exist in isolation. While the successive leaders should be applauded for their belief and sustenance of the NYSC programme, in whose tenure will it either be abolished or made optional? At inception, the scheme was better organised and coordinated than today.

Apart from graduates from higher institutions of learning such as universities and polytechnics, even those from colleges of education were allowed to serve. There were even some graduates who had to serve twice then, perhaps as an NCE holder and a degree holder. Some people may say that due to population increase that resulted to having many batches, the scheme is being poorly managed.

It was obvious before now that one may not be posted to his/her state of Birth/origin or where he/she would have schooled. It was also certain then that neither pregnant women nor children were seen in the camps. Above all, redeployments were genuinely scrutinised before being approved. In conclusion, any graduate who hasn’t the NYSC uniform was not regarded as a real graduate.

In addition, corps members were encouraged to get married in the course of their service year, and get a certain amount if married to an indigene of his/her place of primary assignment. In today’s NYSC, one finds non-graduates in the NYSC camp, or people either serving in their states, or even ghost corps members. One also finds people who never served using the NYSC uniforms just as both NYSC staff and corps members have no regards for the programme anymore, among many other ills afflicting the scheme today.

All the same, it was very interesting meeting people from different schools across the county during the orientation programme, even those who schooled outside Nigeria. And one could hardly differentiate married men and women from the singles. However, during the visit of the officials of the Ministry of Youth Development, led by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Rabi Jimeta, the NYSC Director General, Brig.-Gen. Johnson Olawumi, disclosed to President Muhammadu Buhari the plan to make the scheme optional for sustainability sake.

The President had affirmed his confidence and trust in the programme, saying that the objectives were still relevant for national development. It is certain that a lot of negative things have been happening in the scheme, but the few advantages in the main goals should be considered too. One should not throw away the baby with the bathwater. Whatever be the case, the scheme should not be made optional due to the following reasons: We may not be able to achieve the set objectives of the scheme again.

If it is struggling to meet the expectations of both the founding fathers and all Nigerians, what would happen if it is now made optional? The scheme has been helping to accommodate most of our graduates by engaging them for the first one year of their graduation, forcefully contributing to the nation’s economy and earning a little in the process. Unemployment rate remains very high and one wonders where the young graduates would be for the first one year without the scheme and any meaningful alternative Many countries, including Gambia, have pleaded with Nigeria and some NYSC officials to help start their schemes simply because they believe in it.

Apart from churches and mosques, among a few others where people from different backgrounds but same faith meet to worship, the only place for people across religions, cultures, languages and social backgrounds to freely gather to learn and serve Nigeria is the NYSC.

Dr. Oboh (FIDM, ransomeoboh@yahoo.com) is Auditor 1, Abeokuta Diocese, Catholic Men Orgasnisation.

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