By Adejumoke Alebisou
Dr. Luke Onyekakeyah has just written a piece titled “End the NYSC to save lives”, He made some points which he believed should sufficiently lead to the phasing out of the National Youths Service Corps scheme (NYSC) which is over 48 years in existence since it was set up by the then military regime of General Yakubu Gowon.
The following are his three propositions on NYSC: The Federal Government has three options: One let the corps members be deployed in their states. The fact that Sokoto NYSC officials did not show up at the funeral of Fortune apparently because of long distance and safety considerations, shows that it is wrong to expect a youngster like Fortune to travel all the way from Imo State to Sokoto state.
Two, the NYSC should be made optional if it should continue. Many graduates miss some great opportunities after graduation because of the service.
Finally, the scheme should be scrapped because it has outlived its usefulness. The purpose that gave rise to it has changed. Government should come up with a more proactive scheme for the youths. Government should pay compensation, even though, no amount paid will replace the colossal loss of a child whose life was cut short.
Actually, the kernel of his essay is on the death of someone who was so dear to him whilst she served the nation in Sokoto whereas she is from Imo State.
I do not want to join words with my erudite professional colleague but I do want to state some fundamental facts that may counter his call for the dissolution of one of the only national institutions in contemporary Nigeria that act as a unifier and in addition to the job of promotion of national integration, the NYSC is also a national platform for rapid skills acquisition by these youngsters that are enlisted yearly for this programme.
Whilst I sympathize with all the families whose loved ones have died during the course of their national youth service year, I however want to disagree with the aforementioned writer when he concluded hastily that the NYSC should be shut down permanently so as to save lives.
The simple question to ask is should we also close down the Nigerian Army or armed forces of Nigeria because too many of Nigeria’s youngsters engaged in the ten-year-old counter-terrorism war are dying whilst combating terrorists? Or should we shut down Nigeria as a country and dissolve it because too many innocent Nigerians are mauled to gruesome deaths by many armed non-state actors?
Moreover, the cases he listed as those who died during their service programme have basically no primary link to the scheme as the genesis of their unfortunate deaths. Death as we all know is inevitable and people die every now and then just as many beautiful children are born every now and then.
But the columnist said the corps member who was reportedly slaughtered by her friends and particularly by her rival- a girl in Maitama, Abuja was also to be blamed on the existence of NYSC just as he blamed the death of the lady killed unfortunately by the ritualists on the NYSC. There is indeed no logical nexus between these fatalities and the NYSC.
It is also not correct to dismiss the NYSC as a national platform in which youngsters spend a year and ended up not being employed thereafter because potential employers of labour are definitely waiting for the next batch of the NYSC to be able to get some of the corps members posted to their businesses.
This is not exactly correct because companies still employ trained hands even whilst welcoming youth corps members to serve in their establishments.
I know as a fact that hundreds and thousands of participants of the NYSC have graduated and have successfully been retained in their places of primary assignment or have gone on to establish their own businesses.
It is wrong to then blame the NYSC for the high unemployment rate in Nigeria because fundamentally many corps members who enrolled for skills acquisitions in one vocation or the other have succeeded in setting up their own successful brands.
Currently, the NYSC is in the process of rebranding by advocating for the establishment of the NYSC Trust Fund, which will when passed into law, boost the skills training scheme of the NYSC. The Trust Fund has already gone through the rudimentary parliamentary works and is awaiting the President’s signature.
The erudite columnist essay may actually not be a true representation of the position particularly when a writer takes time as I did recently to interview the corps members on their unforgettable experiences whilst serving.
The above opening quote which incidentally I took from the first book to have been authored by one of Nigeria’s banker Mr. Jim Ovia titled “Africa Rise and Shine: How a Nigerian entrepreneur from Humble beginnings Grew a Business to $16 billion”, seems to also be describing graphically the exemplary characteristics of the NYSC as an effective training platform for youths to gain a deeper knowledge of life and skills to make them economically empowered.
My Constituency which is the Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) decided to hear directly from serving members of the NYSC all across Nigeria and also from those who had served about what endear them to the NYSC with a view to reaching an empirical conclusion that the praises being heaped on the hierarchy at the NYSC now are no flukes but are merit-based and that the management of the NYSC has manifested profound levels of competence and professionalism. We got over a dozen entries but I decided to showcase a few.
My name is Monye Chidinma, a graduate of English Language and Literary Studies, Imo State University. I saw the Orientation Camp as a nurturing ground for prospective corps members from different ethnicity, cultures and beliefs, Thereby promoting unity and diversity which is one of the aims and objectives of the NYSC.
Camp introduced me to the regimented lifestyle where I had no other option but to adapt to its rules and regulations. For instance, obeying the Bugle sounds presupposes that there’s time for everything.
I participated actively in the Man’O war activities where I learnt leadership qualities and principles. During the man’s war drills, I encountered some challenges as we were being prepared for the unprecedented circumstances ahead of us as future leaders.
Another aspect of the NYSC scheme I enjoyed so much is the Skill Acquisition And Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) classes which was a golden opportunity for corps members to acquire skills instead of depending on white-collar jobs.
We also had numerous training sessions like Security Awareness where I learnt Threat Assessment, Risk Assessment, Negative Acculturation, Vulnerability Assessment, Indicators Of Terrorism And Counter – Action, Action On Sighting Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’S), Personal Safety Against COVID-19 pandemic, Home security, Traveling Security Etc.
Matthew Zakka, an ex-corps member from Kaduna State University, currently residing at Karu-Abuja.
As a fresh graduate from Kaduna State University in 2019, the urge to put on the NYSC khaki was irresistible and uncontrollable. This was not unconnected with the many tales that I have in the past or let me say before graduation heard about how corps members and service year was.
I have heard people leave service and call it a scam because they never experienced anything from it. The scheme instilled leadership qualities in me and prepared me physically and mentally for the challenges of life. It further, adjusted my view of society and life as a whole from idealism to realism.
It indeed availed me a smooth transition from the academic world into the larger society as a full working class, it provided me with the platform to contribute my quota to Nation building.
Oreji Chibuike Emmanuel is an ex- corps member from Uburu, Ohaozara LGA, Ebonyi State a graduate of Civil Engineering from the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.
Relating with my roommates made me see love, and understanding from my Northern colleagues, which changed my old views. During the three weeks orientation course, we were made to team up with people from different ethnic groups for parades, dancing, drama presentations, and football and volleyball competitions. These activities helped in uniting us.
NYSC gave me the opportunity to harness some of the skills and talents in me, which has aided me to thrive successfully in my carrier.
The impact of NYSC can’t be over-emphasized. It groomed me towards national, communal, emotional and psychological, economic, educational and even religious consciousness.
Ijeoma Chimaobi is a graduate of Financial Management Technology, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Imo State.
I must confess that the NYSC has become the melting pot of all that is good, beautiful and endearing about this largest black nation on Earth- Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration needs to be applauded for sustaining this legacy of national integration and unity which NYSC is in form, structure and orientation.
Factually, the inauguration of the new factories by the NYSC has shown the commitment of the scheme to expanding its revenue generation platforms.
They will also serve as additional training avenues for corps members to enrol for relevant vocational skills under the SAED programme.
As can be deduced from above, the need for the continued sustenance of the NYSC can’t be overstated. The NYSC is an idea that needs to continue in as much as the need for the military to strengthen the security around camps can’t be underrated or underestimated.