News Update

NYSC Trust Fund: A Compelling Legacy- Part One

By Adejumoke Alebiosu

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) established by the Yakubu Gowon egime to anchor unity in the country after the devastating civil war is beset with multiple challenges. But nothing compares with the paucity of matching funds to discharge its lofty mandate. Though there have been calls in the recent past for the scrapping of the scheme, the consensus is that NYSC is still fundamental to the unity and survival of the entity called Nigeria.

This is a scheme by the Federal Government of Nigeria set up in 1973 and made compulsory for all young graduates of Nigerian tertiary institutions (universities and polytechnics). Since its debut in 1973, members of the scheme have been having a unique experience in nation building while posted away from their states of origin and made to experience and impact other parts of the country.

The NYSC scheme was established after the civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970 for the rebuilding project of the nation. But the fervor, which the scheme enjoyed at the onset, is waning and calling for more rejuvenation such as the planned NYSC Trust Fund.

NYSC is operated through the deployment of corps members to other states different from their states of origin. This is to promote integration and unity among the ethnic groups.

The NYSC scheme also has a pledge: that all Corps members are expected to receive at camp ground which entrenches and reinforces their call and commitment to the indivisibility and indissolubility of the Nigerian nation state and other conditions attached to it. All corps members are expected to sign the pledge at the camp. A failure to sign will mean the member will be sent away from the camp. The corps member will only be allowed back in the next batch and that is when she/he is ready to sign the pledge.

The motto of the NYSC – “service and humility” – speaks volumes and since the scheme took off with the first Director-General, Col. Ahmadu Ali (Rtd.) who was there until 1975, the scheme has grown in leaps and bounds, deploying initially, thousands of university graduates that could participate in it. But as time went on, Polytechnic graduates were added to the scheme, making it robust.

One of the advantages of the scheme is that corps members get to experience ethnic diversity in all forms and get to appreciate/learn other people’s cultures. They also get to meet other people different from the ones they have always known from their region. This pleasant encounter often dispels whatever myths they may harbour against any other ethnic groups.

There have always been stereotypes and prejudices members of one ethnic group may have about another. It takes direct experience of the life of other ethnic groups to see the lack of objectivity in such assumptions. Stereotypes are characteristics imposed upon groups of people because of their race, nationality, and sexual orientation. These characteristics tend to be oversimplifications of the groups involved, and while some people truly do embody the traits of their stereotype, they are not necessarily representative of all people within that group. This syndrome is partly responsible for the disunity of the country.

To face these herculean challenges the corps members only need to be empowered. The NYSC Anthem rings the clarion call on the Nigerian youths to obey the clarion call, to lift our nation high, under the sun or in the rain, with dedication and selflessness, for Nigeria is ours, Nigeria we serve. But great ideas die without requisite enablers, which is funding mostly for the NYSC.  So, when Nigerians call for a trust fund for the scheme, it is to ensure that death knell is never sounded for it.

 

At the risk of digressing a bit, it has to be emphasized that integrity is part of what NYSC wishes to imbue in the Nigerian youths and it will be seriously needed in making the NYSC Trust Fund work for the nation and her youths. Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can stand in opposition to hypocrisy and that is what the nation is critically lacking in most commanding heights.

In judging with the ethical standards, integrity involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding within themselves apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs. This is what NYSC wishes to inculcate in the Nigerian youths and with it, they can do business with patriotic commitment.

The objectives of the NYSC are stated in the Nigerian Constitution precisely in Decree No. 51 of June 16, 1993. The sense of morality is to ensure integrity and spirit of hard work in the Nigerian youths. Fact is: without integrity (morality) and creative hard work, no nation will ever grow.

The other objective is the Nigerian youths imbibing the culture of self-reliance and independence by enabling them to acquire skills necessary to make money on their own through self-employment. Without the proposed NYSC Youth Fund, this objective will never see the light of the day. The scheme is also to help develop the Nigerian youths’ mind. The idea is inculcating a sense of corporate oneness and belief in the Nigerian destiny, dream and goal. Beside the unity core purpose of the scheme, boosting Nigeria’s economy through the participation of youths in it is yet another objective and the Trust Fund is to make such a dream a reality.

The scheme exposes young Nigerian graduates to the modes of people residing outside their states of origin. For the reason that the members are educated and skilled, they should be deployed to the fight for inclusive growth in Nigeria. Of course, inclusive growth is economic growth that is distributed fairly across society and creates opportunities for all. Inclusive growth refers to the phenomenon where the benefits of a country’s growth are shared equally by all sections or at least in a fair and just manner.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 is dedicated to “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It is part of improving human capital development. Economic progress achieved by any society is strongly associated with the quality of its human capital and social interaction. The Trust Fund will help prioritize human capital development and social inclusion as a central anchor of our nation’s development agenda.

Inclusive growth is economic growth that raises standards of living for broad swaths of a population. Proponents for inclusive growth warn that inequitable growth may have adverse political outcomes, which essentially is growth without development. If economic growth is achieved without social development at the grassroots level, it will not only widen inequality but also give rise to socio-economic paranoia, socio-political unrest and instability. Growth without development will have dangerous socio-political consequences that could undermine the very essence of freedom and democracy. This is a malignant growth in Nigeria’s polity that the NYSC Trust Fund promises to cure.

The definition of inclusive growth implies direct links between the macroeconomic and microeconomic determinants of the economy and economic growth and precisely this interlink is what the Trust Funds will create and ensure a balance. The microeconomic dimension captures the importance of structural transformation for economic diversification and competition, while the macro dimension refers to changes in economic aggregates such as the country’s Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP), total factor productivity, and aggregate factor inputs.

Nigerian lawmakers need to see the moderating role of the Trust Fund in creating social inclusion as the process of improving the terms of participation in society, particularly for people who are disadvantaged, through enhancing opportunities, access to resources, voice and respect for rights, which the Fund clearly now promises. It is therefore at the heart of social and human development.

In Nigeria particularly, most economic, social and political structures are intrinsically designed to reinforce social exclusion. This constantly resonates in economic disempowerment, gender discrimination, social inequality and poverty. Nigerian youths are strong, hardworking and resilient and the least the lawmakers can do is to provide them with the enabling environment and all necessary support to thrive through the proposed Fund. This way, the lawmakers will improve ease of doing business, and access to microcredit embedded in the planned Trust Fund.

by Emmanuel Onwubiko To be continued…