By Gregory Johnmark Chiadi
Nigeria as we have today is a product of many experiences ranging from migration, settlements, inhabitation, co-existence, colonial and imperial conquest, Christianity, Muslim invasion, independence, wars, ethnic clashes, oil boom, military rule, wanton corruption and the nascent democracy. These and many others have in one way or the other shaped the political and socio-economic structure of the country and the consequences are still relevant till this moment. However, the Nigeria-Biafran War of 1967-1970 stands out as the most pervasive incident to have befallen the country in recent times. Even though some conservative scholars have argued that it was merely an ethnic war but of a truth, it was actually a war of the State against the Igbo tribe who had earlier seceded citing obvious marginalization and unfair attitude against the then Eastern region. The war raged on till the 15th of January 1970 when the 'President' of the Republic of Biafra, Major General Philip Effiong made the infamous speech of surrender stating among other things the loyalty and acceptance of the then Federal Military Government of Nigerian and the denouncement of the existence of the Sovereign State of Biafra.
In a bid to revive the already war-torn and largely divided country viz-a-viz the integration of the Igbos back fully to the Nigerian fold, the then Head of State General Yakubu Gowon introduced the 3Rs (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and the Reconciliation). The course, application, direction, management, successes and failure of this initiative is a discourse for another day! As part of the 3Rs efforts, on the 22nd day of May 1973, General Yakubu promulgated the Decree No 24 which amongst other things established the National Youth Service Corps scheme 'with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria'. The purpose of the scheme is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian youths, the spirit of selfless service to the community and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians irrespective of cultural or social background.
Furthermore, the Decree No 51 of 16th June 1993 clearly states the objectives of the scheme as follow:
To inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves
To raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social, cultural improvement
To develop in the Nigerian youths, the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training which will make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest
To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment
To contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy
To develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration
To remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups
To develop a sense of cooperate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria.
During the wee years and the hey day of the scheme, it clearly served its purposes. There was considerable ethnic mixture and co-existence among the Nigerian peoples. Completion and bearing of discharge certificates offered good employments to many Nigerians of which our dear parents were heavy beneficiaries. There were also cases of inter-marriages brought by the scheme. The human and individual capacities were also enhanced. Sadly, in recent times, the story has radically changed. Most of these previously enticing prospects and gains are no more obtainable. The rise in number of graduates from higher institutions, increase in employment rate, decrease in GDP, rise in poverty rate, lack of innovations by the body in charge of the scheme are pointers to this very fact. Unsurprisingly, many concerned Nigerians have strongly called for the abolishment of the scheme lamenting that it has outlived its usage, relevance and importance. Interestingly, I am a staunch member of this school of thought.
You would agree with me that the circumstances and realities on ground during the establishment of the scheme are nowhere to be found today. Nigeria as a one 'indivisible' country is not under any serious siege or threat of any imminent war or collapse. The hitherto ethnic disturbances have been reduced to the barest minimum. One can actually say that the country has achieved to some extent the most sought-after dream situation of “unity in diversity”. Now, it seems and actually becomes very discouraging and saddening that the scheme has continued to uphold almost the same objectives and goals after more than 45 years amidst the aforementioned challenges and problems facing the country as of today. Times have changed!. NYSC should as well!. The continued existence and operation of the scheme is more problematic and destructive than helpful to the youths out there.
With due respect to ex- corpers, current corpers and prospective corpers in the future, the hype and 'attention' the scheme generates amongst the adults, youth folk and students are terrible, unfortunate and very unnecessary. Most of them see it as a big achievement in Nigeria. It worries me the most when I go on social media and see pictures being flaunted all over the space either about arriving the orientation camp, leaving it, at the person's Place of Primary Assignment and finally passing out after 'serving' our dear country for one good year. Don't get it twisted here, I am no sadist! I should always be happy seeing my friends move from height to height but honestly I don't and won't in the near future see this scheme as a milestone in a person's life. The normal use of 'Congratulations' to a person's post gives me big worry. I keep on asking myself whether we are congratulating the person on a feat achieved (of course it is no feat) or congratulating him on a scheme he 'must' have to go according the very inconsiderate Nigerian laws. Nowadays, the hype we give to the scheme is even more than what we give to a young graduate who has successfully graduated after 4 or 5 strenuous years in the university. It's sad! About two weeks ago, I was chatting with a female friend whose sister recently entered the camp. She asked why I haven't gone for mine of which I gave her good reasons. I made a jest of her sister and she strongly told me that going for service is an achievement. I was disturbed not only because of what she said but because I believe that she shares the same and exact mentality of a good number of youths. I had pity on and for her because she is very much deluded and under serious contraption.
Then again, if the scheme is worth the hype, why do corpers decide to 'ghost' or 'work' out their preferred states according to their peculiar reasons. In most cases, you will see corpers that never showed or stayed at home or got a job elsewhere during the entire duration of the scheme but would come out on the final day to collect their discharge certificates. That's to show you that the scheme is not worth their time because they had other more important things doing. I admire and praise their smartness!
The reality is this: the scheme has done more harm than good to our youths. Quote me anywhere!. It has obviously increased unemployment in this country because it goes with 'deceit' that you must have the discharge certificate for you to get employed in any government parastatals or other big establishments which invariably discourages innovations and entrepreneurship. Funny enough, these people that have struggled to get this passage unto an assumed glory will end up not getting the said work after few years and would now end up in the business sector which does not require the over hyped certificate. I am not trying to downplay the importance of the certificate rather I am stating the obvious fact which is that the possession of that papered certificate is not an assurance for an offer of employment like it was in those years and as such should not be treated as it is being treated today. To the lazy and unambitious youths, it has also created another comfort zone for them in the sense that they will see the duration of the scheme as a perfect time to think about their future rather than during your school days hence making themselves less useful to society after the scheme. Just recently, I saw a Facebook post where a friend in a very comic way telling the corpers that passed out few days ago that they are now qualified for the N-Power program championed by the Federal Government. This is the hard truth because the rate of employment in Nigeria has reduced graduates to a paltry sum of thirty thousand naira as take home for the month and that they would gladly accept it with the much sought-after NYSC certificate that once offered promises of deceit (certificate of deception). Should we talk about the remuneration of corpers during the scheme??? That one is an embarrassing topic on its own. It just confirms our (school of thought) that the NYSC programme is just an avenue whereby the Federal Government exploits, milks and drains the potentials of the youths and 'rewards' them with an unemployable certificate. It is a pure case of use and dump experiment which has proven to be so.
Conclusively, it is still very surprising and quite disturbing to me that the scheme has 'survived' till this day, bearing in mind that many laws, rules, decrees and pronouncements of those years which are no more relevant are now extinct. I know there might be some dissenting voices on this 'controversial' discourse, nevertheless, I am strongly of the opinion that the Federal Government should forthwith abolish this scheme based on the burning issues raised here in the best interest of all involved. Thanks.
NYSC is a SCAM and should be hurriedly abrogated!
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
God bless the Nigerian Youths