Tuesday, November 23, 2021 2:07 pm
By John Joshua-Akanji
After an atrocious civil war that left millions dead, others wounded, creating social, political upheaval, economic deprivation and trauma, the establishment of the NYSC Scheme healed some pains of the war through national integration.
Years after it was established, the reasons it was envisioned have become much more germane and relevant.
The current state of insecurity had sparked a debate on the whether the scheme was still relevant, with some critics even calling for the scheme to be scrapped.
Their major source of concern is the insecurity which had resulted in the death of youth corps members, while scores have been kidnapped.
Emotions have understandably boiled over on the death of promising youths. While the incidents are unfortunate, decisive action plans are needed to forestall occurrence, but this should not derail a very laudable idea.
Prior to the setting up of the NYSC scheme, most Nigerian youths were largely naive, uninformed, strangers to the culture, values, ethos of other parts of the country. Even after graduating from the university or other tertiary institutions, most youth had little or no interest in nation-building and went about with old stereotypes about fellow countrymen from other ethnic groups.
Ravaged by the vicissitudes of the civil war, the youths who emerged from a divided nation needed healing, hence General Yakubu Gowon’s noble scheme of 1973 cannot be negated by pockets of call for scrapping. The vision of making the scheme an instrument for national integration, social mobilisation, community development has become more compelling than when it was envisioned.
While various changes had taken place over the years, the last two years under the leadership of the urbane, innovative, intellectual and resourceful Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim have witnessed unprecedented developments that should douse any doubt about the relevance of the scheme.
Topmost is the promotion of ethos of unity and answer to national identity questions.
The main reason behind the scheme was to address some of the fundamentals issues that resulted to the civil war and which are still prevailing today. One national question on ethnic, class stratification is taken care of by the NSYC. In or out of the orientation camp, there’s no special treatment for any ethnic group, status of corps, religious or segregation or special treatment. Corps members see themselves as one united Nigerians. The NYSC is being used as the best instrument of change since youths play a vital role in promoting unity and integration among the different ethnic-nationalities. NYSC has also helped in restoring sense of pride and identity to other ethnic minorities who hitherto would have been isolated due to lack of contacts with youths from other parts of the country.
As for contribution to the welfare of the society, the corps members are mobilized to serve in states, villages and cities that are completely different from theirs. This makes them imbibe the culture of their host communities as they work hard to impart knowledge, leaving enduring legacy of national integration.
The impact of corps members in community development projects such as roads, hospitals, boreholes, electricity, market, agriculture, education, communication, healthcare, technology are far too outstanding to be wasted and sacrificed on the altar of challenges that affects every Nigerian.
One of the reasons the NYSC was introduced was to instil leadership qualities into the already educated and enlightened youths. In his words, no right thinking country questions why it is paramount to impart discipline into its educated youth if such nation desire to achieve national integration.
As a multi-cultural and religious country, the NYSC bridges the religious and ethnic diversities which had divided the country over the years.
The discipline, military drills, doctrines and national values inculcated into the corps members remain the pre-conditions in the scheme and explains why the government semi-militarised it so that youths are better prepared for life after university education. So the continuous co-existence of people with different religious and ethnic backgrounds can be fostered if the NYSC is better funded with human and capital resources.
Under Brigadier Shuaibu, the scheme has undergone incredible transformation as corps members are better paid, have become better trained, more productive, creative and inclined to innovations, entrepreneurship and creation of opportunities and jobs.
If the momentum is sustained with institutional backing for a trust fund scheme, then the NYSC will become a veritable tool for the transformation of Nigeria.
Finally, while the NYSC has undoubtedly surpassed the vision of the initiator, lives of youths transformed after their one-year compulsory service to their fatherland will continue to equally transform other lives.
The agitation by parents for the redeployment of corps members to their home state or region is a re-reoccurring issue that could negate one of the core essences of the scheme which is national integration. Despite the barrage of such requests, the current Director General has maintained a near zero tolerance for such requests. In fact his unyielding attitude has sustained the posting method which is a bridge building strategy for all generations because of the multiple effects on the nation.
From Umunna to Damare, Iyana Ipaja to Kubwa, Zungeru to Ogbomosho, Zaria to Ajali , Duste to Nembe City, Ijebu Igbo to Amasiri, Ugheli to Gboko, Isheyin to Ikom Abasi, the echoes of friendship that have been built, marriages consummated, businesses established, roads and hospitals built, children educated , villages powered and innovation legacy projects by corps members cannot be eroded.
The NYSC scheme is establishing long lasting friendship, building inter-ethnic marriages, facilitating political alliances, creating business partnerships, inculcating national values, unity, and understanding among Nigerian youth despite our much propagated cultural diversities.
The continuous existence of the scheme is crucial to building a strong, united, prosperous nation where peace, love and justice shall reign.
*Joshua-Akanji, an aide to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development wrote from Lagos.