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THE National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) scheme essentially is a compulsory one-year interlude programme for Nigeria’s graduates of tertiary institutions of learning to engage their country in a familiarisation process during which they are expected to use their skills in vocation and avocation to serve the country thus giving back to the country to which they belong before they begin full employment. If it is suffused with the required patriotic fervour, its lofty ideals are indeed unassailable. But it has since gone astray. It has been mismanaged and abused over the last almost 40 years thus becoming an albatross to both the establishment and the participants.
ALTHOUGH it was designed to facilitate national unity and integration amongst the country’s diverse peoples and cultures in the post civil war era, it remains debatable whether the country is more united or integrated today than 40 years ago when the scheme was inaugurated . Nothing perhaps reinforces the failure of the scheme more than the recent controversy surrounding the propriety of posting fresh graduates to certain areas of the country believed to be too volatile to guarantee their safety. Helplessly, the authorities of the NYSC had to devise an alternative emergency plan to accommodate corps members who had been posted to states under the brewing rage of the Boko Haram infamy to neighbouring states. Even the Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier-General Nnamdi Okore Affia recently declared in Kano that corps members in camps were free to seek redeployment from troubled northern states and that they would be allowed to move to places of their choice! Obviously, expediency has enforced a negation of the spirit of the programme.
THE truth however is that the problems hobbling the NYSC predate the security challenges posed by the Boko Haram as Nigerians will sadly recall that some parents had once waited for their children’s corpses from other troubled spots like Plateau and Bauchi States. There was the female NYSC member in Borno State who was raped to death by felons who till date, have not been apprehended, let alone prosecuted. The lady’s mother, a poor widow had been left to mourn her woes privately by the Nigerian state. We also remember that some NYSC members died in their droves during assignments at INEC’s elections and the refrain that the government is on top of the security situation is no longer valid for those who wish to live a little longer.
IT should therefore be expected that the current challenges of the NYSC will not go away with the Boko Haram. The threat to their lives which the Boko Haram represents may go away with it, but is it not criminal for the Nigerian state to force its youth to travel on death traps called roads all in a bid to merely fulfil a statutory obligation? If a state had defaulted in fulfilling its own part of the social contract, would it be right to exact responsibilities bordering on the supreme sacrifice from its citizens? Without doubt, all those graduating from the country’s tertiary institutions of learning, especially those from private ones owe it service, contrary to some ignorant views being expressed by few misguided folks who think that the high fees being paid in private universities should exempt them from compulsory service. It is convenient for them to overlook the state’s contribution by even approving those private institutions in the first place.
HOWEVER, there is a compelling need in the face of present realities to strike a balance between the state’s exactions and its capacity to meet its own end of the social contract by redefining the NYSC scheme. For instance, since the country has not been able to advance the citizenship status to a level that obliterates the settler-indigene syndrome and the usual official state of origin requirement, serving in one’s state of origin is genuine service in the common context where the rural-urban drift has alienated these graduates from their state of origin ab-initio. Postings in this direction may lessen the burden of responsibility on the state especially with regards to security because corps members serving in their states of origin are assumed to be where they are naturally accepted. Since the state cannot afford to pay stipends that can be considered fair in distant places, posting corps members to their state of origin will justify the meagre stipends being paid now that can only compare with the least paid worker in the government service.
WE are aware, that the NYSC is struggling to enrich the one-year programme by introducing these graduates to various skill acquisitions and we think it is a commendable way to stem the tide of youth unemployment. It will however yield better results in a familiar terrain where they can presumably access funds eventually for investment and also possibly think of settling down permanently.
The NYSC programme is ideal for a country with diverse peoples and cultures where the state can guarantee safety and security, but in the expedient circumstances in which Nigeria is, it will be reasonable if the programme is redefined to protect the lives of its youth population instead of exposing them to undue and inexplicable risks.Share