SAVING THE BEACON CALLED NYSC
Just the other day, I was having the usual chit-chat with a very close friend of mine while driving through the breezy Third mainland bridge that very solemn Thursday morning. By some divine arrangement, the issue we were discussing unknowingly to us; was the basis of the discourse on the back page of ThisDay Newspaper of Thursday, 2 June, 2011. The caption was simply rhetorical; Whose NYSC is it anyway? The article was put together by one of Nigeria's brightest Columnists, Chidi Amuta.
Let me refresh our minds with some of the salient points enumerated in the piece. The writer argued that, most civilized economies place high priority on the welfare of their citizenry and that no individual, be it government official or the president have the right to unilaterally take money from the state coffers to use as palliatives in any distressed situation.
It was unarguably evident that the writer was apparently referring to the largesse given by the president to the families of the Youth Corp Members that were killed in the month of April 2011. The writer also went further to give some proactive insights as to how the National Youth Service Scheme and the participants of the programme can feel a sense of belonging with the adoption of a compulsory insurance scheme. Those unfortunate Youth Corpers who were involved in the bomb blast obviously must have had high hopes on completion of their NYSC progamme and must have been eagerly looking forward to re-uniting with their families after the National Service but that was never to be.
Straightaway, I honestly share the same view with the writer in setting up an insurance scheme for the NYSC programme and that was exactly what I was trying to pass across to my friend while in the car but he won't just hear anything of such. His argument was that, anything of such magnitude with the involvement of government can't be properly managed more so, with the rate of corruption in the country.
I had tried to convince my friend that a consortium of insurance companies can be engaged to properly manage the scheme at a de-centralized level; which means, each state government will be responsible for the payment of the premium and other administrative issues involved in the scheme. In my own view, the Federal Government should direct all state governments to sign an undertaking, that the lives of all Corps Members posted to their states will be adequately protected while at the same time, putting in place, an insurance cover that will cater for their families in case of any eventuality.
The recent killings of over thirty people including the Corpers in different parts of the country during the last general elections and the subsequent compensation of N5M by the Federal Government to the families of the slain youth Corpers clearly brings to fore the kind of fire brigade approach that has permeated the body polity of our national lives. If there had been in place a well-thought-out insurance plan for the NYSC known to everyone, Mr. President wouldn't have assumed the role of a Father Christmas doling out money to the families of the slain corps members. At some point, I tried to rationalize the action of the President by asking myself, what if those youth corps members were not killed during the general elections that was going to determine the President's fate, would the president still have gone ahead to give the families money or would it have just been another minute of silence and a condolence message to all the concerned families.
Before now, one would have expected that, thirty eight years after the introduction of the NYSC programme, Government would have instituted a culture of preserving and protecting the lives of Corp Members across the country with an insurance package robust enough to give a long-term succor to the beneficiaries of any Youth Corp Member that is involved in any unfortunate situation during the course of serving their fatherland.
I salute the President's kind gesture of the N5M palliative that was given to the various families but I will also want to add as well, that, the President will be remembered by generations unborn if he can take the bold step of correcting the wrongs of over three decades and ingrain his name in the sands of time by calling on all state governments and other stakeholders to come together with a view to formulating a state policy that will make it criminal for any state government not to insure the lives of the Youth corps members deployed to any state in question.
It will be also gratifying as well, if our newly inaugurated Members of the 7th National Assembly take up this task as a constitutional one and begin to chart a course for the future of a well-secure National Youth Service Scheme. The Youth Corper of today might be another Tambuwal, Mark or even Goodluck Jonathan in years to come. Let's do the right thing now!