The NYSC And Its Clarion Call
The 14th of June may have been just like every other day of the year and may have passed us by without an inkling about its importance, but for the National Youth Service Corp NYSC, it marked a very significant moment in its 39 year history for so many
The current crop of corpers who passed out on this day would be the first batch of corpers to rank among the highest in the history of the NYSC scheme, which according to figures were more than 92,000. These crop of corpers went to serve their fatherland, most especially many of those deployed to the North, at a time the moral of the NYSC was at its lowest, with many parents and universities threatening fire and brimestone if their wards or students were posted to violence ridden states. At the end of it all, more than half of those who went, not only came and saw but conquered.
Certainly, the importance and significance of the NYSC cannot be quantified, as its sustainability for almost three decades continues to show how in the midst of heavy criticisms, one can pin-point to the scheme as one out of a million, the resounding legacies of the military era. It has continued to promote what many policy makers in Abuja refer to as cross-cultural exchanges and interaction most especially as it has to do with service to the fatherland.
This writer on the other hand was priviledged to have served in one of the North Eastern states with the experience(s) in the last one year totally felt with a mixedbag. To many Batch B corpers, this state was expected to be like the Port-Harcourt and Lagos of the South, with their multiple serene environment and evidence of dividends of democracy. This expectations were harped on two solid arguements. The first was based on the premise that since the state is 'the land of beauty', it was thought the replica of Venice would be felt in all the nooks and crannies of the state, yet reverse was the case, while the second was based on the fact that since the state boasted of eminent personalties like a former Vice-President of the country, the current PDP Chairman, a former Military Administrator of both Lagos and Borno states and retinue of others, this state would have been the envy of the North. However, many were quite shocked and surprised to witness first class deprivation, want, lack, poverty and a state bedevilled with gigantic backwardness in terms of democratic consolidations, access and dividendsm despite the huge amount of allocation recieved monthly.
Since many Batch B corpers were posted to the North which had the charactersitic of the above anomalies, many took their posting with equanimity, holding their heads high and hoping at the end of the service year, they would have contributed immensely to the development and growth of their fatherland. The 14th would always remain a day such that despite the vicissitudes, all had triumphed.
This state remained peaceful throughout our stay even though one of the local governments and the state capital remained hotbeds of senseless killings and shootings of Easterners who dominate the nooks and crannies of these places. Till date, those responsible for such irresponsible violence against the Igbo people, ordinary citizens and the state are yet to be apprehended, sending fear and hopelessness upon the land. It became worrisome when different versions of the incident claimed Boko-Haram was responsible, even as others pointed accusing fingers on the same Easterners who were systematically targetted. In all, all corpers who served in these local governments passed out successfully without any form of death.
This writer had observed that the killings in those places mentioned above quickly triggered a chain reaction among fellow Eastern corpers whose brothers had told them to redeploy if they did not wish to be also targetted. In one swoop, most especially where this writer had served, many corpers of Eastern origin quickly parked their belongings and redeployed to states in the South. This ofcourse drastically reduced the number of corpers who had initially arrived camp sometime in July last year. From over 1450 corpers, the numbers decimated to a few thousands if not less.
The purpose of NYSC scheme as enshrined in its laws was to foster unity, reconcile, reconstruct and rebuild the country after it was enmeshed in an unnecessary civil war, yet about three decades into the scheme, not much had been achieved in these areas. When one looks in recent times at what is happening in the North most especially, the NYSC ought to have redefined its purpose. Religious intolerance, ethnic bias and hate, cultural parochialism and all forms of tribal chauvinism which debases the very core of patriotism towards the country still permeates.
Many people in the state I served called people from the East 'yanmiri' which is a derogatory term used to identify them for reasons best known to them. If such terms are used on another ethnic group, the essence of unity which the country seeks to pursue would remain defeated (if it has not).
The NYSC in the last couple of months have tried to ensure policy shifts and also ensured it reforms itself, but a lot still needs to be done. A situation where disparity exist in the way corpers are paid by many state governments rubbishes the effort many of them put into serving their fatherland. Despite the high numbers of corpers who left angrily the state this writer had served for fear of being attacked by nobody, it was the hope of many corpers that the state government would have compensated them handsomely, yet nothing was done. Infact, in other states, corpers are treated like third class citizens, yet these same corpers are about the set of people who provide a lot in terms of manpower to such states.
A situation whereby a corper who serves in a hospital is paid higher than one who served in a primary school does not go in tandem with the unity and equality of purpose the NYSC stand to preach. Aside this, the NYSC should as a matter of fact provide a scenario where even as their corpers are passing out, a budgeted sum of money should be given as welfare package or social security to help such individual in his new environment. With aggressive enterpreneural skills acquired during the three weeks orientation, this in itself would re-engineer enterpreneurs who would begin the process of job creation and employment.
The NYSC year had been eventful and had exposed this writer to much intricacies about other places which hitherto wouldn't have been possible if not for the NYSC scheme. A situation however, where corpers swiftly go for redeployment simply because the state is far, lack educated people or some other flimsy excuses should be looked into. Posting of corpers to any state should be accepted in good faith, so long such state is free from violence, bombings, senseless killings and crisis.
The NYSC had made this writer to understand how things worked in other places, how different we are as a people and how despite our differences, we still cannot live without each other. The scheme should not be scrapped but rather heavily reformed so as to keep pace with international standards and best practices. Patriotism towards Nigeria should as a matter of fact be sounded into the ears of corpers and corpers in return must be made to inculcate this spirit wherever they are posted. Infact, how well a corper had impacted the spirit of patriotism wherever his place of primary assignment is should be a measurement and criteria for state awards or even the handing out of discharge certificates, so that the unfortunate antecedents in our national history which gave impetus to the establishment of the NYSC on the 22nd of May, 1973 would never repeat itself. Nigeria is ours, Nigeria we serve.