NYSC MORE RELEVANT NOW THAN EVER
The recent escalating insecurity in Nigeria, fueled by the activities of insurgents, bandits and ethnic agitations, has understandably heightened concerns over the safety and wellbeing of the thousands of Corps Members posted across the country and the relevance of the continuation of the National Youth Service Corps.
In fact, the concerns became more apparently noticeable following the recent abduction of Prospective Corps Members in Zamfara State on their way to observe the mandatory Orientation Course Exercise.
Meanwhile, the Scheme do not post Corps Members to serve their fatherland in places that are unsafe.
Although, the incident in Zamfara State is not limited to the Corps Members as some undergraduate students of a higher institution in the State are also presently suffering the same fate, the kidnap of the Prospective Corps Members has understandably been the focal point of deliberation.
As much as the security menace, especially the abduction of the Prospective Corps Members is regrettable, what had become obvious is that such attacks are however not limited to the members of the NYSC Scheme.
Reports are replete with cases of where many helpless Nigerians have fallen victims to the activities of the dreaded monsters that have taken over almost all the Nigerian roads.
Curiously, the incidents of kidnappings and challenges of insecurity have even gone beyond the mayhem visited on the Nigeria road travellers.
There have also been reported cases of abduction of health workers, especially doctors and nurses, whose colleagues have embarked on several protests to register their exasperation and annoyances over the escalating incessant abduction of their fellow workers and outrageous demands of humongous amount of money as ransom payment.
Many other Nigerians have been kidnapped in their houses, villages and cities in many parts of the country and heavy ransoms paid. But the fact that they did not attract reportage like the case involving the Corps Members did not mean that they are not happening.
The disturbing spate of insecurity in Zamfara State has become a celebrated one which ordinarily should not have been used as yardstick to demand for the scrapping of the fifty years old Scheme.
While few of the recently kidnapped undergraduate students have been rescued, others are still in the custody of the abductors.
Obviously, the foregoing underscores the fact that since the Corps Members, as part of the society, are not immune to such attacks, it does not therefore necessitate the clamour for the scrapping of the Scheme.
It is understandable that due to the disposition of the Scheme, which made it a golden fish in the society without any hiding place, any misfortune could be noticeable and interpreted or misinterpreted.
The recent abduction, from every perspective, should be regarded as a mere coincidence because the Prospective Corps Members were not even branded on uniform, but only happened to find themselves on the same bus along the Zamfara State Road while heading to their Orientation Camp Exercise.
Therefore, since every Nigeria is prone to fall victim of such attacks, what should be the concern of the public however, is the proactiveness of the Management of the Scheme in deploying necessary machinery to rescue the abducted victims.
Interestingly, the NYSC Management has already established channels of communication with the abductors, parents of the abductees, all relevant stakeholders and authorities to rescue the abducted Prospective Corps Members.
That is why it is unjustifiable to use the recent abduction incident as yardstick to eclipse the laudable achievements the Scheme has recorded over the years.
Let us concede that the Scheme, over the years, had run into some landmines and hurdles to the point of creating doubts on the manager viability of its continuation, especially with the security, posing critical challenge for its smooth operations, but it is also wrong to throw away the baby with the bathwater.
And understandably, judging by the gigantic mileage and laudable accomplishments the Scheme has recorded, NYSC actually deserves encouragement not the clamour for its suspension.
For the uninformed, lofty achievements in education, healthcare, communication technology, infrastructural development, entrepreneurial empowerment for Corps Members, advocacies among others, have added pep to the relevance of the Scheme.
In many remote villages across the country, Corps Members have provided the void in many schools, hospitals, establishments where they were posted for primary assignments.
Despite the hostilities, the Scheme has left indelible imprints in the proverbial sands of time in its existence. In the remotest parts of the country, even where the natives dread to live, the unquantifiable and immeasurable contributions of the Scheme in the area of education have reflected on the Corps Members sustaining the system in both primary and secondary schools to the point that if their services are withdrawn, there will be a system collapse.
Again, apart from Corps Members imparting academic knowledge, they also take charge of the healthcare needs of people in the remote parts of the villages to the extent that they are the only accessible doctors to the people in those areas.
Corps Medical Personnel (doctors, pharmacists, nurses, medical lab scientists, physiotherapists) through the NYSC Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers (HIRD) regularly ensure free medicare to the rural dwellers.
It is also pertinent to note that the NYSC, in partnership with UNICEF drove the biggest HIV/AIDS sensitisation project in the world for so many years, through the Peer Educator Trainers (PETs) programme. Corps Members are the vanguards and the engine room of the project which has rescued millions of Nigerians, especially the youths, from the claws of the health monster, HIV/AIDS, through massive education and generation of awareness on the virus, treatment and preventive measures.
For those still in doubt of the continued relevance of the Scheme, the climax of its contributions to the entrepreneurial development of the Corps Members was the introduction of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme in 2012.
SAED, since its introduction, as a socio-economic stimulus, has not only empowered Corps Members to become self-reliant and employers of labour, but also reoriented them against over-dependent on the few available white-collar jobs.
The skill programme which starts during the Orientation Course, with in-camp training, and progresses to post-camp training, after the Orientation Course, has also provided soft start-up loans to the Corps Members.
SAED is apparently one of the greatest initiatives by the Scheme which has continued to raise entrepreneurs amongst the Corps Members over the years through provision of requisite platforms not only to acquire or hone their skills, but equally to link them up with financial institutions such as Bank of Industry (BOI), Bank of Agriculture (BOA), Heritage Bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Access Bank, that extend grants and credit facilities to the Corps entrepreneurs.
The biggest success story is that many ex-Corps Members have become successful entrepreneurs, running profitable businesses, mentoring, employing thousands of Nigerians, and contributing to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Testimony to the fact that the Scheme has evolved over the years is the NYSC ventures. The Scheme has established integrated pilot farm settlements in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
They are sited in Ezillo, Ebonyi State; Iseyin, Oyo State; Obubra, Cross River State; Dangulbi, Bauchi State; Samantha, Kebbi state and Leleyi, Kwali in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
Others include the Livestock Feed Mill at Ipaja, Lagos; garri processing factory, Afon Kwara state; Rice Mill, Abakiliki, Ebonyi State; Garment Factories in Minna, Niger State; Mgbakwu, Anambra State; NYSC Water Factory and Bakery, Kubwa, FCT; NYSC Bakery, Water and Garment Factories, Keffi, Nasarawa state, and NYSC Printing Press, Kaduna.
All of them are contributing to the national economy, while also serving as centres for Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship training for both Corps Members and youths of the community where they are located.
Only recently, miffed by the increasing agitations in the demand for the abolition of the Scheme, the Federal Government, through the supervisory ministry, had in its wisdom announced that there were no plans whatsoever to suspend the Scheme.
Then Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, had in the message of assurances said: “When General Yakubu Gowon’s government decided to come up with the idea of the NYSC, the central rationale was to promote the unity of Nigeria as the country was just coming out of the civil war. We have been singing the song that says though the tongue may differ in brotherhood and unity we stand.
“You know that the life wire of any nation is its youths and once their patriotism is captured, that can spread across. So, the rationale for bringing on the NYSC scheme by General Gowon up till now subsists. Every country and even Nigeria is still, on daily basis, trying to promote its unity in diversity.
“With the strength of our youths, sending them to the different parts of the country, some of us have never been to the parts of the country where we served, never knew their cultures, never experienced them, never knew that they were even Nigerians up north or in the South East that you shared your common language or culture with,” he defended.
Similarly, the use of the Corps Members for elections across the country has, over the years, has made the Scheme the biggest contributor to the political trajectory of Nigeria’s democracy.
In fact, in the words of the Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Nigeria is fortunate to have NYSC in the conduct of elections.
He said; “Corps Members are among the most educated, most committed, most patriotic and most readily available election duty staff in Nigeria. We are really happy that we have been collaborating with the NYSC, they go to all the nooks and crannies of the country without complaint.”
And for those still expressing the feelings that the founder of the Scheme, General Yakubu Gowon, should be living in regret over the current State of the Scheme, hear him appraise the mileage recently.
“I appreciate the contributions of the past and present Corps Members in making the scheme become a huge success. I thank the members of the board and the management for being supportive of the programmes”.
Therefore, the NYSC needs the support of all well-meaning Nigerians and corporate organisations this time around as the Scheme is ever ready to contribute more to the socio-economic development of the country.
•Written By Femi Adeyemi