NYSC Scheme and national unity

It’s solely a youth-oriented programme. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme was established to ensure national consciousness, youth leadership skills for nation-building, meaningful interactions and enduring relationships as well as national integration and unity among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria

Although the programme arguably, has not failed to achieve over the decades, nonetheless, these are definitely not the best of times for the current Management and Staff of the 38-year-old NYSC, introduced by the Gen. Yakubu Gowon Military Administration in the aftermath of the unfortunate Civil War that raged between 1966 and 1970.

The current pressure on the Scheme is informed by the increasing insecurity of lives of its Corps members due to killings, bomb attacks and kidnapping in certain volatile states, including Borno, Jigawa, Taraba, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and Bauchi to which graduate youths are being posted to participate in the one-year mandatory National Service.

For the umpteenth time in recent times, there have been discordant calls on appropriate governmental authorities and other prominent stakeholders, to either phase out or restructure the programme, vis-à-vis the guidelines for posting, welfare package, issues of security of lives as well as the deployment of Corps members to places of primary assignment after mobilisation at the Orientation Camps, among others.

Granted, that the Federal Government consequently has set up an investigative panel on post-election violence, headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu to probe series of violent attacks that dotted the landscape at the time, and make recommendations for possible implementation, conflicting pronouncements, emanating from the leadership at NYSC National Headquarters, in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), over guidelines on re-deployment of Corps members to preferred states are not helping matters in respect of re-assuring them and their parents/guardians that the nation has their interest at heart.

An earlier memo from the office of Brig.-Gen. Maharazu Tsiga, Director-General, NYSC, purportedly read in part: “In the light of the security uncertainty in Bauchi State, Management saw with Corps members and waived all due process to expedite action on relocation.”

Yet, on realising that scores of serving and prospective Corps members have kept seeking re-deployment to other states, the National Directorate, again, made a U-Turn on the previous directive, saying it “appeared to have encouraged Corps members from all states of the Federation, including the FCT, to besiege the national headquarters seeking relocation for the flimsiest reasons.”

The Director-General thus, ostensibly stated in another memo: “All prospective Corps members must proceed to their respective camps immediately. Relocation matters will be handled through the established procedure from their states of deployment.”

While one readily agrees with the leadership of the NYSC, that allowing Corps members to serve in their states of origin will be against the NYSC code, the officials still need to realise the fact that they may be wrong on describing reasons advanced by concerned Corps members seeking re-deployment as “flimsiest”.

Human lives are precious, and once lost, they are simply irreplaceable! Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves this pointed question: Which rational parents or guardians carelessly, will allow their sons or daughters in whom they have invested from birth, up till the level of graduation from school, and sheepishly march into the den of a deluge of seemingly hopeless, unkind miscreants and faceless terrorists in the North to snuff life out of them in seconds while serving Nigeria outside their states of origin?

To further impress it on the Government that things are really falling apart with the Scheme of recent, at least security-wise, the apparent lack of confidence in the capability of the state security apparatus has compelled the authorities of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), in Borno State, following alleged threat letters from Boko Haram sect, to shut down the institution indefinitely, while many non-natives are leaving the troubled state in droves for dear lives.

Similarly, the leaderships of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), led by Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd), and Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, among others differently urged the NYSC authorities not to deploy graduate Yoruba sons and daughters, and the University’s graduates respectively to the North for the National Service.

Thus, can anyone blame then, the leaderships of these institutions for taking such a precautionary but extreme measure to protect the ‘future’ of their people? Hardly of course. More so, practically everyday, beginning from the eve of the 2011 general elections till this day, bomb blasts continue to wreak havoc and tear innocent lives and property into smithereens in that part of the country.

The Government, therefore, needs to take urgent, proactive measures to resolve the Boko Haram episode before it gets out of the hand. Having allegedly identified certain individuals/groups said to be sponsors of the Islamic sect’s destructive activities weeks back, appropriate authorities must arrest and prosecute such individuals/groups, who one believes are not ghosts but human beings living right in the midst of the people in this country.

The Federal Government, Ministries of Defence and Youth Development and NYSC leadership, through moral suasion should appeal to and enlist the support of traditional institutions, community leaders, youth organisations, especially the exemplary leadership of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, led by Alhaji Shettima Yerima, to warn and call these troublemakers to order, so as to allow the current Administration to prove its mettle regarding the implementation of its avowed ‘Transformation Agenda’.

Most politicians with inordinate ambitions seeking political power at all costs for their selfish ends but masquerading as patriotic leaders must be told bluntly to stop their age-long hide-and-seek, disruptive tendencies and outright hypocrisy in forms of inciting statements and disposition which surreptitiously fuel trouble across the land.

The NYSC National Headquarters, for now, should give express approval to requests of many Corps members seeking re-posting to other states considered “much safer”. These officials should stop playing chess with the lives of the nation’s youth by tossing them around between Abuja and their states of Service in an attempt to effect redeployment. Continuing doing this will only encourage the generality Nigerians to lose interest in the Scheme completely.

The current Administration must be very careful by about romancing with the so-called “representatives” of these anonymous Boko Haram sect members in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, under the guise of seeking dialogue with them. After all, the same group has stated in clear terms that their ultimate target of attack is the State House, the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Failure on the part of the Government to act now by bringing to book sponsors of this sequential violence in the North while driving the sect aground in time will only embolden these agents of darkness to visit more untold socio-political, psychological and economic disruptions on the country.

It should be noted that if the NYSC Scheme is allowed to wind down operations, then, the nation is rest assured that other laudable national development schemes, commissions and programmes may be forced to follow suit. Gradually, Nigeria may well be preparing a fertile ground for the realisation of the unfortunate but much-touted prediction about the country by 2015.

Written by
Gbenga Kayode
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