The National Youth Service Corp was created with great fanfare and enthusiasm in the late seventies and for years, it lived up to its purpose of creating:
A. A broad-based understanding of the matrix of Nigeria as a country
B. A national-guard conceptual approach that trained new graduates to be disciplined, understanding of varied cultures and mentally fit to handle the pressures of live
C. An integral but valid service to a nation who then subsidized education for all
D. A foundational experience of the work sector through reasonably balanced work-oriented disciplinary experiences gained, and
E. A true sense of patriotism among Nigerian youths.
Today, the NYSC has not only lost it purpose and values, it is a disaster as indicated by the complete mismanagement of the entire process. Granted that it creates jobs for the highly connected citizens that find their positions as an enrichment opportunity and a chance to not only (a) solicit outrageous bribes from poor students prior to posting, (b) solicit bribes to determine when and where one gets posted, and (c) post their relatives to the best corporations that are likely to retain them after their services, the NYSC also creates an environment for compounded problems such as (a) illicit quid-pro-quo sex trades among the administrators and the female students getting posted, sometimes leading to the spread of HIV and other sexual diseases, (b) punishment for the decent members of the country that are unwilling to trade their honor and body for favorable treatments, (c) frustration and a long-lasting taste of disgust in the mind of honorable individuals who truly want to serve their country, (d) unnecessary deaths through accidents on our poorly maintained roadways, (e) painful disappearance of innocent children to “ritualists” prevalent all over the nation, (f) undue hardship on parents, relatives and/or spouses who often have to borrow to pay for the expenses associated with ensuring that one meets their service requirements and (g) unnecessary separation of families for no validated reason.
Can anyone truly recall the return-on-investment on the part of a youth corper or the nation within the last ten years beside the enrichment of the pockets of those hired to manage the posting system? I completely doubt it. All I remember from the experiences of my siblings that served in the nineties is the added stress it brought to the family when we sometimes couldn’t reach our loved ones for months because they were buried in some remote region in the country without appropriate amenities to make basic contacts. Alternatively, we had the options of bribing our way to our handpicked locations but refused because it was not the right thing to do. Over time, we very quickly learned, that to get posted at all, one had to pay a price. I will love to see the policy that governs the National Youth Service Corp System. I challenge anyone to show me where it specifies the current putrid, poor integrity rules being applied today.
This is an opportunity for change. Blames aside, feelings unattached, it is important to bring to the awareness of the leaders of our nation, the need to scrap the National Youth Service today. Put it to rest for it has lost its purpose. It is time to stop placing our citizens in positions where they are faced with temptations daily. People are human and can’t handle all that combustible stress and open windows of teasing and bribery. Hebrews 4:14 says, “Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, for when He lived on earth He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never sinned.” The reality is, this is Jesus and unlike Him, when men or women are tempted, they sometimes fall preys to those temptations. As to why we should intentionally continue to place temptations in front of highly compromising citizens who view every (just and unjust) opportunity, as the last is questionable. Temptation is simply what the NYSC creates amongst Nigerians that are involved in both the administrations (dispensation of duties and roles) and implementation (Youth Corpers) of the requirements of the National Service.
OBJ did an honorable thing eradicating a similar poorly managed, danger-filled program once named “toll gates”. It is time to migrate that same appropriateness of reasoning to other dead-end programs that takes away rather than enrich the nation. It is time to stop the painful death of our young citizens through accidents associated with the long windy trips they have to take to serve a country that sometimes doesn’t even know what some of its programs are for. Every step taken to address inadequacies in the system is a plus to the leadership of OBJ. There has to be a shift from the obvious to the not so obvious but the goal is to address existing decaying problems that may not seem like crisis but truly are. The cost of allowing the NYSC to remain far outweighs its benefits and a rapid, dramatic rule driven by the intent to create a model for future leaders, augmented with a requirement that qualifications and fairness be used in hiring our new graduates will perhaps set a portal towards a balanced approach to eradicating corruption at some levels. Even if the system fails to change immediately, at least a new mechanism would have been set in place.
Dr. Sylvester Fadal
San Jose, CA USA