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@ 50, let the NYSC be despite challenges

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As the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC scheme marks its golden jubilee on May 22 having been created in 1973, most Nigerians will agree that the one year mandatory programme for graduates below 30 years of age had substantially met the objectives of the founding fathers which include serving as a vehicle for national unity, development and more importantly promoting peace and inter ethnic harmony.

Though critics of the continued existence of the scheme often cite poor remuneration for Corps members, incessant killing of some of them due to religious, ethnic or political violence in their areas of primary assignment as the basis of their grouse, we strongly believe in its retention since experience has shown that the merits far outweigh the disadvantages in the past 50 years.

There is no doubt that most citizens appreciate the vision of the founding fathers of the NYSC such as General Yakubu Gowon (retd), Colonel Ahmadu Ali, (retd) its first Director General and others for their foresight at promoting the unity and uniqueness of the country through mobilisation and subsequent deployment of graduate youths under the age of 30 years to rebuild their fatherland after a devastating civil war that destroyed the fabrics of the nation’s unity, claimed over 2million lives and to forge lasting unity amongst her people.

The scheme also, according to the records, was established based on Decree No. 24 of 1973 by the military regime of Gen. Gowon as head of state “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity” while its other objectives captured in Decree No.51 of 16 June 1993 include, to inculcate discipline in youths by “instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves; raise the moral tone of the youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement; develop in the youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest”.

We further recall that other lofty goals of the service are: “to enable youths acquire the spirit of self reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment; contribute to the accelerated growth of the national  economy; develop common ties among the youths and promote national unity and integration; remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups; develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people; equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilisation of their skills in area of national needs and for youths to be assigned to jobs outside their States of origin as well as  eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences amongst others.

But the twin objectives of encouraging members of the service corps to seek at the end of their one-year national service, career employment nationwide in order to promote free movement of labour and the motivation for employers of labour to recruit members who distinguished themselves in course of duty, on permanent basis clearly have not been realized to the disappointment of members and their parents or guardians due largely to fluctuating fortunes of the economy over the years and lately worsening security challenges across the country.

However, we note with concern that it is on account of the pervasive insecurity in the land that most critics of the scheme are unceasing in demanding for its abolition and maintained that the nation’s quest for lasting national unity and integration must not be at the expense of the blood of her most promising manpower – the youths,  who are the leaders of tomorrow and constitute the most important asset.

In other words rather than call for the scrapping of the scheme, good spirited Nigerians and critical stakeholders including employers of labour, should increase support to the Federal Government to improve on camp facilities, boost infrastructures, increase budgetary allocation for implementing its many laudable programmes, enhance the welfare of corps members through adequate remuneration since it is certain that the future is bright considering the legacy of service and positive impact on human lives.

We totally support the recent submission of a prominent monarch in Ondo State, Oba Adefemi Adedoyin-Adegbite, the Owa-Ale Adimula of Ikareland that the NYSC, has remained one of the most important source of unity to the nation in its five decades of existence and that no effort should be spared to expand the scope of its Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development, SAED, programme  and make it more attractive to members of the service corps for most of them to be self employed after service thereby reducing the current high unemployment rate.

Besides, he argued that through such improved capacity building for corps members, they will be in good stead to contributing their quota to national development, noting that the SAED has the potential to transform the country from being a consuming nation to a more productive one even as many Corps members in Agro-Allied, Food Processing, Construction and ICT, have excelled in such endeavours and turned out to be employers of labour.

Significantly too, we have observed that the scheme has continued to promote national unity through inter ethnic and regional marriages, sustaining peaceful coexistence with indigenes of host communities after their service year, some of whom have been very successful, been a unifier of all the ethnic groups in the country and therefore wholeheartedly commend management and participants of the scheme for doing the nation proud over the years.

By and large, given that  insecurity has been identified as constituting the greatest threat to the effective running of the NYSC, we challenge the federal government in particular and the states in general to redouble their efforts in ensuring better welfare and adequate protection of lives of Corps members as well as all Nigerians, considering that the welfare and security of the citizens is the primary responsibility of government across the world. This will further guarantee peace and stability both of which are necessary ingredients for the continued growth, social, economic and technological development of the country.


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