Re: “Let Us Reform or Disband NYSC”

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By Steven Omoha

Surprisingly, there are sustained and conscious attempts by some political players to deliberately splotch a laudable scheme like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) for the wrong reasons. A latest recruit into the agenda, Anthony Kila, a Professor of Strategy and Development and, Director at Center for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS), Lagos, authored a piece, captioned, “Let Us Reform or Disband NYSC.” But finished weakly and poorly.

The pedagogies interrogated and espoused by the writer of the piece can accurately be described as contradictory. While he flaunts dual contrastive positions on same issue- to reform or disband the NYSC, a thorough perusal of the write-up supports none concretely. Probably, he is a writer in conflict with his ideas. Unwittingly, the writer betrayed his concealed motives of a predetermined mindset, severed from conviction, as reflective in an outright display of feeble indecision on either sustaining the existence of NYSC or disbanding it.
In any case, the Author has a good sense of humour. He is not sure of the public acceptability of his arguments. Nigerians have heard enough of such junkyard commentaries and campaigns in recent times. Even the national parliament also mulled with the idea. But it shuddered no one and rather, Nigerians moved against scrapping of the scheme. That’s the only assurance to Kila even today. The writer merely duplicated and re-echoed it today. But the conspiratorial gang-ups against the existence of NYSC, citing insecurity and other mundane issues have failed and will continue to fail strikingly.
The author’s first doubtful, but generous misconception is the declaration that “The most obvious reason to reform or disband the NYSC is that of safety, but that is a mere (sic) but crucial topical issue. The security situation in the country has muffled the sense of adventure in potential corps members and transformed the feel and aroma of NYSC into anxiety.” How, Mr. Professor? And he sounded with much infantile disposition. He backed his assertion with alien idea of parents and guardians praying and fasting for their children or relations not to be posted to volatile areas.
It is disappointing to discern the incapacity of the writer to convince Nigerians that it is the serving corps members who are afraid of “adventurous” exploits during the service years because of insecurity in their localities. But, benignly (according to the writer), it is the parents who fast and pray at their behest? Existence itself anywhere in the world is an adventure. Humanity exists in predestinies; death is an unwelcome visitor, but knocks on anyone’s door, anywhere. That anyone is alive anywhere today is not because of hired sentinels to protect him, or his carefulness or saintliness, but by God’s special mercies.
And if the writer himself bemoans widespread insecurity in the country as confessed, would these young Nigerians be safer or unassailable from violence in their ancestral abodes? Are other human beings not existing in the same communities, baptized by Kila as unsecured? It sounds sufficiently hollow!
Unfortunately, a Professor of Strategy and Development has wittingly belittled the idea of inter-human relationships, cultural adaptation and the domestication of young Nigerians among themselves in other parts of the country. He pretended not to know that it is a natural antidote to peace and propellers of development or harmonious co-existence.
The Author mildly applauded the idea; but frowned at what he prefers to qualify as Government’s imposition of such concepts on its people, whilst canvassing for its replacement with tourism. May be, Kila has no idea of the expensiveness of tourism in Nigeria or elsewhere. For many Nigerians, it is an opportunity which comes once in a lifetime. Therefore, he unreasonably queried; “This seems laudable but after a closer look, a question pops up: why is it the business of the government to force young Nigerians to discover other parts of Nigeria? “
Globally, there is no democracy where citizens are granted absolute freedom and, every nation has its own peculiarities. Other democratic nations too have made certain programs mandatory for all its citizens. So, it is wrong to suggest that “Let us make NYSC optional and specialized.” Nigeria cannot jump blindly into Generation “Z” overnight. It’s a gradual process. If the Government of Nigeria decides to impose cultural mix-ups and platforms of enhancing greater national unity among young Nigerians, it should not constitute a nightmare, based on a flimsy excuse.
It is narrow perception to think corps members’ utility value is only found in closing the deficiency of teachers in public schools. This reasoning is logically defective. What about other professionals like Medical Doctors, health specialists, Architects, Engineers, Lawyers etc, who feel the lacuna in various communities in these sensitive and impactful critical areas? Is Kila saying the valuable services they render should be nullified because the teaching profession alone is abused? And among corps members are also education graduates and all of them contribute to nation-building in very dire situations.
And the craziest standpoint is the submission that “The easiest thing to do is to scrap the scheme.” NYSC cannot be scrapped on the simplistic perceptions of someone’s phobia of insecurity, or its presumed out-modelled structure or because the teaching profession is reportedly abused. The scheme is by far, more valuable and impressively rewarding to the country and the participants. It’s now quite clear, the writer is living in the past, or simply, uninterested in the multiple reforms, the NYSC is currently enjoying under the Buhari Presidency.
Perhaps, the academic don is too busy with other schedules to notice the ongoing reforms and repositioning of the NYSC under the current leadership of Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim.
The writer cannot in all fairness claim that serving corps members face such widespread daunting security challenges in their places of Primary Assignment (PA) because the NYSC Director-General and his team are not robots. Corps members are not posted to real or potential volatile areas. This is in addition to the extra security arrangements for them from the camps to the places they are posted.
NYSC is now figured in fresh realms of contributions to national productivity under Gen. Ibrahim. Its novel in the history of the scheme to have corps members who are actively engaged into large scale and recognizable domestic production of Agricultural produce in Nigeria in response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy on food production. Existing NYSC farms and fresh farm plantations have sprouted throughout Nigeria.
NYSC rice cultivation alone has scaled over 60,000 hectares in year 2021. And modalities for expansion of same have been completed. The rice produce is also processed in NYSC Rice Mills and packaged for public consumption. NYSC bottled water, bread and flour factories have been established and the scheme is aggressively fighting for its financial independence through investments. For the first time, NYSC has contributed slightly over a billion naira into the federation account, sourced from proceeds of its investments in 2020 and 2021.
The Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneur Development Program (SAED) has become the hub of skills empowerment of serving corps members. Many have ended up becoming self-reliant by deploying the SAED talents to investments in post service years. Through soft loans, out-going corps members source from the financial institutions partnering with the NYSC, these young Nigerians have invested in various successful business ventures and have also employed other unemployed youths in different parts of the country. Is this the scheme Prof. Kila and his cohorts want scrapped or are these not reforms worthy of their attention?
And Gen. Ibrahim plans a bigger picture of the financial empowerment of corps members in the post service year. Sensitization campaigns have reached the peak for the establishment of an NYSC Trust Fund, where a larger percentage of passing out corps members would access loans to start life independently. Nigerians cannot sacrifice these benefits on the egoistic excitement of someone lured into the fancies of Generation “Z” or digital age. Nigeria must evolve its home grown solutions to solve its peculiar problems and the NYSC, under Gen. Ibrahim offers a durable plank today as formidable stakeholder in the Nigerian project.

Omoha wrote this piece from Hilltop Estate, Abeokuta.

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