The critical post-war challenges accompanied the civil war which lasted between 1967-1970,led to the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)in 1973 by the then Military Regime of General Yakubu Gowon. The aim of the scheme was to enhance reconciliation, build a bridge across geo-political divides and most importantly, foster unity amongst people from diverse ethnic groups.
However, it is a well-known fact that the very aim of the scheme has been abused since its inception by the very class of people who brought it into existence. Events of the past few years have obviously provided an incontrovertible evidence that demands a constructive re-evaluation of the scheme,which has suffered a huge dose of irreversible collateral damages.
During the last April 2011 general elections, about 10 Youth Corps members were said to have been murdered in cold blood in Bauchi State. This is however the least amongst the numerous murders and other anomalies that have befallen many Youth Corps members in the past.
The Nigerian Parliament has refused to ponder on these grieving stories of the lives of future leaders of the nation by raising its voice on the protection and insurance of serving Corps members. Rather, it brings to the table, a feeble policy regarding the scheme.
Agreeing to the fact that concessionary postings and lobbying for places of primary assingment should be discouraged; except for the married, the physically disabled and members with peculiar health-related issues; the law-makers should set a balanced trend by seriously addressing the critical state of the North and the heavy insecurity of lives and properties that lie there. This is one of the major reasons, if not foremost. Parents lobby places of primary assignments for their children; because they provide measures of security and comfort for them.
The ove N9billion which the scheme gulps each year seems to be yielding no valuable return. Hence, the reason many people have suggested that the money should be channeled to a more profitable sector by totally scraping the scheme. Others opine that the posting of Corps members to their individual home states, inorder to guarantee a measure of safety, since the actual aim of the scheme has been defeated. If the government and the NYSC board cannot re-evaluate the issue by addressing the insecurities or give an ear to the masses, then, it should let the sleeping dog lie. Issues like this sometimes make one wonder why we are in democracy.
The NYSC has become a national embarrasment in the company of other similar schemes around the world because it is full of violence. Even some of the rural areas to which many Corps members are posted, pose alot of dangers to them. There are some places that are untreadable and inhabitable. Would our law-makers continue to pretend and feign ignorance of these dangers that loom the corners of the country? What needs to be changed in Nigeria is the people and not the policy- washing the outer part of an entirely filthy cup.
The NYSC should be left to be. Lobbying postings or places of assignment is not and should not occupy the minds of policy makers. Rather, the insecurity of the Youth Corps members in their places of assignments should be the utmost concern. Whether or not they serve in the agricultural, educational or rural health sector, in whatever state, the question should be ‘how guaranteed is their safety?’ Secondly, ‘how does the scheme and organisation ensure the optimal utilization(not misuse) of these youths?
The popular saying tells it all that ‘what you do not have, you cannot give.’ Nigria lacks security, hence, the reason she cannot offer it to her citizens and inhabitants. For any nation, security should be the primary focus. It is a priceless commodity a nation can offer its people, because a nation without it is porous and vulnerable to any form of economic, social, political, and religious attack.
There is hope for Nigeria. But first, let her begin to tackle sensitive issues with much wisdom that is neeed in matters like this and give no room for short-sightedness.
Irabor Gloria A.
University of Ibadan