I had an argument a week ago about whether the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), a scheme started in 1973 by the then military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War should still continue or be put out of its misery. While I’ve been a sceptic before now, this time around I couldn’t be any clearer on the programme. Sure, it’s been quite a good run and there have been some achievements like people meeting and marrying but it’s time.
I’ll give just one reason here before continuing: it’s a cesspool of corruption, and a monumental waste of time and resources. Okay that’s two reasons. I’m sorry.
The NYSC was established to aid in the rebuilding of fractured lines of unity in the country after the civil war. Perhaps, it was also to reduce the divide between the nation’s graduate ‘elite’ and the grassroots, raise future leaders, instilling the ideals of good citizenship and service to community. This is about a summary of the nine goals of the NYSC scheme. All good and noble objectives.
However, if we’re waiting for the NYSC to instill these values in the Nigerian youth after primary, secondary and tertiary education, then we have failed as a nation in outlining our priorities. In our formative years, these ideals should have been instilled. How come Nigeria had more people interested in national unity and service to the fatherland pre independence before a few disgruntled folk ruined everything with selfishness and greed?
I’ll be the first to say that at the time the NYSC was established, it was a noble and smart thing to do. Still, it failed to directly address and right the wrongs of the past. People largely ‘served’ because the government demanded it, not because they felt it was their responsibility.
Today, we hear of the government saying that only a fraction of fresh graduates will go for NYSC because of the economic crisis and shortage of funds. Even at that, the scheme runs on billions of Naira every year, some of which are mismanaged and frittered.
Some background to this: I went for my national service in 2010 – I was posted to Akwa Ibom – and that was after a year of delay after graduating because everyone couldn’t go at the same time. There’s an unbelievable backlog in a number of universities. I would have loved not to go although the prospect of living in another part of the country had its allure – but I did not need NYSC for that.
Anyway, the conditions of living in camp were downright deplorable. It’s unconscionable that graduates have to live like they’re in a refugee camp (it isn’t right that refugees live like that either). Food was horrible, over the course of 21 days, I spent about N20,000 on food in Mammy market because I couldn’t afford to consume the poison we were being served. On one funny occasion, a female corps member complained openly about the okra soup she was served – honestly, it would pass for a bowl of water and oil with sprinklings of okra. When the camp commandant heard, he wrote an apology letter, forced her to sign and read it that night through the Orientation Broadcasting Service (OBS) on camp grounds. It was that bad.
The uniforms – the entire 7/7 – were awful, hardly your size and lousy quality. So the outrage is palpable when camp officials say with pride that each corper’s uniform costs about N75,000. Most corps members end up sewing new uniforms and bringing their white shorts and t-shirts from home due to this. See what I said about inflation and corruption? Every cost per corper is inflated. And I don’t even want to talk about hygiene and restrooms.
So imagine if the billions spent on running the NYSC was spent on actual education or improving the health sector? How great would that be? Well, if they don’t steal it too.
Ask anyone to honestly tell you what good purpose the scheme serves today. I’d like to hear it. In my opinion, it succeeds in wasting one more year of a graduate’s life. It doesn’t really provide employment because the same idleness some graduates escape during the 1-year service don’t disappear. They wait. NYSC isn’t employment. The programme today is more or less a holding bay for fresh graduates. Why waste one year of active productivity? Just let them graduate and get to work. That’s what graduates are for! Learn a skill, get a job, start a business, there are a wide range of options.
Unfortunately, you can’t really get a good job without your NYSC certificate.
Some proponents would cite the grassroots development programmes in states because of the corpers there. But really, do we really have to wait for graduates to undertake grassroots development projects? Go anywhere in the world, even before children are 10 years old, they are already contributing in one way or the other to their society. They volunteer, learn skills, etc. Here, very few young people appreciate the value of internship before they get to their third year in the university or at the end of their Ordinary National Diploma, then NYSC after graduation. Why?
I think I’ve said enough. The programme has run its course and in 2016, I don’t see how it is still relevant to the scheme of things, other than to waste time and line the pockets of certain people. In addition, it hasn’t really solved the core issues it was set up for: we’re still as fractured and divided as ever. Why? Because it was never the solution in the first place!
Making it voluntary sounds nice but it’s like keeping a vegetable on life support indefinitely.
Please, kill it!
Deoye Falade is a writer and media professional who works as a Content Strategist and Editor for gemWOMAN/gemMAN magazines. He also contributes features for True Nollywood Stories and other top media outlets. When he’s not being lazy or rabble rousing online, he pretends to have common sense on his blog: www.spencersmuse.wordpress.com
Click HERE to subscribe to this blog via email for immediate notification.