To say that the youths are the greatest asset to any nation will only go a long way to stating the obvious: without the youths, the future hope of any nation is bleak. The vital roles, youths play as torch carriers and banners of both economical and political continuity can never be over-emphasized.
Unfortunately, most youths are no longer friends of the bright tomorrow. The pendulum is yet to find an equilibrium position in their lives. Disillusionment, helplessness and the likes have eaten deep into the fabric of many while strike actions, cultism and corruption have wrecked the ship of education, where the type of education given to our children have turned them into an abyss of nothingness and spiritual bankruptcy.
It’s little wonder expectations were high in 1973, when the Gowon led administration initiated the National Youths service corps (NYSC).some of the expectations of the program as at then were;
- Creating a true sense of patriotism among Nigerian youths
- Affording these youths the basic or foundational experience of what to expect in the labor market or work sector by ensuring that they are posted to organizations and firms related to their disciplines.
- Ensuring a broad- based understanding of Nigeria as a country and to engender unity.
- Creating a sort of finishing school for graduates to be disciplined, have an understanding and appreciation of the various cultures in the country and have the mentality to face the pressures of life outside school.
Today, it is no longer a secret that the NYSC has since lost its sense of purpose and value in near all ramifications. The program has not only being an extension of the inequality, injustice, unfairness, and the likes that has characterized the Nigerian society since time immemorial but has also paved way for other abnormalities such as
- Corruption and influencing of the posting process
- Extortions and bribery from students prior to posting
- Creation of an illicit quid-pro quo sex trade environment among the officials and female corp. members.
- Frustration and negative influence on the norms and values of honorable corp. members who had truly wanted to serve the nation.
- Avoidable occasions of death and other misfortunes mostly arising from the need for corp. members to visit their families.
- Undue expenses usually encountered by sponsors, friends and relatives who most times have had to borrow in order to meet with the service requirements.
I can go on and on. The demerits 0r rather dangers of this program are becoming countless by the day. Only recently, I read two separate articles by Mr. E. O Okwor, (a senior lecturer with one of the Nigerian universities) who lost a child last year to this program and Dr. Sylvester Fadal (a renowned united states based journalist) calling for the abolishment of NYSC. The question is “can anyone boldly come out and talk about the gains of the present day NYSC? NYSC as a scheme has now become an avenue for government officials to mismanage and steal public funds. If you are having a doubt about this, you can take a look at the proposed allocation for NYSC in the 2010 budget. After seeing the figures, the question that comes to mind is “how is the money being spent? Is it on the under-sized and over-sized low quality uniforms or on the poor food given to corp. members in camp, perhaps it is on supposed monthly allowance of nine thousand, seven hundred and fifty naira being paid to corp. members. Let’s not deceive ourselves. It is obvious that there are some beneficiaries of this scheme with unlimited channels of getting money ranging from the supply of under quality uniforms and other NYSC paraphernalia to a completely unnecessary online registration.
Having noted all these problems, would I advocate for the scrapping of service? Personally – No! Do I expect the government to improve the NYSC? Definitely- Yes!, I would never be happy putting on my television set every night, to see and listen to the minister of information preaching about re-branding of the nation, when the supposed finishing school or scheme initiated to prepare our youths for the life after school seems to be one of the worst hits by corruption, unfairness and injustice in this country .However, while we pray that our cries for a new NYSC is listened to, youths of the country, “privileged” to serve, should seize the opportunity – not to allow their ideas for the country to be stolen or squashed by the hapless present- day custodians but to keep their hopes, dreams, and ambitions alive. The foundational importance of the service; of such an invaluable nation-building institution should not be allowed to be tarnished and brought into disrepute like the many institutions in the country – rather its ideals should be upheld by the youth as the only viable institution that encompasses their ideals, and a vehicle for reclaiming their lost vision of our great country, Nigeria!.
ONYEKABA . N. ONYEKABA