It’s longer news that the corporate existence of Nigeria is threatened by the unabating attacks of insurrectionists, bandits, terrorists and the aberration of unknown gunmen. Due to the helplessness of the government to curb this ugly and incessant attacks on the precious lives and property of the citizens, Nigerians are taking recourse to their primordial ethnic cocoons which decimates the Nigerian state to the threshold of near collapse.
The security conundrum has put everyone in danger. The activities of these anti-state actors have imperiled farmers, traders, students, political leaders, travelers and ofcourse corps members who are entrusted with the patriotic mandate of rendering selfless service to the motherland.
Concerned Nigerians are asking what the way out of the quagmire could be. It is this existential question that has birthed a precipitous bill seeking to scrap National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Sponsored by Awayi Abiante from Rivers State, the bill has now reached the second reading at the Green Chamber. This bill has brought NYSC to the stead to be a whipping boy for our insecurity as lawmakers debate it relevance to the nation after 48 years of existence.
Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante in the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, listed various reasons why the NYSC should be scrapped.One of the reasons, according to Abiante, is due to incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence.
Hon Abiante also gave economic exploitation of Corpers by private agencies as another reason for his bill seeking the discontinuation of the scheme as they “are no longer recruiting able and qualified Nigerian youths, thus relying heavily on the availability of corps members who have not been well remunerated and get relieved with impunity at the end of their service year without any hope of being gainfully employed.”
Apart from serving in their various places of primary assignment, corps members are often deployed for key assignments such as working as ad hoc electoral staff during elections which he also explains endangers the safety of corps members since elections in Nigeria are most times volatile.
It is worthy to note that since the inception of nysc itself in 1973 the program has been trailed by waves of protest . Just so you know that the scheme has always been a bone of contention right from the day it’s decree was promulgated in 1973. In the words of the scheme’s founder, Gen. Yakubu Gowon “the establishment of the scheme was followed by a protest throughout the length and breadth of the country”
The administration of Gen. Gowon established the NYSC with the promulgation of Decree No 24 of May 22, 1973, the objective was to ensure that Nigeria remained an indivisible entity that would be focused on sustainable development and four decades later the scheme can do better but it’s relevance to the socio economic fabrics of Nigeria can be attested to by well meaning and patriotic citizens of Nigeria though not devoid of challenges.
It was the same General Yakubu Gowon who launched the famous 3Rs which are reconstruction, rehabilitation, reconciliation in order to galvanize the wartorned Nigeria after the devastating civil war the giant of Africa was plunged into between 1967 to 1970 and he found young graduates as one of the veritable tools of nation building. Reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation should be seen as an ongoing efforts of nation building just as government is a continuous process.
The NYSC posts Corps members to cities or villages and states far from home and states of origin, where they are expected to mix with people of other tribes, social and family backgrounds where they could learn the culture of the indigenes in the place they are posted. This of course fosters mutual understanding of the country’s diverse cultures and national cohesion. What if there was no NYSC?
NYSC should be seen as a work in progress. The government should strengthen the scheme to ensure it meets the current socio-economic reality of our country but scrapping it because of insecurity is like a farmer throwing away his hoe because he’s unable to use it. The problem is not the hoe but the farmer’s inability to use it.
Nigeria is one of the most terrorized countries in the world and no society can thrive in an atmosphere of severe insecurity like the one in Nigeria. Government must live up to it’s primary responsibility of providing security of lives and property to citizens. This is the least citizens can ever ask of any government.
Sinafi Omanga is a serving corps member with the Nigerian Observer.