BEAUTIFUL times are back in the NYSC. There is obviously a wind of change blowing over the scheme for the better. So soon after a very successful outing to honor the Nigerian youth for outstanding performance by MR PRESIDENT in Abuja, the scheme is here in Benin City for the AMC in pursuit of its mandate- national unity and development. I thank the DG, management and staff of the NYSC for the good work and the kind gesture of inviting retired members to partake.  The NYSC works very hard and were other organizations to work the same way, the same zeal, selflessness and patriotism the country would have been far better than what she is today. DG, thank you sir and keep the flag flying.
I share the concern of the scheme for her future as conveyed in the theme of this AMC – Fulfilling the mandate of the NYSC in the face of current challenges. These are trying times for both the individual human being and corporate organization in which only the creative thinking and hard working person will likely survive. I noted in your invitation that you would appreciate my contribution to the lecture of the AMC. This therefore serves as one from an ‘outsider’.
Generally, repositioning is about strategic change- a change from one position to another aimed at gaining advantage in a given situation-say a market in order to achieve some set goal. According to Business dictionary, Repositioning is about ‘changing a brand’s status in comparison to that of a competing brand. This is normally done by ‘changing the marketing –mix-price, place, product, packaging, promotion etc in response to changes in the marketing place’. Many organizations resort to repositioning when faced with ‘failure to reach the brands marketing objectives’, the brand is weak, unable to compete or need to respond to remarkable change in the economy or emerging challenges in the environment. It involves a major change meant to save declining fortunes or respond to major shifts in the economy. However it is so expensive and tedious  and expensive in terms of funds and efforts which among others  require ‘changing the expectations of stake holders including employees, stock holders, financial backers’ that many organizations  prefer to launch new product rather than repositioning  a well established brand.
With regard to the NYSC some questions may be asked here:  What are its mandates – national unity and development? what do you want to change: the structure, programs, objectives, the participant? Is the brand strong enough or weak? How do we perceive ourselves?  How many of people including staff truly understand its mandate and faithful to it? Are the NYSC objectives still relevant? What do we have on ground to drive them? Which are the areas of  strength and weakness of the NYSC?. What is new in the environment and how do we mobilize the resources available to emerging challenge? We know of state coordinators who evaporated as a result of orientation exhaustion and what do we have in place to empower and motivate men and women to the cause of nation-building? Correct answers to some of these questions will throw light on what is probably needed to be done now and go a long way in aiding the scheme to realize its mandate continually.
The NYSC is a very established brand in the minds of many- dedicated to the pursuit of national unity and development. For this reason and the knowledge that repositioning will take longer efforts beyond single term of a DG in the office and requiring much external inputs  to do it, I  make my  contribution with theme of the AMC –‘Fulfilling the mandate of the NYSC in the face of current  challenges in mind.  Any organization that fails to deliver on its mandates loses its legitimacy and reason for existence.  There is every need for us to look for ways and means to strengthen operational and administrative structures for enduring results. This is even more so with the NYSC charged with the task of promoting national unity without which  nations disintegrate
For a number of reasons some of them already mentioned I am more comfortable with advocating for the strengthening the scheme’s apparatus for maximum output or reach because as managers we are expected to use available resources to achieve desired result. Repositioning an organization such as the requires much external intervention which might not be forthcoming especially when the NYSC is constitutional matter requiring agencies such as the National Assembly. The developments under reference here- insecurity, unemployment, expanding corps population are outside the control of the scheme.
Yet so much can be done to help the scheme in achieving its mandates and in this respect I shall be proposing a managerial approach that focuses on strengthening administrative and operational facilities of an organization with faith in the infinite ability of man to realize objective when properly empowered and motivated. While Reposition can be quacking at times if not well handled, the NYSC must be equipped with management/ leadership skills for optimum performance. Organizational   strengthening is a management approach which is concerned with ‘measures to improve the performance’ of an organization or methods to improve the capacity/ capability to execute programs’… (TACS). And it consists of a number of motivational elements such as job enrichment, empowerment, training and provision of facilities to deliver a given task.
As indicated earlier, we resort to repositioning when a brand is weak, uncompetitive or there are remarkable changes in the economy. At times it could backfire and prove costly.   To the best of my knowledge the NYSC is not in competition with other youth organization in Nigeria and as a brand it is strong. However there are developments warranting due response such as those mentioned earlier  but she   lacks the capacity or capability to meet emerging challenges.  Organizational strengthening normally concentrates attention on ways and means of improving organization’s capacity to deliver on its mandates by overcoming challenges and obstacles.
Let it be truly understood. The issues of growing unemployment, increasing corps population and wide spread insecurity are real obstacles to the operation of the scheme. But they are by no means new and may in fact be part of the reason for the establishment of the NYSC. For instance, there was unemployment in 1973 when the NYSC was established- though it was lop-sided in nature. There was insecurity though mainly armed robbery and within ten years the expanding trend in corps population had emerged.
So in name nothing new really but on emphasis there is so much to worry about. For instance the rise of militia groups has worsened the insecurity situation with acts of terrorism such as kidnapping, arson etc and the improvement in education and health sector has turned out many graduates such that we now talk of several hundred instead of 40,000 or so of the 1980s. There is the major development of democratic rule as opposed to military dictatorship in the environment .All these require appropriate response based on uncommon form of uncreative thinking especially so when most the developments are outside the scheme’s control.
NYSC is not alone in this long hardship of extreme freezing winter season and she cannot be seen as abdicating its responsibility. There has been the tendency in the past to resort to looking for areas to cut corps population in the frenzy belief that the number is getting too high for comfort. It is however not the right way to go. The nation’s population has since doubled its 1960s figure, the insecurity situation has worsened and unemployment deepened and much more complex. The three problems identified here – unemployment, insecurity phenomenal increase in corps –population have almost same effect on the scheme- each reduces the absorptive capacity of the scheme. Unemployment eats  up structured vacancies which the founding fathers had in mind when drawing up the scheme, insecurity restraints posting or dispersal of youths to all parts of the country as envisioned by the Acts and  increased corps population put undue pressure on the training and other facilities. Solution shall lie on enhancing the capacity and capability of the scheme to absorb corps members, train them, engage them meaningfully etc . The NYSC must create new ways to deploy and utilize the services of corps members.
There are often ways out of extremely bad situations. One of them is for organizations to strengthen apparatus of operation. According to Shakariah Chamala & co there are many ways to strengthening an organization for better performance. This includes the empowerment of staff to enable them lead, direct, influence  the  staff and others  such as youths(empowering approach) ,  developing the human resources  with the right philosophy, technical and managerial skills to help planning, implementation, and evaluation( human resource development approach)    Organizing the community for support- understanding the structure, values, rules, acquiring skills for conflict resolution, negotiation, communication to drive home commonly set goal(community organizing role) problem-solving and education role which stresses the need to learn how to solve problems, take risks, identify problems and provide the right solution both in theory and practice.
What Can Be Done
While it is needless to say that the NYSC can benefit from these models or approaches, the following key areas should be explored:
Boost staff morale –there is suppressed anger and frustration which may explain the endless streams of petition-most of them done out of ignorance.  The flow of communication appears slow and the degree of staff participation appears low and has been so for ages. It  must be stepped up henceforth.  Staff condition of service is generally poor. NYSC works 24 hours a day. Two directors and some lower ranking officers had died during period of orientation as a result of  exhaustion. The severance allowance is miserable compared with some public organizations and there is no much care for the retired. Let us empower the staff to empower the youth for national unity and development and the scheme to deliver on its mandates.
•    Drum the importance of the scheme and its problems to the appropriate authority and request for the employment of at least 2000 staff to drive the scheme’s objectives at the grassroots- village level
•    National unity is both a body and mind issue. Unfortunately the publicity aspect to win souls and support for NYSC is low. Invest here for support. Involve the members of the public especially the elites, educate them on the problems of the scheme and sue for understanding and support through well  directed advertisement.
•    Weak inspection, monitoring and evaluation mechanism. Inspection of corps members is a generic function of the scheme. Perhaps with appropriate technology this aspect of the scheme could be enhanced. Seek external support through The National planning commission for external assistance.
•    Training and retraining are critical to organizational performance.  At the staff level the percentage is low, and the corps members’ level the facilities are grossly inadequate and course content not rich enough on the concept of unity.
•    There is need for job enrichment knowing that everyone cannot become a Director or State Coordinator
•    There is no continuity of programs. One of the results is the recurrent nature of problems eg rejection of corps members by employers.  This was nearly solved by limiting areas of posting to Education, Health  and Agriculture- critical areas of national needs. It was dropped at a time, reintroduced with feebleness. FOR ALL THE CRIES ABOUT INCREASING CORPS-POPULATION, THE EDUCATION AND AGRICULTURE SECTORS CAN ABSORB THEM ALL.
•    NYSC has to be self sufficing in its deployment/ posting policy. It should organize village based outfits, programs and post corps members to them and liaise with both government and private for support with accommodation and training facilities.
•    In each village shall be Corpers’ lodge for community work to be supervised by inspector to carry out full time service. The ICPC group could occupy members on daily basis, so also the agric corps, environment, road construction and public works.  A fraction of public works can be reserved for NYSC.  They could run farms, restaurant anything with close supervision professional staff. Ghana NYS competes for public contract for execution by youths.
•    Enhance cultural activities at the grass roots by hosting musical, sports, dance/drama as part of  state programs  on LG. Zonal basis, as way of promoting understanding and fostering integration at the grassroots.
•    Strengthen the NYSC links with security agencies and train corps members on Intelligence gathering.
•    Influence robust budgeting for the scheme. Use politicians and consultants to reach out.
•    Regular advocacy visits to embassies, Banks and other leading players of the private sector, National Assembly etc to promote understanding and solicit for necessary support.
Thank you!