Leadership in turbulent times: The story of former DG, NYSC

A Nobel Prize Winner for English Literature, James Joyce, it was who wrote that the past is consumed in the future and the present is living because it helps to bring forth the future.

Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim was appointed as the 18th Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 10, 2019 for a period of three years. He had hardly spent one year into his three year tenure when one of the most dreadful diseases of our time, the Covid 19, was sneaked into Nigeria in February of that year.

By March 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari had set up a Presidential Task Force headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, to tackle all issues related to the pandemic.

Subsequently the affairs of the nation were practically brought to a standstill when that task force imposed a nation- wide lockdown to prevent further spread of the corona virus. The NYSC orientation camps from where all corps members were to be mobilised for their primary and other assignment were promptly shut down. It was obvious that without the participation of graduates mobilised for the scheme at the orientation camps the Corp members cannot be posted to their places of primary assignment.

General Shuaibu who was not a new man on the block took this challenge frontally and continuously interfaced with the Presidential Task Force to see how best to conduct the activities of the Corps in the face of the new realities.

It should further be noted that apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of insecurity in the country and how it affected the lives, movement and well-being of the corps members were uppermost in his mind. In this vein, it took appropriate measures with various security agencies of government which ensured that the serving corps members were protected from danger. He also instructed them to individually and collectively take care of their own safety reminding them that security is a responsibility for all. These measures and others perhaps were responsible for the minimum casualties recorded during his three-year tenure in office.

In order to ensure that the National orientation camps all over the country were kept ready even in the face of the nationwide lockdown, he instructed the all the state NYSC coordinators to keep the orientation camps neat, tidy and ready to receive Corps Members at short notice. This proactive measure ensured that when the Federal Government allowed the orientation camps to be re-opened in October 2020, the camps were ready to receive them.

Even in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim motivated the then serving Corps Members at the time to contribute in no small measures and in their own ways to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic on the general public. Consequently, they were involved in the production of face masks, hand sanitizers, disinfectants, hand bills on preventive measures, all distributed to the general public.

It can also be said that General Shuaibu Ibrahim without any fear of contradiction ranked as one of the most active Directors-Generals of the scheme in recent times. He was also a trouble shooter, who took proactive actions whenever any negative issues pertaining to the successful conduct of the affairs of the scheme reared its ugly head. He visited all the states offices of the scheme several times during his tenure.

The tenure of General Shuaibu Ibrahim also brought some novelties and innovations which brought entrepreneurial schemes into the National Youth Service Corps Orientation camps. The aim was to ensure that corps members were properly tailored to fend for themselves and could also be employers of labour in view of the daunting economic challenges face where jobs were not readily available after graduation. In addition, various loan schemes were also introduced to avail corps members the opportunity of starting their own businesses as per their areas of specialisation and interest.

Other areas where the former NYSC DG made a huge difference during his tenure were in the area of agriculture. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly called on all Nigerians to return to the land in order to grow what we eat and eat what we grow. Consequently, the scheme has farmlands all over the 36 states of the country including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Taking a cue from the advice of President Muhammadu Buhari, the former Director General at every available platform emphasised the importance of agriculture to the corps members using the available farmlands to actualise the vision. He should also be commended for his efforts which helped to eliminate fake corps members by prosecution those who were detected.

If all the activities, innovations and novelties introduced by the former National Youth Service Corps Director General were to be enumerated, their importance may be lost in an ocean of details but mention must be made of the Radio Station which the Corps under the former DG established barely a month before his departure. It is obvious that this Station amongst other things is an outlet for providing entertainment, information and education to the general public would provide jobs for the general public and also function as a training ground for corps members who are interested in broadcast journalism.

At every forum, President Muhammadu Buhari never hid his appreciation for the wonderful work the National Youth Service is providing for the continuous integration, cohesion and general well-being of the nation.

Even though the tenure of the former National Youth Service Corps Director General fell within difficult times like the lockdown, general insecurity in the country, recession, etc., it wasn’t all a bad story. This is because during his tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari found it necessary and imperative to increase the allowances of the corps members from N19,000 monthly to N33,000. That was cheering news for both corps members and the NYSC authorities at the Yakubu Gowon House, Abuja.

On Tuesday, May 12, 2022, a traditional pullout parade for General Shuaibu Ibrahim was held at the Old Parade Ground, Abuja, amid pomp and pageantry, thus ending his tenure at the Yakubu Gowon House which started on May 10, 2019.

Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim may not have done all the things he had wished to accomplish for the scheme during his three-year tenure but it cannot be said that he did not perform to the best of his ability in the circumstances he found himself and the resources available to him.

It is hoped that the new Director-General, Brigadier General Mohammed Fada, would leverage on the performance of his predecessor to move the NYSC to the next level in accordance with the mandate of his appointment.

It is expected that the generality of the staff, State governments, all the stakeholders involved in the scheme should give the new helmsman the necessary cooperation and support he deserves in order for him to effectively carry out his mandate.

Usman Adams, a public affairs commentator, wrote in from Abuja

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