Many Nigerians will agree with me that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is the string that binds Nigerians of various ethnic groups and educational backgrounds together.
All Nigerians have the duty to thank former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, for his vision to establish the youth development scheme. NYSC has, in a number of ways, helped to unite people of different cultures through marriage, political alignment, business partnership and others. Friendships built in the NYSC camps or at places of primary assignments extend to future aspirations.
Thus it is easy to see that public officers who attended federal government colleges, federal universities or did the national service in cultures other than theirs, easily get supporters from regions outside of their own when they seek public office at the national level.
The factors that led to the establishment of NYSC in 1973 are much more around. Such factors are even more devastating as the unity of Nigeria as a sovereign nation is being threatened on daily basis by agitations for self determination by regional groups.
Nigeria has many issues to worry about more than the issue of corps members’ insecurity, because insecurity is a threat to all Nigerians, civilians, clergymen and even security personnel. Will the government ban schools in Chibok or Dapchi and other places where students had been abducted by insurgents?
The issue of Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, the issue of Biafra led by the Indigenous People of Biafra ((IPOB) and the agitation for Oduduwa republic are much around. So why should anybody or group think of discontinuing the NYSC now that we need it most. In 1973 when the scheme was established, the problem that required unity came from only one region, Southeast. So, calling for the scrapping of NYSC is tantamount to acquiescencing to Nigeria’s disintegration.
And anybody who is clamouring for the scrapping of the noble scheme should be found guilty of treasonable felony. Authorities should try to ask Hon. Abiante, who is sponsoring the NYSC discontinuation bill in the House of Representatives what his real intention is, and who he is working for.
Before now, the scheme would always run to the federal government, cap in hand, for money to finance little things, but now under the able leadership of Brig-General Shuaibu Ibrahim, the scheme is making efforts to be self-sustained.
NYSC skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development (SAED) is so viable economically that the scheme has even remitted about N280 million to the federal government’s coffers. This has never been done before. If Brig-General Ibrahim’s legacies and visions are sustained, in the near future the scheme would be able to generate more income for the federal government.
It is unfortunate that such unpopular opinion should come from a federal lawmaker who should have known better.
NYSC is a noble scheme, a unifying factor that some of our African sister nations are studying its activities to establish same in their countries. And when the founding father of the scheme is being praised for his foresight some groups in Nigeria wants it disbanded so that the spirit of unity and patriotism in Nigerians should give way to ignorance of mutual cultures and distrust. This will result in chaos, and finally, Nigeria’s disintegration. When that happens, the regional agitators for ethnic republics would have achieved their aim.
It is quite right to say that those who have not undergone the national service in their prime want the scheme cancelled so that the law will not stop them when they seek public office. We must understand that the lack of NYSC certificate or the obtaining of it from questionable source has sent the former minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun packing from her job. Therefore, those in the same boat as her, afraid of such fate, want the scheme discontinued.
As some stakeholders said on BBC Hausa Service, the scheme needs to be more strengthened and funded to carry out some of its activities seamlessly.
Although the issue of insecurity is true, but it is not enough to discontinue NYSC. Security is the business of everybody. It is not only corps members that are threatened by insecurity in Nigeria, but all segments of the society. The security agents, particularly the police have been killed and maimed by bandits. Lawmakers should devise ways to tackle insecurity, and not to use NYSC as scapegoat. Just as former minister of youth and sports, Hon Dalung said on BBC Hausa service, we cannot because of nightmare refuse to go to sleep.
If there is no NYSC, our education system at primary and post primary levels will collapse; the primary healthcare sector will fall, our electoral system will become more expensive, and partisans will be involved in its conduct.
Nigerian lawmakers and all patriotic citizens must rise in unison to condemn the bill seeking to abolish NYSC, now at second reading in the House of Representatives. This disservice must not be allowed to see the light of day.
John-Paul, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.