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Nigeria-Improving The N.Y.S.C.

Yakubu Gowon

Created by the Gowon administration,in 1973,the national youth service corp,NYSC,was envisioned as a vehicle for fostering unity among Nigeria’s many peoples.The idea was that posting corpers to states other than their states of origin,would bring them into contact with people of different tribal,social,religious backgrounds.It was believed that contact,with people of different cultural and religious persuasions would boost the cause of national unity.No one can argue with the theory.Plenty of people are,however,arguing with the reality of the scheme.So,has NYSC met the expectations of the people?Is it still relevant?Depends on who you ask.

For members of Nigeria’s middle and upper classes,mainly southerners,it is viewed as a way to provide uncompensated skilled labour for areas where these skills are in short supply,mainly in the north of Nigeria.For these people,it is a wasteful distraction fromthe business of getting on in life.With all the connections available to people in this category,the one year spent on youth service could have been put to better use,securing some plum job somewhere,or furthering their education,given as  service in rural areas  offers little in the way of attractive permanent employment.

For the less privileged corpers,especially those who attended university straight from the village,the service year represents an opportunity.Lacking any sort of support base,in the shape of city-based relations with the necessary connections to enable job-hunting,the service year is a chance to work and get paid.It is also an opportunity to see other parts of the country and to broaden the horizon of their minds.For people in this category,the money they make during the service year gives them a measure of independence than they have ever known.And,not being so choosy,the service job,if it is made permanent, might be attractive enough as well.

For me,there is plenty of room for improvement,before we can really enthuse about a service corps that is delivering on the ambitions  of it’s founders.First,corpers need to be paid better.Much better.Some of these corpers,especially the less privileged,will need their savings while they hunt for a job,after service.Second,the waiting period for call-up after graduation, should be a matter of weeks,not months.The practice where graduates are kept at home,in limbo,for a long period of time,sometimes for  over a year,is criminal.There is no other word for it.People who could be productive,for self as well as for family and society,are kept at home,burdening parents and guardians who had already sacrificed everything for them.

Third,host communities must be sensitized to be more accepting and tolerant of service members’ rights and freedoms.If we are to achieve the aim of engendering unity through the NYSC,then contact between corpers and host community,must be more enlightening for both parties.Both parties must learn to be more tolerant of each others differences,cultural,social or religious.Each party must adjust to the other,otherwise the whole scheme is  meaningless,and dangerous for the corpers.This puts me in mind of the incident,last year,in one Northern state,in which a female  corper was reportedly raped and killed by locals,who complained that she broke local religious laws by wearing trousers.This is just unacceptable.Service must be made safer for the corpers.The hosts religious sensibilities are matched by the corpers religious rights.If you are forced by the government to serve in certain areas,and your religion compels you to wear trousers,then what?

*Public nudity is prohibited on the basis of decency,not religion.Wearing trousers is a different matter.


2 responses to “Nigeria-Improving The N.Y.S.C.

  1. codliveroil September 16, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I thought the idea of the NYSC was a good one, but events in the last few years have caused me to reconsider.

    What you said about improving conditions for the corpers is definitely true.

    The host communities should definitely be more accepting, and the government should be mindful not to deploy corpers to places where they are in danger. The ugly incident in Jos where three youth corp members where butchered, for no reason. There were riots in Jos by members of the Hausa and Fulani communities, because they lost the vote. The almajiri were mobilised to murder all in their path. Then there was the incident were a girl from Cross Rivers state, was raped and murdered in Borno state, because she wore trousers, the same one you mentioned..

    It must be impressed on the governors of the states where these crimes occurred, that if they can’t guarantee the safety of the youth corps. Then their states will be blacklisted and any funding that goes along with the youth corps will go to other states, that respect the corpers and can assure them of their safety.

    They should even cut back on the money central government pushes their way. Lack of action indicates that the government does not care for the lives of it’s citizens. If the government can’t even do this, and investigate these crimes and bring the offenders to justice, then the NYSC should either be reconfigured ie barring (Plateau and Borno ) states from receiving youth corpers or scrapped altogether.

    • henryik2009 September 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      Codliveroil Thanks for your comment.I agree that states which are unable to guarantee the safety of corpers sent to them should be sanctioned.They are getting skilled labour for next to nothing.They should at least be able to protect them.I still think the idea of fostering understanding between Nigerians of different tribes and religions is one that can be served by the NYSC scheme,provided it is a case of both sides meeting and learning from each other:the corpers and their host communities should be willing to accept the other the way they are.Also the scheme is an opportunity for indigent graduates to accumulate some savings,if they are adequately paid of course.

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