By David Onmeje
It takes a great dosage of patriotism for anyone to be glorified as a national hero for his country. Experience has indicated that patriotism to Nigeria is a rare virtue among Nigerians. But it is an essential ingredient and the self-sacrifice every citizen must make to build the anticipated virile and strong nation.
In recent times, members of the National Youth Service Corps ( NYSC) have exemplified the rarest spirit and courage of patriotism to Nigeria during the mandatory one year service to the nation. They have dared deadly territories and conquered multiple daunting challenges for the sake of serving Nigeria, their fatherland.
Particularly, under the leadership of the incumbent NYSC Director General, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim Ph.D, Corps members and the scheme have assumed new dimensions of reorientation and excellence. And in tandem, corps members have consistently dispensed themselves as patriotic heroes and heroines of the national struggle for stability and have been admirable partners in moments of national emergencies.
As foresighted Gen. Ibrahim’s agenda since 2019, when President Muhammadu Buhari entrusted him with the leadership of the NYSC scheme, he enunciated an agenda for himself. He proclaimed his vision of the NYSC as to “…sustain effective utilization of the potentials of Corps Members for optimal benefit; to pursue a technologically driven organization to deepen effective service delivery; to improve on the welfare and security of corps members and staff; strengthen existing collaboration with stakeholders; and reinvigorate NYSC ventures and Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme in line with the NYSC Act for greater impact.”
Today, Corps members have blended with this vision in service to Nigeria. Former American President, Theodore Roosevelt explained the clearest meaning of patriotism. He said, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country.” This is the exact manifestation of Corps members in Nigeria today.
As first kicker, Corps members are the greatest symbols and steady manifestations or consummation of Nigeria’s efforts at national integration, unity, togetherness and peace! Some Nigerians hardly pay attention to scanty details. But it is exemplary that Corps members forsake the comfort of their homes and accept posting to serve their country in completely strange lands, far away from their home states.
Corps members unreservedly interact and blend with their new hosts, by learning and exchanging new cultures and traditions. They freely make life-time friendships which are not deterred by the sentiments of tribe or religion. Also, they render appreciable community services to Nigerians in these new domiciliary abodes in the spirit of love and fraternity.
Youth Corpers also take incredible risks for the sake of their country. Available statistics have shown the intervention and active participation of these young Nigerian graduates in national health crises emergency, such as their conscription into the control of epidemics like Lassa fever, Ebola, and Cholera among others.
But most impressively, Corps members throughout the federation were at the forefront of the battle against combating the wild spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Corps members, embarked on penetrative sensitization campaigns; whlist most Nigerian communities enjoyed free hand sanitizers, facemasks, liquid soaps et al, courtesy of serving corpers as their contribution in bringing succour to the distressed populace.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari launched an ambitious policy on promotion of robust agriculture with various initiatives. There are scores of NYSC farms dotting the landscapes of many states in Nigeria; from North to South measuring over 60, 000 hectares and still expanding. Corpers have actively picked up the challenge of President Buhari’s rice policy by cultivating tens of thousands of rice plantations every cropping season, which is have harvested and processed in NYSC Rice Mills for consumption. It is a welcome development that serving Corps members are contributing to national food sufficiency and security.
Furthermore, the knowledge corps members acquire through the scheme’s partnership with Access and Unity Banks to fund Business Plan Development programmes for Corps Members, alongside, the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) is also fruitful. The agricultural skills and business training, farm internship, mentoring and farm input supplies extended to serving corpers have tuned around the farms fortunes of some rural communities in agro-businesses and other investments.
Many Nigerians are oblivious of the pleasant reality that countless Corps members have also been indirectly enlisted into the FGN’s campaigns to tackle the prevalent and frightening unemployment rate in the country in their post-service years. Through the experience acquired during Orientation Camps through the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme (SAED) has equipped most Corpers with self-sustaining practical skills, which many have converted into real time advantage in the post service years.
SAED has enabled thousands of Corps members to venture into investments and employed the services of other Nigerians. Those Nigerians who have benefited from these gestures have sustained their applause for the scheme.
Additionally, the engagement of Corps members by INEC as adhoc staff in the conduct of general elections in the country has significantly reduced the prevalence of connivance with dubious politicians to rig or manipulate the electoral process. While its undeniable that the electoral system in Nigeria is still flawed with malpractices, Corps members who serve in the capacity of adhoc staff during elections have substantially conferred credibility on the electoral process in many troublesome areas.
This is most times done at the risk of the personal lives of Corps members or they face dangers which would not have come their path ordinarily, just because they are patriotic citizens, with an overriding zeal to see a better Nigeria.
In most rural communities, Corp members market themselves as the Ambassadors of Nigeria! They serve as bridges between rurality and modernity, without grudges because the interest of the nation is paramount in their hearts. So, in remote communities, where regular teachers reject postings, a Corps member accepts the challenge to serve as a teacher. He or she endures all hardships and deprivations to serve the country and performs the assignment of imparting knowledge to tender Nigerians committedly and distinctively.
Therefore, in or out of the service year, Nigerians with the imprimatur of the NYSC make Nigeria and her citizens proud. Corps members truly represent the idealistic posturing of true patriots in the arduous task of Nation-building. It is only Godly for Nigerians to support Corps members in order to continue to bridge the gulf in critical areas of the economy in this collective journey of existentialism for a greater nation. Youth Corpers are undoubtedly, the unsung heroes and heroines of Nigeria.
Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.