By Atim Atedze
The National Youth Service Corps ( NYSC) has come of age so much so that the institution’s gains cannot be quantified in the country’s socio-economic life. So much has been written and said about the scheme regarding its contribution to the country’s socio-economic development.
And this is where it stands in commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the existence of the NYSC and what it represents as an institution designed to promote national unity amongst the teeming youthful population in the country. The NYSC was created to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. One of the objectives of the NYSC is to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy.
After the Nigerian Civil War ended in 1970, as part of the “3R” program—reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation—the government created the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to bridge ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria and foster the spirit of Nigerian nationalism. General Yakubu Gowon, the military head of state, created the NYSC as one of many ways to achieve national unity in Nigeria. The program is a mandatory one-year service to the country after completing a first degree for youths below the age of thirty. Participation is a prerequisite for admission into graduate schools and employment in Nigeria.
The question that thus arises is, has the NYSC been successful in achieving its primary objective of “developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promoting national unity and integration?” For all its faults, the answer is still yes. By posting “corpers” to unfamiliar places to interact with people from different backgrounds, the NYSC brings together Nigerian youths from diverse socio-economic and ethno-religious backgrounds. This helps bridge the ethnic and religious divisions in the nation by providing exposure to other ethnic groups, which is a positive step towards building a stronger nation.
The scheme also aids social integration by providing opportunities for cross-cultural interaction that has led to inter-tribal marriages, helping to reduce inter-ethnic stereotypes and suspicions prevalent during the period after the war. The scheme further serves as an employment buffer by offering employment to recently graduated youths. Some places of deployments retain the “corpers,” thereby aiding economic integration in the country. Likewise, NYSC fosters a sense of patriotism among Nigerian youths; participation is regarded as obeying the clarion call to serve the fatherland. This position still stands and needed given the prevailing circumstances where the country has witnessed sentiments along ethnic and religious lines.
I know some would argue that the scheme has outlived its usefulness; some would also say that the scheme’s objectives ought to be rejigged to reflect the realities of the time in the country. These positions are valid and at the same time invalid because the proponents of the above stated have narrowly missed how the NYSC has evolved over the years to be that engine room for the socio-economic development of the country.
As an aside, the NYSC is what every young Nigerian graduate looks forward to yearly. I dare say that most parents and guardians also have a sense of fulfilment when they see their children and wards kitted in the NYSC khaki uniform. To say it brings joy and a sense of pride would be an understatement. The corps members themselves relish every moment during their participation in the scheme.
The NYSC of yesterday is not the same as the NYSC of today in the sense that a lot has changed. The NYSC of today has evolved into a skills and entrepreneurship development scheme where corps members are availed the unique opportunity to contribute their quota to the country’s development. For example, the NYSC has a Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme in place to facilitate access to requisite skills and resources necessary for successful entrepreneurship.
The SAED programme is targeted at young Nigerian graduates deployed for the one-year mandatory service and designed to be implemented during the required camping exercises (in–camp) and throughout the service year (post-camp). Corps members will be encouraged to learn in-demand industry skills, position themselves to become value creators, and leverage career and business start-up opportunities.
The SAED programme, in my opinion, supports the federal government’s aim to catalyze economic transformation through the promotion of entrepreneurship and self-reliance, particularly among youth. While corps members are encouraged to start a business in any field of their liking, SAED emphasizes twelve vocational skill sectors, including within the agri-food sector, tourism, construction, information and communications technology and education. This, we must admit, wasn’t the case many years back, and this tells us that the NYSC is evolving to meet the peculiarities of time.
Also, the welfare of corps members has been prioritized by successive administrations. If we do not know, the monthly allowance paid to corp members goes a long way for many families. This is where I commend the present Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, for his numerous innovations in the scheme over the years, which in my opinion, is a function of leadership.
Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim has redefined the concept of leadership through his sterling performance at the NYSC. And today, the NYSC is robust in its programmes and impactful in its contributions to national development.
A good example of his sterling leadership is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State, on the training of Corps Members and Staff on modern farming methods. This is indeed brilliant given the vast potentials for wealth creation in the agricultural sector.
The NYSC DG was also recently commended for ensuring the improvement of staff and corps welfare, involvement of Corps members in COVID-19 Interventions, active participation of corps members in National assignments, especially election duties, Skills Acquisition, resuscitation of NYSC Ventures and enhancement of security network for corps members among others. And many more innovations too numerous to mention.
As the NYSC clocks 48, all relevant stakeholders must continue to extend their support to the scheme for optimal performance. The peculiarities of time require this, and it consequently beholds on well-meaning Nigerians to make the NYSC impactful in the country’s socio-economic development. I say hurray to NYSC at 48.
Atedze wrote this piece from Lagos.