By Thomas Uzah
I read the piece written by Prof Anthony Kila titled reform or disband the NYSC. It is a fascinating piece, even though he wrote like he wasn’t sure of himself at the initial stages. I must add that Prof Kila succeeded in expressing fears rather than addressing the issues he sought to propagate when he conceived the idea about writing on the NYSC.
His emphasis was on the safety of corp members. He was also of the opinion that the NYSC had not evolved over the years and still relied on the methodology set out when it was established in 1973. That was strange to me to the extent that I wondered if he thought it was still the same regime and retinue of events for close to 50 years.
Prof Kila argued that by 2023 when a new government will come into power, and the NYSC will be 50 years old, many of those billed to serve will probably be young adults born in 2000. He stated thus: “We are talking generation Z here. The idea of governing Gen Z with rules and schemes invented in 1973 is simply ridiculous and destined to fail.”
The above statement, in my opinion, was misplaced. He exhibited an apparent lack of understanding of the issues at stake regarding the operations of the NYSC in recent times. Maybe he thought nothing had changed in the NYSC since it was created 50 years ago. The question I would ask is this? Is it possible that such would happen in this age and time?
Could it be that Prof Kila thinks that the NYSC as a scheme has refused to evolve and adapt to the changes in the country over the years? If that is indeed his position, then I would say something is fundamentally wrong because he attempted to paint a picture of the NYSC as that organization that has remained the same since inception.
Let me digress; the only constant in life is change. This much Prof Kila should know as a scholar. For him to disregard, this important phenomenon raises a red flag. And why the content of his piece should be recalled for further research at the risk of misleading unsuspecting members of the general public.
I do not hold a brief for the NYSC, but I can sufficiently say my NYSC experience 15 years ago is not the same as that of my niece two years ago. Let me give a simple example. During my NYSC experience 15 years ago, the monthly allowance was N9,800. But today, it is N33 000. This simple analogy helps us understand that the NYSC has continually evolved over the years with innovations that have transformed the scheme from what it used to be.
In those days, call up for participation in the NYSC was done through schools, where one is expected to collect call up letters manually. But today, everything is done online. Is Prof Kila aware of this?
Is Prof Kila also aware that there was a posting policy that restricted the posting of corp members to critical areas at some point? Let me help; in 2012, the federal government approved a new posting policy for the NYSC to four critical areas; rural health, education, infrastructure and agriculture. Accordingly, the new posting policy framework was to enhance equitable distribution of corps manpower to curtail underutilization and re-energize the objective of the scheme as envisioned by its founding fathers. I would advise Prof Kila to research those mentioned above and return to his readers on his findings.
Also, in March 2012, the NYSC leadership introduced Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship (SAED) Programmes into the NYSC orientation course content. The scheme’s goals include sensitization and mobilization of young graduates for skill acquisition annually and facilitation of training and mentoring of young graduates in skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development of self-reliance annually. Others include the promotion of public-private partnership for entrepreneurship development and self-reliance among Nigerian youths and attachment of corps members to appropriate organizations for skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development.
I won’t expatiate on the above listed. After all, I am dealing with a Professor because I believe the Professor would undertake further research. It is very common with scholars, and this is no exception. I stand to be corrected.
Lest I forgot, the Prof also stated that the concept of the NYSC prioritizes identity over functionality. He said,” It is a wrong and lazy way of thinking. Nigerians do not mistrust themselves because they do not know each other. Nigerians mistrust themselves because those in power fail to provide enough services and opportunities for all but insist on rationing insufficient services and opportunities through nepotism, tribalism and other forms of favouritism at the detriment of merit.”
I am afraid I cannot agree as a first. Secondly, I don’t know the area of core competence of Prof Anthony Kila. However, I think this area is not his turf, and as such, he should be careful not to mislead and misinform. The concept behind the establishment of the NYSC has never been that of identity, but rather national reintegration as fallout from the wounds of the civil war. This fact must be stated clearly.
Talking about functionality, there can’t be a functional society in an atmosphere of strife. The civil war opened an array of issues. The NYSC was established with a “view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”. Now, this is functionality.
The contributions of corps members in the socio-economic development of Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Prof Kila must come to terms with this reality and desist from commenting on issues he is not knowledgeable about. I expect him to act in good conscience at all times. But if it is for pecuniary gains, then that is another topic for discussion.
Uzah PhD is head of department, Mass Communication, Kwararafa University Wukari.