I am not one of those that would call for NYSC to be scrapped out-rightly…I will suggest that if it is to continue, its system must be totally overhauled!”
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) aims “to inculcate in Nigerian Youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background.” Since 1973, graduates from universities and polytechnics are required to participate in this one-year scheme. One of the expectations of the program is that “corps” members should be posted to cities and states far from home and states of origin. They are expected to mix with people of other tribes, social and family backgrounds, to learn the culture of the indigenes in the place they are posted to. “There is an “Orientation” period of approximately three weeks spent in a camp away from family and friends. There is also a “passing out ceremony” at the end of the year and primary assignment followed by one month of vacation. To some extent, the NYSC scheme has helped in creating entry-level jobs for a lot of Nigerian youth. However, many argue that the program is a waste of time and resources. A current corps member shares his progressive views about the NYSC scheme.
Recently, at Enugu state’s orientation camp, Awgu the State coordinator in a speech delivered at the swearing in of the 2010 Batch C corps members lamented the state in which contractors handling the renovation of the camp left it. Literally, the camp was left without roofs for some of the buildings. The state coordinator pleaded with the governor to look into the matter and course the contractors to sped up their work. In other parts of the country, the story is the same. During swearing in ceremonies, these administrators promise better living conditions and others but these are never delivered. How important are corps members to nation building? Do they play a key role?
Service, as it is called, is the most anticipated endeavor of undergraduates. Whether it is service to the nation or servitude is left debatable. The motivation to serve the nation is undoubted as graduates look forward to “service”, but is the scheme credible? Many might deem it subjective that corps members are more or less tricked into serving a nation that cares less for them, but the fact remains that a huge percentage of corps members slave for a system, which feeds fat on them. Though a small percentage of corps members constantly complain, they almost never protest injustice meted out during the service year.
It could be said that the National Youth Service Corps scheme if properly executed, could do more than “integrate” Nigeria. However, these façade parades administrators who are more or less politicians and their propaganda sway corps members batch after batch. I try to imagine the amount of money released for each batch of corps members and what could be achieved if properly utilized. For example, if one investigates the alleged seventy-five thousand naira spent to kit each corps member, one’s findings would probably cause an uproar.
The NYSC kit consists: two white shorts, two white vests, one khaki shirt and a pair of trousers, one white tennis shoes, one “jungle” boot, one NYSC crested vest a belt and a fez cap. To be factual, the standard of the kit distributed to corps members in camp is lesser than second-hand clothes – They are of the lowest grade to say the least.
The deplorable conditions in which corps members live is another issue not under-emphasized year in year out by NYSC officials. A huge percentage of corps members across the country are surviving in inhumane conditions. It is a norm for corps members to spend from their own pockets in order to get basic amenities in place. The NYSC posts corps members to remote areas where the basic amenities are not in place. Even corps members posted to the cities find it hard to settle.
I try to find rationale for paying nine thousand seven hundred and fifty to a corps member from Niger state and he gets posted to Lagos state with no accommodation. How is he/she expected to survive? There are cries from all over the country about corps members posted to remote villages with no light or water. Even the so-called inspectors do not visit those places! Yet corps members are not only posted there but threatened with service extension if they leave. Meanwhile, some corps members “serve” in the best places and are furnished with the best of accommodations. The NYSC thus reflects the class system imminent in the society…those rich people no dey suffer jor! Some no even dey show camp sef…na poor man soja go dey do gra gra for. On a serious note, most corps members do not complain. The attitude is similar to what transpires in the country – Nigerians are used to mediocre services, corps members are “ok” with whatever they get even if they deserve more! Once again the “manage manage” mentality plays out!
Corps member’s pay is another issue. While our senators are on salaries of over seven million naira monthly, corps members are paid a meager nine thousand seven-hundred and fifty naira. From my understanding that there are projects a serving senator ought to carry out in his constituency during his tenure, and I suppose some allowance is given to effect this. We all know that most of these senators never visit their constituency except to campaign for re-election. However, corps members are posted to remote areas all around the country and in their various community development groups they try to do what these senators ought to…but they do not get paid for this! Na we dey there dey do things, dem dey ABJ dey flex! (I’m not sorry because it is what it is). Honestly, I look forward to a time when senators and corps members, serving in their constituencies, would work hand in hand to bring about proper development in communities all over the country.
The truth is one has to be on the orientation camp to know how things really play out. To me, camp was a naked picture and with each passing day I was irked by its reality, the lies told to naïve corps members and the way in which propaganda was used masterly. After camp, the reality faced irks more.
I am not one of those that would call for NYSC to be scrapped outrightly…I will suggest that if it is to continue, its system must be totally overhauled! Also, attitude to corps members should also be changed. We are not slaves but graduates (some even sponsored themselves through school!) serving the nation VOLUNTARILY. How more do our “distinguished senators” better our effort? I think the fact that no body fights for corps members rights makes the road to Zion long and difficult. God dey sha…I been dey think one day, naim I ask my padi say if corps members strike wetin go happen? He said, “I bet the government won’t flinch!”. I guess that answers the question of importance… but with the forthcoming elections and the plan to use corps members for the voters registration process and the election proper there just might be a plot to “show them how important we are !”
To learn more about NYSC visit their website