NYSC @ 47: Have the visions of the founding fathers been met?

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established by Decree No 24 on 22nd May, 1973 as a vehicle for national integration. Gen. Yakubu Gowon, then Head of State, who put the dreams together, three years after the fratricidal Civil War, enacted the Corps as a primary force for uniting the Nigerian youth and propel them for takeover of leadership bereft of clanishness similar to those that led to the war. Twenty years after 1973, the Decree was repealed by Decree 51 of 16th June, 1993, now referred to as theNYSC Act CAP N84, LFN.

Before the NYSC, Nigeria was bedevilled by mistrust and deep national disorientation. No wonder Gen. Gowon and his Supreme Military Council (SMC), decided that graduate Nigerian youths should take charge at the rebuilding the country from the throes of the war, to an egalitarian and cohesive nation, devoid of hatred and stereotypes.

Therefore, the NYSC has remained arguably the biggest youth mobilisation body in Africa, nay globally. The pivot of NYSC was designed to provide veritable platforms for Nigerian youths to nurture skills for nationalism, social integration, industry, selfless service and above all, acquire skills for self-empowerment.

A critical factor towards achieving this was the policy for deployment of Corps Members to states and geo-pilitical zones other than theirs. The primary purpose was to expose them to cultures, attitudes and nuances different from their own culture. This was set to expose them to the many similarities among the over 300 Nigerian ethnic groups.

With 18 Directors-General already to have piloted affairs at the NYSC after 47 years, have the dreams of the founding fathers been met ? There is no straight answer to this question, but it all depends on the prism from where the person doing the analysis does so. What that shows is that the NYSC has multiple images, which is contestable in Public Relations management.
On one hand, the NYSC has to a large extent successfully mobilised the Nigerian youth and nurtured them for national cohesion. It has reasonably pulled down walls of ethnic suspicion, built bridges of mutual relationships and assisted several of its alumni set up successful businesses.

Many NYSC members are engaged in community development programmes in the healthcare, education, social services, rural development, arts and craft, as well as in agriculture. NYSC members are now the pivot for our elections, serving as Presiding Officers at various polling stations and receiving national and international commendation.

Listing public service projects constructed in our communities by successive NYSC Batches/Streams are unnecessary. They are a legion and speak volumes in national integration and development.
The AUTHORITY is aware that the NYSC runs the biggest advocacy project against HIV/AIDS, Lassa Fever, Malaria, Tuberculosis and several other diseases through its Peer Education programme. This advocacy saved millions of Nigerians from falling prey to hydra headed diseases.

Perhaps, the greatest achievement of the NYSC is in providing its over 300,000 yearly members focus to undertake successful future endeavours by providing them with the skills for their financial freedom through its Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development Scheme.

It is gratifying to observe that the current NYSC Director-General, Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, has through effective mentoring, challenged the creative ingenuity of Corps members participating in the skills acquisition programme, which in the last eight years had successfully raised a crop of entrepreneurs now contributing to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), through the businesses they had set up.

It is equally good news that the NYSC has been in the frontline segment in the battle against COVID-19, by deploying the Corps Medical Team who have successfully been complementing the various national and state medical teams in the fight against the dreaded pandemic. Also, the NYSC had produced and donated facemasks, hand sanitisers and liquid soaps to the federal and state governments, as well as communities towards warding off the scourge of the pandemic. NYSC has also innovated pedal-operated mechanical soap and hand sanitisers. Recently, some Corps Members in Akwa-Ibom State invented a Walk-Through Chamber that sanitises the entire body, awaiting support for mass-production.

The NYSC Bakery, Bottle Water Factory in Kubwa (FCT), Farms in Saminaka (Kebbi State), Iseyin (Oyo State), and Ezillo (Ebonyi State) as well as the Rice mills in Ebonyi and FCT, are industrial concerns through which the NYSC contribute to national economy and employment skills.

It is however important to state that despite these plethora of successes, the NYSC Act deserves constitutional ammendment. Although the process is rigorous as stipulated in section 315 and 9 of the constitution, there is need to include the NYSC in the current effort by the National Assembly to alter sections of the constitution and effect ammendment.

The AUTHORITY strongly recommends that Section 2(2b) of the NYSC Act should be ammended to include the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) among the mara-military services that should be exempted from undertaking the NYSC scheme.

Similarly, Section 3 of the Act detailing the composition of the National Directorate, should include a member of Department of State Security (DSS), ditto Section 7(1), on the composition of the State Governing Board to include a member of the DSS and the Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council in each state and FCT. Section 8(1) should also be amended to include the composition of the NYSC Local Government Committee to include the DSS and Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council.

In addition, Local Government Inspectors should replace Zonal Inspectors, while Section 18(2) that deals with the welfare of corps members has to be ammended in tune with present realities. It will also be important to consider allowing serving Directors of the NYSC rise up to the peak of their career by being elevated to become the Director-General, instead of bringing somebody from the Nigeria Army Education Corps. By observing the attitude and temperamence of successive NYSC-DGs, aside the current DG, Gen. Ibrahim, who has proved to be humble, gentle, a bridge builder, listener and officer who believes in applying consensus style of management, his predecessors had jack-booth mentality which retarded on gains that would have been made in NYSC.

There is also the need to fully implement the ICT driven Corps Registration and Posting processes to avoid recurring situations where children of the privileged never performed their NYSC outside FCT and Lagos. The quasi electronic posting of prospective NYSC members being used now is a major hindrance to the dreams of Gen. Gowon and the SMC in 1973. Time to fully embrace ICT in all its activities is now! After all, NYSC cannot claim to be the premium national integration and reorientation agency if cronyism, nepotism and undue influence are allowed to continue to thrive in the place.

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