By Ayoni M. Agbabiaka
The one-year compulsory programme for university graduates (National Youth Service Corps) in Nigeria was established on May 22, 1973 by General Yakubu Gowon was to foster national unity and cohesion.
NYSC is the most enduring institution that has stood the test of time for close to five decades, making enormous strides in the areas of education, agriculture, health, vocational training, infrastructure, sports and social services.
Under the scheme’s current Director-General, Brig-General Shuaibu Ibrahim, new initiatives have been brought in, which further foster national unity and development.
Although, the scheme has constantly been criticised bordering on insecurity, NYSC has never stopped in strengthening the spirit of nation building and patriotism through thick and thin.
To any nation, food is integral to national stability and total
wellbeing of its citizenry. Knowing this, the NYSC boss and finding a means to ensure increased food supply to its corps members and the nation at large, NYSC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to boost food
production in the country.
Brig-General Ibrahim, during the signing of the MoU at the NYSC national directorate headquarters in Abuja, recently, commended NALDA for training 68 corps members as soil doctors and extension service workers.
The DG said the MoU would make the NYSC Farms become more active, with stakeholders’ support to enhance food sufficiency through the involvement of corps members.
NYSC mobilizes more than 350,000 corps members annually to improve their potentials for both personal and societal development.
General Ibrahim said NYSC introduced Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development Programme into its orientation course content in 2012, in order to empower corps members with vocations and relevant skills that would reduce the increasing rate of unemployment among youths.
“Many of our ex-corps members are fully established today in their states of deployment. Our corps members are knowledgeable and very skillful, but they need public support with a conducive environment,”
Corps members may have one or two challenges acclimatizing to their new environments at first, but they soon forget their worries and blend well with the people.
Corps members often learn new languages for future interaction and business purposes. Others may learn new cooking and culinary skills of their host communities; while some have had the ultimate and lifelong bonus of marital union as they mingle with other corps members from others states of the federation.
Unlike before, redeployment is carried out based on marital and health grounds. Note that General Ibrahim’s general acceptance among the youths culminated in a corps family naming their baby born in the camp after him.
Because good nutrition is essential to youth development General Ibrahim has continued to improve on the NYSC vision for business growth and reducing financial wastage by establishing bakery, water factory and farms across the country.
The director-general as part of strategic plan to further boost the productivity of the scheme has renewed his appeal for the
establishment of National Youth Service Trust Fund, whereby part of proceeds from such efforts as the NYSC Farms would be channeled as start-off funds for corps members to establish their businesses through the skills acquired during the service year, as well as maintenance of camp facilities.
He also appealed to corps members with passion in agric-business, to embrace the opportunity offered by NALDA through the National Young Farmers’ Scheme to be trained in modern farming methods and be more productive and reducing the wide gap in the labour market..
NYSC Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers under General Ibrahim has continued to reach more Nigerian in the rural areas with medical outreaches embarked upon by Corps members. Worthy of mention is the fact that General Ibrahim, not only monitor the exercise, he also participate by administering oral drops to children in the society.
The Osu Ajiri of Edege Kingdom, Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman, overwhelmed with excitement commended the NYSC boss in Mararaba Udege in Nasarawa state. He described corps
members as “invaluable assets to national development; and their contributions cannot be underestimated.
“We are really grateful to NYSC because we know the importance of NYSC and we have benefitted immensely in the education and health sectors and anyone that knows the importance of NYSC would not think of scrapping the Scheme,” he said.
General Ibrahim, a shrewd administrator, erudite academic and an accomplished soldier has never downplayed the roles of the past mobilisers and partners of the national scheme.
The DG recently made an emotional and historic visit to the composer of the NYSC Anthem, Dr Oluwole Adetiran at his Ibafo residence in Ogun state.
The visit was predicated on the news on the ill-health of the music icon. General lbrahim was full of praises for the man who
single-handedly composed what has now become an immortal anthem of the Nigerian youths.
During the visit, he thanked Dr Adetiran for his “unforgettable and invaluable” contributions to the scheme via the composition of the Anthem. He promised that NYSC will continue to stand by him and members of his family at all times.
The music legend thanked the DG for the visit and for sustaining the values of the scheme which motivated him to compose the Anthem in the first instance.
“I am very proud to be part of the NYSC success story through the Anthem I composed. I am today fulfilled by this visit.”
With the joyous reunion of the past and present figures in the scheme success stories, it is recommended that General Ibrahim continue to keep the flag of national unity flying but must also ensure that more grounds are broken with innovative and appealing measures to further boost the credibility of NYSC as he has already carved a niche for himself in the annals of national history.
Agbabiaka writes from Abuja