By Emeka Ezekwesili-Okodu
Later today, 16th October, 2021, Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim will be honoured with a Public Service Award, alongside other distinguished Nigerians by The Sun Publishing Company Ltd, publishers of Sun Newspapers.
The honour is coming on the heels of similar honours bestowed on the General by some private and public institutions, for his exemplary and excellent service to Nigeria
Brig-Gen. Ibrahim was appointed Director-General of the National Youth Sevice Corps (NYSC) in May, 2019. Prior to this appointment, he had earlier had a stint with the service Corps, as Military Assistant to the Director-General in the late 90s, then as a young officer full of zest.
Fortuitously, he got appointed to head the Corps, twenty years after he left as principal aide to the then Director-General, now, Maj-Gen. Samson Dule (rtd).
He assumed office as NYSC Chief Executive on 10th May, 2019. Frankly speaking, one would have thought that with the passage of time, and having risen gradually and steadily in the Nigerian Army – attaining the enviable rank of general, much of his vigour as MA to DG, as a young Lieutenant and Captain would have left him, apparently having seen it all.
Gen. Ibrahim who is not only an officer and gentleman; an astute administrator and academic of no mean repute – Associate Professor of Military History – has proved sceptics wrong, as he remains consistently consistent in his sterling attributes of character.
He wasted no time in rolling out a five-point agenda, thus, giving a clearcut direction on the perspective of his administration in May, 2019.
In unmistakable terms, he demystiied the opulence and glamour associated with high office in Nigeria, making himself accessible and available, not only to NYSC staff members and Corps Members whom he loves so much and treats as his biological children, but the media and other stakeholders as well.
Interestingly, before the drop of the hat, he has given out his personal telephone number on request, and personally picks his calls.
He is a man that I have been following in the last two and half decades, and has never ceased to amaze at the amount of energy and passion he puts in the discharge of his duties. He is proactively proactive!
One of the critical issues that he did on assumption of office was to bring sanity to the NYSC mobilisation process which hitherto suffered so much assault from unscrupulous officers in some Corps Producing Institutions, particularly those in the West Africa sub-region who fraudulently forward names of unqualified people for mobilisation.
He called a meeting of the Registrars of the institutions in Abuja in a bid to get their buy — in towards sanitising the mobilisation process. That singular action yielded great dividends. Some of the unscrupulous officers were sanctioned, while some of the institutions were shutdown by their respective governments.
Internal cleansing mechanism put in place by the Scheme also saw to the dismissal of some erring officers from service.
In addition to that, he introduced the screening of foreign – trained Prospective Corps Members, particularly those that graduated from the universities in the West Africa sub-region.
Quoting the astute and pragmatic administrator, the result of the screening has “been mind-boggling. Some of the supposed graduates parading bogus degree certificates, with second class upper division could not write their names correctly, let alone make correct sentence during the screening exercise which has been institutionalised.”
The soft – looking, but no-nonsense general vowed never to mobilise unqualified people for service. Some of those parading bogus and unearned certificates have equally been jailed to serve as a deterrent to others.
Frighteningly, these characters if not detected through the doggedness of the Director-General would have found their ways to both the public and private sectors to debase the institutions.
Ibrahim believes so much in forging worthy partnerships with both public and private institutions of like minds. In particular, the robust collaboration with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control resulted in the safe return of the Corps to the Orientation camps, under the supervision of the NCDC.
He has ensured that willing Prospective Corps Members, as well as serving Corps Members and staff members get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Gratifyingly, the data generated on COVID-19 tests at the Orientation camps helps the NCDC in tracking the rate of infection in the country.
Shuaibu Ibrahim who is an embodiment of humility, without any trace of airs is unarguably a great asset to the nation.
He is a man that believes so much in the utilisation of Corps potentials for national development. He is detribalised, humane and blind to one’s religious persuasion.
Though a devout Muslim, he believes that true religion is the pursuit of people’s welfare and happiness; and would always speak to people on the ephemeral nature of human existence. He is always concerned with touching lives, and leaving worthy legacies for which posterity will remember him when he has gone to be with his Maker.
No wonder he has continued to pay the school fees of some less privileged students, cutting across tribe and religion.
Yes. He believes so much in the utilisation of Corps potentials for national development like I had earlier stated. This conviction prompted him to challenge the creative ingenuity of Corps Members last year at the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
That challenge yielded so many inventions by the Corps Members, ranging from body temperature reading device to automated sanitiser machine, as well as liquid soap — water — sanitiser — dispensing machines, among others.
Corps Members were amongst the first set of Nigerians to produce liquid soap, sanitiser and facemasks which were donated to Nigerians, free of charge.
He established NYSC National Troupe, revitalised NYSC Musical Band so as to showcase the musical skills of Corps Members.
The first NYSC Film, titled: A Call To Service, featuring some Corps Members and Nollywood stars such as Pete Edochie is awaiting premiere. The film has introduced some budding talents to the vast opportunities in the Nollywood industry.
The NYSC Farms have been resuscitated, notably the rice farms and poultry farms. The same applies to the NYSC water factory, bakery and garment factories all of which are operated by Corps Members and serve as veritable training ground for them.
Indeed, I was amazed when the Director-General announced that the Scheme for the first time in history contributed about Two Hundred and Eighty- One Naira to the national coffers from internally – generated funds which is unprecedented in the annals of the Scheme.
He has pioneered the construction of an ICT centre which according a senior member of staff of the institution people thought was not possible. From every indication, the edifice will be set for commission next year.
As an outstanding academic, a Josite, historian — Associate Professor of Military History, he edited and co-edited nine books on the Scheme — covering areas such as NYSC and National Development; NYSC and National Integration; NYSC and COVID-19; NYSC and CDS; NYSC and National Elections among others. The nine books which are sitting firmly in my library are researcher’s delight.
The general, a Fellow, Historical Society of Nigeria and Member Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria has equally established NYSC Museum which, I stand to be corrected is the biggest museum in Abuja having visited it. The museum is a centre of learning.
There is no gainsaying the fact that capturing all that the DG has achieved in this single piece of write-up would seem like a fruitless effort at reciting an unending litany.
I am not hesitant to posit without equivocation that he is a shinning star in the present Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. He has revitalised the National Youth Sevice Corps, making Corps Members and staff welfare key priority, making Corps central to nationaldevelopment and stability.
To further prioritise Corps Members’ welfare, especially in the area of empowerment, under the platform of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme, he canvassed the establishment of National Youth Service Corps Trust Fund ( NYSCTF).
The fund when established will not only address the infrastructural deficit of the Scheme as explained by the DG, but will be a pool of funds to be advanced to willing Corps Members to advance their skill acquisition initiatives.
The benefits derivable from this proposed trust fund cannot be over-emphasised. If approved and implemented, it will lift millions of Nigerians, especially the youths out from poverty.
I feel that there should not be hesitancy by both the Executive and Legislative arms of Government in sending an Executive bill and passing the bill into law in order to achieve the lofty dreams of the DG.
At this point, I am persuaded to enjoin you to please, tune to NTA International, Channel 251 every Wednesday at 7.30 pm and see the wonders NYSC has been doing in the area of youth empowerment under the skill acquisition programme, national unity and integration. It is an interesting documentary programme which should be a must watch for every patriotic Nigerian.
Doubtlessly, the Public Service Award being conferred on the Director-General by The Sun is as a result of these robust achievements within two years of being in the saddle of leadership of the Corps.
These achievements mentioned are by no means exhaustive of his contributions in furthering the course of the National Youth Service Corps which is a pivot of national unity, national integration and youth development.
Like the youngsters would say, let us give seven gbosas to Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim as he adds another feather in his well decorated cap.
*Ezekwesili-Okoduis an Abuja-based public affairs analyst.