BY DAYO ADESULU
THE National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme which was established by Decree no. 24 in May 1973 by General Yakubu Gowon came under severe criticism recently in a debate by representatives of sixteen secondary schools in Lagos where over ninety-five per cent spoke for the motion that “The NYSC scheme has outlived it’s usefulness” suggesting the abolition of the scheme without delay.
In this debate organised by Supreme Education Foundation Schools Magodo, Lagos, participating students were able to express their view on this national issue.
Recalling the primary objective of the scheme, the students said: “ The NYSC was established to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and to promote national unity and integration. Other objectives include: inculcating discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves.
To raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement;
To develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest.
Also it entails, enabling Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment and to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy.
Besides, it was meant to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups; and to develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria.”
The students picked holes in the above objectives arguing that if that were to be the reasons for the scheme, then it has outlived it’s usefulness as the nation is not in anyway united through the scheme.
“ Why the killings of the ten corp members from the South who were serving their fathers land in the northern part of the country. Why the national insecurity that greeted the post election violence. Why are certain people in the society influencing the NYSC posting of their children or ward to desired states. Is there any sense of belonging in this nation that we call our father land?
They argued that the scheme has brought cheap labour to organisation who hired their services as qualified hands who ought to be gainfully employed are denied because organisations can continue to request for corp members on yearly basis for pea-nut.
Also, Chief Elizabeth Jibunoh, in her keynote address said that patriotism cannot be forced on anyone saying:”it is an honourable trait that is only exhibited if well understood. “Why is a Scheme that was set up to unite a people suddenly posing negative challenges? Is there a disconnect from the current youths towards the objectives of the NYSC, she asked.
Supporting the motion, Jibunoh said that NYSC has outlived its usefulness pointing out that if we look at the first objective of the NYSC – the inculcation of discipline into our youths, can we say that in 1973, we had a youth culture that portrayed indiscipline, immorality, lack of self reliance and a disconnect with love for self and country?
According to her, if that were the case in 1973, she said that she concur to quietly recommend that the NYSC has not outlived its usefulness in that area because today, the youth culture is tainted and in such bad decay.
The Chief noted that what we have now is chaos, disorder and total elimination of a sense of belonging primarily to a family structure to provide necessary grounding and ultimately to the nation for application of sovereign patriotism. The biases that the civil war created was what the NYSC was meant to erase and it tried and somewhat succeeded in doing just that. But has it really, she asked.
Lack of understanding of others culture, way of life, language, etc was meant to collapse with the NYSC. But 38 years after inception with youths having served in every nook and cranny of Nigeria, can anyone still be so misunderstood that they can be so hated by a fellow Nigerian? We have mixed ethnic marriages that were made possible because of the NYSC and people comfortably living in areas outside their ethnic origin.
In the good will message from NYSC representative, Mrs Belinda Ameze Faniyi, Assstant Director and Head Communication Sciences, NYSC, Lagos said that the problem of NYSC is a problem of the whole nation adding that the NYSC Scheme lacks mobilisation. To her, instead of scrapping the scheme, it should be reviewed stressing that the advantages out weigh its disadvantages.