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My Nigeria is different from yours

By Morenike Taire

ONE of the phenomena of our times that have endured much assault is the National Youth Service Corps scheme. There have been several arguments in the past in favour of its dissolution, mainly for financial and corruption reasons.

The fluid of corruption that had poured upon the fabric of our nationhood from Independence has gone on seeping, until it has stained every single thing.

Corruption it is that has made it possible for the faint of heart, the unpatriotic and the unadventurous to change their posting at will. As a result therefore, over the years, it has become the practice for prospective youth corpers to influence their posting to suit their own purposes and convenience.

The majority of youth corpers end up, for their primary assignment at least, in busy, urban areas where they have little contact with the local people. They would do community service when they absolutely have to, but it is the rare youth corper, male or female, that willingly wants to teach or work at the local government. Every corps member wants to work for an oil company or a bank.

Fortunes have been made and made again from supplies to the corps apparatus, and there are Nigerians who believe these are the only people who still benefit from the scheme.

This cannot be further from the truth. The relevance of the NYSC as a tool of national reconciliation may have been eroded over the years, but it has other relevance. The things that divide Nigerians these days have less to do with tribe than resources. These days, we have a common culture, and it all has to do with currency.

In places where governments are directly interested in levels of unemployment and actually do monitor these, there is virtually nothing like graduate unemployment, whereas we have holders of masters’ degrees looking for employment- any employment- for years.

In such places, unemployment is kept to the barest minimum with virtually every undergraduate either contributing to his own welfare or taking care of his education altogether. He has learnt to hold down a job, whether he is from a rich or poor home, from a relatively young age, and it matters little what kind of job it is. Ultimately, such a graduate when he is a graduate already has a clear idea of what career path he wants to pursue, as well as what is possible or impossible.

The Nigerian undergrad, on the other hand, has imbibed the culture of looking down his nose at jobs that will not give him a graduate remuneration. He has, by the time he graduates, neither work experience nor work culture.

These are the main value of the NYSC: giving Nigerian graduates the once in a lifetime opportunity to work in a relaxed and informal setting. There is nothing else, other than this, which the government of Nigeria does specifically for her young people.

But beyond this is the cultural significance of the NYSC; the only scheme which has been accepted by all Nigerians in every corner of the country for many decades.  Anyone who threatens the cultural value of NYSC threatens more than a youths scheme. They threaten the very fibre of one of the only things we can claim as being traditionally Nigerian.

This is the case with those who raped to death the corps member from Obudu, Cross Rivers State in Borno State. As a result of their actions, the next time a man’s daughter (or a woman’s son for that matter) is sent off to another end of the country in service to his country, the only shred of patriotism inside of him would have been tampered with by images in his head of a few animals descending on his precious daughter on whom he has invested over decades both emotionally and financially. It is like going to the cocoa plantation of a man who has nursed it for years till maturity, and burning it up right before harvest. Infinitely worse.

While the Communications Minister was making a fuss about the movie and the internet commercial, which was supposed to have denigrated the integrity of Nigerians, the real deadly enemies of our integrity were busy hiding ourselves away.

The case of the raped and murdered youth corps member has not received nearly enough attention. It ought to continue to be headline news until the killers are found and brought to justice and until an apology is tendered to every parent and guardian who allows their child or ward to go off to another part of the country- another culture, another peoples, another religion- in the name of service to the motherland.

In the mean time, Boko Haram has struck again! Or how else can this impunity be explained

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