Coming on the heels of the end of the Nigerian Civil War, General Yakubu Gowon, who was Head of State as at 1973, championed a scheme which could better aid national cohesion after the largely divisive and bitter civil war between Nigeria forces and the Biafran forces. So, largely, a major part of the motivation for establishing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was hinged on the view to properly encourage and develop the common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.
Established by decree No.24, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a scheme set up to involve Nigerian graduates in nation building, the development of the country, reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war.
As a developing country, Nigeria remains plagued by the problems of ethnic division, poverty, mass illiteracy, shortage of high skilled manpower, inadequate socioeconomic infrastructural facilities such as roads, housing and so on. But by the sheer effort of hundreds of thousands of youths under the NYSC scheme, some of these infrastructural challenges and skill deficiencies have been bridged across the different levels of government. Aside the roles which corp members take up in their different Places of Primary Assignment (PPA), the weekly Community Development Service (CDS) which corps members undertake with the tiny pockets of projects in their host communities has contributed in great measure to the Nigerian project since the scheme’s takeoff in 1973.
Headquartered in Abuja, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has succeeded in its own capacity by building national cohesion between young people of diverse cultures, exposure and background of participating individuals. In other climes, in several nations in the world, a national service is also mandatory for citizens. In Israel, youths between ages 18 – 22 are mandated to serve in the military for one to two years. At the end are placed on a reserve list from which they can recall participants from their private engagements anytime the nation may need or call for emergency service.
Ahmadu Alli, as the maiden DG ensured that a good foundation was laid so that there has hardly been a derailment from the original principles of its establishment. The scheme has gone on to be a source of blessing not only to the diverse Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) and the communities where these corp members are posted; many have also found the beauty in knowing other cultures, people, environments and conditions beyond what their previous place of abode has afforded them.
There has been great criticism of the scheme, especially in recent years. But as imperfect as the NYSC scheme is, there is no doubt that a great number of Nigerian youths who have passed through it have come out even much better than they thought they could benefit. Many have gotten jobs where they served and quite a number have left the scheme with lifelong skills which affords them not to be a further strain on the saturated job market.
The current Director General, Maj. Gen. S. Z. Kazaure, in solidarity with preserving the sanctity and statutes of the NYSC, stood his ground and gave no excuse for the laxity of the erstwhile Finance Commissioner, Kemi Adeosun, when her NYSC certificate scandal forced her to resign from the Federal Cabinet.
Because of the disjoint in the relationship between Nigerians and the politicians or leaders in government, many of the youths who go for national service make themselves believe it is slavery to force them to pass through such a time-wasting venture. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
And while it is necessary for the government to reshuffle the programme to fit modern ideal as well as make it less arduous for partakers, corp members also need to look inwards and be ready, in whatever capacity, to serve their fatherland in pride and in patriotism.
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