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Can NYSC mitigate political agitations?

By News Express on 18/10/2017

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These times are indeed fragile, because of a combination of factors which have coalesced to pose formidable threats to the continuous existence of Nigeria as a united political entity. 

There are varying degrees of socio-political agitations from sections of the Nigerian nation state that have bottled up angst and perceived deep-seated feelings of alienation from the scheme of things.

Some of these crises and agitations are political in nature – emanating from the missing links and/or collapsing leadership qualities at many levels of the governance process – all around the political entity known as Nigeria. However, other boiling agitations can be attributed to some policy mis-steps in deploying the necessary institutional mechanisms to resolve the festering crises of confidence among the various segments of the society that make up our nation state. 

This writer has often believed that Nigeria has not sufficiently utilised the potentially rich human resources within the many institutions created over the years by successive administrations for the promotion of national unity, and the integration of the different segments of the nation. There are still scattered feelings and perceptions of mutual mistrust and lack of social cohesions among and within the component parts that constitute the nation state. These unsettled and unsettling perceptions of alienation by certain component parts of the country are further aggravated by the seeming inability of those who hold oversight powers to strengthen institutions and deliver the relevant institutional support to enable them activate inbuilt mechanisms to achieve their mandates, which are largely and substantially tied to the need to promote national integration.

The above thinking came to the fore recently when President Muhammadu Buhari made a very profound and deeply philosophical statement on the essence of setting up of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). 

The immediate rational consequence of that speech by the President goes to show what can be achieved by way of re-uniting a rapidly divided nation if the concept of the NYSC scheme is to be comprehensively adopted, and the needed funding components approved by the National Assembly to enable the institutional deployment of trained minds and resources towards the consolidation of the mandate of the NYSC project. Reading through the presidential speech also reminds the audience that the rash of agitations and restiveness of mostly young Nigerians can be resolved, if participants of the NYSC scheme are empowered to function as positive agents of change and national integration. The NYSC is set up basically to provide an avenue for the acquisition of basic youth leadership skills, which are to be deployed specifically to build a united Nigerian nation devoid of constant political agitations, threatening national integration.

Brig-Gen Sule Zakari Kazaure, the current director-general, must be a lucky man to have received presidential commendation twice now since he assumed office only few months ago. Observers are of the opinion that the presidential commendation is a symbol of the need and desire by the Nigerian people to see that the NYSC continues to live up to its billing, in line with the aspirations of the founding fathers. Recently, a rancor-free management promotional examination was conducted by the NYSC, under the strict adherence of the rules of engagement, and those who merited promotions based on their performance in both the written examination and their practical applications of skills in running their offices were promoted. The current hierarchy was said to have released the results on time so as to beat any kind of external lobbying by professional lobbyists that could mar the smooth conduct of the exercise.

Observers who should know say that this adherence to civil/public service rules by the incumbent leadership of the NYSC may have informed the reason for the presidential commendation. President Buhari said he is always pleased to see the National Youth Service Corps achieving the purpose of national unity that inspired its creation in 1973.

Speaking to newsmen in his country home, after the Eid-el-Kabir prayers few days back, President Buhari said the NYSC scheme had over the years continued to pursue the purpose of integrating the country, noting that the diversity of cultures remained Nigeria’s greatest strength.

“I am always pleased to see corps members in Daura and other parts of the country. From the postings, we get to learn more about other cultures,” he said.

The president said the large number of corps members in Daura, mostly from the southern part of the country, was an indication that the dream of a unified Nigeria remained a reality. President Buhari noted that graduates from the North, who served in the South, also learnt a lot from the diversity that had made Nigeria a unique country. He observed that serving as an army officer in some southern states of the country, such as Lagos and Ibadan, were very rich experiences.

The president was accompanied to the Eid-el-Kabir prayers by presidential aides, members of his family, and neighbours.

These profound pronouncements of President Buhari needs to be further and fully concretised by way of making sure that the necessary legislative reforms are introduced to provide legal, financial and manpower backups for the continuous implementation of the original mandates of the scheme.

 The NYSC scheme fundamentally, was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country, after the Nigerian civil war. As captured in the official website of the scheme, the current hierarchy is said to be working relentlessly to maintain the rich traditions of using the scheme as a major national platform for youth mobilisation towards adequate nation-building and patriotism. 

Let's look at the circumstances that gave birth to the NYSC so we can have a better appreciation of the need to support and consolidate the mandate of the institution to bring to a minimal level the cases of youth restiveness and agitations, which have flared over the past few years. The truth is that the unfortunate antecedents in our national history gave impetus to the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps, by decree No 24 of 22nd May, 1973: it stated that the NYSC is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.” 

As a developing country, Nigeria is further plagued by the problems attendant upon a condition of under-development, namely: poverty, mass illiteracy, acute shortage of high-skilled manpower (coupled with most un-even distribution of the skilled people that are available), woeful inadequate socio-economic infrastructural facilities, housing.); Water and sewage facilities, road, health-care services, and effective communication system. 

 Faced with these almost intractable problems, which were further compounded by the burden of reconstruction after the civil war, the government and people of Nigeria set for the country, fresh goals, and objectives aimed at establishing Nigeria as:  (a) a united, strong and self-reliant nation: (b) a great and dynamic economy; (c) a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens; and (d) a free and democratic society. 
Basically, it was the need to look beyond the immediate and to think of the future leadership of the country that necessitated the mobilisation of certain categories of our youths through the National Youth Service Corps Scheme. This was done with a view to giving them the proper guidance and orientation relevant to the needs of the country. The National Youth Service Corps Decree No 24, which has now been repealed and replaced by Decree 51 of 16th June, 1993, was then formally promulgated. 

The following are the fundamental objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme that are clearly spelt out in Decree 51 of June 1993:

(a)  To inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves;

(b)   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; 

(c)   (c) 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; 

(d)  (d) To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment;

(e)    (e) to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy;

(f)     (f) to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration; 

(g)  (g) to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups; and

(h)   (h) to develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria.

 The framers of the enabling law also made provisions in order to achieve the objectives in sub-section 3 of this section, and emphasised that the service corps shall ensure: 

(a) The equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilisation of their skills in area of national needs;

 (b) that as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in states other than their states of origin;

 (c) that such group of youths assigned to work together is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible;

 (d) that the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria;

 (e) that the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences; 

(f) that members of the service corps are encouraged to seek at the end of their one year national service, career employment all over Nigeria, thus promoting the free movement of labour; 

(g) that employers are induced partly through their experience with members of the service corps to employ more readily and on a permanent basis, qualified Nigerians, irrespective of their states of origin.

To the question: Can the NYSC be used to combat the spate of agitations? I think the answer is in the affirmative, going by the well-grounded objectives for the founding of the NYSC, as enshrined in the enabling Act setting it up. The need to raise a new-breed of leaders for the country is at the core of the essence of NYSC. It is, therefore, imperative to make the following observations: First, the National Assembly should ensure that reforms are introduced to the enabling law setting up the scheme, to facilitate the creation of a unit for the specific purpose of assigning participants the functions and duties of embarking on enlightenment and sensitisation programmes, to mobilise other non-participating Nigerian youths to embrace the patriotism and love of country. This they can do by providing adequate funding for the NYSC to build and run vocational skills training institutions in all the state offices, where both participants and nominees of community leaders are granted scholarship to attend the capacity-building seminars, which should become a regular feature of the NYSC. Second, the National Assembly should also legislate and improve the funding support for the NYSC, so each participating corps member is trained as a positive national change agent and, subsequently, provided with materials and resources to devote a part of their one year exercise towards youth- mass-mobilisation. 

President Buhari has already made his support known by way of commendations, and this therefore, should be a good motivation for challenging the Federal government to always provide concrete support to the NYSC so it doesn't collapse under the heavyweight of poor funding profile. The management should be encouraged to also activate internal mechanisms for the institutionalisation of transparency and accountability. 

If the NYSC is properly re-focused and re-energised, then it is possible for the scheme to tremendously be channelled towards providing seamless resolution of youth restiveness and agitations

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via 

Source News Express

Posted 18/10/2017 5:15:20 PM


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