NYSC: Consolidating Youth Engagement for National Development
By Dahiru M. Lawal
Since its establishment by the Nigerian Government in 1973, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has sustained efforts in engaging Nigerian graduates in nation building especially with a focus on ethnoreligious unity and national development.
Generations spanning its over four decades of existence have grown up to see photos or even witness their parents or elder ones with reverence adorning the symbolic uniform of the scheme not just because it is the most symbolic portrayal of the Nigerian youth and National pride, but because among many other things it heralds the zenith of academic accomplishment for all graduates across every nook and corner of the country while creating an avenue for citizen unification and integration for peaceful coexistence.
It is highly unlikely that a graduate would be caught involved in ethnoreligious hostilities that could consume the country.
No other known National scheme boasts of this relevant and exclusive possession for a country with about three major religions, over 250 ethnic groups and the most populous and politically influential on the African continent. Even though Unity Schools at the Secondary School level is advancing the same cause, the NYSC remains the ultimate rallying point and the logic is simple; not every Nigerian Child must go to a Unity Secondary School, but every Nigerian Child who went to any Secondary School must converge at the NYSC to serve our fatherland with love and strength and faith.
Countless times, NYSC days experience has always remained a practical reference point by public commentators and relevant stakeholders in dousing impending ethnoreligious conflicts. This is in addition to generational friendship and inter-ethnic marriages the scheme had made possible.
Recently, during the recent coronation of the Emir of Bichi Emirate in Kano State, HRH, Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, I had the rare privilege of interviewing the Danmasanin Ibadanland and was marvelled as he reminisced at how a chance meeting with the then Prince as a fresh graduate from the University of Maiduguri who went to serve in far away Ibadan has blossomed to a very strong friendship and brotherly bond that has benefited their sense of belonging and purpose for over three decades and still counting. “Sometimes when travelling to Lagos, he would direct his chartered flight to land in Ibadan first for him to see me before continuing with his trip,” the Danmasani recollected enjoyably.
With about 4.7 million beneficiaries of the scheme since inception, NYSC has stood the test of time while also going through phases of the necessary institutional development process – reforms for firmer entrenchment and positive impact.
If well reformed as being relentlessly undertaken by the current Director-General, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim who is the 18th NYSC DG, the scheme will continue to hold the grip on its indisputable relevance in grooming young people across the country to meet new challenges while eschewing characteristics that could polarize the country along ethnic and religious line. No doubt, peaceful coexistence remains a fundamental building block for any nation’s prosperity.
Furthermore, the current reforms will hold current graduates responsible for its core values of Patriotism, Integrity, Efficiency. Commitment and Teamwork.
Granted the scheme needs reforms and modification to suit current realities, that is why the policy thrust of the current DG which includes sustainability of effective utilization of the potentials of corps members for optimal benefit, pursuing a technologically driven organization to deepen effective service delivery, improvement of the welfare and security of corps members and staff, reinvigorating the NYSC ventures and Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme in line with NYSC Act for greater impact among others, backed by relevant stakeholders will place the scheme on a reformed trajectory that will rekindle dwindling hopes of the Nigerian Youth for a reliable future.
The NYSC Trust Fund which is currently in the pipeline for example seeks to infinitely address the logistics needs of serving corps members and ultimately be used to provide start-up capital for the corps members after their service years.
This among many other ongoing initiatives will no doubt enhance the impact of the scheme, empowering young people to do great things for themselves and for the country, therefore the question of scrapping the scheme is not even an option that should be on the table of discussion.
Dahiru M. Lawal, Author of “101 Fake News on EndSARS,” is a recent graduate of Information and Media Studies from Bayero University Kano.
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