by Usman Alabi
There is no doubting the fact that the National Youth Service Scheme has become a pain in the neck of Nigerians in recent times, from being what young graduates look forward to, to becoming what they dread, yet they have got no choice.
Nigerians are disenchanted with NYSC; virtually every section of the country is calling for it to be scrapped. This is in the light of the recent deaths in the camp, it is actually not that death cannot come calling anywhere, but we are not ignorant of the fact that these are avoidable deaths.
But what exactly is wrong with the NYSC scheme? Why has it suddenly lost its popularity, the excitement and adventure that come with it? A cursory look at the reason for the introduction of the scheme reveals a scheme that was established to promote National unity, to put an end to the problem of disunity.
The strategy is not using the older generation, but the younger generation. Thus NYSC was established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”, Hence, a major purpose of the scheme is “primarily to inculcate in Nigerian Youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background”.
Based on this, you would agree with me that there is nothing wrong with the NYSC on paper, there is nothing wrong if our youths immediately after graduation from the University would be given a platform like this to render service to the nation in brotherliness and selflessness.
I do not know of any scheme that can teach the present generation of youth selfless service than the NYSC, even our religious institutions lack that capacity.
But how about implementation and operationalisation of the scheme within a Nigerian context plagued by mediocrity, corruption, lack of regard for human lives, bad and failed government, absence of basic infrastructures, and health facilities. The problem is not NYSC; the problem is the context of NYSC. The context here is Nigeria.
There was never a unity to promote, I doubt if you can promote what is not there, and you would agree with me that NYSC has not succeeded in promoting this unity. NYSC cannot initiate Nigeria’s Unity, if it has not been sown together through a valid social contract and a true federal constitution that is acceptable to all and sundry. Another factor is that there is a relationship between people’s commitment to national unity, how they are being treated by their government and the quality of their lives.
Eventually the quality of live and standard of living of an average individual would determine his or her response to issues of patriotism, unity and commitment to the national unity.
NYSC is a laudable scheme that is only falling a victim of the Nigerian character of social and collective negligence, institutionalised corruption, bad governance, and lack of foresight. Even if we have to reform the scheme, it would only take a little time before the conventional Nigerian context catch up with the reformed scheme and then we would be back at where we started.
Hence it is not enough to reform the NYSC, what is wrong with the scheme is wrong with every government agencies and parastatals, it is just the Nigerian thing, it is the Nigerian context. We do not just need a sectoral reform or agency reform because it is postponing the evil days. We need a total overhaul of the state strategic policy, we need to take a critical look at our reward system, we need to look at our response to emergency, we need to begin to pay attention to the live of an ordinary Nigerian, we need to understand that the live of a common Nigerian is as important as that of the President, we need to begin to pay attention to the quality of live of our people, and reform the health qua educational sector.
Even if it is important that we reform the NYSC scheme to make it alive to the present reality, to include effective health coverage and safety for the participants, to make it more robust in such a way that it becomes a veritable platform for young people to express their potentials, we must bear in mind that the scheme is not the culprit, though it has its own shortcomings.
The same way every section of the country groan under this burdensome and insensitive government and social contract, the same way the scheme is also not immune to the vagaries of our political system.
Hence if we must stop the death of our graduates in NYSC camps, if we must remove the disenchantment of our youths with the scheme, if we must correct the failings of this scheme and achieve the purpose for which it was created, then we must be ready to save the NYSC from Nigeria!