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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nigeria: National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) - Quest on whether to scrap the NYSC scheme or not?

By Prof. Herbert Eze
Special for ASSIST News Service

NNEWI, NIGERIA (ANS) -- There have been recent demands by certain Nigerians to scrap the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) since after the presidential election in which many youth corps members who served in the elections were killed mostly in the northern parts of Nigeria. This issue has since become such a national concern that the National Assembly may soon be debating on whether the NYSC should be scrapped or allowed to continue.The NYSC is a compulsory youth service rendered to Nigeria by Nigerian graduates following their graduation from universities or polytechnics. The scheme was established in 1973 close to the end of the civil war by military Decree no. 24

Nigerians must not wait until this issue comes to the floor of the National Assembly for debate. They should make efforts to study and assess the NYSC scheme from its inception till the present time including recent unfortunate events that have led to the calls to scrape the scheme. If the outcome of such assessments and suggestions on the programme is made public, it may help to inform the National Assembly on the opinion of Nigerians on the debate.

To make contribution on this subject matter, students of True Light Academy, Nnewi in Anambra State have organized a debate on the topic. Those who represent the voice of Nigerians who demand that the NYSC be scrapped are the proponents of the motion that: Nigeria should scrap the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Those who oppose this motion represent those Nigerians who reason that the NYSC scheme should continue. The debate begins as follows.

Send us your views on this debate (See the debate below)
Prof Eze can be reached by email at herberteze@juno.com  

FIRST SPEAKER (Proposing the motion)

The moderator, panel of judges, time keeper, co-debaters, ladies and gentlemen. My name is ___________________ I am here to propose the motion which says that Nigeria should scrape the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The NYSC was not instituted for national unity as it claims. It was rather intended from its inception to serve as a mechanism for siphoning finance and labour from one part of the country in order to give and sustain the other at the expense and enslavement of the former.

The NYSC was established in 1973 close to the end of the civil war by military Decree no. 24 in the interest of the northern leaders who feel that to rule Nigeria is their birth right. Since then the scheme has not promoted national unity by any evidence.

There is the issue of grossly uneven distribution of university graduates. The region with the least number of graduates benefits more from the NYSC programme since government policy is that graduates should not serve in their own areas. It means that where there are more corpers, there is more money being pumped into the local economy. The bulk of money going to the NYSC programme year after year ends up where the NYSC participants are posted more. This is lopsided and not in the interest of national unity.

There have been no concrete reports on the activities of the NYSC since its inception so that the public can assess its benefits and losses. This appears to be a cover- up of the injustices of the programme done in the name of national unity. For about 40 years, Ibo graduates have been sent by NYSC authorities to other areas of the nation for service and to spend the money received from the scheme in such places with lesser number of graduates posted to Ibo land. What kind of national unity is this? Since it may not be in the interest of the architects of the NYSC programme to correct these wrongs, let the scheme be scrapped.

FIRST SPEAKER (Opposing the motion)

The moderator, panel of judges, time keeper, co-debaters, ladies and gentlemen. My name is ___________________ I stand to oppose the motion which says that Nigeria should scrape the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). How can any right thinking Nigerian propose or support such a narrow- minded and ill- conceived motion?

There are many comments posted on the NYSC web site made by people who have assessed the activities of the programme at different times. Each of these assessments justifies the establishment of the scheme based on much benefits derived already from it and greater potentials for the future. How can the first speaker say that the NYSC authorities have not published the activities of the NYSC since its inception?

Mrs Amina Faal- Sonko, Monister of Youths and Sports in Gambia comments on the NYSC as follows: “It is the best organized youth service programme in the world.” According to a pioneer corps member and a top Director of NYSC in Nigeria, “it is the best and greatest legacy by the military administration of Yakubu Gowon.” This comment is in reference to the benefits of the programme.

In an article published sometime in the Financial Standard Newspaper, Tochukwu Francis Okoye wrote about the NYSC as a role model for youth empowerment and job creation in Nigeria. As a graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University who has since done his NYSC service, Tochukwu shares with Nigerians and the world the benefits of the programme. He writes that “the NYSC in Nigeria has helped a lot of Nigerian graduates to be self employed and to gain employment in many organizations where they carried out their national service.”

Mr. Okoye states that such government policies like the NYSC, the youth will have a better tomorrow and states that if such similar scheme is adopted by other countries especially Third World Countries, it will help to curb unemployment, empower the youth for positive actions and promote national unity. This is an assessment of the NYSC programme by an Ibo graduate who speaks about the benefits of the scheme both now and for the future and recommends it to other countries.

One can read more comments on the assessment of the NYSC from its website and from many other sources. With the abundance of very positive comments from Nigerians and foreigners who have assessed the NYSC scheme, how then can anyone talk about scrapping the programme? This will amount to scrapping our unity as a nation. The NYSC is a legacy bequeathed to the Nigerian youths for fostering understanding, communication, reconciliation and mutual acceptance among Nigerians of different languages, tribes, cultures and religions for the purpose national peace, unity and progress. The elders who fought the civil war discovered with regret that the waste in human life and the destruction of properties have no justification. The created the NYSC to foster a new Nigeria of cross- cultural awareness, mutual understanding, and acceptance. Therefore to scrapping the NYSC programme is moving Nigeria backward. It will be the worst thing that can happen to this country in our time.

SECOND SPEAKER (Supporting the motion)

The moderator, panel of judges, time keeper, co-debaters, ladies and gentlemen. My name is ___________________ I am here to support the motion that Nigeria should scrap the NYSC programme. Let me ask my opponent, the last speaker, is Nigeria not moving backward already by the murder of many service corps who were bombed and shot to death in northern Nigeria during and after the last presidential elections.? Who is moving Nigeria forward? Is it those who kill Nigerian graduates who leave their home areas for national youth service in another area of the country or those who say the killing must stop?

How can we sit down and watch forever these endless atrocities in the name of national service where our youths are sent to their early graves. Today, it is religious crises, the next day it is political crises or both working together in disguise to achieve the same purpose since NYSC is a ploy for the massacre and elimination of their targets.

There is of the late son of Rev. Felix Orafu an Ibo cleric whose son was brutally murdered by Islamic fanatics in Kano while serving as an NYSC member. The late Chika Orafu was the first of his parents who hail from Azu Ogbunike in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State. The dead body of Chika Orafu has not been recovered for proper burial since seven years of this incident. He is among the NYSC members slaughtered during their service whose blood call for justice in this country. An important step which must be taken to appease their blood is to scrape the hypocritical programme that tricked them out of their home areas to areas of religious and political hostilities where they were killed.

For a challenge, will Nigeria change the rules of NYSC so that each graduate can choose where to serve if at all to serve, or if it must be compulsory, let each one serve in their own communities? However, if it must be business as usual, then it means that there will be no end to our youth being hacked down to death by religious fanatics or being bombed and killed by do or die or die power greedy politicians in the name of NYSC for national unity. It is on this note I support that the NYSC programme should be scrapped.

SECOND SPEAKER (Opposing the motion)

The moderator, panel of judges, time keeper, co-debaters, ladies and gentlemen. My name is ___________________ I stand to strongly oppose the motion which calls for the scrapping of the NYSC programme. The reasons given by the proponents of this motion are baseless and myopic. Let me ask the last speaker, is it only in northern Nigeria that corps members die during their service? Just a few days ago in Calabar, Cross River State, some NYSC members serving in a bank were shot dead by armed robbers. Some other people were also killed in this incident who were not NYSC members.

Let me tell you that anyone can meet their death anywhere in Nigeria in different services and circumstances. It can either be by accident, armed robbery or by other dangers. Should we then close shop in all services just because of risks or dangers that may cause death? If the answer is no, why should the NYSC be an exception? Many Southerners live and work in different parts of northern Nigeria and in other places in the country, likewise Northerners. Does it mean we should make a law to scrape their services or make them serve in their communities alone in order to protect them from danger and death?

Is there anywhere in the world where anyone can hide from death? Tell me any profession, work or service that does not have its own kind of hazards which may cause death sometimes?

Since the NYSC has been of immense help in creating cross-cultural awareness, understanding and cooperation among the Nigerian youths, let us see it as a machinery we will always need for national integration and cohesion. The election which resulted to the deaths of some NYSC members should be seen as an accident which may occur in a journey once in a while. Where in the world has any government banned travels for the fear of accident?

To scrape the NYSC in Nigeria because of election crises or religious crises which took the lives of some youth corps members is unjustified considering the immense and enduring benefits of the programme. We will always need the NYSC as a multi- lingual, multi- cultural and multi- religious nation for its functions in fostering cross- cultural awareness, communication, mutual understanding, cooperation and acceptance which are necessary for national integration and cohesion. By these values which the NYSC functions generate, we will achieve unity, peace and progress as a nation.

Please, let us do away with this idea of scrapping the NYSC scheme.

THIRD SPEAKER (Supporting the motion)

The moderator, panel of judges, time keeper, co-debaters, ladies and gentlemen. My name is ___________________ No amount of rhetoric by those opposing this motion can divert us from the injustices done in the name of uniting Nigeria through the NYSC scheme. It is for these injustices that we are calling for the scrapping of the programme. Let me remind this audience that the first speaker who proposed this motion informed us that the NYSC from its conception and inception was not intended for the unity of Nigeria but to exploit and enslave the Ibos who lost the civil war.

Under the NYSC scheme, more Ibo youths are sent away from their home areas to serve in other areas in return for little from those sent to Ibo areas. They are also sent to their death by slaughter, shootings and bomb blasts in areas of religious hostility and incurable religious acrimony.

The point is that since these injustices were intended from the conception of the NYSC programme, they will continue. What the last speaker called an accident is war not an accident. War is a planned action that is intentional. War is not an accident. Accident is not intentional. Therefore, I make bold to say that the NYSC should be scrapped to put an end to this war fought in camouflage against the Ibo youths and their communities. This is robbing Peter to pay Paul and much more than that, it is killing Peter as well.

My colleague, the second speaker who supports this motion has challenged Nigeria to change the rule of the NYSC and allow each graduate to serve in their home area. If the government is denying our charge that the injustices we report about the NYSC is not true and intended from the inception of the programme, let the rule be changed so that each graduate can serve in their home community, otherwise let the NYSC be scrapped.

THIRD SPEAKER (Opposing the motion)

The moderator, panel of judges, time keeper, co-debaters, ladies and gentlemen. My name is ___________________ Those calling on Nigeria to scrape the NYSC are narrow minded in their concept of national unity. They forget that to manage resources in a manner that is fair and in the interest of national unity means that you allocate resources to address an area of greater need especially if it is a matter of emergency. There is pay back in some other ways to those areas that seem to be neglected or treated unfairly for the meantime. Pay back may be immediate or later and may take different forms in kind or in cash.

In pooling of resources together for distribution, each area may not at all times receive exactly the same kind or amount of allocation. However resources are allocated according to what each part needs and the size of the area. Let us take the human body as an example. Some parts of the body appear smaller than others, like if you compare the eyes to the legs. What is important is for each part to get what it needs for its nourishment and sustenance in order to function and contribute to the welfare of the body as one.

Each part is indispensable to the body since each performs different function needed for the unity of the body. The legs do the walking while the eyes see for the entire body. The stomach stores food for the body. Suppose the eyes complain that it doesn’t get as much as the stomach, does it not show ignorance that the eyes do not understand the function of the stomach. The stomach plays a storage function and does not keep food to itself alone.

Let me be plain to our opponents from my example of the human body that although more graduates might be sent from the East and West to the northern areas of our country for national service in the NYSC scheme and less number of graduates go from North to the South, there are other resources that come more from the northern to the southern part because they are more available in the North. If you choose to be blind to this reality, it can only be for selfish reasons.

What if the South supplies more number of graduates to the North for national service than the North supplies to the South? What if the Niger Delta supplies all the oil wealth of the country and the North provides the nation with more cows and cotton? Is it not in the interest of Nigeria as ONE nation that each part functions for our overall well- being and unity? It is by this concept of body unity that we should understand our unity as an entity called Nigeria.

The NYSC as an instrument of government is functioning to make its contribution by seeing that more graduates are sent to an area they are mostly needed at any time and also to provide other areas with graduates as their needs may be. In light of my analogy and explanation, I want everyone to understand the NYSC from a better light and see it as doing a good job beneficial to all Nigerians. Therefore, the proposal to scrape the NYSC programme is unjustified.

Send us your views on this debate
Prof Eze can be reached by email at herberteze@juno.com


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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.