The manifesto of the All Progressives Congress is a brilliant product. In truth, I would not expect any less from a party known to be associated with almost every intelligent and progressive individual with the country’s interest at heart. Do not get me wrong, every party has such individuals, they however seem to be given a louder voice in the APC as against what obtains in the PDP, in particular. The result is a well thought – out manifesto which, by virtue of our obsession with mediocrity already is being described as a mere propaganda, which cannot possibly be realised. To the people, some of the quotes from the manifesto seem very laughable, they ask, how will government give free food to all schoolchildren?, how will they even make education free? In this country? Some ask, how will they pay youth corps members even after discharge from service?
I am more interested, as you can already guess, in the last question cited above seeing as it relates directly to my constituency as a serving youth corps member. The APC manifesto is dangerously being reduced by some to being an impossible height to attain, which does not portend well. In an ideal situation, all voices should join in the support of these visions in bringing them to reality and not shouting it down. However, in the undesirable scenario that the APC decides to tone down on some plans laid out in the manifesto, as the President-elect Buhari has rightly said, it is not the Bible nor the Quran, both of which are unamendable. However, the commitment to my constituency and fellow constituents(youth corpers) has to be top-rated.
The youth corpers, the face of service to motherland, the symbol of a unity of our diversity, unfortunately, over the years, have continued to lose relevance in our country, over the years. I have been opportuned to sit with many a men who were youth corps members in the early years of the scheme and something I could’nt but notice was how many of them claimed to buy their first car in their service year. From their allawee!
Of course, judging by the value of money between then and now, they earned as allowance, what many Nigerian youths today, educated or not, would beg for as salaries. Asides, the financial perspective, it was honourable to wear the uniform, the country was largely safer for travelling corpers, orientation camps were in better conditions (not the refugee camps in some states today), and they did not go through the last 3 months of service counting down rather ominously, to an impending period of unemployment. It is not the same today.
The progress or otherwise , of our country over the past three to four decades has been well articulated in the circles of public discourse and it is sad to know that youths, which constitute the highest percentage of our population, have gotten the short end of the weakened stick, it is the youths who have had to face an amazing level of decline in the educational sector side by side with a criminal rise in the cost of this declined product. The higher percentage of youths in the country find themselves unemployed or extremely underemployed having either graduated from a tertiary institution or failed in getting admission into one. Youths must have heaved a sigh of relief seeing a President-elect that inspires some confidence for a better future, they therefore cannot be let down. It will make as a very good message to send as to the commitment to these youths if the incoming government immediately looks at the youths currently serving the country in uniform.
In a period when, the S in the “NYSC” acronym has, in effect, been largely misconstrued to mean slavery rather than service, in some quarters, it will be sensible for government to pay corpers allowances, that will enable them to at least live at a decent standard for the month. The #19,800 currently paid is a far cry from that, thankfully, a bill seeking to push up this allowance scaled second reading in the House of Reps late last year but it is definitely still a long way from implementation, which is where the 8th National Assembly comes in, there has to be a cooperative effort to see pride restored to the National Youth Service Corps.
Many of my friends and colleagues express frustration at this service year, many think it as an exploitation rather than what it should be, which is a willful service of the motherland. I disagree with them when they say this scheme should be called off, it has its many benefits. But they shouldn’t see it this way, not if the right thing was being done. The orientation camps must be revisited, some are in conditions, not suitable enough to house war refugees. These, alongside the plan, to continue to pay corpers, after discharge, till gainfully employed, will no doubt, restore a degree of pride to the uniform. Change is here… Let the youth corpers feel it.
Gbolahan Yusuf is an Abia Corper writing from Umuahia
Tweets via @G1gbolahan.