NYSC and The Gospel of Waste By Collins Ugochukwu Jnr
Right now, there are youths scattered around Nigerian villages and cities, slaving away and wasting their lives, because a scheme, a reconciliatory scheme to foster a united Nigeria was established by the Gowon-led administration in long-ago 1973.
After the civil war ended in 1970, in a bid to douse the latent hatred and mutual suspicion in the minds of the populace and to work the ‘No Victor, No Vanquish’ talk or rhetoric, the National Youth Service Corps program was established.
At that time, it was one hell of a smart idea. It worked wonders! It afforded Salewas, Chinedus and Musas the opportunity to transverse the perimeter of Nigeria. It gave them the opportunity to visit distant lands and get integrated into a world different from the one they knew, a world with different norm, culture and tradition.
For the love of country, they gladly embraced it. The khakis and orange boots didn’t matter. The fact that they were used as cheap labour, paid pittance at their Places of Primary Assignment, and the allowance(s) hardly commiserates their sweats ditto.
They gladly partook in Community Development Services, their own little way of contributing and developing their country. That most of them had no relatives or family where they are posted was immaterial. They brimmed with joy and served both wholeheartedly and fervently, believing that we are all part of one big and united family. They enjoyed it. University students eagerly looked forward to it.
Twist and Turns
But that is no longer the case. What Nigerian youths of yore eagerly anticipated is what the present crop loathe and averse. The call to national duty that Nigerian youths used to be upbeat and ecstatic about, is what many a youth now embrace wistfully and sombrely.
The idea of One Nigeria that designers of the scheme had in mind when they drew up the program is what Nigerian youths now make mockery and ridicule of on social media and web 2.0 platforms. The insults they hurl at each other and the verbiage they employ are best captured by one word – UNTHINKABLE.
What used to be enjoyed is now being endured. What used to be a rite of passage into Corporate Nigeria is now the doorpost of an overly saturated workspace where downsizing is normal and retrenchment and layoffs are cool. It is now a one-year program used to herald young Nigerians into the void of unemployment and joblessness.
Haven of Corrupt Practices
This wasn’t the initial plan of its inventors. The NYSC wasn’t designed to bamboozle and hoodwink and dupe young and promising Nigerians or the federal government. It was never envisioned to be a program that will be riddled with ghost names or be yet another hollow conduit through which our nation’s wealth will be channelled to individual accounts.
It wasn’t designed to be a program where postings will be influenced and where children of special people will be posted to choicest places. It wasn’t designed to be a program where Local Government Inspectors and Zonal Inspectors will have special arrangements with special corp members and take the better part if not all of their monthly allowances and at the end of the service year mail them their discharge certificates.
Alternative to NYSC
Rather than continue with a failed program, a program whose mission has been defeated and whose purpose has been served, a new program that avoids undue time wastage and suit our present economic woes and failings should be established. A program that addresses our current unemployment entanglement and will yield visible results in the shortest possible time should replace the NYSC.
It should be a compulsory one-year program too, but rather than wait for students to graduate first, it should run concurrently with their final year in school. It must be compulsory for all final year students and focused solely on entrepreneurship and leadership.
Final year students should be allowed to choose any entrepreneurship program of their choice – carpentry, makeover, welding, interior designing, and you name it and should be taught extensively on the program of choice.
For one year, they should receive intensive training on carpentry, interior designing, photography, or any other specialization of their choice. As they graduate, both from the program and from school, the sum amount of the amount of money they would have gotten on completion of their NYSC program should be handed them as grants. How they spend it should of course be monitored for a year or two. That way, unemployment will greatly reduce over time and our youths will be saved the rigor and time wasted job-scouting.
The NYSC is now an albatross; a shadow of its glorious past. It is now a luxury we can no longer afford. It is a lie we can’t keep telling ourselves and an evil we must condemn in very strong terms. The NYSC, as it is today, is a gospel of waste and a heist we must all rise against.
Collins UGOCHUKWU Jnr, is a Senior Energy Consultant at Tehillah Hills Engineering Services. He frequently writes on Energy and local and international Politics.