NYSC: A Model Agency In An Unfamiliar Territory By Bakare Abdul-Aziz Olatunde
It was Norman Schwarzkopf, the former United States Army General who said:
“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
Character is an essential aspect of leadership that cannot be dispensed with. In the modern day world, it is the strength upon which great leaders build the foundation of their teams. They go on to become model professionals, astute administrators and an example to their colleagues and a mentor to the younger generation. This aptly describes the present crop of Nigerians manning the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) ably headed by a compassionate, committed and dedicated officer, Brig. Gen. Johnson Bamidele Olawumi.
I have not come here to pretend there are no issues neither am I immune from the reactions that have trailed the introduction of the optional N4000 online Registration fee for those who desire to have their call-up number and their call-up letter sent to their email. The agency has tried to justify why this has to be and of course they insisted that it is optional. While majority of Nigerians have welcomed this initiative with both hands but they are however very quick to add that the cost implication is out of order. However, this is not my object of discuss here. I am also aware that some graduates are yet to get their call-up numbers but deducing from my recent interactions with officials of the NYSC, I can confidently say they are not only merely working to resolve this; they are actually working day and night to give every eligible and properly mobilised graduate the opportunity to serve their fatherland.
On Wednesday, 22nd October, 2014, after going through a series of stress and anxiety coupled with unprecedented frustration to get mobilised by my university, I became highly perturbed that I had to look for ways to communicate my concerns to the NYSC. What really gave me the courage to write to NYSC was because all of my colleagues with whom I graduated from the Nigerian Law School had received their call-up numbers and I am yet to be issued one. More so, when Lagos State University (LASU) showed me the master list, albeit a wrong and misconstrued fact, that they actually sent my name to the NYSC. This left me with one opinion; that it was NYSC who has failed to mobilize me. Objectively speaking, everyone faced with this case will surely reason with me. Contrarily, this opinion was half baked because I am only equipped with information supplied by my school which may not actually be the true fact when contrasted with the NYSC’s account.
The fulcrum of my analysis is that I was ultimately misled into accusing NYSC wrongly when in fact the failure to mobilise me had come from my school. This failure arose from the defective data they sent to the NYSC, which had nothing to do with the competency or otherwise of the agency. This perhaps may explain why some students are yet to get their call-up numbers while some of their colleagues had gotten theirs. The honest truth is that if the data submitted by the school is faulty, then it will affect some prospective corps members while others whose data are free from defect will be undoubtedly processed. However, I am certain the agency is unfolding plans to address the issues affecting defective data thereby bringing smiles to the remaining worrying faces.
What propelled me to putting pen to paper is not primarily because I got assurances that all these concerns raised by me and other prospective corps members will be addressed. Rather I was motivated by the manner, methodology and unusual candour which are not usually associated with top government agencies employed by the officials of this foremost body in attending to the issue. Do not get it twisted, you will hardly find me praising government agencies and this is because most of them are grossly inefficient and lack ethos of crisis management. Many Nigerians will agree with this. The response of NYSC to the issue however was classy, efficient, respectful and very encouraging to the point that after realising that my school made a mistake, they still acted with such professionalism that is uncommon in the Nigerian space. I spoke to officials who are committed to sacrificing their time to give graduates the rare privilege to serve their fatherland. I spoke to a DG whose only joy and desire is to reposition the NYSC thereby giving us an agency that will be very different, efficient and service oriented. If this continues, Youth corps members are in for a memorable experience in the service of their fatherland.
Serving one’s country in whatever capacity remains an indispensable aspect of nation building. That is why it is incredibly important to ensure that whatever institution that is vested with the responsibility of providing such platform to the hundreds of young graduates must be manned by officials who are not only strong willed, confident, composed and can manage crisis but they must also be compassionate, dedicated and most importantly be full of impressive character. Other public/private agencies will do a lot of good to themselves if they take a cue and learn from NYSC structures on managing crisis, reposing confidence and reacting to concerns regardless of whether it is genuine or otherwise. Obviously, the NYSC like every agency are not without their ills but every system that strives to offer essential services to its subjects should also be willing to go through some difficulties. The challenges have been coming but this NYSC team will weather them.
In as much as I am convinced NYSC is a model agency in which many can learn from, I also do think they need the support and encouragement of everyone most especially the Government and the people. The Government is trying but certainly they can do more. If there is one area I personally think the NYSC can improve on, it is the aspect of replying emails consisting of complaints/suggestions from Nigerians. There is no good in asking people to contact you through your official email address when it will take time to respond. In some cases, responses may not even come. One of the excellent ways of managing crisis is to have a stand-by PR team that can immediately or within the shortest period respond to complaints/enquiries from the people it ought to serve. This if effectively institutionalised would reduce a panicky situation that would leave people with no other choice than to publicly vent their anger. I urge the leadership of the NYSC to painstakingly consider this and I am sure they will.
Nigeria and Nigerians will certainly benefit more from government agencies who toe the path of the NYSC in its attitude towards the populace. I certainly believe government agencies can warm themselves into the heart of Nigerians just like the NYSC is doing by providing excellent man-management skills and remaining committed and dedicated to the true ideals of nation building.
Thank you NYSC for restoring confidence. I am certain this will gear you more to continue rendering excellent and unparallel services and moulding the future leaders who will positively fulfil the objectives behind the establishment of NYSC; foster unity and national cohesion and champion reforms which will truly aid Nigeria’s transformation.
For me, it remains a rare privilege to serve this country despite its ill and with this current crop of NYSC leadership, it promises to be a rewarding experience.
God bless NYSC.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Abdul-Aziz is a prospective Lawyer and tweets at @Backarray.
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