NYSC and suicidal proposition

Posted by News Express | 29 May 2021 | 917 times

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To desire and strive to be of some service to the world, to aim at doing something which shall really increase the happiness and welfare and virtue of mankind – this is a choice which is possible for all of us and surely it is good heaven to sail for – Henry Van Dyke.

Ian Stewart, a professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, England, is the author of concept of modern mathematics: Does God play Dice, “flatterland, from here to infinity and nature’s numbers.”

He once wrote on number symbolism, cultural association, including religious, philosophic and aesthetic with various numbers.

Professor Stewart wrote: “Humanity has had a love-hate relationship with numbers from the earliest times. Bones dating from perhaps 30,000 years ago show scratch marks that possibly represent the phases of the Moon. The ancient Babylonians observed the movements of the planets, recorded them as numbers, and used them to predict eclipses and other astronomical phenomena.

“The priesthood of ancient Egypt used numbers to predict the flooding of the Nile. Pythagoreanism, a cult of ancient Greece, believed that numbers were the basis of the entire universe, which ran on numerical harmony. The Pythagoreans’ ideas were a mixture of Prescience (the numerical features of musical sounds) and mysticism (3 is male, 4 is female, and 10 is the most perfect number). Numbers were associated with names for magical purposes: the biblical ‘number of the beast.’”

Speaking about numbers and their symbolism brings us to the reality that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) came into being on May 22, 1973, thus making it 48 years since it was established. As it is generally said that “a fool at 40 is a fool forever,” the NYSC, however, is one institution that has never suffered foolery but rather is like that typical old wine whose taste is the sweetest.

An irony, however, is that in Nigeria with a lot of dysfunctional institutions messed up by those put in charge of them over time, the NYSC has gone through a lot of attacks from a variety of adversaries for different reasons. One of such attacks exploded exactly on the day that the NYSC turned 48, when it was leaked by the media that someone in the House of Representatives had hatched the plot to destroy NYSC and bring its existence to an unceremonious end.

Immediately this sad piece of information became notorious, a wide variety of Nigerians from all walks of life, kicked against any contemplation to destroy NYSC by any means. One of such groups that immediately rejected the proposal and described it as a National suicidal proposition is the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). In its reaction, it stated:

“President Muhammadu Buhari should jealously guide against any attempt from whatever quarters to tinker negatively with the National Youth Service Corp Scheme. As far as most civil rights practitioners in Abuja are concerned, this government has made remarkable milestones in the youth sector. The consistent strides made by President Buhari to sustain the only legacy that reminds us of our national unity, which is the NYSC, have become a beacon of hope for generations yet unborn. On no account should any negative force be permitted to succeed in scuttling the NYSC. What we expect is for all hands to be on deck to consolidate on the gains made by NYSC and to strengthen its operational capacity.”

With the above, the nation’s leading civil rights advocacy group -- Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and it’s continental arm, Association of African Writers on Human and Peoples Rights (AFRIRIGHTS) -- has appealed to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and Senate President Ahmed Lawan to throw away the reported proposal through a constitutional alteration bill to abolish the NYSC scheme as moved by a member of parliament.

The House of Representatives is said to be considering discontinuation of the National Youth Service Corps scheme.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Alteration Bill, 2020, which is seeking to repeal the NYSC Act, is billed for the second reading.

The sponsor, Mr Awaji-Inombek Abiante, in the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, listed the various reasons why the NYSC should be scrapped.

It read in part: “This bill seeks to repeal Section 315(5)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended) on the following grounds:

“Incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence; incessant kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country;

“Public and private agencies/departments are no longer recruiting able and qualified Nigerian youths, thus relying heavily on the availability of corps members who are not being well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year without any hope of being gainfully employed;

“Due to insecurity across the country, the National Youth Service Corps management now gives considerations to posting corps members to their geopolitical zones, thus defeating one of the objectives of setting up the service corps, i.e. developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.”

The military regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon had established the NYSC on May 22, 1973, under Decree No. 24 of 1973 as a way of reconciling and reintegrating Nigerians after the civil war, July 6, 1967 to January 15, 1970.

However, HURIWA has threatened mass action should this negative piece of legislation be carried beyond its current status.

“We are very hopeful that both Speaker of parliament and the Senate president are proud products of the Noble NYSC scheme and should ensure that no stone is left unturned to stop forth with the retrogressive March to infamy, which is what the proposal to end the NYSC scheme represents. The tepid excuse of insecurity as reason for contemplating such a national suicidal move does not hold water.”

The rights group described the NYSC scheme as the most viable bridge to national unity even as the group said these trying times of divisions, calls for separation of the country by mostly younger citizens is even the best time to consolidate on the gains made by the NYSC.

It is tragic for any rational being to even contemplate scrapping the only institution that unify the youths of all ethnicities.

“May we once more remind the National Assembly that NYSC is meeting the legal obligations for which it was set up. Indeed, NYSC is one institution that is helping to douse tension and check insecurity because it is such a watershed platform that keeps thousands of youths busy all year round.

The objectives of the National Youth Service Corps scheme are clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of June 16, 1993 as follows:

*“To inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves;

*To raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement;

*To develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training, which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest;

*To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment;

*To contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy;

*To develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration;

*To remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups;

*To develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria;

*The equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilisation of their skills in area of national needs;

*That, as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in states other than their states of origin;

*That such group of youths assigned to work together is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible;

*That the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria;

*That the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences;

*That members of the service corps are encouraged to seek, at the end of their one year national service, career employment all over Nigeria, thus promoting the free movement of labour;

*That employers are induced partly through their experience with members of the service corps to employ more readily and on a permanent basis, qualified Nigerians, irrespective of their states of origin.”

Luckily, the appointment of Brig-Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim, PhD, as the 18th Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in May 2019, couldn’t have come at a better time. He mounted the saddle when the scheme had become despondent with existential threats. His timely arrival has rejuvenated and repositioned the scheme and rekindled public interest in its relevance as originally conceived.

Until recently, there had been calls for the scrapping of the NYSC scheme. The arguments of the proponents centre on the position that the scheme had outlived its usefulness. The call for the scrapping of the NYSC reached a crescendo at a point, forcing the  Nigerian Government to publicly announce, through the then Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Mr Solomon Dalong, that it would not be swayed by agitations from some quarters to scrap the National Youth Service Corps scheme.

The NYSC was established as a response to the disunity faced by the country following the Nigeria Civil war. The purpose of the scheme is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasise the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians irrespective of cultural or social background.

Necessarily, therefore, the benefits and objectives are to enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment; to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy and to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration. All these noble values were eroded by the time Brig-Gen Ibrahim took over.

Though the Federal Government had stated that it would not scrap the scheme then, without addressing the reasons that prompted and even justified the calls, the agitations against the scheme would have continued. Part of the measures taken by the Federal Government to revamp the scheme and restore public confidence was appointing Ibrahim to head it and carry out comprehensive reforms.

Within two years, the NYSC scheme had re-emerged well rebranded, after the rediscovery with the far-reaching reforms introduced by the intellectual soldier, administrator and reformer.

He is a typical modern-day chief executive. They know how to keep abreast with changing times and often engage in what behavioural psychologists call organisational redesign, which was what the NYSC urgently needed before his assumption of office. Organisational redesign involves the integration of structure, processes, and people to support the implementation of strategy and, therefore, goes beyond the traditional tinkering with “lines and boxes.”

He knows that when organisational redesign of a place matches its strategic intentions, everyone will be primed to execute and deliver them. He, therefore, focused on the workability of the NYSC’s structure, processes, and securing the buy-in of the workers and corps members in order to make his deep reforms possible.

As stated earlier, the NYSC was founded to heal the wound that the Nigeria civil war inflicted on the nation’s psyche. It was initiated to foster unity among Nigerians and to promote service to the nation. The conception and founding of the corp was essentially for unity. In his inaugural address as president of the United States, John F. Kennedy spoke his famous words, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This use of chiasmus can be seen even as a call to action for the citizens to do what is right for the greater good of America and Americans. The Gowon regime smarting from a debilitating civil war was determined to rouse Nigerian youths to the urgent task of nation-building and national unity.

Despite its nobility, after existing for more than forty years, some stakeholders began to call for the scrapping of the scheme due to its dwindling performance. The D-G, however, has been able to prove that the nation cannot dismiss the gains of the NYSC scheme in integrating Nigerians as he stands firmly, through his landmark star achievements, for the sustenance of the scheme to continue in its capacity-building of Nigeria citizens and as an indispensable aspect of integrating the nation’s youth from diverse ethnic groups and cultures.

To achieve the total turnaround of the scheme in such record time, he came up with a five-point policy thrust, namely:

1.Sustain effective utilisation of the potentials of Corps Members for optimal benefit;

Strengthen existing collaborations with critical stakeholders;

  1. Improve on the welfare and security of corps members and staff;
  2. Pursue a technologically-driven organisation to deepen effective service delivery;
  3. Reinvigorate the NYSC Ventures and SAED in line with the NYSC Act for greater impact.

In his dogged pursuit to sustain effective utilisation of the potentials of corps members for optimal benefit, and strengthen existing collaborations with critical stakeholders, corps members are fully deployed to help the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during elections. The members of the scheme are reoriented to remain impartial, intellectually equipped to consolidate and extend the Nigerian democratic frontiers, which they have done credibly well since 2011.

Brig Ibrahim has ensured that corps members remain purveyor-belt for development, behavioral change and nation-building and found in the 774 local government areas of Nigeria where they are serving the nation in all the sectors of the economy. They drive the economy through their unquantifiable contributions to the small- and medium-scale enterprises.

D-G Ibrahim has also ensured that corps members remain the major force in manpower supply in the education sector.

Apart from election duties, the corps members help in the administration of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exam, where they see to the successful conduct of examinations. They have also augmented the dwindling number of teachers nationwide where the profession is seen as not lucrative. This is aside the health sector, where the consultants are being harvested by foreign countries where they are paid heavily. Corps members are standing in the gap.

In a sense, the scheme has ensured a reduction in unemployment. While in service, the government pays corps members a paltry sum of N33,000 monthly as stipend. This is aside the money being paid to some by the organisations they work for. Although this money is small in comparison to the service they are expected to render as graduates, it goes a long way to keep youths from societal vices by keeping them busy; hence the government spends less on security, unlike when such doesn't exist, the government will have to spend three times the money they are spending now on NYSC to combat crime. As the Nigerian population is growing geometrically, the NYSC smothers the harm that usually befall a population that's not planned for by giving the Nigerian youths a respite and nurse them to discover themselves on time before they could think of going criminal.

The director-general has ensured that corps members continue to receive the exposure as envisaged by the scheme. He ensures that they are posted to states of the federation other than their own states of origin, and exposed to the diversities and cultural differences that abound in the country.

Other achievements of this exceptional leader as the director-general of the NYSC are: production of an NYSC movie entitled A Call to Service, currently in its post-production stage. Apart from its entertainment value, the movie is being packaged as an enabler of a better understanding and healthy perception of the scheme by the general public.

The director-general has also established the NYSC National Cultural Troupe to provide an avenue  for corps members to hone their talents in drama and cultural dance, with the potential of shoring up the revenue base of the scheme through its activities when commercialised. This will add to the over N280 million which the scheme has unprecedentedly paid into the national coffers under him as internally generated revenue for the first time in the annals of its history.

Corruption, which has been ravaging the nation’s public service, has also engaged the attention of the NYSC Director-General. His concern for a corrupt-free Nigeria prompted him to organise a National Anti-Corruption Walk as the NYSC's contributions to the fight against corruption. The programme involved thousands of corps members in the nationwide rally/road walk, which the scheme organised in collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development on February 14, 2020. The director-general personally joined the corps members and officials in Kano State Secretariat for the rally, which was tagged “Nigerian Youths March Against Corruption.”

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a global socio-economic crisis, which could have more adversely affected the activities of the NYSC were it not for the creativity and ingenuity of the director-general. He prompted corps members to rise patriotically to the challenge, and they produced non-pharmaceutical intervention materials such as face-mask, liquid soap, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, and distributed them to the less privileged Nigerians round the country, gratis. This included foot-operated water, liquid soap and hand sanitiser dispensers, which were fabricated by individual Corps members in several states aside the scheme’s vigorous public enlightenment campaign against the deadly virus.

  When the COVID-19 pandemic broke, the NYSC under Ibrahim pioneered the interfacing and abridging of the disruptive gaps caused by the COVID-19-imposed protocols by relying on ICT-mediated methods. Thus, he was able to hold virtual meetings with serving corps members, as well as NYSC State Coordinators across the country, a practice that has continued and has helped the NYSC to improve on its service delivery and keep abreast with current realities and global best practices

Over the years, the NYSC has been enmeshed in all manner of practices that are less than noble, which included age falsification. The chief executive introduced the inscription of date of birth on the Certificate of National Service and Exclusion Letter, beginning with the 2019 Batch “A” Corps Members and 2019 Batch “C” respectively as an effective means of checkmating the manipulation of date of birth by ineligible persons seeking mobilisation for National Service. Apart from helping in sanitizing the scheme, this measure also bears out in checkmating the falsification of records for employment, visa, and political appointments, among others.

Worthy of mention also is the Five-Year Strategic Development Plan for the Scheme, review of the NYSC Composite Policy Document and documentation of the activities of the scheme that have all repositioned the scheme.

Furthermore, the regained impetus of the scheme under leadership has led to inclusion of the NYSC into the Presidential Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme and the Mambilla Hydro-Power Project by the Federal Government. These inclusions are testimonials to the fresh impetus and recognition the scheme has gained through its exceptional leader.

Welfare of corps members and staff is uppermost on the director-general’s mind. He secured the approval of the review of corps members’ monthly allowance from N19,800.00 to N33,000.00, which made the elated director-general, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, and some representatives of corps members to pay a “Thank-you” visit to the President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on February 6, 2020, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The director-general has also paid condolence and reassuring visits to the families of deceased and missing corps members in Plateau, Kaduna and Edo states as a mark of solidarity. Such gestures have increased the confidence of corps members and their families in the scheme, and have also engendered more zeal for patriotic service.

Ibrahim is an intellectual, an academic and an administrator who has risen to an associate professor. Born 54 years ago, and hails from Nasarawa Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, he attended University of Jos where he bagged  Bachelor's and  Master's degrees in History (1989 and 1992 respectively). He later obtained a Post-graduate Diploma in Education from Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. Brig-Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim capped his quest for higher certificates with a PhD in History from the University of Abuja in 2007.

Like the great philosopher Plato argued, “philosopher-kings should be leaders, so that their leadership may depend on knowledge”, as Ibrahim has unsurprisingly proved as the Director-General of the NYSC.

•Onwubiko, is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and a former federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.

Source: News Express

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