The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was introduced in 1973 as a mandatory one-year scheme, aimed at involving Nigerian graduates in efforts to fast-track the country’s development and strengthen its unity.
Although the scheme was initially designed to include graduates of universities, colleges of education and polytechnics, it was later narrowed down to comprise graduates of universities, polytechnics and monotechnics who are under 30 years of age.
The purpose of the scheme is to enable the corps members to interact with people from diverse ethnic groups, while getting acquainted with their cultures, social and family backgrounds.
Observers believe that by serving outside their respective states of origin, the corps members would be in a privileged position to have a better perception of other people, while promoting peace and national cohesion.
Underscoring the scheme’s relevance, President Goodluck Jonathan noted that the NYSC had been part and parcel of the success story of Nigeria; its unity and strength.
Jonathan, who spoke at the inauguration of 2014 service year for Batch `A’ corps members in Cross River recently, said that the NYSC was famed for promoting unity.
He, however, said that the corps members ought to be an embodiment of discipline, honesty and selflessness so as to accomplish the desire of Nigerians for a more prosperous and united country.
Mr Nkereke Ibangha, the NYSC Coordinator in Cross River, said that the NYSC had adopted a more proactive method in efforts to promote self-reliance and social integration among corps members so as to enable them to make greater contributions to nation building.
He cited the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) scheme as one of the virile programmes of the NYSC that were initiated to develop the latent potential of the corps members.
Brig.-Gen. Johnson Olawunmi, the Director-General of the NYSC, said that the purpose of SAED was to reduce unemployment and prepare the corps members to become self-reliant after their service year.
“NYSC is collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry to facilitate the grant of loans to corps members with good business ideas,’’ he said.
Commenting on the initiatives, stakeholders agree that the task of nation building will be easier if the youth are empowered and motivated by organisations such as NYSC.
Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State said the scheme had succeeded in instilling some salient societal norms and values in corps members.
The governor said this, while addressing the 2012 Batch `B’ corps members during their passing-out parade at the NYSC camp, Ipaja, Lagos.
He noted that corps members, especially those posted to Lagos State, were very much committed to the implementation and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Your laudable contributions to the educational sector, the rural health scheme, the rural infrastructure and the monthly environmental sanitation programme cannot be over-emphasised,’’ he said.
Fashola, nonetheless, urged corps members to work hard to transform Nigeria by sustaining the virtue of tolerance which they had acquired during the service.
He also implored them to promote the wellbeing of the citizenry in all their future endeavours.
Dr Israel Ogbuechi, an ex-corps member who served in Opokuma, Kolukuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa, also underscored the importance of the NYSC in nation-building efforts.
Ogbuechi, who holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Huntsville, Alabama, the U.S., said that he was determined to serve and key into the developmental agenda of the government.
Ogbuechi, who was among the 2013 Batch `A’ corps members who passed out on Feb. 13, pledged that he would continue to support every government policy aimed at facilitating the country’s development.
“All my school years were in the U.S.; I thank God I have finished the one-year compulsory youth service; I can testify that the NYSC scheme is good for the sustainable development of our country.
“The benefits of effective distribution of skilled manpower and breaking of social as well as cultural barriers through the programme cannot be over-emphasised.
“I am above 30 years, although I got my first degree at the age of 24 but I am happy to have served my country, Nigeria.
“NYSC officials wanted to disqualify me from serving but they finally discovered that I obtained my first degree when I was 24 years’ old.
“To me, the service year was an added experience and knowledge; I have learnt a lot about my country, meeting different people from different parts of Nigeria.
“I am quite happy; I have learnt more about our cultures, ethnic groups and geographical areas, among others,’’ he added.
Ogbuechi urged Nigerians living abroad to support the NYSC scheme, as part of efforts to engender the fulfilment of the Federal Government’s Transformation Agenda.
Ms Yusuf Fatima, one of the corps members in Cross River, said that she would be involved in promoting skills’ acquisition among the residents of her host community.
Mr Adeyemo Ademola, another corps member, said that his focus would be on the establishment of an Information Communication Technology (ICT) centre in his host community in Cross River.
“I intend to do this through the organisation of training programmes so as to enable members of the community to tap into the vast opportunities which the ICT offers,’’ he said.
Considering its various roles in national development, analysts, therefore, agree that NYSC is serving its primary purpose of promoting national unity, encouraging and developing common ties among the youth.
Dr Godwill Ogbogodo of University of Benin noted that the NYSC had virtually touched every aspect of the national life, insisting that the scheme had made appreciable impact on the social, cultural and economic spheres of life.
In a nutshell, Maj.-Gen. Hafiz Momoh, a former Director-General of NYSC, said that the scheme had been widely acclaimed as one of the most effective and successful instruments in efforts to achieve a humane and egalitarian society.
All in all, analysts stress the need to strengthen the NYSC scheme and reposition it to make more valuable contributions to the country’s development. (NANFeatures)
A News Analysis by George Odok, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)