Can NYSC mitigate political agitations?
As a developing country Nigeria is further plagued by the problems attendant upon a condition of under development, namely; poverty, Mass illiteracy, acute shortage of high skilled manpower (coupled with most uneven distribution of the skilled people that are available), woefully inadequate socioeconomic infrastructural facilities, housing.); Water and sewage facilities, road, healthcare services, and effective communication system.
Faced with these almost intractable problems, which were further compounded by the burden of reconstruction after the civil war, the government and people of Nigeria set for the country, fresh goals, and objectives aimed at establishing Nigeria as: (a) a united, strong and self-reliant nation: (b) a great and dynamic economy; (c) a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens; and (d) a free and democratic society. Basically, it was the need to look beyond the immediate present and to think of the future leadership of the country that necessitated the mobilisation of certain categories of our youths through the National Youth Service Corps Scheme. This was done with a view to giving them the proper guidance and orientation relevant to the needs of the country. The National Youth Service Corps Decree No. 24 which has now been repealed and replaced by Decree 51 of 16th June 1993, was then formally promulgated.
The following are the fundamental objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme that are clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June 1993; (a) 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. (b) 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; (c) to develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training. which will make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest; (d) To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment, (e) to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy; (f) to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration; (g) to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups; and (h) to develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria.
The framers of the enabling law also made provisions in order to achieve the objectives in subsection (3) of this section, and emphasized that the service corps shall ensure: (a) the equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilization of their skills in area of national needs; (b) that as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in States other than their States of origin; (c) that such group of youths assigned to work together is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible; (d) that the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria; (e) that the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences; (f) 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; (g) 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. To the question if the NYSC can be used to combat the spate of agitations, I think the answer is in the affirmative going by the well grounded objectives for the founding of the NYSC as enshrined in the enabling Act setting it up.
The need to raise a new breed of leaders for the country is at the core of the essence of NYSC. It is therefore imperative to make the following observations: the National Assembly should ensure that reforms are introduced to the enabling law setting up the scheme so a department is created for the specific purpose of assigning the participants the functions and duties of embarking on enlightenment and sensitization programmes to mobilise the other non-participating Nigerian youth to embrace the mantra of patriotism and love of country.
This they can do by providing adequate funding components for the NYSC to build and run vocational skills training institutions in all the state offices of the NYSC so both the participants and nominees of community leaders are granted scholarship to attend the capacity building seminars which should become a regular features for the NYSC. Graduates of these manpower and vocational training centers within the NYSC should be assisted to obtain interest free credit facilities from Bank of industry to set up their businesses. The National Assembly should also legislate and improve the funding support for the NYSC so each participating corp member is trained as a positive national change agents and subsequently provided with materials and resources to devote a part of their one year exercise towards youth mass mobilisation. President Muhammadu Buhari has already made his support known by way of commendations and this therefore should be a good motivation for challenging the Federal government to always provide concrete support to the NYSC so it doesn’t collapse under the heavyweight of poor funding profile. The management should be encouraged to also activate internal mechanisms for the institutionalization of transparency and accountability. If the NYSC is properly refocused and reenergised, then it is possible for the scheme to tremendously be channelled towards providing seamless resolution of youth restiveness and agitations.
• Onwubiko is head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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