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Does Buhari love NYSC?

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A phenomenal coincidence has just occurred which defied the belief in African cosmology that thunder does not strike twice in one place. In this coincidental phenomena, we can affirm figuratively that thunder struck twice at a place. 

This phenomenal coincidence being talked about here is the statement attributed to President Muhammadu Buhari in which he affirmed that 60 per cent of Nigerian youths are lazy and uneducated.

The second leg of this coincidence is that in this same week that president Buhari made the statement about some Nigerian youths, the serving Military General he appointed to head the National Youths Service Corps scheme (NYSC) Brigadier General Suleiman Kazaure clocked two years in office.

Whereas president Buhari’s speech about the Nigerian youths has attracted bad blood and considerable consternation amongst the youth, the reality within the current dispensation in the NYSC shows that President Buhari truly loves youth-related initiatives such as the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC). This conclusion is drawn from findings this writer made from impeccable quarters within the NYSC. 

As a leading stakeholder in the organised civil society community who has followed developments within the NYSC scheme in the past two decades, I can comfortably state that the current administration has performed creditably in terms of the existence of the enabling environment for the management to implement entrepreneurial and other human development measures and initiatives aimed at turning participants in the National Youth Service into employers of labour and creators of wealth.

The focus on improving the standards of facilities within the NYSC’s camps has received a pride of place. One big minus however is the poor financial status of the NYSC which if significantly marked up by government and efficiently managed could make the NYSC to become a pride of Nigeria in a very positive way and for prolonged periods of time.

The President was once quoted to have told participants of NYSC in Katsina State who visited him over the Sallah break that he has an undying passion to see to it that the NYSC meets its statutory mandates. 

The stories coming from both official and unofficial quarters show that the current presidency has shown remarkable disposition to ensure stability in the programmes of NYSC created over three decades ago to promote national integration, peace and unity amongst Nigerians in their rich diversities.

The President has also inaugurated a governing board whose members are drawn from diverse illustrious fields including the academia, civil society amongst other professional bodies. 

What comes out of all these positives, is that it may indeed not be totally correct to rate the current administration as that which derides the youth population because if the president is being credited with progressively ensuring the smooth running of the national youth service scheme, he cannot be judged to hate the youths.

Also, the symbolic celebration of the two years in office of the current Director General of NYSC, has further established the factuality in the claims made by the owner of Facebook and the President of Nigeria last year that Nigerian Youths are gifted with lots of creative potentials and talents.

This much has emanated from the results of the many creative and innovative self-development programmes introduced and currently funded by the management of NYSC.

This writer only hopes that these great programmes with significant goals for the development and advancement of youth to attain self-actualisation will not be abandoned half way.

The management needs to improve upon the principles of transparency, accountability and openness.

The management must operate a people friendly regime that will open up the agency to the positive partnership of credible civil rights bodies.

There is however a point that must be applauded in the area of the aggressive implementation of entrepreneurial skills being disseminated to the participants of the NYSC which to me is a tremendous feat. 

Therefore, it is appropriate to state without equivocation that the consistent funding of vocational and entrepreneurial skills acquisition schemes by the current Director General and the management team at the NYSC and the revival of the cultural festival by youths are clear evidences of what Mark Zuckerberg and President Buhari stated about the Nigerian Youth.

What did they say? You may ask.

The Chief Executive Officer and founder of social networking website, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said he was blown away by the talent and level of energy of the Nigerian youth that he saw at the Co-creation Hub in Yaba, Lagos.

Zuckerberg, who was speaking during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, added that he was also impressed by the interest and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by other young Nigerians in all the ICT camps he visited.

Zuckerberg told the president that he was in the country to promote the penetration of “fast and cheap” internet connectivity (Express-wifi) that would help people create online businesses and reduce poverty.

President Buhari who commended the simplicity of Zuckerberg, thanked him for sharing his wealth of knowledge with Nigerian youths, and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Buhari noted that the simplicity and magnanimity of the entrepreneur, who is among the world’s richest men, had also challenged the culture of lavish wealth display and impulsive spending that had become peculiar to Nigerians.

“In our culture, we are not used to seeing successful people appear like you. We are not used to seeing successful people jogging and sweating on the streets. We are more used to seeing successful people in air-conditioned places. We are happy you are well-off and simple enough to always share,’’ he added.

Buhari said the various meetings held with Nigerian youths since his arrival were most timely as the country was already exploring opportunities to spur development through entrepreneurship.

“Nigeria has always been identified as a country with great potential for growth, especially with our youthful population, but now we are moving beyond the potential to reality,” the president said.

Also speaking, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo thanked Zuckerberg for coming to Nigeria. He said: “One of the great things you have demonstrated is that it is possible to live your dream; it is possible to make your dreams not just come true but come true so fabulously that it will not only influence your environment but you will influence the whole world.

“One of the things you have done is really to create connectivity across the world so that people are really able to interact across tribe, race, countries and feel as part of one family and one faith.”

Osinbajo said that Zuckerberg’s coming to Nigeria had been especially energizing not just for the young people but for everyone else. “As you can see am on Facebook and the president is also on Facebook; so, we are part of the 17 million,” he added.

The vice president said the country was being built on the energy and the innovation and on the creativity of the young people.

He said: “I believe very strongly that today, young people are included and no one has a choice in that matter.

Today, technology has created a level playing field; technology has made it possible for you to seat somewhere, in your office or living room to create wealth, to create connectivity, to create all manner of things across the world.”

After meeting with Buhari, Zuckerberg attended a demonstration by leading Nigerian start-ups, tech executives, business and venture capitalists. Among the 30 selected start-ups, three were finally selected and each will receive a N2million winning prize.

The event was supported by Airtel, Diamond Bank and a host of others.

Addressing the select start-ups, Zukerberg said it was inspiring to see what Nigerian youth have been able to do with technology.

He said: “This trip has really blown me away by the talents of young entrepreneurs and developers in this country, and making a difference and making a change.

“It reminds me of when I wanted to start Facebook.

I wasn’t starting a company at the time but wanted to build something to see if it would work. And that is what I see people here do, pushing through challenges, building things that you want to see in the world. You are not just going to change Nigeria and the whole of Africa but the whole world,” he added.

• To be continued tomorrow.
• Onwubiko is head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.


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