By Olamilekan Aremu, Ogundele.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was instituted by General Yakubu Gowon (who became Nigeria’s youngest military Chief of Staff at the age of 31, via a military coup d’état, by a group of junior officers under Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu), on 22nd May, 1973, during his regime as Head of state of Nigeria. This government organisation was borne out of the need to involve Nigerian graduates/youths in nation building, and national development. The mandatory one year service is to inculcate in the youths, the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background. Primarily, the purpose of its establishment by the then General, was to foster national unity and cohesion after the country had felt the effects of her civil war (6th July, 1967 – 15th January, 1970).
The corps members would be required to go to states other than their state of origin, to live among people with different cultural systems, so as to encourage unity in diversity. Before this posting to their states of service, the corps members are given orientation for a period of three weeks in a camp, with military dominance; then a passing out ceremony at the end of the orientation, after which they are posted to their Place of Primary Assignment (PPA).
In recent times, there has been a climb in the call for its discontinuty, especially during the introduction of a bill, by a member of the House of Representatives, Awaji-Inombek Abiante from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Rivers state. The bill seeks to amend the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), to scrap the NYSC programme. Thus, the consideration of the discontinuty of the NYSC programme by the lawmakers. Mr Awaji in the bill he presented, emphasized insecurity, religious extremism, ethnic violence, incessant killing and kidnapping of corps members across the country, as the grounds for repealing Section 315(5)(a) of the nation’s constitution (as amended), with respect to the NYSC programme.
Since the objectives of the establishment of the NYSC programme cannot be assuredly met as a result of the grounds presented in Mr Awaji-Inombek’s bill, I am of the opinion that the programme shouldn’t be discontinued, but should be restructured. I believe restructuring of any body, organisation or parastatal per time, is the key to staying afloat in turbulent times and during the period of unprecedented change. The scrapping of the NYSC would put the nation at a disadvantage of national disintegration, which could lead to further agitations of secession, by uncouth miscreants, as the programme fulfilled her objectives before the rise in criminal activities calling for her discontinuity.
A basic and simple restructuring process would be that the government ensures and guarantees the safety and security of the youths, at their respective camps and PPAs. This act, would instill a vote of confidence in the Nigeria people, and would reduce the calls for its discontinuty. The security of lives and properties of citizens should be the priority of any government for her citizens, and also embedding the means of promoting national growth, and unity amongst her people. Thus, the NYSC should be restructured, rather than discontinued, as it is the right step and a fundamental pillar of ensuring national unity and colloquialism.