Ifedolapo Oladepo, a 26 year old first class graduate, was planning great for a beautiful future before leaving for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Kano state last year. Her dream, definitely must have been very big. Besides the fun of being a graduate, as a first class material, her world was bright. But the cold her hands of death, orchestrated by the carelessness of the authorities of the NYSC in Kano state cut short the dream of the poor but promising graduate.
A graduate of Transport Management from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, Oyo state, she never thought she would die but she fell ill within the three weeks orientation programme and due to the careless disposition of the camp officials, the lady died, her intelligence and all the knowledge she gained perished along with her. Her death sprang uproar against the management of NYSC in the state and the scheme generally. Her death in Kano was the latest of the calamities that do befall NYSC members across the country.
From batch A’ to C’, from one year to the other, a good number of NYSC members die for various avoidable reasons. Either on transit, illness which may not be taken serious as in the case of Oladepo, accident, Boko Haram attack, electoral violence as common in most states of the country, or kidnapping, the dream of many corps members is always cut short in the course of the one compulsory service year.
Today, being Tuesday, January 24, 2017, another crop of corps members will be heading to various state orientation camps. Many of them do not know the roads to these states as they may not have plied those states since they were born. The posting is usually done in a way that the graduates are posted to states other than their states of origin and also away from their geo-political zones.
The aim, according to the objective of the scheme which was founded in 1973, is for national unity and integration. Hence, graduates of Yoruba origin are posted outside the South west states, graduates of Ibo origin are posted outside the South east states and graduates whose origin is from the South south are posted outside their zone. This is done, undermining their physical condition and health status, although some do redeployment after or during the orientation programme.
Corps members conducting elections
In the Boko Haram prone states, when the insurgents were raging, most parents never had good sleep until the end of the service year for the children. Some states lure the graduates to those states by offering them good incentives, putting aside their safety as the Boko Haram insurgency raged.
Most parents, as they get wind of their children’s posting to the hard core Boko Haram zones, quickly mobilized and get them redeployed to safer states so as to give them peace of mind. This is because they care for their children and would not want them dead at the prime of their lives.
NYSC members have been proved to be useful to the states as their contributions have changed lives in the communities where they served. This is so because since they are not paid by most state governments, except the federal government, even those that pay are not faithful in the payment, they employ their service to fill vacuum which the governments cannot fill in their state workforce. Their contribution, especially in the secondary schools, cannot be quantified.
Most schools in the rural Nigerian communities do not have sufficient teachers to teach the students, in this case, the NYSC members are very handy. In the years when they were posted to banks and big companies, the organisations were depending on them to do great jobs and pay them peanuts with minimal retentions after the service year.
Corps members giving salute at one of the orientation camps
In the early years of the scheme, it actually made impact in the nation as it was well funded and the aim meticulously monitored to achieve results. The national unity and integration role paid the Nigerian government. It was established after the civil war that divided the country. Its essence then was to reconstruct, re-orientate, rehabilitate and re-unite Nigerian youths and erase the division that dominated Nigeria during the years the civil war lasted.
But that objective, many have argued, has waned and outlived its usefulness. The present political setting, coupled with the animosity and acrimony, religious differences, party affiliations, politics of violence and the do or die affair of the Nigerian politicians, has not favoured the scheme and may never favour the scheme with the growing irrational Nigerian political system.
The deaths from numerous road accidents, deaths from political violence, Boko Haram and other misadventures have overruled the unity role of the scheme. It has made nonsense of the objective behind the programme. The politicians in the states do not value the lives of these corps members as they send their thugs to harass them and failure to yield to their biddings, their lives go for their national service.
It is painful for parents to have spent their life earnings, as in the case of Oladepo, to train a child and graduated but for the sake of National Youth Service Corp, the child is lost to the cold hands of death, it is most unfortunate. There is no amount of compensation that could be given to parents that could equate the life of the child lost. No parent is interested in trading their children for the NYSC.
Electoral violence, road crashes and Boko Haram are triple evils that have claimed lives of young and promising graduates who left the comfort of their parents for national service but never returned to their warm embrace again. Die hard politicians, dreaded Boko Haram insurgents have never allowed the scheme to make a success.
Besides these hazards, many of the graduates have seen the scheme as a waste of time for them. Besides it being a time wasting venture, the federal government spends huge resources to power the scheme on a yearly basis. The money could go for better ventures or entrepreneurial training for the youths.
Some have argued that rather than drag the allowance for one year, the federal government could pay the money to the graduates after their graduation from the higher institutions and allow them establish ventures for themselves and begin a living for themselves. This, it is believed, will pay them more than the one wasted year.
There are more than 60 percent of youths who participated in the scheme but after graduation remain unemployed for years. To this category of Nigerians, the NYSC year was not useful to them. Many, even after the service year, remain okada and tricycle riders and have never made a fortune out of life. What then has the federal government made out of the system?
The religious inclinations in some parts of the country, especially the Northern states will never allow the scheme to manifest its unifying role in them. The Christians of the south cannot be comfortable in the north because the Muslims see them as infidels irrespective of the service they render to them.
One may not fathom an action that could spark outrage from the uneducated Muslim youths who hate education in the core Northern states. Except one is one of them, living successfully among them, especially as a youth corps member, certainly is a herculean task.
It is therefore imperative that the federal government and the national assembly examine the NYSC scheme with a view to either re-organise it or scrap the system as one life lost is a generation lost to NYSC.
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