The Bill to scrap the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), it was learned, has reached second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives. The Bill is sponsored by the lawmaker representing Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro federal constituency of Rivers sptateS, Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante.
He listed various factors that are undermining the vision of the NYSC founding father, former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd).
Abiante argued that the youth scheme has led to the “incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence, and incessant kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country.”
He went further to say public and private organisations, because of the cheap labour provided by Nigerian graduate youths, are no longer hiring able and professionally-trained employees, and that these corps members are not well paid for the services they render.
We really have to thank Hon. Abiante for his observation and advice. He speaks as a true patriot and father who cares for his children. But his arguments are like those of ordinary citizens who want government to print money and share it to every citizen without appreciating the economic and social effects of it. The idea is like constructing road bumps to punish all motorists because few drivers are breaking speed regulation laws, while agencies which are responsible for arresting the offenders turn their face way.
The National Youth Service Corps was established on May 22, 1973. It commenced operation during the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon under Decree No. 24 of 1973. It was established to reconcile and reintegrate Nigerians after the Nigerian Civil War. But the “war” is still here with us, fiercer than before.
This unpopular Bill should not be allowed to pass through second reading in the National Assembly. If the Bill is allowed to see the light of day, that would be a great disservice to all Nigerian youths who aspire to further their education. The NYSC uniform alone has inspired tens of thousands to acquire higher education. These people, ordinarily, would not have seen the four walls of school, yet struggled to the university level in order to wear the NYSC uniform. It is the dream of every Nigerian young person, male or female, to complete their education and go for national service.
The reasons adduced by the lawmaker look genuine in the periphery of the real matter. But Nigeria cannot, because of insecurity occasioned by insurgents, kidnappers and bandits, scrap the noble ideals of national service.
To douse mutual suspicions among Nigerians due to ignorance of one another’s cultures, the visionary General Gowon established the NYSC so that the misconceptions about the ways of life of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups could be understood by all Nigerians in every nook and cranny of the country.
Hon. Abiante’s advice is apparently benevolent, but we cannot afford to throw away the baby with the bath water. Such thinking may stem from fatherly concern, but we cannot say, because insurgents, kidnappers and bandits are kidnapping and killing Nigerian pupils and students, we should discontinue primary and secondary school education. Or that because soldiers are dying at the frontlines, we should stop recruiting new personnel, or that because motorcars are killing people, all vehicles should be banned from plying our neighbourhood roads.
It seems some of our lawmakers are short of ideas, but because they want to be linked to a long list of Bills they sponsor in the House no matter the malevolence of such bills, just to impress their constituents, the propose any thoughts that come to their minds without properly weighing it. Why won’t our lawmakers observe sleepless nights over the ever rising army of jobless youths in the country? If they don’t know what to propose as bill, our lawmakers should sponsor a bill , for instance, to make sure the government empowers Nigerian graduates, each with N1 million as start-up capital towards becoming self-dependent after school.
Believe it or not, the scrapping of NYSC will increase Nigerian unemployment figures and crime rates. The insecurity issue it intended to avoid could worsen. The inspiration to become a useful member of society through education and national service will die. Cultural diffusion among Nigerians of different regions and ethnic groups will also dwindle. Then the mutual ignorance of cultural practices will set in and chaos will beset the polity.
Remember that inter-ethnic marriages, which the NYSC encourages, has been able to douse tension between belligerent communities in the past. Before now, all people in the South, except the Yoruba, were regarded by ordinary northerners as Igbo, and Southeasterners saw all persons from the North as Hausa. But because of the benevolence of national service, people are better informed. They now know that Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups spread across the country.
If there is any time Nigeria needs the activities of corps members, it is now that agitations for ethnic republics are strife; now that Nigeria has been divided along ethnic and religious lines; now that unemployment rate is rising skywards. The lawmakers must remember that for most school leavers, the national service is their first contact with the work environment and they pick up useful skills and experience that stand them in good stead long after service. And this is not to talk of those who get retained as workers, and so escape the miserable fate of joining the Nigerian labour market.
Nigerians should understand that despite the security challenges, the advantages of NYSC far outweigh its disadvantages.
If we are to ban NYSC because of insecurity, we must also stop farmers from going to farm because of herders, too; we must stop banks from operating in Nigeria because of ‘Yahoo Boys’,
All federal legislators should, in the spirit of patriotism, throw away the bill. Nigerian students and their guardians should say a capital ‘No’ to any legislation that will proscribe their darling national service. The youths know better.
– Uji, a public affairs commentator, wrote in from Abuja.
Disclaimer: The Post [COLUMN] NYSC Discontinuation Bill, A Legislative Energy Misdirected was first Published by Jeremiah on leadership.ng.