By Solomon Semaka
Our beloved country Nigeria, like most Nation-States in post-colonial Africa, is sustainably in need of unity, cohesion and national integration. This is largely because of the arbitrary demarcation of boundaries that divided people of the same history and descent while forcefully united people of different historical and socio-cultural affinity as a country.
This colonial intervention created a foundational potency for the sustained mutual suspicion among nationalities in most post-colonial nation-states. In the case of Nigeria, this already shaky foundation was further affected more deeply and negatively by the civil war that lasted for almost three years.
So to confront this degeneration in our already fractured federation , the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowoni in 1973, three years after the civil war decided to establish the NYSC in order to foster and promote national unity and integration, reconcile and rebuild the nation.
It can therefore be said that the shaky foundation of our unity coupled with the unfortunate event of the civil war with its attendant negative effects on our oneness as a nation necessitated the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps by the decree No.24 of the 22nd May 1973 which clearly observed that the Scheme was established primarily with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.
Many Nigerians who have participated in the Scheme and other critical observers can bear witness to the positive impacts and benefits the scheme has brought in all spheres of our national life especially in the faithful and dedicated discharge of its core mandate of fostering unity and national integration.
These positive impacts are evident in the level of friendship that has been cultivated across religious and cultural divide as a result of the platform provided by the NYSC Scheme. It is the unequalled credit of this scheme that inter-marriages have been facilitated across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
Today, many families in the East have in-laws from the North and families from the West have in-laws from the South and vice versa. The achievements and contributions of this Scheme are also glaring in the area of community development projects. Many Corp members have written their names indelibly in the hearts of many Nigerians in the community where they have saved by their positive impacts and selfless service.
Many communities in Nigeria now have health facilities and other basic amenities courtesy of NYSC members who served in such places. Simply put, the Scheme has impacted positively on almost all facets of our national life and more on the Corp members themselves who are usually launched into the next stage in life and equipped with the necessary experiences needed to excel in their chosen career path.
It pertinent at this juncture to commend the foresight and patriotic leadership of the former Head of State Gen.Yakubu Gowon who conceived and courageously establish the Scheme as a major platform for Unity and National Integration. The focus on the youths who embodies the future of our Nation shows the futuristic character of the Scheme. Today, majority of Nigerians occupying various leadership positions are direct beneficiaries of the Scheme and are living witness to the unifying potency of NYSC.
Speaking recently during the Commissioning of NYSC Television and Radio Stations in Abuja, Gen. Gowon acknowledged that the Scheme has achieved its core mandate and has impacted positively in the Nation. In his words There is no gainsaying the fact that the Scheme has in almost five decades of its existence successfully harnessed the potentials of our graduate youths as models for defining patriotism, credible and quality leadership as well as economic regeneration. Our Nation will ever remain grateful to Gen. Yakubu Gowon for such great legacy even to generations yet unborn.
In the same light, I wish to acknowledge the remarkable achievements of the successive Heads of the Scheme who in reference to the core mandate of NYSC have each delivered excellent leadership within the confines of their job description and resources at their disposal. The sustenance and continuous relevance of the Scheme is attributable reasonably to their respective contributions. The history of the Scheme will always reserve a place of honour for all who have served the Nation in that capacity in the past.
Standing on the shoulders of his illustrious predecessors, the current DG of NYSC, Maj, Gen. Ibrahim Shaiubu, has demonstrated ingenuity and uncommon leadership qualities that have surpassed every expected performance indices and has comparatively taken the scheme completely to another level of advancement in response to current realities and dynamics of the 21st century.
He has turned around the scheme and has repositioned it to discharge its core mandate with unmatched drive towards community and national integration. Amidst several other achievements, innovations and quality addition, it is imperative to single out the recent inauguration of the NYSC Television and Radio Stations situated at the National Directorate Headquaters of the Scheme in Maitama, Abuja by the Founding father of the National Youth Service Corps, Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
While commissioning the Television and Radio Stations, General Gowon praised the initiative and acknowledged the importance of the media outfits especially towards the enhancement and capacity building in the area of information dissemination and wider global outreach as well as a veritable platform for driving the core mandate of national unity, cohesion and collective prosperity for all and sundry.
It is important to reiterate the fact that NYSC has remained more relevant today than ever before. Nigeria as a country is in dire need of national cohesion and Unity now as it was before and after the civil war. Agents of disunity and destabilization are emerging on daily basis from different parts of the country. The modest achievements of NYSC in fostering unity are daily being threatened.
As such, this development rather calls for more funding and support to the Scheme to scale up their drive for national unity and integration. This is even compelling because even the core mandate of the Scheme is defined primarily to inculcate in Nigerian Youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasise the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background.
The history of our country since independence has clearly indicated the need for unity amongst all our people and demonstrated the fact that no cultural or geographical entity can exist in isolation. This is the fact I have acknowledged earlier about almost all the countries in Post-colonial Africa as a result of arbitrary creation of national boundaries without recourse to historical and ethnic ties.
Consequently, Nigeria particularly needs to look back and appreciate the role NYSC has played in National integration and orientation of future Nigerian leaders. As a pluralistic and multi-religio-cultural Nation, a Scheme like NYSC is not just relevant at all times but continues to be the rallying platform for National cohesion and it also provides an unmatched opportunity for participating citizens to appreciate the diversity of our Nation and the imperative of cosmopolitan disposition in public service.
There is no gain saying the fact that the future of any society depends largely on the youths. This is the fact also acknowledged by the youths of Nigeria who are naturally positioned as a link between today and tomorrow. The leadership of Nigeria is potentially and futuristically in the hands of the youths. As such, while one may not support absolutely that leaders are born, not made, one equally need to concede to the reality that leadership in modern society requires a certain degree of skills, preparation and orientation to be effective.
NYSC scheme has over the years played this role in nurturing Nigeria’s future leaders and should be supported rather more robustly so as to accomplish even more for the good of our Nation. It is on this note that I once again lend my voice in solidarity with the leadership of NYSC and all patriotic Nigerians in calling on the National Assembly to expedite action on the NYSC Trust Fund bill initiated by the current DG and is presently before them.
The bill promises to provide a legal framework and impetus for the generation of more funds to aid the realization of many noble initiatives of the scheme for Nigerians. It will also help in reinforcing the perennial quest for the diversification of the Schemes programmes especially in providing entrepreneurial training and skills enhancement of Corp members for self-reliance and wealth creation.
So, while we honestly acknowledge the challenges being faced by members of the Scheme particularly as a result of insecurity which have caused scores of death of Corp members and kidnapping of some, we are equally convinced that the gains far outweighs the pains. We therefore once again commend the founding father of this Scheme and all patriotic Nigerians who have always shown support for the sustenance and growth of the Scheme.
Special commendation also goes to all the formers DGs of the Scheme and most especially to the current DG, Maj. General Ibrahim Shuaibu and his team for their excellent service to the Nation and value addition to the core mandate of the Scheme. May God bless the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Semaka, is the Convener, Save Nigeria Movement.
Renewed onslaught on drug abuse
By Kayode Akinmade
Nigeria’s total collapse and disintegration appears imminent. One does not need a soothsayer to know this. The ominous signs are everywhere for all to see. Apart from the political turmoil instigated by cronyism, misgovernance, leadership failure and incompetence – all of which validated strident calls for restructuring of the polity and self-determination by some ethnic nationalities, the clock is ticking for the implosion of multidimensional internal conflicts that will soon climax in anarchy and splitting of the country into irredeemable fragments. This is not a prophecy of doom; even the visually impaired can see the thick cloud of imminent rain of crisis that “federal might” may not be able to contain.
The incessant attack on, and killing of, Nigeria police officers and men on a daily basis calls for caution. This should not happen in any organised society. Around the world, there is no government without effective, well-equipped, well-funded and loyal policemen and women in place. Police is a civil force in charge of internal security in every country. They are well defended, funded, remunerated and compensated in events of accident or death in line of duty as enshrined in each country’s constitution.
But, in recent times, Nigeria police personnel have become endangered species. They are hunted, attacked and killed like preys wherever they are found in hot zones. This is unacceptable. There is no other way to confirm that Nigeria is a failing state than the way our policemen and officers have become easy target of attacks. Police is a central factor that holds the fabrics of Nigeria’s forced unity together; and the moment the police is taken out of the equation, in a short time, the nation will be history. Unfortunately, we are fast drifting to the precipice with the way hoodlums, unknown gunmen, cultists, armed robbers, bandits and irate youths attack and kill policemen and officers in some parts of the country.
Incidentally, Nigeria police have not been well appreciated by the public they serve and protect. They are seen from the prism of the bad elements in the force. The rot in the force and the brutality unleashed on civilians do not earn the force deserved corporate respect, support and appreciation. Anybody that has been a victim of police injustice and brutality will not spare a thought for them. The federal structure of the force does not help its situation either. Decent and civil people in the force are either sidelined, transferred to “Siberia” or are even implicated as “risk factors” to covert nefarious operations.
Such officers do suffer denial of due promotions and placements. Ethnicity and religion are used against many competent and efficient officers in the force. Did you know that many officers have to bribe their way to the top? The mess and deprivation they experience can be very frustrating. It is believed that these are the likely reasons why they exploit innocent citizens and suspects in their custody. However, these are not justifiable reasons for the unprofessional conduct of some of them, but because the system is not allowed to function fairly, effectively and independently, it mostly accounts for the avoidable pressure and manipulation under which the Nigeria Police operates.
Without trying to rationalise misconducts and illegalities, the fact remains that police do misbehave everywhere else around the world. We have seen the police commit murder and brutality in the most civilized countries. What is bad is bad; police are not meant to oppress or kill the citizens they are employed, trained, equipped and paid to protect. As we can also see, such erring officers are brought to justice in the court of law and sentenced accordingly. The same thing happens here, except that our judicial system grinds at snail’s speed.
There are policemen that have distinguished themselves in mature, responsible and civil manner. We have seen policemen being harassed, beaten, humiliated and even left half-dead without them retaliating, even when they carry weapons; butchose to endure the assaults without committing murder in the name of self-defence. Kudos to such gallant men and officers of the Nigeria Police wherever they are!
Attacks on the police stand condemned. Statistics show that it is a global phenomenon that must be checkmated at all costs. For instance, a staggering 264 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2020, representing a 96% increase compared to the previous year’s figure. This is according to a release by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies reported that 60,211 officers were assaulted while performing their duties in 2017. There is hardly a day that passes without us losing a policeman in line of duty in Nigeria. In the last four weeks, over 30 policemen and officers were reportedly killed at different flashpoints in the country.
Nigeria is under-policed. The figure per number of citizens is grossly inadequate. While we are managing to cope with about 350, 000 personnel, half of who are assigned to individuals, private and corporate organisations, the festering insecurity engulfing the country is overstretching the available cops on duty. The time for the establishment of state and local police is now. We have to work the talk.
The poor working conditions is another issue. Apart from the recent adjustment in their salary structure by the federal government following the #EndSARS nationwide protests, their incentives and fringe benefits deserve to be reviewed. A situation where officers and men will have to pay for their uniforms, boots, belts, caps, stationery for their various stations and posts is abnormal. How about the welfare and insurance scheme for them and their families? Ideally, their children should enjoy free education on the bill of the state. This should include the military. Free healthcare and subsidized holiday trips for their immediate family members. With these in place, higher commitment and dedication to duty will be guaranteed and corruption will drastically be reduced in the system. Favouritism, ethnicity and religious biases should give way for merit, seniority and federal character in the administration of the Force. This is possible only if there is the political will to do it.
In the United States, Louisiana became the first state to pass what it called a “blue lives matter” law that added police officers to the hate crime statute. Texas, Kentucky and other states have followed with their own laws. Alabama currently makes it a capital offence, punishable by death, to kill a police officer. But proponents of the bill said it could provide stiffer penalties for people who attack police officers in targeted assaults. Last week, 30 men were sentenced to death for killing just one policeman during an intra-religious riot where several people sustained injuries in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Government must enforce legal provisions that protect our policemen and officers. Culprits of assaults on policemen must be speedily brought to justice with grim penalty to serve as deterrent. Doing so is the safest way to sanitize our crime-infested society.
West writes via [email protected].