By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“Start with good people, lay out the rules, Communicate With your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss”.
-Lee Lacocca, Former President And Ceo Of Chrysler
Luke Onyekakeyah is a thoroughly educated columnist and a versatile member of the editorial board of The Guardian Newspapers. In most of his articles, this writer has demonstrated a commendable level of erudition and frankness just as he has also manifested a great deal of empathy when writing about human angle essays.
Dr. Luke Onyekakeyah has just done a column titled “End the NYSC to save lives”, in which he made some points in which he believed should sufficiently lead to the phasing out of the National Youths Service Corps scheme (NYSC) which is over 48 years in existence since it was set up by the then military regime of General Yakubu Gowon.
The following are his three propositions on NYSC: The Federal Government has three options: One let the corps members be deployed in their states. The fact that Sokoto NYSC officials did not show up at the funeral of Fortune apparently because of long distance and safety considerations, shows that it is wrong to expect a youngster like Fortune to travel all the way from Imo State to Sokoto state.
Two, the NYSC should be made optional if it should continue. Many graduates miss some great opportunities after graduation because of the service.
Finally, the scheme should be scrapped because it has outlived its usefulness. The purpose that gave rise to it has changed. Government should come up with a more proactive scheme for the youths. Government should pay compensation, even though, no amount paid will replace the colossal loss of a child whose life was cut short.”
Actually, the kernel of his essay is on the death of someone who was so dear to him whilst she served the nation in Sokoto whereas she is from Imo State.
According to him, the reported death of a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Chioma Eunice Igweike, who was allegedly abducted and later found dead with vital parts of her body missing has added to the long list of innocent and promising youths who have lost their lives on account of being called to serve their fatherland under the now lackluster NYSC scheme. There is no doubt that under the alarming and frightening insecurity situation, the NYSC scheme is an aberration, which ought not to be because it exposes youths to danger that pervades the entire country. No place is safe in Nigeria.”
He then posited that government ought to have reviewed the scheme with a view to scraping it, given the highly volatile situation in the country. Besides, the conditions that warranted the establishment of the NYSC no longer exist. It is only for selfish reasons that the scheme is allowed to run because some top government officials are reaping huge benefits from it on the grave of those being killed. This is insensitive and unpatriotic, to say the least”.
He then concluded that:
“At this juncture, it needs to be stated that except the Federal Government does something urgently about the ravaging insecurity in the country, sending corps members on national service from their home states to an unfamiliar state to do the service is tantamount to sending them to their early grave. The entire country has become a killing field, where life is snuffed out of anyone at will”.
I do not want to join words with my erudite professional colleague but I do want to state some fundamental facts that may counter his call for the dissolution of one of the only national institutions in contemporary Nigeria that acts as a unifier and in addition to the job of promotion of national integration, the NYSC is also a national platform for rapid skills acquisition by these youngsters that are enlisted yearly for this programme.
Whilst I sympathize with all the families whose loved ones have died during the course of their national youth service year, I however want to disagree with the aforementioned writer when he concluded hastily that the NYSC should be shut down permanently so as to save lives.
The simple question to ask is should we also close down the Nigerian Army or armed forces of Nigeria because too many of Nigeria’s youngsters engaged in the ten year old counter terrorism war are dying whilst combating terrorists? Or should we shut down Nigeria as a Country and dissolve it because too many innocent Nigerians are mauled down to gruesome deaths by many armed non state actors?
Moreover, the cases he listed out as those who died during their national youth service programme have basically no primary link to the scheme as the genesis of their unfortunate deaths. Death as we all know is inevitable and people die every now and then just as many beautiful children are born every now and then.
But the columnist said the corps member who was reportedly slaughtered by her friends and particularly by her rival- a girl in Maitama, Abuja was also to be blamed on the existence of NYSC just as he blamed the death of the lady killed unfortunately by the ritualists on the NYSC. There is indeed no logical nexus between these fatalities and the NYSC.
It is also not correct to dismiss the NYSC as a national platform in which youngsters spend a year and ended up not being employed thereafter because potential employers of labour are definitely waiting for the next batches of the NYSC to be able to get some of the corps members posted to their businesses.
This is not exactly correct because companies still employ trained hands even whilst welcoming youth corps members to serve in their establishments.
I know as a fact that hundreds and thousands of participants of the NYSC have graduated and have successfully been retained in their places of primary assignment or have gone on to establish their own businesses.
It is wrong to then blame the NYSC for the high unemployment rate in Nigeria because fundamentally many corps members who enrolled for skills acquisitions in one vocation or the other, have succeeded in setting up their own successful brands.
Currently, the NYSC is in the process of rebranding by advocating for the establishment of the NYSC Trust Fund which will when passed into law, boost the skills training scheme of the NYSC. The Trust Fund has already gone through the rudimentary parliamentary works and is awaiting the President’s signature.
Now, let me inform the erudite columnist that his essay may actually not be a true representation of the position particularly when a writer takes time like I did recently to interview the corps members on their unforgettable experiences whilst serving.
The above opening quote which incidentally I took from the first book to have been authored by one of Nigeria’s most successful banker Mr. Jim Ovia titled “Africa Rise and Shine: How a Nigerian entrepreneur from Humble beginnings Grew a Business to $16 Billion”, seems to also be describing graphically the exemplary characteristics of the NYSC as an effective training platform for youths to gain deeper knowledge of life and skills to make them economically empowered.
My Constituency which is the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) decided to hear directly from serving members of the NYSC all across Nigeria and also from those who had served about what endear them to the NYSC with a view to reaching an empirical conclusion that the praises being heaped on the hierarchy at the NYSC now are no flukes but are merit based and that the management of the NYSC have manifested profound levels of competence and professionalism. We got over a dozen entries within few hours but I decided to showcase only very few.
Read on: My name is Monye Chidinma, A serving corps member in Anambra State and a graduate of English language and literary studies, Imo State University. I will start by writing about the wonderful experiences i had at the NYSC permanent Orientation Camp Umuawulu/Mbaukwu Awka South L. G. A, Anambra State. I saw the Orientation Camp as a nurturing ground for prospective gentlemen corps members(PCMS) from different ethnicity, cultures and beliefs, Thereby promoting unity and diversity which is one of the aims and objectives of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Camp introduced me to the regimented lifestyle where i had no other option but to adapt to the rules and regulations guiding the camp. For instance, Obeying the bigul sounds which presupposes that there’s time for everything. Time to sleep, Time to wake, Time for morning devotion, Time to raise the Nigerian flag, Time for morning drills organized by the Man O’war officials, Time for parade, time for lessons /Skill acquisition and entrepreneurial development (SAED) Time for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and light out.
I participated actively in the Man’O war activities where i learnt leadership qualities and principles through the Man O’war leader, Comrade Egbo Asuqo. During the Man’O war drills i encountered some challenges as we were being prepared for the unprecedented circumstances ahead of us as future leaders. Some of the activities includes walking on the symbol of justice, Which presupposes that nobody is above the law and justice must prevail without prejudice. Crawling under iron net, The net symbolizes the masses and this means that I as a leader must humble myself before the people I’m leading, Failure to do that, The masses will pull me down.
Another one is climbing a rope where we were expected to turn over, This particular task came as a big challenge to me, because i found it difficult turning over. It taught me PERSEVERANCE, There are life challenges that may seem impossible to overcome, keep pushing and be determined to excel. We also passed through a tunnel where i learnt that there is light at the end of every hurdle.
Another aspect of the NYSC scheme i enjoyed so much is the Skill Acquisition And Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) classes Which was a golden opportunity for corps members to acquire skills which includes Catering and crafts, Agro-farming, Makeup, ICT, paint making, Etc. Instead of depending on white collar jobs. Our State Coordinator, Yetunde Baderinwa (Mrs) ensured that we took the SAED classes seriously by providing experienced facilitators in all the fields. The SAED training sessions further enlightened me in my already acquired catering skill, I’m super proud of that.
We also had numerous training sessions like Security Awareness where i learnt Threat Assessment, Risk Assessment, Negative Acculturation, Vulnerability Assessment, Indicators Of Terrorism And Counter – Action, Action On Sighting Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’S), Personal Safety Against Covid-19 Pandemic, Home security, Traveling Security Etc.
We were also engaged in career development training sessions organized by YOU WIN CONNECT, They issued us a book titled ‘Successful Nigerian Entrepreneurs’ (How they started), The book revolves around the fascinating stories of some of Nigeria’s most popular business brands and how they conquered insurmountable odds at different stages of their business, Their struggles, trials and triumphs. The YOU WIN business development manual taught me a lot after reading the success stories of some of the influential business brands like Zaron cosmetics, L&Z integrated farms, Luxe, Health plus, The Okunoren Twins, Printivo, Flutter wave, Home of Theresa (Hot) etc.
Furthermore, During the lecture session i learnt some of the secrets to a successful business, ‘As a business owner, Your staff is your number one fan, Take care of them, Look out for their welfare, teach them the best and watch them stand in the gap for you’, This particular statement of caring for workers further strengthened the existing relationship i have with my workers and as a result of that, They handled business contracts successfully in my absence (Catering).
At the YOU WIN CONNECT business training sessions i also learnt the following : Don’t squander profit to impress individuals, Spend carefully and save.
Know yourself, Believe yourself, Talk positively to yourself because you are your biggest fan.
As a business owner you should be a solution provider through the services you render.
Enjoy what you do, and have fun with your business.
Make your staff happy because they represent you and your business (Very important). I must say that the YOU WIN training sessions was a wonderful one for business owners and aspiring business owners. I’m grateful to NYSC officials for giving me such rare opportunity.
At the NYSC permanent Orientation Camp Umuawulu/Mbaukwu Awka South, Anambra State. We were also introduced to the customs and traditions of different ethnic groups in Nigeria through the performance of the platoons as each platoon showcased the culture and traditions of the ethnic group which they represent, It was indeed an experience that has reshaped my thoughts about some tribes. The NYSC has done marvelously well in promoting culture and diversity as we experienced other people’s way of life through the platoons presentation in camp.
The experiences I had at the camp alone are so endearing and can make a novel if i pen everything down because every moment in camp is worth writing down for archive purpose.
OUTSIDE CAMP EXPERIENCES SO FAR.
I left the NYSC camp prepared and ready to put everything I learnt into practice, especially the Man’O war trainings, The security trainings, Career trainings, You Win business development trainings etc. When I received and read my PPA letter which read ‘Girls’ Secondary School Ogidi, Idemili North LGA’, What came into my mind was the snake tradition (Eke Idemili), Some people were rejoicing while people like me were uncertain of what our PPA have to offer. I remembered my Man’O war training sessions and raised my head high straight to the NACC church altar to present my PPA letter to God, NACC is the acronym for National Association of Catholic Corps members. After that i became positive and ready to enjoy Idemili. I reported to my LGA immediately and was also accepted by my school principal, I was taken to the Corpers’ Lodge which was nothing to write home about. So i went house hunting that same day till i secured a suitable environment for my sanity. On getting to the school i was posted to, I introduced myself to the principal as a corps member and also presented my business card to her as a corps caterer. You can imagine the boldness and confidence.
As a BA holder in English and Literary Studies, Imo State University, I was asked to teach literature in English, and as a caterer by profession, I was also given Home Economies to teach. Since i reported to my PPA, it has been from glory to glory as i have been recognized as a caterer by the school staff and students after handling the catering aspect successfully during the school valedictory service.
My NYSC experiences so far has been a great one, As i relocated from Imo State to serve my father land in Anambra State, If not for NYSC i wouldn’t have learnt the things i know now. To the NYSC organizers may God continue to strengthen you and give you the capacity to face the numerous challenges that comes with it. I also wish to thank specially the NYSC Director General, Brig Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim for work well-done.
My name is Matthew Zakka an Ex-Corps member with State code number; EK/19A/1234. A graduate of Political Science from Kaduna State University, born and brought up in Karu and currently residing at Karu-Abuja.
As a fresh graduand from Kaduna State University in 2019, the urge to put on the NYSC khaki was irrestible and uncontrollable. This was not unconnected with the many tales that I have in the past or let me say before graduation heard about how Corps members and service year was.
I have heard people leave service and call it a scam because they never experienced anything from it, I have heard story of how some met their lifetime partner in the course of serving their Nation. How Government sponsored their wedding, I have seen some that gained alot and became very independent after the 12 months service. I have heard of life in camp, “Mami” where corps members do go for hang out.
I have, In some, social parlance heard many termed them (Corp Members) as “Government Property”. To this effect, the quest to put on the Khaki and prove to as many that care to know that I’m a certified graduate can only be best imagined.
Oh Lord! I can’t just wait to put on this regalia. When oh Lord? These and many more where thoughts that dominated the mind of a fresh and innocent graduand like me.
It follows, that, with the news that mobilization is on, I quickly rushed to the Cyber Cafe and registered myself. In the process of filling my bio data, I got to a certain point, in which, I was asked to chose four States that I would love to serve in.
So, I chose Kano, Abia, Ekiti and Nasarawa State. I wanted Kano State but lo and behold, I was later assigned to serve in Ekiti State. I hurriedly printed my green card and made five photocopies each of my credientials.
And When I got home I picked up some Sunday wears, my camp wears (Whites) and a flask and other utensils and prepared my self for the journey to Ekiti- Emure.
It so happens, that, I arrived so late at Emure Camp in Ekiti State.The journey was so hectic. Worst still, my phone was dead as I was watching movie through out the journey.
I couldn’t call anyone at home or my close ally Isaac Danladi to inform him that I arrived safely. So the following morning, I asked a fellow where I can charge my phone and he directed me to a place (Mami) as it is fondly called and I was charged N50 and was given a tag.
After some hours I was back and I gave the vendor his tagg and N50 and he gave me my phone. It was there and then that I called home to notify them that I arrived safely but couldn’t call home because the phone was off.
I couldn’t register that very day, so the next day, I joined the queue for registration. Registration was such a herculean task. It took me three days before I could get registered.
After being registered, It was then I viewed myself as a free born. I’m such a social fellow an extrovert to the core. So, making friends was just easy and flexible.
I made myself available to Camp activities ranging from series of lectures, military drills, Man o War, Drama club, Cultural group, Red Cross,Quarter Guard, comedy among others. However, I was much interested in military drills.
Even so, I would safely say, my NYSC experience at Ekiti was worth it and endearing. Although, I miss home but every moment spent away from home was awesome.
One endearing aspect of my NYSC year is that it prepared me to comprehend how life can be in a new land with no family. I made new friends both in camp and in my Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) – Jonathan Affiku, Sunday Dare, Deborah Denikite, Raphael Okom just to mention but few.
NYSC, gave me the best supportive friends and Mother, whom I will never forgive myself if I fail to mention her here – Iya Alake. She is a mother in the true sense of the word. There was never a dull moment with her.
I had the opportunity to learn other people’s culture, integrate with people from different religious, political and ethnic lines. It made me to understand that there is strength and unity in diversity and to understand in full the saying; “Another man’s food is another man’s poison”
Moreso, another aspect that was so dear to me, was the monthly stipend of N19,800 (Alawi), as a fresh graduate, who, before now often depends and call friends and family for monthly stipend while schooling and now getting to know that a whooping sum of N19,800 would be mine was the sweetest joy ever to me. It made me to see myself as already a civil servant.
Also, walking the street or while going for Community Development Service and seeing children and adults chanting “Kopa Shun” “Kopa Shun” was such an endearing experience to me. It made feel I have arrived.
Again, NYSC gave me a complete state of indepence. It made me to understand how to live within my monthly stipend of N19,800. It inculcated managerial prowess in me. It made me see life in a broader perspective. In a nutshell, it prepared me for life after service.
Added to the above, the scheme, instilled leadership qualities in me and prepared me physically and mentally for the challenges of life. It further, adjusted my view of soceity and life as a whole from idealism to realism.
It indeed availed me a smooth transition from the academic world into the larger society as a full working class and I confidently and honourably submitted myself to it, in view, of the fact that it provided me the platform to contribute my quota to Nation building.
My name is Oreji Chibuike Emmanuel an Ex- Corp member with State Code TR/17B/0283. I hail from Uburu, Ohaozara L.G.A, Ebonyi State a graduate of Civil Engineering from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.
Two years after graduation I still found it uninteresting to go for NYSC. That faithful night my mum called me and asked me a striking question “Chibuike are you sure you truly graduated from the University as you said?” I answered “Yes”. She asked me “Why haven’t you gone for NYSC?” I was speechless. After that I decided to get mobilised for NYSC to prove to her that I actually graduated.
During mobilization, I selected Anambra State, Delta State, Benue State and finally Taraba State which is where I least wanted to go. As my fate could have it, I was posted to Taraba State. On that faithful Monday morning I arrived Upper Iweka motor park in Onitsha, Anambra State were we left for Taraba State with other Prospective Corps members.
On getting to the Orientation Camp on Monday Night, registration commenced were I was given a room alongside people from different ethnic backgrounds and different geographical zones, 3- Northerners, 1 middle belt, 1 south-south and 2 south easterners (I and my Roommate/Course mate in School).
Right from the registration point, I started to learn the following;
Ethic Integration: Relating with my Roommates made me to see Love, understanding from my Northern colleagues which changed my Old views. Their attitude made me to conclude that I will never redeploy even though there was pressure to redeploy. During the 3 weeks Orientation Course, we were made to team up with people from different ethic groups for Parade, dancing, drama presentations, football and volleyball competitions. These activities helped in uniting us better. At the end of the Orientation Course, I was posted to Nyimu Academy, Graba Chede, Bali L.G.A Taraba State for my PPA (Place of Primary Assignment) where I experienced a home away from home. The host community was hospitable, loving and caring. Towards my POP (Passing Out Parade) date, my neighbours, students and employer were in sober mood like people who lost their loved one all because my service year is coming to an end. The Host community organized a Farewell Football match for my sake. At the end of my service year I discovered that “Love knows no boundary”.
Cooperate work Experience: Prior to my service year, I haven’t worked in a cooperate organization. In the course of my service year I was posted as a Mathematics teacher in a Secondary School. On getting to the School, the Principal detailed the Do(s) and Don’t(s) of the school management and the penalty attached to going against any of the rules which is to deny me a clearance form for that month. This made me to brace up. I learnt and developed many office skills such as strategic planning and scheduling skills, time management skills, critical thinking skills Quick learning skills, detail oriented and Organizational Politics. My place of primary assignment broadened my horizon about life and prepared me for the outer world.
Avenue to Reach out to the society through the community development services (CDS): Collective responsibility geared towards impacting the larger community was the sole aim of this programme. As I was part of the health and safety Group of the CDs, I was able to learn, relearn and to impart practical knowledge to the larger society. It gave me an avenue to interact with people of high and low places of life. Going to the market, government and private offices, workshops, schools to teach and impart knowledge. This helped me to develop passion for selfless service.
Self Development: In this fast evolving world, the search for men of achievement and excellence is unending. NYSC gave me the opportunity to harness some of the skills and talents in me which has aided to thrive successfully in my carrier. During SAED (Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development) training in camp, I joined the construction group where I was taught how to construct a water fountain. This was one of the practical experiences I longed to learn. I furthered the training during my service year in order to perfect my experience. After my service year, it was one of the first jobs I was contracted to do for a Client.
Building and Sustaining Right Attitude: Do you know you are a Corps Member? This is one of the questions that guided me during my service year. “What you consistently do becomes part of you”. As we were instructed never to indulge in any act or activity that will tarnish the good image of NYSC, this lived in my subconscious mind. It helped in guiding my words and actions anywhere I found myself. Forstering peace and Unity which is the core objective of the NYSC became my personal responsibility in my day to day life.
Adaptability and boundaries: I have lived where 99% of people around me have the same cultural and religious background. I found myself in a place where I could not see someone who understood my language nor understand my religious beliefs. This made me to always be mindful of my words and actions. NYSC taught me to happily relate with people from different spheres of life. “I nakwana ,yaya kake? Ya ya gida nka?. I am able to speak and understand Hausa Language today as a result of my integration with the people.
The impact of NYSC can’t be over emphasized in my life. It groomed me towards National and Communal, Emotional and Psychological, Economic, Educational and even Religious consciousness.
Do you know my mum was wearing my crested vest and face cap around the street with smiles enveloping her face when called Mummy Corper.
My name is ijeoma chimaobi a native of Arochukwu Local Area in Abia State, Nigeria. A graduate of Financial Management Technology, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Imo State. Currently a post graduate student of Banking and Finance, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike Abia State.
My journey to National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) started in the year 2017, after graduation, we have this notion then that if you have not served or seen as a Corps member you actually have not graduated from University, so this made us eager to go for NYSC. During my registration process I choose States like Borno, Adamawa, Benue and Anambra. Finally when posting came out I was posted to Anambra, at first I wasn’t happy because I wanted to go to Benue but everybody around me saw it differently they were happy I was posted to Anambra.
It all began that fateful day I left my home to the NYSC Orientation Camp at Umunya in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra, State. I arrived the camp and was welcomed with what I saw as punishment, I was asked to carry my logage on my head and walk in, that was a horrible experience. After that registration started, I was meant to stand in line for every process I meant to undergo which I didn’t succeed on the first day. The second day, I had to try and finished my registration processes got my kits and joined others in parade.
The life in NYSC cam6p started properly when I received my kits and was made to dress up in my kits. We were meant to be on the parade ground at exact 4:45am every morning to start our day with morning devotion followed by man-o-war drills before the military drills proper. This activities continued for like three to four days until we were officially sworn-in..
Another phase of camp life started immediately after our swearing-in ceremony, different activities were added to our normal camp routine including; skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development (SAED), football competition, volley ball, drama, dancing among others. All Corps members were shared in to platoons. I belonged to platoon one. Inter-platoon competition started, we all started to enjoy the camp. At first, especially the first week in the camp, it was not funny at all. The military weren’t friendly, they subjected us to different military drills which we were not used to. So we saw it as a punishment coming from a background of a civilian. In the camp our lives were controlled by both the NYSC officials and the military. They decide when you eat, bath or even sleep. That didn’t go well with me because I never lived a boarding school life.
Going forward, the camp became interesting, The military became friendly and other activities made the camp enjoyable. I won’t fail to mention the new friends I made in the camp, we all got integrated and lived our normal lives thereafter. During the football competition I was the coach of my platoon and we took third in the competition. I enjoyed my camp fire night and our carnival day. There is a night I will not forget in a hurry. It was the night the fire alarm sounded, and we were told anytime we hear the alarm to run out to the parade ground the way you are. Seriously it was not funny that night. That particular fire alarm sounded at 12mid night. You need to see how Corps members were running out from their hotels, some half naked. Some sustained injuries. That night was not actually funny, those that failed to get to the parade ground on time were punished.
Gradually, the camping started coming to an end and we started wishing that the camp never ended. That fateful day came when we all were meant to leave the camp to our various places of primary assignment. We all collected our posting letters. I was posted to Aguleri in Anambra East, the Governor’s home town in a school called Fr. Joe Memorial High School. The school sent a driver with the school bus to come and pick all the Corp members posted to the school. On our way to the Local Government Council the old Corps members started sharing their experiences about the environment, what we should do and shouldn’t do. We arrived at the Council and were welcomed by the old Corps members and staff of the school. After a brief meeting with our Local Government Inspector popularly known as LI, we all departed to our various PPAs.