It is said that our native tongues are so strong and are endowed with the eternal gifts of proverbs (which Professor Chinua Achebe described as the palm oil with which words are eaten) that are tested, trusted, credible and pragmatic.
For the purpose of the opening of this reflection, the one good proverb that comes to mind is that which goes thus: “mberede nyiri dike, ma na mberede ka eji ama dike”, meaning that emergency sometimes defies the strength of a strong-hearted person but it is exactly during an emergency that strong persons are identified”.
Perhaps, the framers of this typically metaphysical aphorism of the Igbo native tongue had the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) of 2020/2021 in mind when that statement was couched.
This is because the management and staff of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) are doing wonderful things that defy the expectations of these times whereby the most troubling health emergency of the last one hundred years emerged – The coronavirus pandemic.
The emergence of Covid-19 changed the trajectories of the workings of the National Youth Service Corp and dramatically posed a huge logistical nightmare to a nation that has tried to navigate her ways around the consequences and effects of the highly infectious disease of Covid-19 which has not yet been conquered by scientists even though there is light at the end of the tunnel. Scientific feats of the evolution and development of vaccines for Covid-19 have occurred.
The monumental managerial challenges that were thrown up by the Coronavirus Pandemic led to dynamisms and new ways of doing things particularly since the scheme involves the coming together of hundreds and thousands of participants who would inevitably be camped for few days before they are effectively redeployed to their places of primary assignments.
Also, a major issue was how to camp this huge number of young people and ensure the observation of the protocols to beat down the spread of Covid-19 and keep the youngsters safe, sound and healthy enough to withstand the rigours that their twelve Calendar months national service demands.
This, therefore, called for a highly sophisticated but pragmatic managerial modus operandi with a view to complying with the best global practices. The management and staff of NYSC have so far exhibited excellence in the management and deployment of these strategies.
The salient phenomenon that has happened in this period of Covid-19 is that for the first time in over a decade, Nigeria produced one of the highest numbers of participants of the NYSC that won the Iconic Presidential handshakes and bagged automatic employment. This is a testament to the successes of the strategies and measures that the management and staff of NYSC have deployed in checking the spread of Covid-19.
President Muhammadu Buhari offered automatic employment to 110 former corps members in the federal civil service and scholarship for the pursuit of post-graduate studies up to the doctoral level in any university in Nigeria.
Buhari, who spoke, few days ago at the virtual 2018/2019 President’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) honours award ceremony held at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja also announced cash rewards for the former corps members.
He directed the relevant government agencies to ensure timely implementation of all the incentives for the award recipients, urging the honourees to sustain the patriotic zeal that earned them the award.
‘’It is noteworthy that the young men and women being honoured to have excelled in the four cardinal programmes of the scheme, namely: orientation course, primary assignment, community development service and winding-up/passing-out, which formed the basis of assessment for the honours award.
‘’On behalf of the government and the good people of Nigeria, I heartily congratulate those honoured on standing out from their peers in order to merit the honour being bestowed upon them.
“You have proved yourselves worthy ambassadors of your respective families and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). I am very proud of you and confident that the award shall spur you to greater service to the nation and humanity,’’ he said.
If you are reading this piece and you are wondering how on earth these significant milestones were actualized in Nigeria, then these are some of the steps that the management and staff of NYSC led by Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim (Ph.D) implemented.
What he and his forward-looking team have achieved were really not done with so much media showmanship but they were so professionally delivered in a way that managers of human resources may have to understudy the underlying methodologies.
The management headed by the Director-General, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, directed all state and FCT coordinators to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 prevention and safety protocols at all camps and other formations of the scheme nationwide.
He gave the directive while interacting with the management of the scheme and officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) during a virtual meeting held as part of preparations for the conduct of the Batch “B” Stream II orientation course scheduled to commence on January 19, 2021.
General Ibrahim, who thanked the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and NCDC for considering re-opening of the orientation camps, noted that corps members are critical change agents in the national development agenda, whose potentials will continue to be effectively harnessed in the health, education and other vital sectors of the economy.
“Necessary facilities that will enhance compliance with COVID-19 prevention and safety protocols have been provided in the camps while prospective corps members and camp officials will all be subjected to coronavirus test as a precondition for entry into the orientation camps,” the DG said.
According to him, corps vanguards and enforcement teams have been constituted for all the camps, as part of measures to ensure strict compliance, as well as support the national response efforts to stem the tide of the new wave of the pandemic.
Members of the NCDC team, led by Dr Oyeladun Okunromade, in their various presentations during the meeting, described the NYSC’s response to the pandemic as a functional model currently being considered for replication in other sectors to enhance community testing, thus, safeguarding the health of the nation.
Okunro made expressed satisfaction with the facilities put in place to enhance compliance with the prevention and safety protocols during the previous orientation programmes and called for increased vigilance and cooperation to consolidate the success already recorded for subsequent orientation exercises.
The DG led from the front by visiting these states to ensure compliance with the best global practices.
The supervisory minister too is a young man who believes in leading by example and who gave out clear directives on what to do in the event that any of the state branches of NYSC deviated from established safety measures.
The minister informed the management and staff of NYSC that the central government will shut down any National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp that violates the Covid-19 protocols.
Sunday Dare, minister of youth and sports, disclosed this at the media briefing of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19, held in Abuja on Monday.
He said the lives and health of the corps members are a priority to the government, adding that the affected persons will be reposted to nearby states to continue the orientation exercise.
The minister, therefore, called for strict adherence to the protocol and urged NYSC officials to cooperate with approved authorities on curtailing the spread of COVID-19 at orientation camps.
“Going forward, any state that refuses to cooperate fully — 100 per cent — in the aspect of COVID-19 protocol adherence, full testing using the RDTs, and also data management by the approved staff of the NCDC, the health ministry, and also the trained doctors, that state will have its orientation camp shut down and the corpers would be sent to adjoining states,” the minister said.
A section of the media reported that 731 of the 34,418 corps members for batch B tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as of January 25, the country has confirmed 122,996 coronavirus infections, out of which 98,359 recoveries and 1,507 deaths have been recorded. Also, an army officer with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has died of COVID-19 while on duty in Kano state.
In a press statement, Adenike Adeyemi, the director in charge of press and public relations, NYSC explained the officer was tested for COVID-19 as a precondition for admittance to the orientation camp, but the test result turn out positive.
She said the officer was subsequently moved to the Kano State Isolation Centre for proper care, but died in the process
“The Management of the NYSC regrets to announce the sad loss of our committed and dedicated staff while on official assignment in Kano State, for the 2020 Batch “B” Stream 2 Orientation Exercise,” Adeyemi said.
The day he died was not disclosed neither was his name disclosed.
“The officer was tested for COVI-19, as a precondition for admittance to the Orientation camp, just like all other camp officials and prospective Corps Members in the 37 NYSC Orientation camps nationwide, as prescribed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC).”
According to her, the officer was moved to the Kano State Isolation Centre for proper care after he tested positive, “but unfortunately, he succumbed to the virus.”
“The entire NYSC condoles with the family on the loss of this highly valuable staff and prays that God grants the soul eternal rest,” Adeyemi stated.
What you see here is a group of managers that understand the pivotal place of freedom of information and are indeed willing to brief the members of the public on time to beat the notorious purveyors of fake news whose merchandise thrives on the hoarding of information. I think in concluding this reflection, it will be fitting to give a citation from a management book that clearly defines the people oriented Director General that heads the National Youth Service Corp. The quotation states: “It is very unlikely that you will be able to present your project in such a way that it will be accepted if you haven’t considered your proposal through the eyes of each of the people involved. The same process is true for anything you want to accomplish at work, whether it entails taking on a new responsibility or suggesting a new way of doing things. If you don’t cultivate your relationships with the people involved and learn about their interests, motivations, values, goals, and personalities, it’s unlikely that whatever you want to accomplish will have the full “buy-in” that you need. You should have a sense of the following for each person involved in whatever you hope to accomplish: What type of work makes the person enthusiastic and excited; what rewards motivate him or her; what general work style the person brings to the table and what is most important on this person’s personal work agenda for the next six months” (The12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back by James Waldroop, PhD.., and Timothy Butler Ph. D). ”
… Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria
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