The repeated threat to the due running of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) should worry all well meaning Nigerians. The refusal of some corps members to accept deployment to some states in the north, though reasonable, is a sad commentary on the ideals that the scheme stands for.
The intervention of the House of Representatives and the subsequent re-deployment of corps members sent to states in the North Eastern part of Nigeria was timely and commendable, but the same should open the room for a lasting solution for the due operations of the scheme because there will always be some kind of challenge or another in the country.
When during the last general elections, some corps members engaged by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were killed in cold blood, Nigerians were bewildered. At the time some Nigerians called for the scrapping of the scheme and almost pushed a disillusioned and grieving country towards the inevitability of accepting that idea.
But the National Assembly stepped in and promised to do a review of the scheme with a view to dealing with situations that might arise, including the prevalent security challenges. Sadly, that is yet to see the light of day and the reason being bandied for the scrapping of the scheme appears to acquire more impetus by the day.
But the NYSC Scheme is one of the symbols of Nigeria’s unity that should not be allowed to suffer on any account. Apart from providing further training for the nation’s youth, the scheme has expanded the horizon of the youth, made them to understand themselves better and created room for mutual acceptance.
Indeed, some communities still depend on the posting of corps members for graduate teachers in their schools, while the provision of manpower for the economy at various levels cannot be evaluated. On the corps members themselves, the friendship and even marriage it has facilitated will remain indelible.
That is why the decision to withhold posting of NYSC members to some states in the north fails to excite us. While we cannot support any move that would put the life of any Nigerian at risk, especially in the present situation in the north, it grieves us that some people are going to be denied the benefit of the corps scheme for some time.
If reports about the education level in the north are anything to go by, the quality of education would be further compromised by this development. Students that would need to be prepared for further examinations by these corps members would have been robbed of the opportunity to position themselves for national development.
We are also not happy with the development because it tends to give some undeserved image to the Boko Haram group. These people must not be allowed to disrupt important national programmes because it would embolden them and provide the precedent for further disruptions.
The NYSC is only one of the many Federal Government schemes that bring people together across the country. If the nation easily withdraws its corps members, there may be no telling when Federal Ministries and extra-Ministerial Departments could be withdrawn from such places.
We believe that if the leadership of the NYSC had treated well the legitimate demands of the corps members sent to those volatile areas, it would not have become the lot of the National Assembly to intervene. It certainly would not have become so noisy and contentious.
It is also worrisome that some states have declined accepting corps members re-deployed from the North Eastern States of Nigeria. This is rather curious, because nobody, certainly, no state Government would prefer to have that number of Nigerian youth killed.
Adding this impression to the actual denial of millions of Nigerians the benefit of the NYSC programme, we can only hope that Nigerians would be more united against the petty issues that tend to tear the country apart. We must fend for one another and put ourselves in the shoes of the other as we forge ahead as a nation.
We expect, however that the National Assembly would make good its promise and re-visit the varied and various issues confronting the NYSC programme with a view to sustaining it and making it more dynamic for the challenges of the millennium.
Our country and indeed our youth cannot afford to run in the face of clear national emergency. If the vibrant and energetic young graduates would need to be given military training to be able to stand any challenge, let it be done before Boko Haram or any other group lay claim to the dominance of any part of Nigeria in the future.