Following the alleged killing of a youth corps member, Lawal Kontagora , in Kaduna recently by unknown gunmen, the Senator representing Kaduna Constituency in the National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani has advised the Federal Government to make the NYSC scheme voluntary or provide life insurance for NYSC members.
This is the latest of calls by notable Nigerians on how to reposition the scheme for better results. Our correspondent, Calista Ezeaku and photographer, Ibioye Diama went to town to seek the opinions of the people on the very important issue.
Mrs Timi ldoko – Journalist
I think l am in surport of what the senator said. Even making it voluntary is not the best option. lt should rather be scrapped. Since the federal government can not put measures in place to stop the killing of corps members in different parts of the country especially in the north, they cannot protect their interest, they cannot protect their lives, then there is no need for NYSC scheme. So many coppers have been killed in the name of religious crisis, ethnic wars and all the rest. If they cannot address these issues there is no need continuing with the scheme. Serving your country is a good thing that is why people after schooling abroad ,come back to Nigeria to serve because it’s a good thing. But with the development in Nigeria l don’t think l will be against what the senator said.
Yes , one of the aims of setting up the scheme is to foster unity among various ethnic groups in the country but has the aim been achieved all these years? Agreed, before now when you go to serve in another part of the country other than your place of origin, you try to bring people together, to share ideas together, to see how we can live in unity but today, that aim is not acheiveable. Today if you are from the South South for instance , and they post your child to the north , you wouldnt have rest of mind until that child comes back. Even when the child wants to go, as a parent you want to stop that child from going because of the things that are happening in the north. So if government cannot address all these, there is no need for the scheme. If the scheme must continue, these security issues must be addressed. Government must create an insurance scheme that will insure the lives of the corps members because this idea of taking your child to the north in the midst of all the crises and killings there is becoming worisome for parents. l have heard some people suggest that graduates should serve in their own states of origin. That is okay but that defeats the aim of establishing the scheme. So the best option is to scrap it because our parents did not send us to school only to graduate and go to another man*s state or domain to be killed, raped and all that. It is obvious that the federal government does not know what to do to check mate it.
Mrs Hetty Okoya – Business woman/ Human Resources Personnel
I think the NYSC should remain because it provides a very good bridge between education and the real world. I think it should be improved. The NYSC should be such that graduates are prepared for the real world. They are taught ethics, they are taught compuctment. They are taught so many things by professional trainers. There should be mentors who come in and mentor them, show them reality, not just giving them places of primary assignment.They should have ethics. They should have self esteem, be proud of who you are whether you are a businees woman or a doctor, what ever kind of graduate you are. Be proud of what you are doing. I think in the NYSC they should all learn a skill too. With these their mindset will change likewise thier orientation.
The terrorists, the killers, the rapists can never have sway over any body else. We need to educate our children on how to be wise. They can go to any part of the world. Many of our children have the opportunity to study abroad, there they also encountered all kinds of problems. They are raped abroad too. They are killed abroad. All l can say is that we as parents , we need to be prayerful, we need to be vigilant. We need to teach our children to be street smart. Be wise to your surroundings. We should be our brothers’ keepers because that is the only way to go. We are fast becoming a global village.Before you will go to NITEL and wait four days for a phone call. Now you pick up your mobile phone and you are talking to your child. You can even see them through video phones. Technology has made the world smaller so we all need to look after our selves.
However the federal government has a big role to play in protecting these children. They should protect all the areas where these children are going to be on a continuous basis. They should involve the host communities, let them have the host communities take ownership. They should equally educate the children that the way they behave in their homes , in their backyards is not the way they should behave outside. So everybody has to have an air of tolerance, pride, dignity as it written in both the Koran and the Bible. All this things are enshrined there.Yes there will always be bad ones but we need to fish out the bad ones and learn how to live together.
Mr Sunny Okpa – Public servant.
NYSC can not be voluntary. It should remain a compulsory programme for all Nigerian graduates both those that studied here in Nigeria and those that studied abroad. From inception it had been a compulsory scheme and so should it continue to be. However there is need for the federal government to look into how the scheme is being run. A situation where the corps members are not well catered for, their security is not guaranteed is very discouraging They should be monitored. They have a secretariat, they should have people that guide them and monitor their activities and make sure they are well secured. The security agencies should intensify effort in securing the corps members and indeed all Nigerians.So NYSC should remain but more protection provided for the corps members.
Mr Pius Dukor – Media Practitioner.
I will even go beyond the issue of voluntary. l want to even say that NYSC should even be scrapped because over the years, the very reason why if was created has been down played. The aim has been relegated to the background and that is why l think that in this curent time it is not needful again. The scheme was started just after the civil war and our fore fathers thought that could unite us. So it was part of reconstruction and reintegration and to make sure the various ethnic groups mix up together. But does that actually show love? For instance, when l serve in the north and they will not give me a juicy position while people who serve here are given juicy positions. This is discriminatory. So if the scheme is discriminatory why should we still make it compulsory? So to me, there is no gain any longer. How do you explain a situation where a southerner and a notherner will serve in company like NNPC at our backyard here for instance, the notherner will be retained , the southerner will go and teach in a primary school. ls that why we should serve? l will serve in NDDC at the end of the day, they will not recruit me, they will go and recruit the Yorubas, the lgbos and all that. The same thing happens in Shell, Chevron and other oil companies, they take all our juicy positions. It should be rejected. They cheat us in this country. They use that to select the people who will be in good good positions at the end of the day, people who actually laid the golden egg, who suffered, whose ecological system is bastardised will not benefit from it. So why should we allow such scheme to continue? There is usually this argument that NYSC helps people move from one location to another, that some people who hitherto hadn’t travelled out of their state are provided opportunity of doing so through NYSC and they learn alot of things about other peoples. I will not disagree with that because people who go to Aba do not wait to be NYSC members to go to Aba and learn the Aba environment. People go to Yola not because they are NYSC members. People travel to Bonny and l don’t need to be a youth corps member to travel to Bonny. So if you use that as a benchmark, it is zero. To travel round the country is an interest, it’s education. Infact my old woman used to travel to Aba in those days. Was she a member of NYSC? No. There are other factors that can unite. Other things can unite Nigerians other than NYSC. Some years ago NYSC had value but presently, It’s of no benefit. We all know that presently there is no peace in the country, there is no love, there is no true federalism. So we should be talking of uniting the country through true federalism. The various states should manage their resources and now pay tax to the centre. That is love. If true federalism is in the constitution and you are not practising it, is that love? No, that is hatred. It is inflicting injury on our people. That is cheating. It’s not fair at all. What we are doing in this country is unfair. Infact, by the time we reach God, if there are various categories of hell fire, Nigeria people will go to another separate hell fire, a very heated one because of our bad character, no love. l am only praying that there should be unity among us.
Anonymous corps member.
For me I think NYSC should remain as it has been from inception. l mean it should neither be made optional nor scrapped. We all know that the scheme is being run as it should be, there is no adequate funding and with all that it still serves a whole lot of purpose. Through youth service many people have met their life patnerns, many have secured employment, made good friends, known more about our ethnic groups and all that. Most importantly it affords us a great opportunity of being on our own, making money, no matter how little, and learning how to manage our income. It’s true that many corps members had been killed, maimed , raped, kidnapped and all that but that does not take away the fact that the scheme is good. Many schools and health centres especially in the rural areas will fail to exist without corps members.
So l think instead of making it voluntary as the senator adviced, government at various levels should think out way of adequately securing the corps members especially those in rural areas. The leaders of various communities where corps members serve should see them as their children and ensure they are protected. Again, they should stop using corps members during elections because that exposes us to great dangers.
Mr lfeanyi Micheal – Undergraduate
Well, l dont support the idea. lf youth service is made optional many graduates may decide not to serve . Instead of making it optional, government should upgrade and reform it to be more attractive, by making people to serve in their respective states other than posting them to other areas. This will help in stoping the killing of corpers. I also think the scheme is still very relevant because the monthly allowance being paid to coppers helps them a lot after graduation. lt helps them in settling down to look for better places to work after the service year. It is often said that the future of any country depends on the youth, so it is important to think of how to position our youth and equip them adequately for tomorrow. l believe the NYSC scheme can help in this direction. The corps members should be given orientation relevant to the needs of the country by inculcating in them the spirit of selfless service to the community and the nation and also emphasise the oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of their cultural or social background.