Donning the famous National Youth Service Corps khaki was once a great pride. But it seems that is no longer the case with events that have unfolded in the country since the program was established in 1973.
A fragile story
In 1973, the program was established as an avenue for reconciliation, rebuilding and rebuilding the country after the Nigerian Civil War. It was established on the basis of Executive Order No. 24 which stated that the program was established “with a view to encouraging and appropriately developing common bonds among the youths of Nigeria and promoting national unity”.
The promotion of national unity, which had always been emphasized, became particularly important after Nigeria’s horribly fratricidal civil war which rocked the country between July 6, 1967 and January 15, 1970, and perhaps forever, leaving a perpetually broken country.
When General Yakubu Gowon, then military head of state, launched the program with the aim of accelerating the healing of national wounds, many perceived it to be relief from the ghosts of civil war, or even worse, balm for a savage conscience. by the haunting cries of children who breathed their last agonizing breath as two bewildered military officers led Nigeria down the most perilous path.
If NYSC was exciting in the beginning for the way it was structured and how it enabled Nigerian graduates to integrate the breathtaking diversity of their country while serving some of Nigeria’s most vulnerable communities, the porridge has since soured, leaving a bitter taste of disillusion, disappointment, disenchantment and even death.
A death plan?
On Sunday June 19, 2022, approximately four corpses were found floating on the river near the Otuan and Ayama communities of the South Bayelsa State Ijaw Local Government Council. One of the corpses was a female member of the National Youth Service Corps. The boating accident was reportedly caused by bad weather, poor visibility and a lack of life jackets for passengers.
On June 1, 2021, Faith Onoriode, a female member of the National Youth Service Corps was freed by bandits who abducted her on March 21, 2022 on the Abuja-Kaduna road. Miss Faith Onoriode, a Biology/Microbiology graduate from Delta State Polytechnic, Otefe, Oghara, who was assigned to orientation camp in Jigawa State was only released after the family reportedly paid a ransom of N2 million, along with a motorbike, five Tecno phones and a value of N100,000 recharge card.
A sinister sense
Perhaps, in Nigeria’s atmosphere of insecurity, it makes dark sense that members of the corps are also at risk. However, the question remains, to what extent will they be at risk if they do not have to travel to some of Nigeria’s most volatile states to serve their country under the scheme?
Corps members who used to be spared the horror of attacks have now become routine targets as Nigeria continues its nasty descent into the doldrums of insecurity.
It would seem that in the face of growing insecurity in Nigeria and the preference of many of those forming the country’s leadership to tout ethnicity rather than unity, the program has lost its appeal.
As traveling across the country has become fraught with pitfalls; many graduates deployed to the program actually attempt to circumvent the program’s increasingly corrupt placement system to gain favorable postings, or only travel at the risk of their lives.
Some of the program’s orientation camps in the increasingly volatile northeast also remained closed for years.
A vanquished dream
Given these awful developments, it would seem that despite his many promises and the many pearls he has thrown Nigeria’s way for forty-nine years, the project should finally be put to pasture.
With the 2023 election looming and with the Independent National Electoral Commission is more likely than not to deploy corps members as ad hoc staff, it would appear that in Nigeria there is virtually nothing that can be guaranteed these days, including the safety of members of the corps serving in various parts of the country.
Kene Obiezu writes from Abuja