A thoughtful NYSC
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At its inception in 1973, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was designed as a tool for national unity. The idea was that, posting young Nigerian graduates to places outside their states of origin would get them better acquainted with the ways of life of their host communities, and thus help in reducing, if not eradicating some of the prejudices Nigerians have about each other. But, a situation where the NYSC boss had to announce that corps members would not be posted to troubled spots would appear to be a minus for the scheme that was started with such lofty idea.
But, is that necessarily so? Not exactly. As a matter of fact, the director-general of the NYSC, Brig-Gen. Suleiman Kazaure, struck the right cord when he announced, on Tuesday at the Orientation Camp in Sagamu, Ogun State, while addressing Batch ‘A’ corps members that the NYSC would ensure that no corps member is posted to areas having security challenges in the country. A release by the director, press and public relations of the NYSC, Adenike Adeyemi, said “no corps member would be posted to an area with security breach within the country. The corps members must uphold the ideals of patriotism as responsible citizens in the discharge of their duties in their different places of primary assignment.”
One should commend the NYSC boss for this initiative even though many parents had been using all manner of subterfuge to evade having their children posted to the troubled spots before now. So, Kazaure’s formal announcement must have been sweet music in the ears of parents whose children are serving or will still serve in the current service year. Many prospective or serving corps members too must have received the news with joy. Nothing less is expected from any man who has his own children and would therefore not want to put other people’s children in harm’s way.
It is not Kazaure’s fault that some parts of the country are having security challenges, just as it is not the corps members’ fault. At any rate, one has to be alive to serve one’s fatherland. One has to be alive to foster unity, too. You can’t do either in the grave. And, as they say,” life has no duplicate.” While the rest of us may see the corps members who had died in the course of the national service as mere statistics, which should not be so in the first place, not so their parents and relatives as well as other loved ones. They are the ones that know the value of what they had lost. Even if we pretend to be touched by describing their loss as a national tragedy, we are still speaking in abstract terms. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches.
Another good thing from the NYSC is that this is not the only area where the it appears to have shown genuine concern for corps members’ safety and security. The organisation appears to have taken full advantage of information technology (IT) to ensure that corps members stay relatively secure, and in case they have any emergency. Kazaure said in an interview with a national daily that: “We provide them with a booklet on security tips as well as phone numbers that give them a direct access in their places of primary assignment to personnel of security agencies such as the police, the State Security Service and other agencies.
“Apart from these, the scheme has established Distress Call Centres domiciled in the NYSC Directorate headquarters which function 24 hours. We also have the relevant details of all corps members nationwide and their locations are uploaded to the database of the centre.
“If anyone of them puts in a distress call, the call will immediately reflect on the computer screen the details and location of that corps member.”
Nothing of the sort was available when we did our national service in the mid-1980s. Of course there could not have been anything like that then because the level of IT was relatively low. Today, the world is a global village and so many technological innovations have somewhat revolutionised the way we live. I do not know whether it was Kazaure that brought about this innovation or whether he inherited it; the important thing is that the scheme is trying to keep pace with technological developments and is indeed taking advantage of them.
But one should warn that having these technological devices is one thing, maximising their impact is another. Most of these gadgets, no matter how sophisticated would still be programmed by human beings. This is where the problem lies. There must be constant monitoring to ensure that human beings do not come in the way of the efficiency of these gadgets.
One other area one should expect the NYSC to look into is the allowance of the corps members. What they currently get cannot take them home and we should not send our youths to far-flung places only to lead them into temptation. Our VIPs whose children participate in the scheme know what they augment their children’s stipend with. They should therefore realise that ‘what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.’
As we prepare for next year’s General Elections, it is also necessary to remind the government thast if any of these children must be given electoral roles, he or she should be adequately protected. Politicians cannot keep their own children safe at home or abroad only to use other people’s children as cannon fodders.
Above all, corps members themselves must hearken to the admonitions of the NYSC authorities, especially concerning unnecessary travels and keeping late nights. It saddens one whenever any corps member dies as a result of these avoidable circumstances.