History: Prior to the establishment of the National Youths Service Corp Scheme NYSC, the Nation was bedeviled by ethic mistrusts which resulted in a thirty month civil war that left in its wake millions of casualties on both sides of the conflict. It was on cessation of hostilities that the then leadership of the country came to the realisation that it will take more than the force of the arms to weld the entire country into one indivisible whole. Accordingly, searchlight was beamed on graduate Nigerian youths to begin the process of building a country emerging from the throes of the war into an egalitarian and cohesive one, devoid of hate and stereotypes that divide us.
Establishment: The National Youth Service Corps was established by Decree 24 of 22nd May, 1973 as a child of necessity. Twenty years after, the decree was repealed by Decree 51 of 16th June, 1993 which is now quoted as NYSC Act CAP N84, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. Unarguably, the establishment of the Service Corps was indeed a major post colonial conscious effort to fashion out a nation out of several ethnic nationalities that formed Nigeria in 1914.
To achieve the purpose of building a united nation, encouragement and development of common ties among the Nigerian youths; promotion of national unity; and development of Nigerian youths and Nigeria into a great and dynamic economy became the core mandate of the Service Corps which today is the biggest youth mobilisation agency in Africa.
Important: The Scheme provides a veritable platform for the Nigerian youths to acquire the spirit of self reliance, by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment which is a critical factor in national development. One of the policies of the Scheme stipulates deployment of Corps Members to States other than theirs, and by their exposure to different cultures, prejudices are removed, ignorance eliminated and they confirm at first hand, the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups.
Hence, in 47 years of the Scheme which has equally witnessed eighteen successive headships, walls of ethnic suspicions have continued to be pulled down; conversely, bridges of lasting relationships-cutting across inter-ethnic marriages, friendship, business have been erected. Beyond the forging of national unity among the youths, many of whom settle and get integrated in their respective States of service, the Corps has been involved in community development service initiatives.
Achievements: Public conveniences, bus stop stands, school buildings, culverts, bridges, water boreholes, classroom blocks, among so many other projects have been initiated and executed by Corps Members through the mobilisation of their host communities, public-spirited individuals and corporate bodies for development. The projects dotting the length and breath of the country speak volumes about the centrality of the Corps in national development.
In the spheres of Education and Health, the Scheme in forty-seven years has continued to play pivotal roles, raising a crop of educated young Nigerians; as well as satisfying the health needs of our people, especially the rural populace, under the NYSC Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers (HIRD). The Corps runs the biggest advocacy project against HIV/AIDS through a scheme known as Peer Education programme which has reached out to, and sensitised millions of Nigerians in the over fifteen years the programme started. The awareness created by the advocacy has saved millions of Nigerians from falling prey to the hydra-headed monster, HIV/AIDS.
The involvement of Corps Members in the conduct of national elections and other national programmes has to a reasonable extent conferred some measure of credibility to the entire electoral process-hence, attracting national and international accolades to the Scheme. However, the greatest achievement of the Corps is in the area of youth development, giving the over three hundred thousand youths mobilised for service every year focus, helping them attain their potentials and assisting them in gaining financial freedom through the NYSC Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme.
The eighteenth Chief-Executive of the Scheme, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim has in no mean way through mentoring, encouraged and challenged the creative ingenuity of Corps Members, under the NYSC skill programme which in the last eight years has raised a crop of entrepreneurs from among ex-Corps Members who today contribute immensely to the national Gross Domestic Products, through their businesses that arose from their exposure to the skill programme in the course of service.
COVID-19: Interestingly, the Scheme has been in the front line of the battle against COVID-19, by deploying Corps Medical Team which works complementarily with medical teams in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. Remarkably, Corps Members in the past few months have continued to produce and donate facemasks, hand sanitisers and liquid soaps to the Federal and State Governments, as well as some communities as their contributions towards the safeguard of the health of the citizenry.
It is imperative to state that the challenge thrown to Corps Members by the Director- General has yielded inventions such as pedal- operated mechanical devices that dispense liquid soap, sanitiser and water by some Corps Members serving in a number of States. Just recently, a group of Corps Members serving in Akwa-Ibom State invented a walk through chamber that sanitises the whole body. With the requisite support, the device can be mass-produced.
In the area of ventures, the present administration has resuscitated the NYSC Bakery, as well as bottled water factory in Kubwa, while reinvigorating the NYSC farms in Saminaka, Kebbi State, Iseyin, Oyo State, Ezillo in Ebonyi State which also has a rice mill, and Kwali in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The farms which serve as training grounds for Corps Members are designed to develop value chain that create globally acceptable products. In the final analysis, as the National Youth Service Corps clocks forty-seven years old today, one can aptly summarize that it has been a forty-seven years of dedicated service and value creation to the Nation, even though not without some existential challenges which more often than not are extraneous to it.
Conclusion: As the Scheme steps on the threshold to the attainment of golden jubilee, it behooves everyone, including corporate bodies to join hands in safeguarding and promoting this important national asset which has remained a pivot of unity and development, so as to make the Scheme become a leading light for youth organisations, not just in Africa, but the entire globe as envisioned by the founding fathers.
Credit: Emeka – Rems Mgbemena