Nations around the globe that want to become advanced in the twenty first century and beyond, usually place the highest premium on the capacity development of their young populations. This is obviously for the reason that such political entities do not wish that their national heritage go extinct.
Another obvious explanation for devoting substantial chunk of the national wealth of the forward looking nations towards the development of the young population is because of the statistical status of the younger members of these respective sovereign entities.
Nigeria is no exception. First, Nigeria is made up of over fifty percent of the younger populations even as it is beyond debate that the youth of Nigeria have attained phenomenal heights in the diverse fields of human endeavours. Perhaps, the only sector in which the youth is yet to dominate is the field of politics.
The above statical facts then bring us to the topic of analysis in this piece which is basically a forensic analysis of the legacies that the current president Muhammadu Buhari has pragmatically made towards the sustenance of one of the few remaining institutions created over many years – the National Youth Service Corp Scheme (NYSC). This uniquely impactful scheme has gone through the good, bad and ugly times but perhaps the present period could be adjudged as one of the best in terms of prioritization of the funding mechanisms provided for it by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. This may not necessarily be called the golden age of National Youth Service Scheme(NYSC), nevertheless the sustainable investments made so far by the current administration towards keeping the NYSC’s legacies alive can as well be termed as a glorious era. We are indeed beginning to witness a turnaround in the management of the NYSC that has become the significant unifying national institution.
Prior to 2015, there were already calls from a lot of quarters for the abrogation of the NYSC scheme but the coming to power of the current president brought stability and respectability to the scheme. A possible reason could be that the man at the helms of affairs in Nigeria is a man that has seen it all going by his antecedents.
Little wonder that he took his time to pick a serving military General who has fortunately kept to the goals, aspirations, visions and objectives that president Buhari has also hoped that the National Youth Service Scheme plays.
There is no doubt that Brigadier General Suleiman Kazaure has brought style, panache and professional commitments towards piloting affairs at the NYSC.
From the background of a constructive critic and a human rights activist who speaks truth to power, there is no doubt in my mind that humanly speaking, the choice of General Kazaure to head the NYSC is amongst the most distinguished choices made by the president of Nigeria who should be proud of the salient achievements his appointee has made but aided by a great management team. As it is stated, better soup na money cook am… it is also true that when a Director General is succeeding, it depicts the caliber and qualitative attributes of his lieutenants. More than at any other times, the NYSC has received accolades from mainstream leaders of the society and the young population of contemporary Nigeria. One of the most revered traditional rulers in modern day is the Ooni of Ife. He recently applauded the leadership style of the current management. He spoke with a team of editors from a reputable institutional magazine.
The Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi in responding to a question requesting him to assess the NYSC as it is now said “You (NYSC) are fully on the right path and I am a living example. I am from Osun State and was posted to Benue for my youth service. My mother of blessed memory took me to the Car Park at 6 o’clock in the morning. I was inside the vehicle for 16 hours before we got to Benue. It was a very refreshing experience for me. If there was no youth service I may not have gone to Benue state. So, it is a programme that needs to be funded the more and government should patronize it.”
The high profile traditional ruler who was amongst the few custodians of the diverse Nigerian traditions that were nominated by the Nigerian government to receive Prince Charles of England during a recent State visit to Nigeria by the British Monarch also affirmed as follows about the NYSC: “It is one of the programmes cementing our relationship in Nigeria. Some participants fall in love during the programme. I recall sitting with General Gowon who established the Scheme – he was very passionate about NYSC as one of his achievements – and some of the first set of Corps Members. One of them said to General Gowon, ‘Sir it was the programme you started after the Civil War that made me what I am today. Because my parents did not want me to go, you were the one that provided a government plane to carry all of us. I started my life there in Kaduna, I lived there and I became one of the most successful men in Kaduna today’. And he is from South-West, so I want to continue to wish you well and to wish you the very best and a happy anniversary.”
Queen Onwughalu is an Abuja – based blogger and a young lady entrepreneur who only recently served in the office of the Minister of Women Affairs Abuja for her one year compulsory national youth service. She told me that her stay as a Corper was a wonderful experience. She said that the Director General showed tremendous love and passion about the welfare and wellbeing of the participants of the NYSC.
Similarly, Obilor Cliff Grace who would be doing NYSC soon wrote as follows:
“NYSC which is known as National Youth Service Corps was founded in Nigeria in the year 1973 for graduates of universities and graduates of polytechnics later joined.
NYSC scheme is set up by the Nigerian Government to involve Nigerian graduates in building and developing the country. Before the government start posting them to different states, they undergo a kind of orientation which is basically controlled by the military, this orientation lasts for just three weeks, at the end of three weeks, they are being posted to their PLACES OF PRIMARY ASSIGNMENT which is popularly known as “PPA” During this service these young graduates are being posted to different parts of the country, so that they can mix up with other people, learn new cultures and also use their knowledge to develop the places which they have been posted to and every month end these Corp members receive a token from the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Am looking up to service in the NYSC for so many wonderful reasons, although most of these young people have lost their lives as a result of Religious, Ethnic and Political problems, but NYSC has a lot of benefits which can make a young person look up to service. Service in NYSC helps to build the moral life of a young person and also teach on how to be independent and self-reliance. Am looking forward to this service so as to acquire new skills and also share the ones I know, serving in the NYSC promotes unity of the nation, it gives us a sense of belonging, it encourages youths when they see the performance of other young people, service will go a long way in helping us contribute to the ongoing growth and development of the national economy and whenever these young people are assigned to any state ,they are not just there for themselves rather they are representing our country Nigeria, during these service year. These young people tend to see different kinds of religion, so they are expected to tolerate any kind of religion. I look up greatly to this service because currently in our society if that certificate is not acquired, a graduate finds it very difficult to acquire a reasonable job and also considered ineligible to work in government firms and most private firms.
In conclusion, I look up to this service because judging from the recent events about NYSC CERTIFICATE SAGA in our top government offices, without the NYSC certificate most positions as regards to politics in our country will be very difficult for the an individual to attain, because for you to start talking about some positions in Nigeria as regards to politics you must make sure that you have an NYSC certificate or an exemption letter from the NYSC office. Exemptions are considered when the Graduate is above 30 years of age. In as much as am hoping and aspiring to be in a good position in our Country, I strongly look up to service in NYSC so as to acquire the certificate for future purposes.”
Miss Obilor’s statement brings us to how significant NYSC has become in the current dispensation to an extent that the scheme has continued to churn out qualitatively trained youth in their high numbers compared to what used to be obtainable prior to the coming of the current administration.
Under his watch, General Kazaure, through deepening of the existing partnerships between the Scheme and the private sector, expedited the building of integrated skills acquisition centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country to facilitate post-camp skills training.
This writer learnt authoritatively that two of them in Ekiti and Gombe states have been completed, while that of Delta State is ongoing. He went ahead to stage the NYSC SAED Festival aimed at creating a platform for Corps members to showcase their business and vocational skills to investors and other stakeholders to attract funding and material support as well as greater networking with the business community. The current management at the NYSC further facilitated the provision of credit facilities for corps members through collaboration with banks and the launching of Job Portal as well as SAED connect platforms which have expanded opportunities and created alternative platforms for training and mentorship of corps members nationwide.
Described by those who work with him as a good manager of human resource, General Kazaure’s belief that motivation of staff, through enhancement of welfare provisions, is the surest way to get the best out of them apparently informed his unwavering commitment to evolving confidence building measures aimed at engendering industrial harmony.
There is no doubt that It is on record that on assumption of duty he immediately cleared the backlog of unpaid staff entitlements and restored other statutory staff allowances. In addition, a greater percentage of staff of the Scheme that sat for promotion exam in the past two years was promoted. Importantly, the venues of writing the promotion examinations reflected the geopolitical spread of the institution of NYSC and created a sense of belonging for all participants.
Apart from these, General Kazaure upgraded the NYSC staff Clinic with the procurement of state of the art equipments, added an optometry unit and gave the Directorate Headquarters a face lift. These measures have raised the morale of the staff to new heights and engendered a harmonious relationship between Management and the staff of the Scheme.
Structurally, the NYSC has equally fared better in the past two years in the area of infrastructural development. Facilities in many NYSC Camps needed to be upgraded when Kazaure took over the leadership of the Scheme.
In view of the fact that statutorily it is the primary responsibility of State Governments to build and maintain Orientation Camps, Kazaure embarked on advocacy visits to State Governors to appeal to them to renovate and upgrade their Orientation Camps. Dividends of these visits are already reflecting in the increased provision and expansion of facilities in NYSC Orientation Camps by a good number of State Governments as enshrined in the NYSC Act.
While courting State Chief Executives to be alive to their responsibilities, Kazaure, despite paucity of funds launched an intervention programme which saw many Camps like Zamfara and Enugu confronted by perennial water scarcity getting boreholes while Kano, Kwara, Bayelsa and Benue States got power generators.
Impeccable sources with considerable amount of verifiable information told this writer that many NYSC Camps have equally benefitted from the provision of water tankers, double bunk beds, mattresses, renovation of accommodation facilities and other projects aimed at upgrading facilities to make the Camps more conducive for Corps members and Camp officials during Orientation exercises. In addition, ambulances, Hilux vans and 166 motor bikes have also been procured and distributed to State Secretariats of NYSC to aid effective supervision and monitoring of Corps members.
Relatedly, the great managerial acumen in General Kazaure has made him to visualize and practically deliver some giant strides in the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in solving and addressing not only issues of Corps administration but the entire operations of the Scheme.
Kazaure has reportedly fast tracked the implementation of biometric system of pay-rolling Corps members for their monthly allowance to check truancy and eliminate sharp practices among them. The strategy involves the use of finger prints to confirm the true identity of Corps members appearing for clearance.
Asked to assess the salient achievements of the NYSC in the current dispensation, a senior staff of the agency told me as follows: “An area of innovative feat is the success of the NYSC-JAMB collaboration which is attested to as one of the success stories of the deployment of IT solution in the operation of the Scheme. Indeed the expansion of ICT infrastructure has greatly enhanced efficiency, transparency and accountability in the operations of the Scheme. This development has facilitated the ease of doing business between the Scheme and its various publics. As a result of this, the NYSC recently received award as the best E-Governance compliant public organization during the 2016 NITDA-NIHILENT E-Governance award ceremony.”
Before putting pen to paper, this writer took a month to gather evidence in real terms of the milestones recorded in the current dispensation in the management of NYSC.
Here is what one of the most remarkable resource persons I met stated about the current status of the NYSC.
“The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), an initiative of the Federal Government, of Nigeria began with the mission to promote 7 strategic objectives amongst which are national unity and integrated, dignity of labour and self-reliance. The scheme was borne out of the exigencies and dynamics of national development and widespread clamour to give the Nigerian youth a definite role in national development.”
“NYSC as an organization is strategically positioned to lead interventions in many socio-economic and poverty reduction initiatives because of its prominent role in mobilizing youths for national development. It should be borne in mind that these youth under reference are highly skilled, well educated, entrepreneurial minded and have the capacity to effectively engage other categories of youths already identified in the national youth policy for positive outcomes.”
“NYSC today commands the biggest concentration of educated youths working with, in and for communities (rural and urban) nationwide. It has since inception mobilized and deployed over three million (3,000,000) educated youths, male and female, from diverse religious, cultural, and that define Nigeria’s plurality. The NYSC scheme is also one of the best available entry points for reaching hard to reach areas and indigent grass root people in any field of endeavor or program at the most minimal cost.”
“The scheme through the deployment of its highly skilled manpower has been performing strategic national assignments when called upon to do so. These assignments require neutrality, numerical strength, geographical spread and appreciable level of intellect such as National Census, Immunization programmed, Voters Registration and National Elections among others.”
This writer discovered that one credible feat of the current management of NYSC is on the area of promoting entrepreneurship training, employment generation, and workplace readiness programme.
As learnt recently, an impressive number of a total of 971,272 Corps Members comprising 546,254 Males and 425,018 Females have gained this knowledge and skill empowerment. Out of this, 476,879 Corps Members completed the post training during the service year and over 7,000 are proud owners of their businesses.
The current management as aforementioned successfully recorded the establishment of Skill Centres just as the NYSC has witnessed the presentation of cheques by CBN to 310 Corps Beneficiaries in the NYSC/CBN/Heritage Bank YEDP on Thursday 20th October 2016.
The current team at the NYSC also successfully signed an MOU with the Skill and VMLEARN on the establishment of SAED connects-an electronic platform to enhance training of Corps Members.
Significantly, there is statistical evidence to show that a total of 1032 serving and ex-Corps Members have been trained in the NYSC/CBN/Heritage Bank YEDP programme in seven centres. This public/private sector partnership that has become extensively acclaimed has also resulted in the signing of MOU with Honour Ventures on electric tricycle transportation Scheme for Corps Members.
The production and distribution of social workbook, certificates and operational manual for SAED training programme has attained tremendous status in the current dispensation and the younger population of Nigeria who are the immediate beneficiaries will hopefully become creators of wealth in the Country.
Participants of the NYSC have benefitted from the Provision and distribution of microwave, wireless PAS, Laptop Computers and printers, sewing machines such as zigzag, weaving knitting, embroidery, stitching, welding and welding accessories, aluminum cutting milling and drilling, Gas cookers and cylinders, industrial pressing Irons barbing clippers for SAED training to states; and the management team has successfully conducted the NYSC Maiden SAED Festival in Abuja. This is a step in the right direction towards the attainment of cultural integration amongst Nigerians of diverse cultural and traditional affiliations.
Above all else, the current administration has endeavoured to give opportunities to all eligible graduates to serve unlike how it used to be before 2015 whereby some graduates were made to wait for as long as two years before been called upon for mobilization and deployment.
The Muhammadu Buhari’s administration deserves all the accolades for attaining lofty heights and for escalating tremendous milestones in the NYSC scheme. It is the conviction of this writer that these investments made in the sustenance of NYSC will profoundly shape a great and better future for millions of our younger persons. Nigeria needs to sustain the tremendous investments towards keeping the aspirations of NYSC alive.
*** Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).