Acknowledging failures and making necessary amends is something that everyone who is desirous of making an impact cannot do without, in the case of Nigeria, the story seems different because engagements over the years have clearly shown that rather than correct mistakes, the country reinforces and encourages them. How else can one explain why the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme which failed many decades ago is still sucking up the resources in a country that needs every dint of austerity measures to plug all the financial gaps it has? How else can one explain that very valid calls for its scrap have been met with dear ears?
The story of leadership in Nigeria is a pathetic one. Contrary to other climes where leadership is driven by patriotic zeal and genuine love for the service one’s country, the opposite is the case in Africa’s most populous country where leadership and politics generally is driven by unhindered greed and the unmitigable quest to enrich oneself with scarce public resources.
Over the past three decades, Nigeria has been running deficit budgets every year and the fortunes of the citizens of the country have continued to dwindle. Every year, Trillions of Naira are borrowed by the managers of the Nigerian economy to drive the process of budget fulfillment and the situation has only continued to grow grim.
In 2022, the Nigerian federal government borrowed N6 Trillion Naira just to marginally raise the percentage of its budget implementation. One striking anomaly here, however, is that in the midst of this staggering inadequacy, a look at the system and culture in governance will leave one close to tears. How can one explain without looking stupid that a country that now borrows to service debts which even defaulted on her loan obligations in 2022 still manages to fund a wasteful lifestyle? How can explain that in a country that needs every available Kobo, she can get conveniently funds from hundreds of agencies and parastatals which have become nothing but conduit pipes for the siphoning of Nigeria’s resources? How can one explain that the NYSC is still in existence and is still sucking up billions of Naira every year despite the fact that it has long failed and was no longer useful to the country? The tales are evidently sad and heart-wrenching.
The NYSC scheme was instituted in 1973 through a decree promulgated by Nigeria’s former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon. When the scheme was being coupled, the initial key objectives of the scheme were basically to rebuild, reconstruct and reconcile a country battered by the needless civil war or more appropriately the Nigerian genocidal attacks on Biafrans. The idea was to ensure the proper encouragement and development of common ties that should exist among Nigerian youths with a view to promoting national unity.
Those who founded the scheme came to the conclusion that if youths across the country are pushed out from their home region/state to another region/state, the country will become more unified. Their idea was that by just interchanging states, the children of those whose parents were brutally murdered and of those who supervised it will suddenly develop some amount of imaginary love for each other when the root causes of the bloody conflict were yet to be addressed and justice was still a far cry.
It is not surprising that the scheme has now failed abysmally due to the thoughtlessness of those who started it. It is regrettably sad although not unexpected that over 50 years after the NYSC scheme came into being, Nigeria is still not a united country. In fact, the country is now far more divided than it was when the managers of the country’s wealth instituted the scheme in a unification attempt. The idea of cultural diversity and reconciliation for which it was founded has been an abysmal failure.
Today, due to the failures in addressing the structural issues surrounding the country, Nigerians have not stopped hating themselves on the altar of ethnicity and religion. Today, there are secessionists in virtually every part of the country with many actively seeking to dismember Nigeria and have their country. It baggers belief that Nigerian leaders have ignored this reality and have continued to throw billions of Naira into a scheme that was not designed to work, has never worked, and in fact, will never work!
Since Nigeria became an independent country, it is somewhat perplexing that a substantial number of Nigerian leaders have preferred to preach the unity of the country with their mouths (full of lies anyway) rather than in practice. Rather than preach unity through its actions using it’s architects and builders, they have continuously preached it in prose only when it’s convenient. They have failed to come to the realisation that unity is never preached but practically expressed through carefully orchestrated actions. From the days of the institution of the futile NYSC scheme, the regime of Gowon preferred the lazy cosmetic surgery of trying to force people to forget the painful genocide on the innocents when it was yet to carry out any sincere plans based on the 3Rs (Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction).
His successors who have continued to grab power in Nigeria have not done any better either. They have conveniently continued to forgot the fact that actions will always speak in louder tones and more effectively than words any day any time!
It is high time Nigerians begin to ask the right questions. It is time to investigate and find out what exact value or benefits the NYSC scheme has added to the lives of its participants. Anyone who has participated in the scheme that is sincere to his or herself will agree without any debates that during the period of NYSC, no real value is added to the lives of those who participate in it. Most of those who took part in it merely attended the programs to fulfill all righteousness and obtain a discharge certificate which the federal government has continued to blindly demand from job seekers. During the period of the scheme, corp members are mandated every week to attend Community Development Scheme (CDS) programs where corp members do nothing more than gist noisily and idle away useful time. A visit to any Local Government Secretariat scattered across the country will shock anyone who has a contrary view.
A look at the 2023 budget will show that the NYSC scheme and the Universal Basic Education Commission have almost the same amount of budgetary allocations. A look at the breakdown of those figures shows that the NYSC will expend about N28 billion on kits and feeding alone! The total budgetary allocation for the scheme this year alone is about N126bn. The big question Nigerians should be asking is, why can’t the government invest these sums into the education sector to improve the quality of education these so-called graduates receive before coming to take part in the scheme? The truth is that doing something and pretending to be succeeding at the same thing for 50 years without success is plain insanity and bare-faced hypocrisy.
The time is ripe for Nigeria to scrap such a wasteful scheme that only lines the pockets of the people who run it and doesn’t add any to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The NYSC scheme has clearly outlived its usefulness and importance if it had any, it has failed abysmally to achieve its intended purpose and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be discarded and flung out of the window as one of the remnants of military dictatorships in the country.
Rather than wasting the time of everybody and looting the resources of the country in the end, it will be more beneficial to Nigerians, if every graduate in the country is given the option to participate in a one-month orientation camp where he or she will be thought strategic leadership, economics, and other useful skills and at the end of the exercise, the current one-year stipend is paid to them in full as startup grant. The truth remains that no matter how one chooses to sugarcoat it, the current NYSC structure is docile and irrelevant to today’s world and Nigerians must now add their voice in calling for its scrap.