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Rethinking the NYSC scheme

Current trends of events in Nigeria are a strong reminder that respectful discourse is at the heart of the political enterprise. Advocating civility does not symbolize a retreat from passionate argument.

On the contrary, it acknowledges that meaningful and constructive dialogue requires a certain degree of mutual respect, willingness to listen, and tolerance for opposing points of view. Political discussions should follow norms of decency and effective communication. Debaters should attack ideas but never individuals who hold opposing views. Although these guidelines seem like common sense, evidence of incivility in our society suggests that they are not universally held or practiced.

General Yakubu Gowon, then Head of State, at the end of the civil war declared ‘No victor no vanquished’ and commenced the process of national reconstruction, rehabilitation and re-integration. This was to further strengthen his statement before the civil war that stated ‘Keeping Nigeria one is a task that must be done’.

National Youth Service Corps is a product of General Yakubu Gowon’s administration and fell under the re-integration policy of his administration. Founded in 1973, it had objectives among others, to enable its products, the students, the opportunity of exchange of cultures, promotion of unity among the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Students from various tertiary institutions and various ethnic nationalities in the country are camped and trained for a period of time and sent out on primary assignments. With monthly allowances they commence the one year national assignment. It is my candid belief that the program needs to be overhaul to better serve its purpose and objectives.

Today, students start lobbying for juicy places right from the orientation camps and the rural areas are ignored therefore destroying the essence of the service. Some states today are labeled troubled states leading to rejection by corps members and their establishment. Accordingly, if exposing one to another person culture makes him tolerant, couples won’t be getting divorce after 30years of marriage on grounds of irreconcilable differences.

I would like to proffer an alternative to the establishment and continued existence of the NYSC, an issue I believe that has been over-flogged. Firstly, we could mandate universities to have catchment areas. This will afford students the time to be absorbed into the culture and thereby achieving the objectives of the NYSC even more succinctly. We can then re-purpose the finances we have been pouring into the NYSC by introducing financial Education as a course-elective or major. This will equip students with the financial intelligences to invest wisely in shares, setting-up small scale enterprises, and thus solving to a large extent the menace of unemployment. At the end of the financial Education course, students will be made to submit a project proposal based on their business of choice. Considering the amount of money spent to camp the NYSC members for three weeks, their monthly allowances all through the duration of service, not to mention the billions of naira spent in building orientation camps all over the country if put together and channeled to them in form of soft loans, will comfortably reposition them for their challenges after graduation. It’s not prudent on our part to invest such huge sums of money in a program that has no significant economic benefits. We need to be financially savvy as a Nation. Financial well-being owes far more to prudence than to size of annual salary. Any assessment of the importance of financial education is likely an understatement. Nobody is above the need for it, just as nobody is below it.

Achieving the goals of Vision 20:2020 will them become reality, because unemployment will be reduced, and an improved national economic growth will be realized. If there is any time to start thinking is now. Our realities are determined by the extent of our thoughts. We cannot afford this overdependence on oil. The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones, and the oil Age will not end because we run out of oil.

At some time in the future the fossil fuel regime will have to be replaced. The question of when these will occur is a topic of much debate. Be it sooner or later, the end of the fossil fuel regime is therefore imminent. The prospects facing any replacement regime will be daunting. I do not deny that the harnessing of oil and gas has facilitated great economic growth. However; we will also be forced to make a change as oil and gas are finite resources but the oil of the mind endures. These are objectives that can be achieved, given sufficient commitment.

Written by J.I. Ponsel
Thursday, 11 August 2011


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