By Kolawole Abe
It is the dream of every graduate of tertiary institutions in Nigeria to adorn the NYSC brown Khaki uniform. We have been regaled with tales of how newly deployed corp members wear their attires posing for the cameras and sending them to their parents and loved ones. The feeling is usually ecstatic, and a dream come true.
Parents and guardians are also not left out of the euphoria. You could easily hear parents discussing about their wards deployed for the mandatory youth service year in a loud tone. This is the NYSC, the scheme that has continued to serve the critical purpose of national integration and nation building amongst the teeming youthful population in the country. Welcome to the world of the NYSC, where people from various ethnicity and religion converge pursuant to a common goal in the country’s interest.
I have, on numerous forums, canvassed for improved funding for the operations of the NYSC due to its critical role in the socio-economic development of the country. My position has been hinged on the invaluable role the one year service period plays in the lives of our youths. We should also remember that some youths have, as a result of their engagement in the NYSC, realized their potentials and set out to conquer in their various life endeavours. Some have also met their life partners, while some have been beneficiaries of goodwill from parts of the country they found themselves. And the list goes on.
Beyond all of the above mentioned, I believe that a critical aspect of the NYSC has been neglected for a long time: the corp members themselves. Their sacrifices and efforts in important health, educational and agricultural sectors have not been given adequate recognition.
From NYSC doctors to teachers that are rendering invaluable services in public hospitals and schools to the deployment of corp members during elections in the country. While it is sad that some paid the supreme price in service to the country, it does not by any stretch of imagination diminish the fact that the Corp members are the true national heroes.
One needed to tour rural communities in parts of Nigeria and see the level of bonding exhibited between corp members and members of the host communities. In most cases, despite the language barrier, corp members find a way to interact and live in peace in their host communities.
I dare say corp members live the life of patriots, who leave the comfort of their homes to places, they have not visited before in most instances and blend to their culture and way of life throughout their service year, making contributions to the growth and development of the area.
If this is not an act of patriotism, I don’t know what else to call it. Call it the life of sacrifice. You won’t be wrong too, because we are availed daily with tales of corp members doing exploits in their places of primary assignment. It’s on record that schools have been built, vocational centres erected and a host of other notable projects mainly executed by corp members from their savings and donations from charitable individuals and organizations. Corp members have also been active as first-line responders in times of crisis, as evident in times of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ebola epidemic and cholera outbreaks in some parts of the country.
It is also on record that some communities in Nigeria depend on the services of corp members in their education sector because of the value they bring to the table year in and year out. The list is endless and why every corp member must rise in defence of the NYSC scheme.
Most times, I wonder how the country would have fared without the services of corp members who dot the nook and cranny of the country working tirelessly during their service year. But we can’t all but be grateful that the leadership of the NYSC in recent times has been actively introducing reforms that further empower corps members to be well equipped as entrepreneurs through its skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development programme.
The proposed NYSC Trust Fund would indeed be a game-changer because the full manifestation of the potentials of corp members would be availed the country. And Nigeria would be better for it. I think it is time for every corp member to take their pride in place as true national heroes in the scheme of affairs in the country. Your sacrifices towards a great and better Nigeria are outstanding and appreciated. Needless I say more, the corp member is an embodiment of strength, resilience and dexterity. We must admit and recognize this much in our quest for greatness as a people and as a country.
To all the corp members out there giving their best, I salute your courage in the face of danger; I salute your contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, now and always. And to all prospective corps members, may your road be rough!
Abe is a former PRO of NANS and wrote from Akure.