These times are indeed fragile because of a combination of factors which have coalesced to pose formidable threats to the continuous existence of Nigeria as a united political entity.
Some of these crises are political whereas others can be attributed to some policy missteps in deoloying the necessary institutional mechanisms to resolve the festering crises of confidence amongst the various segments of the society that make up our nation state.
This writer has often believed that the Nigerian State has not sufficiently utilised the potentially rich human resources within the institutions created over the years for the promotion of national unity and the integration of the different segments of the Nigerian State.
The above thinking came to the fore recently when President Muhammadu Buhari made a very profound philosophical statement on the essence of setting up of the National Youth Service Scheme(NYSC). The immediate rational consequence of that speech by the President goes to show what can be achieved by way of reuniting a rapidly divided nation if the concept of the NYSC scheme is to be comprehensively adopted and the needed funding components approved by the National Assembly to enable the institutional deployment of trained minds and resources towards the consolidation of the mandate of the NYSC project.
Reading through the Presidential speech also reminds the audience that the rash of agitations and restiveness of mostly young Nigerians can be resolved if participants of the NYSC scheme are empowered to function as positive agents of change and national integration.
President Buhari said he is always pleased to see the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) achieving the purpose of national unity that inspired its creation since 1973.
Speaking to newsmen at his country home after the Eid-el-Kabir prayers few days back, President Buhari said the NYSC scheme had over the years continued to pursue the purpose of integrating the country, noting that the diversity of cultures remained Nigeria’s greatest strength.
“I am always pleased to see corps members in Daura and other parts of the country. From the postings, we get to learn more about other cultures,’’ he said.
The President said the large number of corps members in Daura, mostly from the Southern part of the country, was an indication that the dream of a unified Nigeria remained a reality.
President Buhari noted that graduates from the North, who served in the Southern states, also learnt a lot from the diversity that had made Nigeria a unique country.
President Buhari observed that serving, as an army officer, in some Southern parts of the country such as Lagos and Ibadan were very rich experiences.
The President was accompanied to the Eid-el-Kabir prayers by Presidential aides, members of his family, and neighbours.
These profound pronouncements of President Muhammadu Buhari needs to be further and fully concretized by way of making sure that the necessary legislative reforms are introduced to provide legal, financial and manpower backups for the continuous implementation of the original mandates of the scheme.
The NYSC scheme fundamentally, was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war.
As captured in the official website of the scheme, the current hierarchy is said to be working relentlessly to maintain the rich traditions of using the scheme as a major national platform for youth mobilisation towards adequate nation building and patriotism.
Let’s look at the circumstances that gave birth to the NYSC so we can have a better appreciation of the need to support and consolidate the mandate of the institution to bring to a mimimal level the cases of youth restiveness and agitations which have flared over the past few years.
The truth is that the unfortunate antecedents in our national history gave impetus to the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps by decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 which stated that the NYSC is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”.
As a developing country Nigeria is further plagued by the problems attendant upon a condition of under development, namely; poverty, Mass illiteracy, acute shortage of high skilled manpower (coupled with most uneven distribution of the skilled people that are available), woefully inadequate socioeconomic infrastructural facilities, housing.); Water and sewage facilities, road, healthcare services, and effective communication system.
Faced with these almost intractable problems, which were further compounded by the burden of reconstruction after the civil war, the government and people of Nigeria set for the country, fresh goals, and objectives aimed at establishing Nigeria as: (a) a united, strong and self-reliant nation: (b) a great and dynamic economy; (c) a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens; and (d) a free and democratic society.
Basically, it was the need to look beyond the immediate present and to think of the future leadership of the country that necessitated the mobilisation of certain categories of our youths through the National Youth Service Corps Scheme.
This was done with a view to giving them the proper guidance and orientation relevant to the needs of the country. The National Youth Service Corps Decree No. 24 which has now been repealed and replaced by Decree 51 of 16th June 1993, was then formally promulgated.
The following are the fundamental objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme that are clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June 1993; (a) to inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves. (b) to raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement; (c) to develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training. which will make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest; (d) To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment, (e) to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy; (f) to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration; (g) to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups; and (h) to develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria. The framers of the enabling law also made provisions in order to achieve the objectives in subsection (3) of this section, and emphasized that the service corps shall ensure: (a) the equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilization of their skills in area of national needs; (b) that as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in States other than their States of origin; (c) that such group of youths assigned to work together is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible; (d) that the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria; (e) that the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences; (f) that members of the service corps are encouraged to seek at the end of their one year national service, career employment all over Nigeria, thus promoting the free movement of labour; (g) that employers are induced partly through their experience with members of the service corps to employ more readily and on a permanent basis, qualified Nigerians, irrespective of their States of origin.