DOES BUHARI LOVE NYSC? By Emmanuel Onwubiko

OPINION

A phenomenal coincidence has just occurred which defied the belief in African cosmology that thunder does not strike twice in one place. In this coincidental phenomena, we can affirm figuratively that thunder struck twice at a place.

This phenomenal coincidence being talked about here are the statement attributed to President Muhammadu Buhari in which he affirmed that sixty percent of Nigerian youths are lazy and uneducated.

The second leg of this coincidence is that in this same week that president Buhari made the statement about some Nigerian youths, the serving Military General he appointed to head the National youths service corps scheme (NYSC) Brigadier General Suleiman Kazaure clocked two years in office.

Whereas president Buhari’s speech about the Nigerian youths has attracted bad blood and considerable consternation amongst the youth, the reality within the current dispensation in the NYSC shows that President Buhari truly loves youth-related initiatives such as the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC). This conclusion is drawn from findings this writer made from impeccable quarters within the NYSC.

As a leading stakeholder in the organized civil society community who has followed developments within the NYSC scheme in the past two decades, I can comfortably state that the current administration has performed creditably in terms of the existence of the enabling environment for the management to implement entrepreneurial and other human development measures and initiatives aimed at turning participants in the National Youth Service into employers of labour and creators of wealth. The focus on improving the standards of facilities within the NYSC’s camps has received a pride of place. One big minus however is the poor financial status of the NYSC which if significantly marked up by government and efficiently managed could make the NYSC to become a pride of Nigeria in a very positive way and for prolonged periods of time. The President was once quoted to have told participants of NYSC in Katrina state who visited him over the Sallah break that he has an undying passion to see to it that the NYSC meets its statutory mandates.

The stories coming from both official and unofficial quarters show that the current presidency has shown remarkable disposition to ensure stability in the programmes of NYSC created over three decades ago to promote national integration, peace and unity amongst Nigerians in their rich diversities. The President has also inaugurated a governing board whose membership ate drawn from diverse illustrious fields including the academia, civil society amongst other professional bodies.

What comes out of all these positives, is that it may indeed not be totally correct to rate the current administration as that which derides the youth population because if the president is being credited with progressively ensuring the smooth running of the national youth service scheme, he cannot be judged to hate the youths.

Also, the symbolic celebration of the two years in office of the current Director General of NYSC, has further established the factuality in the claims made by the owner of Facebook and the President of Nigeria last year that Nigerian Youths are gifted with lots of creative potentials and talents. This much has emanated from the results of the many creative and innovative self-development programmes introduced and currently funded by the management of NYSC. This writer only hopes that these great programmes with significant goals for the development and advancement of youth to attain self-actualization will not be abandoned half way. The management needs to improve upon the principles of transparency, accountability and openness. The management must operate a people friendly regime that will open up the agency to the positive partnership of credible civil rights bodies. There is however a point that must be applauded in the area of the aggressive implementation of entrepreneurial skills being disseminated to the participants of the NYSC which to me is a tremendous feat.

Therefore,  it is appropriate to state without equivocation that the consistent funding of vocational and entrepreneurial skills acquisition schemes by the current Director General and the management team at the NYSC and the revival of the cultural festival by youths are clear evidences of what Mark Zuckerberg and President Buhari stated about the Nigerian Youth.

What did they say? You may ask.

The Chief Executive Officer and founder of social networking website, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said he was blown away by the talent and level of energy of the Nigerian youth that he saw at the Co-creation Hub in Yaba, Lagos.

Zuckerberg, who was speaking during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, added that he was also impressed by the interest and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by other young Nigerians in all the ICT camps he visited.

Zuckerberg told the president that he was in the country to promote the penetration of “fast and cheap” internet connectivity (Express-wifi) that would help people create online businesses and reduce poverty.
President Buhari who commended the simplicity of Zuckerberg, thanked him for sharing his wealth of knowledge with Nigerian youths, and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Buhari noted that the simplicity and magnanimity of the entrepreneur, who is among the world’s richest men, had also challenged the culture of lavish wealth display and impulsive spending that had become peculiar to Nigerians.

“In our culture, we are not used to seeing successful people appear like you. We are not used to seeing successful people jogging and sweating on the streets. We are more used to seeing successful people in air-conditioned places. We are happy you are well-off and simple enough to always share,’’ he added.

Buhari said the various meetings held with Nigerian youths since his arrival were most timely as the country was already exploring opportunities to spur development through entrepreneurship.

“Nigeria has always been identified as a country with great potential for growth, especially with our youthful population, but now we are moving beyond the potential to reality,” the president said.
Also speaking, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo thanked Zuckerberg for coming to Nigeria.

He said: “One of the great things you have demonstrated is that it is possible to live your dream; it is possible to make your dreams not just come true but come true so fabulously that it will not only influence your environment but you will influence the whole world.

“One of the things you have done is really to create connectivity across the world so that people are really able to interact across tribe, race, countries and feel as part of one family and one faith.”
Osinbajo said that Zuckerberg’s coming to Nigeria had been especially energizing not just for the young people but for everyone else.

“As you can see am on Facebook and the president is also on Facebook; so, we are part of the 17 million”, he added.
The vice president said the country was being built on the energy and the innovation and on the creativity of the young people.

He said: “I believe very strongly that today, young people are included and no one has a choice in that matter. Today, technology has created a level playing field; technology has made it possible for you to seat somewhere, in your office or living room to create wealth, to create connectivity, to create all manner of things across the world.”

After meeting with Buhari, Zuckerberg attended a demonstration by leading Nigerian start-ups, tech executives, business and venture capitalists.

Among the 30 selected start-ups, three were finally selected and each will receive a N2million winning prize. The event was supported by Airtel, Diamond Bank and a host of others.
Addressing the select start-ups, Zukerberg said it was inspiring to see what Nigerian youth have been able to do with technology.

He said: “This trip has really blown me away by the talents of young entrepreneurs and developers in this country, and making a difference and making a change.

“It reminds me of when I wanted to start Facebook. I wasn’t starting a company at the time but wanted to build something to see if it would work. And that is what I see people here do, pushing through challenges, building things that you want to see in the world. You are not just going to change Nigeria and the whole of Africa but the whole world,” he added.

President Muhammadu Buhari on his own in a related development congratulated renowned hip-hop artistes, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, a.k.a WizKid, and David Adedeji Adeleke, a.k.a Davido, on their awards at the Music of Black Origin (MOBO).

In a statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, President Buhari joined the teeming fans of the two Nigerian artistes in Nigeria and all over the world to celebrate the highly deserved and meritorious recognition.

WizKid won “International Best Artist’’ award, while Davido picked the “Best African Act’’.

The President affirmed that both singers have showcased the rich talents in the country, and brought pride to the nation through their many songs and performances. He commended their dedication, hard work and charity works.

President Buhari also called on the upwardly mobile artistes to be cautious and mindful of likely distractions to their careers, urging WizKid and Davido to serve as ambassadors of the country and role models to upcoming musicians.

In the award on Wednesday night, Wizkid beat a strong field including Jay-Z, Drake, Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar to net the best international artist prize.

Other artists edged out by Wizkid are Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Migos, Solange Knowles, SZA

Davido, also emerged the best African Act for the year, beating a field of artists, including Wizkid to get the award. The other artists in the pack were: Eugy, Juls, Maleek Berry, Mr Eazi, Sarkodie, Tekno, Tiwa Savage and Wande Coal. Wizkid won the award in 2016.

The MOBO awards, which started in 1996, is Europe’s music award event. It is the most important and influential event for music makers and fans, perhaps Europe’s equivalent of Grammy. It recognizes and honours the artistic and technical achievements of exceptional British and international talent in the musical fields of Hip Hop, Grime, RnB/Soul, Reggae, Jazz, Gospel, and African music.

The President affirmed that both singers have showcased the rich talents in the country, and brought pride to the nation through their many songs and performances. He commended their dedication, hard work and charity works.

I’m convinced that the much talked about enabling environment reportedly created by President Muhammadu Buhari has made it possible for the management of NYSC to implement the programmes that ensure that Corps members are given the opportunity to learn vocational skills of their choice starting from the Orientation Camp and through the service year, to prepare them for self-employment at the end of their national assignment.

A source with vast knowledge of the NYSC told me that the man 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.

The source noted that two of such infrastructures are in Ekiti and Gombe States and tgat they have been completed, while that of Delta State is ongoing. The NYSC must also erect similar facilities in the South East of Nigeria and the Niger Delta region given that these zones produce the largest pool of graduates of Nigerian origin.

Another source who volunteered information told me that the DG 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.

Asked to evaluate the DG in the last two years, my source said as follows: “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. 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”.

Whilst researching on this piece, i stumbled on another knowledgeable commentator who doesn’t work in NYSC but has extensive interest in the affairs of youth stated that: “A monumental achievement recorded under Kazaure’s administration; include the resuscitation and revitalization of vital but moribund projects and programmes of the NYSC. In line with the Federal Government agenda to diversify the economy through harnessing the country’s potentials in the non-oil sector, the Scheme under Kazaure’s leadership has begun resuscitating its moribund agricultural projects through the establishment of Integrated Farm Settlements in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country. Four of them located in FCT, Bauchi, Kebbi and Oyo States are already operational, equipped with modern farm implements, Corps lodges, storage and other facilities required to facilitate optimum yield as a strategic support for the food security initiative of the Federal Government.  These farm Settlements produce various crops including rice, cassava, maize and cowpea as well as poultry. The farms serve the dual purpose of contributing to Government’s objective of actualizing self-sufficiency in food production and training grounds for corps members interested in the agricultural component of the NYSC Ventures programme.”

I ran into an official who told me that: “In order to increase the visibility of the Scheme, the NYSC DG has invigorated the existing programmes and collaborations of the Scheme with many Government and Non-Governmental organizations and brought on board new ones including the partnership with European Union and the Pan African Institute for Global Affairs and Strategy (PAIGAS) aimed at checking, through proper enlightenment, the increasing number of Nigerian youths involved in illegal migration to Europe and other parts of the world in search of greener pastures”.

According to her, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board has also expanded its partnership with the NYSC to enhance the credibility of her UTME using the services of Corps members for its newly introduced ICT based tests.

“Other new robust partnerships include NYSC/SDGs Champions programme, Great Green Wall project with the Federal Ministry of Environment, Peer Group Education on Financial inclusion project with the CBN as well as Engaging Nigerian Girls in New Enterprise (ENGINE) collaboration with Mercy Corps.”

A media consultant stated that:  “Indeed, the NYSC has become a beautiful bride to many Government and private organizations who fall over themselves to partner with the Scheme as a result of the realization that the active presence of the NYSC in all the Local Governments of the Country puts it in a better position to domesticate any programme or project at the grass root level.”

Lastly, my appeal to the President and the National Assembly is to improve the funding status of the NYSC scheme. I also think that since NYSC is in the ministry of Youth and sports, the NYSC should deliberately establish viable sporting clubs in the track and field so talented youthful sports professionals are groomed. The current NYSC management should set up amateur and professional football, basketball, lawn tennis, table tennis teams and Athletics teams who can be sponsored locally and internationally to compete in tournaments eveb as football academies should be established by NYSC to groom and discover talents for exports so the scheme can generate incomes from such financially rewarding and profitable football league’s in Europe and America and even China.

Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA andblogs@www.huriwa.blogspot.comwww.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwanigeria.com.

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