WARNING! Just Before We Destroy Our NYSC

Those who are finding it convenient to keep quiet over the scandalous certificate scandal involving the now swornin Governor of Enugu State, Peter Mbah do not know how the localisation of the challenge and its perception as the concern of the people of Enugu State has the potential to create a carnivorous national malaise, capable of denuding what arguably is the surviving vestiges of arguably the remaining symbol of Nigeria’s national unity. At a time when the country should be celebrating the National Youth Service Corps programme, which marked its 50th anniversary this year, it is most disconcerting that such a historic national landmark has had certificate forgery as its biggest talking point. More worrisome is the fact that some shade of opinion, driven by what looks like selfish political purposes, appears to be bent on allowing this avoidable sore to fester….CONTINUE READING

Even with all its challenges, one cannot deny the fact that one of the strongest legacies that Nigeria still holds on to in the difficult, endless journey to unity and integration remains the NYSC. As political and religious fractures continue to threaten the wholeness of the country, this programme, initiated by former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, in 1973, has remained the only project that holds the country, like a stubborn thread. At this stage in the country’s journey as a nation, every person who wishes Nigeria to survive should be involved in the intentional safeguard of all icons, institutions, and even some intangibles that still prescribe and point to national unity, and the NYSC stands tall and strong among the few that have survived the centrifugal forces threatening to pull the country apart. At 50, the National Youth Service Corps has proven its importance. It has survived several military interventions, lived through failed and successful democratic experiments, and helped heal when divisive actors flanked the country with religious and tribal upheavals. But nobody expected the sudden and inexplicable attack that is emanating from the political class, and the judiciary. Every Nigerian, irrespective of class or creed, vocation, and avocation should rise in patriotic collaboration to, not only condemn these coordinated attacks but work hard to arrest the slide before it is too late. In the case of Governor Mbah, the awarding institution has made it clear, verbally and in writing that the certificate he parades was not issued by it.

The struggle therefore, to force the NYSC to admit having issued a certificate they have so serially disclaimed cannot lead anywhere else but a regime of devaluation of the NYSC and by extension, all certificate-awarding institutions in Nigeria. It is important to stress this because of the direct implication the fate, good or bad, or the corps could have on the country’s unity. If the political class is allowed to lead the onslaught against the NYSC, and if the judiciary lends itself as a tool to downgrade what was hitherto a sacred national symbol, nothing will be sacrosanct in the country again. Before now the NYSC discharge certificate was held in high esteem by every Nigerian. It was a document people displayed with pride.

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The advent of social media of information has highlighted this quite strongly, as young people proudly displayed their discharge certificates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to announce the end of their service to their fatherland. People may have taken this for granted, but the period that marks the end of each service year announces the end of youth and dependency and heralds the commencement of responsible adulthood. Many things change in the lives of people at this stage, including the consciousness that the time has come for those discharged from the scheme to become economic value creators. It is this consciousness that triggers the energy for industry and the quest for careers by young people. And the same way the Western world celebrates adulthood at 18 or 21, the Nigerian celebrates maturity with the completion of NYSC. Many people may not be conscious of it, but the NYSC discharge certificate is the only one of its type in Nigeria. It is the only certificate that is uniform for every Nigerian graduate. The secondary school certificate, though issued by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), still bears the name of the secondary school one graduated from. Each bachelor’s degree belongs to and bears the name of the university that issued it. But only the NYSC certificate of discharge is uniform for all those who participate in the compulsory national service. Of further significance is the fact that this certificate bears the watermark: “Federal Republic of Nigeria” all over its surface, highlighting the connection between it and the Nigerian nation….CONTINUE READING