The Adeosun case has thrown up a need to review the NYSC law. Truth is, some Nigerians no longer see the desirability of the scheme.
For over four decades, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has served as national integration scheme for young Nigerian graduates of tertiary institutions of the age not exceeding 30 years upon graduation. It was so established not only to help provide manpower but also to help knit a united Nigeria where persons of diverse tribes and tongues may learn the rudiments of co-existence and tolerance. And it has done very well in this regard.
For any Nigerian graduate, the NYSC scheme is both a jab and a jolt. It jolts you out of your comfort zone and jabs you into an unfamiliar turf. It flings you into a strange land complete with new culture, different language in some cases and an entirely different people. At the end, we all ride the storms; we all revel in its bliss; we bear its pain. But it makes us happy; happy to know our country better; happy that we served our fatherland. The service year is a thing of joy; a period of privileges; a comforting symbolism of our patriotic responsibility.
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I say so because I witnessed it. I lived it. I served in present day Bayelsa State. I was a science teacher at Mater Dei High School, Imiringi, a few hundred metres away from Yenagoa, the state capital. By the way, Mater Dei High School was President Goodluck Jonathan’s alma mater. It used to be a model science college well equipped by Shell. It was there I found to my shock autoclave machines, sophisticated microscopes all donated by Shell but were never put to use by the teachers and their students. Our pay was poor but our joy was rich. We were happy to serve, happy to make impact in a community. We were four hungry and highly ambitious lads, full of the strength of youth, powered by uncommon zeal and driven by genuine passion to share knowledge with the natives. One of us was a medical doctor attached to the community clinic.
Imiringi became our home. The people became our people. A truly rural and rustic community, Imiringi offered us the fitting flip side to city life. And we enjoyed ourselves; savoured the ambience, satiated our culinary promptings with fresh fish stew and pepper soup. Imiringi has a lot of catfish; big, medium and small. But the locals told us that harvest was ebbing; that Shell and other oil majors have despoiled their waters with oil spills and noxious hydrocarbon. There was ample reason to believe their story. We had pipe borne water in rural Imiringi provided by Shell but alas, the water was never pure. It was brownish with heavy deposits of iron. We had electricity powered from gas turbine, and we never paid electricity bill because Shell graciously turned some portion of flared gas into electricity. Imiringi was rural but it was also urban. The people were friendly and we integrated; we didn’t hold back. Such was and still is the essence of the scheme: to introduce Nigeria to Nigerians.
In its early days, it was a moment to garner experience before picking up the next job, your very first job after graduation. And jobs were always there. You were simply spoilt for choice. All too soon, the jobs disappeared. Unemployment set in. The NYSC became a handy hedge against job drought. Its relevance shifted from national integration to temporary employment, albeit underemployment. Corps members don’t get paid living wages; they are paid existential wages. This is one of the dour sides of the scheme that deserves to be reviewed.
But even with its promise of temporary succor, many people still shun the scheme. Many flout the law that prescribes a mandatory one year service for graduates of less than 30 years. And many of this number get away with murder. They still don’t give a damn about the scheme. One of such persons was ex-Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun. She was the big fish that has to atone for the levity of others. Adeosun represents that lost tribe of unpatriotic Nigerians who think little of their country but would at the drop of a hat latch to any nicety and dainty their country could offer. It was to such persons a case of do not give to Nigeria but take as much as possible from Nigeria.
Madam Adeosun only just happened. There are many of her ilk, men and women who shunned national service but became the biggest reapers from the same Nigeria they despised with their mandatory service. But wait a minute, did I hear her admit that her NYSC Exemption Certificate was forged by her trusted associates and she did not know it? Did she just admit to a criminal act and afterwards hopped into an aircraft and jetted off to where she came from and the security agencies sat back snugly in hypnotic bemusement? Should Madam Adeosun not have her date in court? Where are the activists and the garrison of anti-corruption crusaders? What happened to Lai Mohammed, the Joseph Goebbels of the Buhari government? The usually garrulous one simply lost his voice. So where does Adeosun’s belated confession and admission to criminality leave Itse Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who now sees through the prism of partisan gratification rather than through the prism of reason. Why have the police and other anti-crime agencies grown timorous and reticent. None stirred a finger to arrest a self-confessed forger.
And so it came to pass, that a certain Kemi Adeosun, left the United Kingdom and returned to a dysfunctional Nigeria she despised to serve, got into public service with a forged credential, earned salaries and emoluments with the same forged certificate, and turned round to bid us bye-bye, escaping with all the perks she garnered by the might and strength of her forgery. And she now walks a free woman simply because President Buhari has accepted her resignation, therefore her sins are forgiven her.
There is something wrong. Her associates, whether living or dead, are human beings. No security agency approached them for possible arrest and prosecution? This makes the story sticky. Adeosun must be prosecuted especially by a government that bandies anti-corruption as its mantra. Not prosecuting her impairs the anti-corruption credentials of the Buhari government. You do not let armed robbers off the hook simply because they have confessed and admitted their criminality. It’s not a case of whether she served or not; it’s a case of forgery, a criminal offence in the Nigerian legal jurisprudence.
But the Adeosun case has thrown up a need to review the NYSC law. Truth is, some Nigerians no longer see the desirability of the scheme. From corps members being brutally murdered in strange lands to others being victimized on account of religion and now to some not serving when they ought to serve, there is an overriding need to look into the law once again. Should it be optional, mandatory or should we simply scrap it? The National Assembly may need to tweak the Act setting up the scheme to suit contemporary exigencies.