By Opeyemi Ajala
The recent nationwide upsurge in ethnic militia nationalism or gangsterism and its attendant violence which no doubt is the inevitable offshoot of transferred aggression is an aftermath of long years of military misrule. This unfortunate drift towards a state of near anarchy as a result of the new wave of ethnic movement is not a sign of freedom but rather profound crisis where people are being ruled by their basest impulse is a clear case of a nation in budding crisis, which at best is a sad reminder of those dark days of ethnic loyalties, mutual group suspicion and distrust of pre-civil war days which resulted in a most agonizing bloodbath.
The post war era saw the then military government promptly promulgating the 3Rs policy – Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of which the NYSC scheme, being a child of circumstance was born to soothe frayed nerves, prevent a recurrence and promote national unity and stability. And judging from all indices, the scheme has creditably acted to script by imbibing in Nigeria Youths the spirit of selfless service to the nation and emphasizing the spirit of oneness and brotherhood in Nigerians irrespective of cultural, religious and social background; being in itself an instrument for socio-economic and cultural change.
A Chinese proverb says: “if you are planning for 1 year ahead; plant rice, for 10 years ahead, plant trees; but for 100 years, educate people”. While Malcom X Forbes sagaciously stated that “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one”. With the scheme’s capability of raising the moral tone of the Nigerian Youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about the higher ideals of national achievement and socio-cultural improvement which is hardly attainable at the post-primary school level, for the Pro-Unitate Federal Schools being less than 100 are just a drop in the ocean and cannot effect the desired result, while most tertiary institutions that are not Federal are still at the beck and call of the catchment syndrome to favour the indigenes at the expense of other Nigerians! Hence, the scheme indispensability lies in its steering the ship of state back on the right course as it remains the major vegetation of socio-cultural exchange of ideas. The scheme’s orientation course, as the Edo State Director, Mr. Michael Echeanyanwu succinctly put in his address to the 1st tier 1999/2000 corps members, is designed to give a smooth transition from the academic into the large society. Also, it is one of the ways we can fashion out for ourselves a united, self-reliant, peaceful, and prosperous nation of our dream. The scheme remains a platform where Nigerians freely intermingle without recourse to the dictates and inhibition of socio-cultural barriers which has been the Achilles heel of the nation’s unity. It is also on record that stranded travelling corps members always lodge with fellow corps member in any geographical location where they are stranded without harassment or prejudice to ethnic affinity. And this unalloyed patriotism is in affirmative and in line with the second stanza, second line of the NYSC Anthem – ‘Put the Nation First in all’. This is largely because the scheme has continually developed 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, if cognizance is taken of the fact that the youths are often targeted as pawns to carry out these nefarious activities. This quest for national stability should call for increase in the number of corps members, for the harvest is truly plenteous while the labourers are few, therefore any real or imagined down-sizing of the numerical strength of the scheme because of funding deserves a review for its priceless benefits. And if peace and stability is too expensive, then an alternative of a much more expensive war and instability is surely an unwise option. The Federal Government sincerely knows how much it pays into the UN coffers for the maintenance of international peace and security. The corps members massive participation in the UBE scheme is very essential to instilling a sense of patriotism in the upcoming generation who sees corps members as national role models and the crested vest as a noble national monumental souvenir of prowess, hence the scheme’s advantage of emotional appeal to catch them young and disabuse their tender minds from being polluted with anti-state notions. And in order to put an end to the scourge of this diabolical ethnic uprising which is quite capable of plunging the nation’s ship of state into a quagmire of political instability reminiscent of those blight civil war days, the NYSC scheme deserves to be expanded for greater service to the national cause.
Pertinaciously, the scheme remains a most potent antidote to the problem of the ethno-militia monster bedeviling the nation and deserves to be enlarged. It should be Vestigial nulla restrorsum, Prorsum Semper (No backward step, forward ever), for it is a man whose barn is full of yams that must watch out for thieves. And in the words of Sallust: “by union the smallest state thrives and by discord, the greatest states are destroyed.
Fellow AJUWAYAs, pray for the peace of Nigeria and they shall prosper that love thee.
PS This piece was initially written for the Edo State NYSC 2021 Magazine ‘Edo Kopa’
Opeyemi Ajala FCA
Former Presenter – Eagle Sports Hour on Eagle Cable Television Lagos.