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Brief History of NYSC, The Body Established to Foster Nigerian National Unity

There is no doubt that many Nigerian youths take pride in participating in the NYSC immediately after graduating from university or polytechnic.



There is no doubt that many Nigerian youths take pride in participating in the NYSC immediately after graduating from university or polytechnic.

Brief History of NYSC, The Body Established to Foster National Unity: After gaining independence from the British in 1960, there were great expectations that the Nigerian nation would wax strong and become one of the best places to live on earth. Also, there were hopes in several quarters that Nigeria would lead Africa’s march to greatness.

But events that followed a few years after 1960 would seem those hopes were misplaced. Not only were there ethnic divisions across the country, but there were also major political developments that led to rancour.

The rancour would soon degenerate into a free for all and then came to a head in 1967 when the country entered into a 30-month civil war that reportedly claimed 3 million lives.

Needless to say that when the war ended in 1970, the country became more fragmented as ethnic strife continued to dominate how things were done.

Even though the war was declared over, as guns were no longer being fired, it was clear to all and sundry that the country was divided along ethnic lines.

Even the government was aware of the need for the country to present a united front if it were to fulfil the hopes of its founding fathers.

The establishment of the NYSC

It was for this reason – the need for national unity – that the Nigerian government led then by Yakubu Gowon founded the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1973.

According to the decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 which established the NYSC, the body was created purely:

“With a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.”

The decree No.24 has now been replaced by the National Youth Service Corps Act of June 1993.

In subsequent years, Gowon, the man who hatched the NYSC idea would restate the reasons for its establishment.

For instance, in July 2019, Gowon went back down memory lane at a sensitisation workshop in Abuja. At that event in which he was represented by Senator Ahmadu Ali who was the first Director General of the NYSC, Gowon said his intention was to ensure that Nigeria remains an indivisible entity.

His words:

“When my administration established the NYSC with the promulgation of Decree No 24 of May 22, 1973, the objective was to ensure that Nigeria remained an indivisible entity that would be focused on sustainable development.”

Section 1(f) and (g) of the NYSC Act further expanded the objectives of the body thus:

(f) To develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration; and

(g) To remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups.

Calls for scrapping of NYSC

Over the years, there have been calls from numerous quarters for the scrapping of NYSC by those who say the body has failed to achieve its stated mission.

One such call came from Awaji-Inimbek Abiante, a member of the House of Representatives who sponsored a bill for the NYSC to be scrapped.

As for his reasons for introducing the bill, Abiante cited insecurity, exploitation by place of primary assignment and the poor state of orientation camps.

How has NYSC helped in uniting Nigeria?

There are those who think the NYSC has greatly helped Nigeria and that it has achieved the purpose for which it was established.

For instance, in August 2022, young people from the 36 states of Nigeria staged a protest in Abuja amid calls for the scrapping of the NYSC. During the protest, they strongly kicked against the calls, saying the NYSC is a symbol of national unity that can’t be pulled down.

The young people who protested under the name “Nigeria First” argued that the NYSC has become a national heritage.

Comrade Richard Augustine who led the group said:

“We wish to state in unequivocal terms that the NYSC must not be scrapped, as it would amount to a great disservice to the country, if such a brilliant initiative is sacrificed on the altar of selfish aggrandizement by some vested interests in the country.”

Comrade Richard argued that the NYSC cannot be said to be responsible for the death of corps members as a result of insecurity in the land and therefore cannot be sacrificed. He said:

“Sadly, those against the existence of the NYSC have elected to turn the truth on its head for inexplicable reasons and link the continued existence of the scheme as responsible for the death of corp members and other appurtenances occasioned by the spate of insecurity in the country.”

What next for NYSC?

There is no doubt that many Nigerian youths take pride in participating in the NYSC immediately after graduating from university or polytechnic.

It is in fact, one of the basic requirements for employment as the law requires citizens to possess the certificate of national service if they have taken part in the NYSC.

The least the government can do is to revamp the scheme and make it more beneficial for youths such that it can better fulfil its stated objectives in the 21st century.

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