The National Youth Service Corps [NYSC] was a scheme set up almost immediately after the end of the Nigerian Civil War. In 1973 to be precise, to help heal the wounds of the civil war and particularly help foster national integration amongst young Nigerian school graduates.
That the NYSC scheme was a novel one was not in doubt, as it provided an avenue for young graduates to be posted or deployed to states or regions different from their indigenous or native regions/states. This enabled such youth corps members to become acquainted with the norms, values and culture of other Nigerians who were not from the same region as them.
The NYSC scheme has sought to do this since its inception in 1973, as thousands of Nigerian graduates including the current Nigerian President and his Vice have partook in the scheme. The prestige and importance which partaking in the scheme confers on Nigerian graduates was further reinforced by the legislation enacted that for any graduate to gain employment anywhere in Nigeria either in the private or public sectors, such persons must have completed the mandatory 1 year NYSC scheme.
However, recent untoward events in Nigeria have begun to threaten the existence of this once noble scheme. One of such is that the multitude of graduates which Nigerian universities churn out cannot find placement or accommodation within the scheme. Such that participation in the scheme has become compartmentalized into batches and streams within batches. This has led to a situation whereby graduates were left to languish for years before they could secure placements in the scheme to serve their fatherland.
Another issue which threatens to eclipse the survival of the scheme and which many observers feels portends a grave danger to it, is the killing and maiming of youth corps members across the country mostly during political and ethnic upheavals. The recent being the slaying of a couple of youth corps members in the recent post election violence that engulfed some parts of Nigeria. The sexual harassment of female youth corps members by “respectable” members of the community in places where such youth corps members are posted for national service is another serious factor hampering the survival of the scheme.
The NYSC has indeed come of age, and there is no doubt that in a diverse and plural country like Nigeria, it is a scheme capable of pulling the fabrics of the disparate tendencies in Nigeria together. But unfortunately, it seems like everything “Nigerian” the scheme seem to be tottering towards a collapse.