Pulse Opinion: To serve Nigeria is by force: An experience
From day one, all the military and non-military personnel on site force the message of regimented living into you.
About 90% of the people I have spoken to about the National Youth Service Corps scheme in Nigeria have one of three responses when I ask them: “What do you think of the NYSC thing?”
They know what it is and don’t get the point.
They know what it is and don’t care.
They’ve heard about it but just can’t be bothered.
No one ever goes: “Oh, I love it so much, I am glad that you can’t work for any reputable public/private company without the NYSC certificate.” Or ”It helped me become a better person. I am definitely more patriotic now.”
I find that strange. According to the Nigerian law that caters to the creation of the Scheme, after graduating from the university, you have to “serve” your country for a year, or you would not be able to seek employment anywhere – except ‘under the radar’ of course.
“Serving” in this case basically means that first, you get familiar with the programme over a three week period in a location in that may or may not be close to civilisation after which you will be sent to either a school or government organisation to contribute your quota to National development. You will spend a year of your life carrying out this undiluted service to the fatherland.
The people that thought it up say the aim of the scheme is to foster unity amongst Nigerians and build character amongst the youth — who would apparently lead the country someday, for sure.
So why doesn’t anyone rock with this fantastic idea?
I don’t know, honestly. But I do know that the Orientation Camp experience is peculiar (or has been peculiar, thank God I’m done with it). By and large, it has not been too different from the experience I had during my time at the Nigerian Navy Secondary School in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
A big part of both my secondary and NYSC Orientation Camp experience is the military presence. Soldiers (and camp officials) run your life for the entirety of your time at the camp.
They dictate when you wake up, sleep, eat and even how you socialise. It’s pretty much a senseless cacophony of underpaid men and women shouting a combination of curses and orders at you 80% of the time. This is supposed to get some discipline into you within the three (21 days to be precise) weeks you will spend in camp.
From day one, all the military and non-military personnel on site force the message of regimented living into you. They do all they can to let you know that, for those 21 days, they own you. You usually wake up by 6 AM? That will stop and you shall be up before 5 AM on any given day — except Sundays because God. Is it 8 PM yet? You better be in the hall to watch your not-so-talented colleagues battle it out on stage for the title of the most efficient cross-dresser. You’re a vegetarian? You will just die in camp.
I didn’t really understand why it had to be setup that way, but my understanding was that the whole thing is geared towards discipline and stuff like that.
If you can do what you’re told — when you’re told and how you are told — you’re on your way to becoming a model Nigerian citizen. It also means, supposedly, that you will be better prepared for life as a corp member serving his/her country.
You will also receive daily lectures in NYSC camp. Officials from various government agencies, as well as citizens of the locale you’re in, will be brought in to educate you on varying subject matter.
Personally, I think the lectures are great — if you are a secondary school student largely oblivious to your immediate environment — and the Scheme seems to agree that graduates have a lot to benefit from them.
One lecture that stood out was one from an NDLEA official on marijuana and it’s many names. This officials’ overly large suit and weird shoes aside, his impassioned speech on cigarettes being legal and the ‘wrath’ with which the agency goes after marijuana users was a spectacle I’d pay money for any day.
The Scheme also has a Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED -pronounced Sah-id. Yeah, I know) programme which all corps members were required to be a part of. The programme also came with lectures and talks that encouraged graduates to aspire to be tailors and bead makers.
It’s hard not to love the Scheme’s innovative approach to cultivating the nation’s next crop of entrepreneurs — never mind that it cultivates them by subjecting them to badly delivered lectures in halls brimming with near dangerous heat.
All in all, different people have different takeaways from the entire NYSC Orientation Camp experience. As patronising as most corp members tend to be whilst in camp, by and large, they seem to just follow the given mandate — do what you’re told, how you’re told — and the future will definitely be bright, regardless of how unlikely that may seem.
But who says Nigeria isn’t great? Let me hear one tiri-gbosa for the giant of Africa!
P.S: I apologize for any crappy pictures, finding quality pictures of NYSC stuff is hard.