By Olatunde Akinyemi
It is the pride of most parents to see their wards all dressed up in khaki and boots. A symbol that the child has scaled through tertiary education, and successfully served the country, a matured individual. For some, it signifies a bonafide citizen of the nation, ‘omo ijoba’, as my Yoruba friends will say, a bragging right.
Many years ago, as a Primary 5 student, my uncle came home on one particular day in that popular uniform. I didn’t know what course he did in school, I didn’t know what school he attended, no idea he had graduated, all I knew was that he had gone to serve.
My grandmother prepared a feast to welcome her son home after a successful year at Abia State. If pride was a person, that was my grandmother that day! Her son was then a full graduate and so it was time to enjoy the fruits of her labour.
As joyous and blissful as this scenario may seem, many Nigerian homes experience the opposite whenever National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme is mentioned.
A scheme initiated for the “reconciliation, reconstruction and rebuilding of the nation after the civil war” has not only failed to live up to expectation but has led to bloodshed, grief, bitterness and a reminder of sorrow. How do you explain to an aging mother that her only daughter died a few days into her orientation camp call-up?
The major purpose for NYSC has not been achieved even after some 45 years of its existence. For the better part of the last 5 years, the populace has been agitating for the scheme to be scrapped and or replaced with a modern and relevant initiative aside shipping our youths to the slaughter in other lands in the guise of service to the motherland. What mother watches helplessly as her child is being haunted and murdered? None!
The government has refused to yield to the cries of the family of those who lost their lives serving this country. No show of remorse whatsoever to the bereaved and the masses in general.
What more, political posts and ministerial appointments are granted to favourite citizens. A Nigeria where the lawmakers bend the rules to favor their pockets and minimum wage is yet to be implemented. Welcome to Nigeria, where a graduate is valued at a meager N19,800 monthly wage by government. In a country where basic amenities such as power, water, shelter is ever increasing and currently at an all-time high.
After surviving the gruel some call ‘orientation camp’, how do corpers fend for themselves? Daily transportation to and fro their PPA, rent, utility bills, feeding, etc.? Yet, again and again, the Federal Government has maintained its stance that allawee will not be increased!
While lawmakers and other politicians live flamboyant and flashy lifestyles on tax payers money, while tax payers can barely pay tax, tax payer children after surviving years in the university now join the ever increasing list of unemployed or underpaid graduates.
Recently, a social media claimed a secondary school principal flogged a corper in the presence of his students because she stood in line for her friend. Whether her act was questionable or not, did not justify the maltreatment meted to her at the hands of the person the government has entrusted her services to. Was he trying to prove a point? Show that he is a strict disciplinarian? Totally unacceptable!
Or can we agree that her maltreatment was better compared to that of the corper that was slaughtered for sharing free copies of Rhapsody of Realities right? Or the lady that died in the camp clinic after suffering a fracture during the morning drills?
These are some of the ills of the NYSC. Or, we going to act like we don’t know about the sexual affairs that go on between corpers and their supposed secondary school students?
*Akinyemi is resident in Lagos.