NYSC: AN ENDURING LEGACY
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, was established in Nigeria on 22 May, 1973. If the scheme were a human being, he would have attained the age of 18 by 1991, which qualifies him to vote and be voted for. Were he precocious, the bright boy would have started primary school about 1977, graduated from the University by 1993, and participated in the NYSC scheme in 1994.
Perhaps he would have since taken up a good job, and gotten married to the lovely girl he met as a corps member! Surely, the life of such a bright and promising young man should be a shinning example to the youth, a source of hope and joy for his parents, and a pride to his nation. The foregoing hypothetical celebrity is, in every way, analogous with the success story of the National Youth Service Corps scheme in Nigeria, established by the then military regime of General Yakubu Gowon.
By the year 2000, years after the decree enabling its establishment was promulgated, a large and diverse segment of the Nigerian population as well as notable people around the world, have commended its establishment and eulogised its operation and achievements, especially its momentous role in promoting national unity, integration and rapid economic development of Nigeria.
In his Foreword to NYSC: Twenty Years Of National Service, co-authored by two ex-corps members, Gregory Enegwea and Gabriel Urnoden, Nigeria's former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who promulgated the NYSC decree in 1973, recalled that the scheme "which some ill motivated persons tried to write off at inception, has since grown to such a level of national importance and acceptance," to the extent that "no one can today speak of national unity, or rural development, without mentioning the NYSC.
Also speaking during a public lecture organised in Abuja on June 4, 1998, to mark the Silver Jubilee of the scheme, the first Chairman of the NYSC, Professor Adebayo Adedeji, likened the rapid development of the programme to the biblical grain of the mustard seed planted in 1973, that has become a huge tree in 1998. Said he: "In spite of all the odds, the NYSC scheme has not only remained intact, but has also prospered and expanded considerably, almost Expressing identical sentiments during the same occasion, an ex-corps member, Dr. Lanrele VI Bamidele, of the Department of Theatre Arts, University of lbadan, observed that the scheme has become a household name in Nigeria today.
In his words: "There is no aspect of the Nigerian social, cultural and economic life that the NYSC has not been touched, or has not contributed meaningfully. It has become a household name in the educational sector that one can say that if it is for this sector alone, the NYSC shall continue to be relevant as to long as the resources could maintain it." Another ex- corps member, Dr. Godwill Ogbogodo, of the University of Benin, sees the NYSC as "one of the best programmes that have been introduced in this country.
In the same vein, the sixth Director General of the NYSC, Major General Hafiz Momoh, in his Preface to NYSC: Twenty Years of National Service, observed that the scheme has impacted, positively on various aspects of our national life. According to him, the NYSC "has come to be acclaimed as one of the most effective and successful instruments in our continuing efforts at achieving a humane and egalitarian society, based on mutual understanding, trust, tolerance and a common vision of our national destiny.
In her formal discussion with me on January 15, 1996, the Minister of Youth and Sports in the Gambia, Mrs. Aminah Faal-Sonko, told me with glee, "that members of The Gambian Study Team that visited America, Europe, the Middle East and a number of African countries in search of a model Youth Service Scheme for The Gambia, were unanimous in their report that "the NYSC in Nigeria is the best organised Youth Service programme in the world.
As a pioneer corps member, the first Administrator/National Adviser, Gambian National an Youth Service Scheme (GNYSS), and as a top , Director of the National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria, I know first hand that the foregoing superlatives and the hype on the scheme are quite justified. In fact, the National Youth Service Corps scheme is the best and greatest legacy bequeathed to Nigeria by the military administration a General Yakuku Gowon