The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established by the Nigerian government during the military era to engage Nigerian graduates in nation-building and prosperity.
Nigeria has no compulsory military service, although graduates of universities and later polytechnics have been mandated to participate in the National Youth Service Corps programme for 12 months since 1973. This is referred to as the national service year.
Brief History of NYSC
After the Nigerian Civil War, the NYSC system was established in an effort to heal, reunite, and stabilize the country. The NYSC was set up “with a view to the adequate encouragement and advancement of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national reconciliation” by edict No.24 of May 22, 1973, which mentioned that the NYSC was put in place “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.”
As a developing nation, Nigeria is also beset by the challenges that come with being in a state of economic stagnation, notably unemployment. Widespread illiteracy, a severe shortage of highly qualified workers (combined with a very unequal distribution of competent workers), terribly poor socioeconomic infrastructure, and housing
Historical Background of NYSC
It is obvious that most Nigerians, especially young graduates, do not know the underlying rationale behind the establishment of the NYSC Scheme. Hence you hear them ask questions such as: What is even the need for NYSC, must I serve my country in the form of a compulsory 1 year NYSC?
While we are not disputing the fact that so many challenges have been faced over the past as a result of the NYSC Scheme, we cannot on the other disagree that the Scheme has not done much better than harm.
In other words, the advantages of the Scheme far outweighs what might appear to be the disadvantages.
It is as a result of this that I find it indispensable to give an account in brevity, what inspired the establishment of the NYSC Scheme.
Nigeria gained her independence on October 1st 1960, as a federation of three regions (northern, western, and eastern), under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government. The British Monarch- the Queen of England, was still the head of state of Nigeria.
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe became the first indigenous Governor General. Though, he was only representing the Queen of England, while Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was the prime minister. He exercised real executive power as the country was still structured after the British Parliamentary system of government.
On October 1963 the country, became a Federal Republic. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the last Governor General, became the country’s first President, while Alhaji Tafawa Balewa remained the Prime Minister. The British Monarch- the Queen of England ceased to be the Head of State of Nigeria.
However, the First Republic was replete with corruption, ethnic politics and sentimentality, nepotism, etc.
As a result of these, on January 15, 1966, a small group of army officers, mostly south-eastern Igbos, led by Major Kaduna Chukwuma Nzeogwu, in a bloody coup, overthrew the government and assassinated the federal prime minister and the premiers of the northern and western regions.
The federal military government, which assumed power under Major General Aguyi Ironsi, was unable to quieten ethnic tensions or produce a constitution acceptable to all sections of the country. Matters exacerbated when through Decree no. 15 (the Unification Decree), Ironsi abolished Nigeria’s Federalism and established a Unitary Form of Government.
As a result of the existing tension and fears, there was a counter-coup masterminded by Northern officers. This counter-coup ousted Aguiyi Ironsi from office and established the leadership of Major General Yakubu Gowon. The subsequent massacre of thousands of Igbo in the north prompted hundreds of thousands of them to return to the southeast, where increasingly strong Igbo secessionist sentiment emerged.
Lt. Col. Ojukwu, the then Military Governor of the Eastern Region described the counter-coup as ‘’brutal and planned annihilation of officers of Eastern Region.
Hence, as a result of Gowon’s inability to abate the incessant murderous attacks launched against the Easterners in the North, Ojukwu on May 30th, declared the Eastern Region an independent State by the name the REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA.
Secession was not an option, as the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the leadership of Lt. Col. Gowon saw Ojukwu’s declaration as a rebellion against Nigeria.
This led to the Nigeria Civil war which started in the early hours of July 6, 1967. The Civil war which lasted for 3 years (July 6, 1967 to January 13, 1970), ended with Gowon’s declaration of a no winner no vanquished policy.
Gowon, in an attempt to rebuild the country, embarked on what is known as the 3R’s- Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation.
It was in pursuance of the 3R’s that Gowon in 1973 under Decree no. 24, established the National Youth Service (NYSC) Scheme. The Scheme is aimed at encouraging and developing common ties among youths, and to promote national Unity.
Objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Program
The following are the objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Program, as stated in Decree No. 51 on June 16, 1993:
- To establish professionalism in Nigerian youths by teaching them work ethics, as well as nationalistic and devoted service to Nigeria in any circumstance they may face.
- To develop the mindset of Nigerian youths by providing opportunities for them to learn about lofty ambitions of national prosperity, socioeconomic, and cultural progress.
- To instil positive mental attitudes in Nigerian youths through shared experiences and proper training.
- Encourage Nigerian youths to build self-employment skills in order to help them create a sense of self-reliance.
- To foster national cohesion and unity among Nigerian youths by fostering common bonds.
- To eliminate misconceptions, dispel prejudice, and establish directly the many similarities that exist among Nigerians of all ethnicities.
- To instil in Nigerians a sense of corporate identity and shared destiny.
- Nigerian youths are acquainted with the diverse ways of life of people in different sections of the country.
- Nigerian youths are taught to avoid religious bigotry by embracing religious diversity.