“Youths obey the clarion call
‘‘Let us lift our nation high
‘‘Under the sun or in the rain
‘‘With dedication and selflessness
Nigeria is ours, Nigeria we serve.”
The refrain above is one that every National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member had to memorize and chant regularly during the mandatory one-year programme.
However, these youths, in the service of their fatherland, are now at the risk of kidnappers, terrorists, bandits; bad roads and other non-state actors that are having a field day due to the nonchalant attitude of the government.
Terrorists do not call down rains. Neither do bandits increase sunshine. They thrive in raining down bullets – something Nigerian youths did not sign up for nor pledged to serve under such conditions.
Are we going to pretend about the general insecurity in the country? It will be hard to pretend. From Geidam in Yobe state to Shiroro in Niger state and Owerri in Imo state, among others; non-state actors are striking fears in the hearts of the people with impunity. However, the response of the government has been empty threats upon empty threats. In other words, the responses have been lame. The latest is the most ridiculous one by the Commander-in-Chief himself, where he said he will “crush the bandits.”
While the president may be considering a career in Nollywood at the end of his inglorious tenure; for the time being, his action and general inaction are inflicting uncertainty on Nigerians. Homes are not safe. The farms are not safe and the highways are a no-go area. Schools are easy targets for anyone. What about police posts and army checkpoints? Not safe. Even a governor is feeling unsafe in his home.
With all these, we are still planning to send thousands of our youths to potential lion dens across the country?
Security is the number one function of any government. If you cannot guarantee that, what is the point of being in office? There can only be unity when people are safe. The level of insecurity in the country calls for a radical approach.
But in the meantime, can we spare our youths and suspend certain things like the NYSC programme?
Let us be frank. Only the children of the poor get deployed to some far-away state. With N50,000, anyone can get a good posting to any of the major cities in the country. Unfortunately, even the cities are no longer safe.
Usually, the presence of the police or military gives a sense of security. However, even the security agents have been demystified. Adding to that is the fact that even the Air Force can’t differentiate between enemies and her armies.
One thing is crystal clear though. It is not about service chiefs or having a new police chief. We have done both. Still, nothing seems to be changing.
While we ponder this worrisome scenario, can we suspend the NYSC? Of course, we can. First, we need to suspend any form of posting. Online mobilization should be done. In addition, the sum of at least N450,000 should be given to each corps member as starting allowance. We can start out by giving N100,000. The rest should be divided into twelve months and paid every month as transition allowance till they can get a job.
Secondly, corps members with evidence of vocational training should be given start-up loans under any of the government’s intervention programmes. Also, those willing to take up community services in rural areas with a specific focus on public-owned schools and hospitals should be given incentives. All these should be voluntary though.
Obviously, this plan has its flaws. But it is a desperate plan by a desperate Nigerian. The government can explore other alternatives, such as ending general insecurity. Because at this rate, it is not only youths that are being deployed for the NYSC that are threatened. Even the corporate existence of Nigeria is threatened.
We face grim food insecurity, displacement, and other humanitarian challenges.
Mr President, nothing can happen when there is no security. The formation of a state is tied to security and its sustainability is tied to security.