Akintunde Oyebode: Much ado about Nothing (YNaija FrontPage)

Whoever expects the NYSC to foster national unity and integration needs to be sent to the Theatre at Terra; there’s someone directing an adaptation of Waiting for Godot; s/he needs an actor for the lead role.


The story of how the National Youth Service Corps is necessary to promote Nigeria’s unity is eerily reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s acclaimed play, Waiting for Godot. The play is focused on two men, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait in vain for the arrival of their mutual acquaintance, Godot.

Brooks Atkinson, in a review of the play for the New York Times says, “Waiting for Godot is an allegory written in a heartless modern tone, a theatre-goer naturally rummages through the performance in search of a meaning. It seems fairly certain that Godot stands for God. Those who are loitering by the withered tree are waiting for salvation, which never comes.”

According to its website (, the Federal Ministry of Youth Development was established in February 2007 with the vision of empowering Nigerian youth to become “self reliant and socially responsible”. The Ministry ensures this by promoting the physical, mental, and socio-economic development of the youth. Various credible estimates suggest there are over 40 million Nigerian youths, equating to 30% of the entire population. So, it is befuddling to see 92% of the Ministry of Youth Development’s budget devoted to the NYSC. If the ministry plans to spend N76.1 billion to achieve the objectives stated on its website, why is it spending N70.3 billion of this on a program that affects less than 400,000 youths annually?

The NYSC was established to reconstruct, reconcile, and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. Almost 30 years later, Nigeria is locked in ethnic, religious, and political battles that threaten to dismantle the country that Awo famously referred to as a “mere geographical expression”. It is another example of the doctor called Government prescribing medication to relieve the symptoms without bothering to cure the disease.

It was interesting to see the Minister of Youth Development show compassion when faced with a barrage of complaints last week. The news broke that corps members had not been paid their monthly allowances for April, and he was singled out by angry young people. It mattered little that delayed payments was a familiar song to public servants from Aba to Zungeru; after all, the corps members were not the only ones being owed, civil servants are regularly owed salaries these days. The difference with the corps members is that they are not ‘employees’ and did not voluntary choose to work for the government. They were conscripted to serve their nation, and should be the first to be paid for serving their nation.

But all that is simply much ado about nothing. The ruckus created by the government’s inability to pay these young Nigerians should not have existed in the first place. It was created by the stubbornness to admit that Nigeria does not need a Ministry of Youth Development. In its bid to remain useful, the Ministry keeps reinventing a creaking contraption. It is similar to the way the Scottish manager of one of those English football clubs clings on to his prized Welsh player, urging him to play into his 40’s. It does not take a genius to see that one day that player will either retire, or his body will give way. The future of the NYSC is no different.

One of the funniest effects of the NYSC program is that a man who graduated top of his class, but chose to skip the NYSC, cannot become a minister in Nigeria. Yet, his colleague who decided to stop formal education in Primary Five has no such problems. This is hardly an issue since the program affects 1% of the youth population annually. The only problem here is it probably affects the best 1%.

Whoever expects the NYSC to foster national unity and integration needs to be sent to the Theatre at Terra; there’s someone directing an adaptation of Waiting for Godot; s/he needs an actor for the lead role.

In Other News…

I was shocked by the death of Professor Tokunbo Sofoluwe, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos. He was a distinguished academic, and most importantly, an excellent man. May his soul find eternal rest.


Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.




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Comments (25)

  1. Thank u Jane. I refrained from commenting anymore cos some people were on my case cos I said NYSC was not that bad.

    I agree to a reform. It's needed & long overdue.

  2. @emmanuel.if Bimbo claims she had a good tim during her service year, then I m sure she did. For those of us that served (long)before the elections and recent nysc wahala, I'm sure we have some good stories to tell. I agree the nysc is really crappy dis days, but I m sure a reform is a better solution that scrapping it. Tink about those rural communites that have benefited from education, health care, awareness forum provided by these corp members. Thinking about it, so gradutes spend ages at home waiting for good jobs. So I don't spending one year, giving back to the community is 2 much. We just need to go back 2 d drawing board and tink of better ways to improve and implement them. Mainwhile, there is no justification for the FG not having paid allowie yet.

  3. The above comment, though "anonymous", smacks of Ohimai's style

  4. I think this article is written in utmost bad faith. The gains of NYSC far outweigh its drawbacks, and the sooner we accept that NYSC (as is being reformed by Hon. Minister of Youth) is here to stay, the better the better for all of us. As an aside, I am amazed by the abuses aimed at some of those in charge (directly or indirectly) of the scheme. I wonder why Nigerians seem so determined to pull down anyone who is in power through subterfuge and underhand tactics. Some of us are just bitter, envious and jealous and would trade the world to be in the shoes of the person we're abusing.

  5. I agree with Rotimi. Reform rather than scrap is logical. NYSC is a microcosm of what is wrong with Nigeria. Something is wrong why don't we suggest ways of reforming it but the writer without providing any compelling basis asks that it be scrapped. Some states really need NYSC. I served in Oyo state and it really opened my mind to the potential/problem paradox pervasive in Nigeria. Norway, S.Korea Israel (and even the US in the past) have similar schemes. Do we scrap Nigeria as the egghead probably blackberry-chaired author has prescribed because things are wrong.

  6. nigeria for now,is not worth dying for.i lost a friend in bauchi n the only thing gov yuguda could say was 'it's his destiny'.scrap nysc or regionalize it.

  7. @E: you have an option. you cannot work with any Government agencies or large private corporation or aspire to contest for a position in Government. you can start your own enterprise or business and Government will not bother you

  8. every time I read about complaints from young Nigerians on the National Youth service Corps, I chuckle. At best, the opinions are sharply divided along two lines: Scrap the NYSC or reform the NYSC. for those who support the scarp option as akintunde oyebode seem to, I am curious to understanding the rationale of this option. For them, the National Youth Service Corps is a useless program by government meant to inconvenience the blessed 1% and which at best is an exercise in futility. It is painful that the NYSC program is the way that it is, for me however, it remains a good reminder for young people, especially the educated ones to go through a Government managed program as a baptism before they enter the workforce fully. Yes, the NYSC is not a national retreat, and Nigeria is not the only country organizing and running such a program. Examples abound all over europe, Asia and even in Africa. Corps Members are silently filling crucial gaps especially in education, and health in many under-served communities and rural areas. You only need to look beyond your i-pad and blackberries to see and read about how corps members man primary healthcare centres and form the bulk of teachers in several communities. We want a new Nigeria, but do not want to play any inconveniencing role in building one. We want to be Ministers and Ambassadors, but do not want to spend one year serving the nation first. I'll say it anywhere, when the call was made, I left the comfort of my home, strapped my bags behind me, boarded a bus and faced ummuna Bende in Abia state. It was 2008, I had never been there, but I was excited about serving my fatherland come rain come sunshine.

    1. Apart from the threat to innocent lives at the Northern hemisphere,the NYSC compulsory 1year is a sine qua non

    2. I totally support the scraping of NYSC Scheme on many obvious grounds

    3. I think its great people want to serve their father land but I think there should be an element of choice in all these. If I am not an pumped about serving anyone but myself, the Nigerian government shouldn't conscript me into a low paying waste of time, whatever the potential benefits to "national integration", especially if they never paid for my education.

    4. Ideally, the scheme should not be scrapped, but currently being a batch b corp member, I see the NYSC collapsing. There are testaments of good deeds performed by some corp members, but the administration is now riddled with lobbying and bribery, corpers serve out of compulsion and always find a way to evade their duties. CDS is now a joke or talking forum, no action. Reform is necessary, but the question is 'will it be made'

    5. How has it positively impact the lives of young. Well to me the only achievement is dt it has afforded young Nigerians d opportunity to know other states of the nation… Just a tourism/adventurous experience for youths

    6. It has bn reduced to mere political programme to further frustrate young Nigerians n to while away their time that supposed to be used for productive ventures

    7. @ Bimbo. Pls, share the great time u claimed to have during your service n of what benefit to you as a person? And pls share the great time with other millions of youths in the scheme. You will see the result for yourselve

    8. No need to get personal

      I simply said I had a great time. I served when it still made sense to serve.

      Actually, I think the system needs a overhauling, but I also believe our mindsets needs to change as well. If one has a preconcieved negative idea about the service year, the human mind will never appreciate the opportunities inherent in it.

    9. nigeria for now,is not worth dying for.i lost a friend in bauchi n the only thing gov yuguda could say was 'it's his destiny'.scrap nysc or regionalize it.

    10. nigeria for now,is not worth dying for.i lost a friend in bauchi n the only thing gov yuguda could say was 'it's his destiny'.scrap nysc or regionalize it.

    11. @ Bimbo. Nobody is taking your comment personal bt let's just be realistic once. I am not comfortable when sth seems to go in a wrong way. Ok

    12. Well everyone is correct one way or the other but if we shld look at it critically they deserved to be paid,i believed everyone here got their allawy when ƔỢ̥Ʊ were corps member,scraping or no scraping present issue shld be dealt With first.

    13. @emmanuel: take a critical look at all government agencies and ask: which one shouldn't be scrapped! if we take a knife to government agencies, just a few would remain.

  9. Good work again Akin,I totally agree the NYSC policy should be reviewed,this delusion that it fosters unity is jejune. We must devise other means. Also,I share your feeling about Prof Sofoluwe,he was a family friend & was an amiable and gracious gentleman. God bless his soul.

  10. Quite frankly this piece lacks objectivity. Its just a mere ejaculation from a potential Reuben Abati. He's not proven the economic/political effect of removing NYSC. To disguise his subjective claim he insults the potential person who disagrees. He makes no strong points to convince merely sound bites, cliches and wordisms. Ynaija needs a good editor to throw rubbish disguised as big talk.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail