Lekan Olanrewaju: Let’s talk NYSC [NEW VOICES]

by Lanre Olanrewaju

I’ve spent the better part of the past week listening to my friend do some variation of ranting about his NYSC registration. We cycled from understandable problems  (passport photo too small) to logical (passport photo too large) to inexplicable (passport background not white when it actually is white).

Of course, having gone through the process, (or something even more convoluted, involving an online upload of several documents followed by a trip to Abuja to deliver said documents in person to a person behind a computer looking at the already uploaded digital versions) there’s the sense that all of this is just a preface to what is to come – that figuring out what states to claim you’ve visited, in a bid to have them possibly excluded from your posting options, exists solely to prepare you for the running around you’re going to need to perform in search of an exeat (if you’re so inclined). That when buttons on the form on the NYSC website don’t click, it’s only a precursor to camp registration officials refusing to attend to people (because they’re bored, tired, or just aren’t in the mood.) But have no fear, because it’s all fun. You’ll have the time of your life. Or so they tell you.

And to be fair, in its own unique – for want of a term more encompassing- way, it is. But boozy nights punctuated with dancing to loud music and the ingestion of drugs are hardly the sort of fun you’d need to scour the ends of the earth to encounter anywhere else. Plus, fun isn’t really the point, right? Unity, learning more about our country, preparing to fully enter the job market, these are the lofty heights to which the achievements of NYSC hope to reach. But, as a holder of a hard-earned (several clearances later, countless cds meetings skipped and/or walked out on, nursing sinusitis, all under the sun and/or in the rain) discharge certificate, I’m hard pressed to say any of those had any bearing on my life today.

I could also say the same for many around me. But, we get it;we can ask “what is the point?” ten times over (and we have) but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Maybe we’re missing something. I’ve heard stories of people who find a way to work the system and “serve” year after year, as the monthly allowance is a far better option for them than the prospect of unemployment they’d be dealing with otherwise. I hardly believe our leaders intend for NYSC to function in this manner but who knows? Perhaps the entire process would be better served in an incarnation whose sole aim was to deliver money to people most in need of it. Truth be told I don’t know many people who want it gone, even though that’s more likely due to the conviction that everyone else who can, must “suffer” what they did while serving Nigeria.

I will say this, though, if nothing else, the process is probably the best learning experience about Nigeria anyone can get. Filling 12 different forms with the same information will teach you that Nigeria’s red tape is also knotted on itself in inextricable ways. Being told you cannot register a next-of-kin as an emergency contact (after already doing that on 11 forms – same information, red tape) will make you start to consider there might be some truth to Reuben Abati’s recent suggestions that all sense and logic as far as Nigeria is concerned have been trapped in a calabash somewhere.

And there’s nothing more likely to restore your faith in the future of your country, than being able to find one person who’s gone through the process with their patriotism and optimism intact.

Lekan is a media professional and enthusiast with a passion for storytelling and building innovative platforms. He has served as Features Editor and Associate Producer with Generation Y!, in addition to working as a screenwriter, with credits including Mnet’s Tinsel and Hotel Majestic, and EbonyLife TV’s Dowry.

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