by Usman Alabi
True to the NYSC anthem, it was the clarion call they answered to, it was not convenient for them in any way to travel from the south of the country to the north – especially in the case of Udeme Sunday and Ifedolapo Oladepo. But the question we should all answers is this: did the nation which they gave their all heed their own call when they needed help? This is especially visible in the case of Oladepo, she tried her best to convey her message even in a helpless situation, holding on to life, but somehow the system let go off the rope… as usual.
Their death is avoidable, Ifedolapo held on for several hours, tried to reach out to her own people when the Scheme failed her, but she could not hold on forever; Udeme who died in Zamfara never wanted to go in the first place, call it a premonition, but irrespective of our thoughts, his premonition was borne out of the understanding of the context and efficacy of the NYSC scheme. The same for Elechi who died earlier in the Bayesla camp. Udeme died after suffering from diarrhea, Ifedolapo’s case became complicated when she was reportedly administered an unknown injection at the camp, Elechi was said to have died from bleeding and vomiting.
A critical look at the NYSC camp would reveal a scheme that has nothing in stock for the welfare of the corps members. Everything good about the NYSC scheme is more in books than in reality. Most of the camps are located in remote communities that are far away from standard medical centres. The Scheme in each state is haphazardly organized, especially at the level of the orientation camp, there is no competent or experienced medical officer who coordinates the activities of the camp doctors, there are no emergency arrangements, there is no qualified resident doctor or doctors and most times, the scheme in each state does not even have any immediate arrangement with hospitals to cater for any unforeseen circumstances.
The so called doctors that attended to Ifedolapo in the camp were also corps members like her. Yet it is the number of cases a medical doctor has handled and experienced that determines competence. A typical NYSC sick bay is just an austere room with few beds and first aid box. The so called doctors are fellow corps members who are just leaving medical school and have little or no experience when it comes to handling much more complicated cases.
Sometimes we wonder if our leaders still believe in the NYSC scheme. The response system in the NYSC camps across the country is nothing to write home about, everything that Ifedolapo wrote back home, this can only happen in a country where you would have to book an appointment to see a common local government chairman or even a counselor, or else, one wonders if the camp is too big for the State coordinator who is resident within the period to monitor, even if it were the sick bay he makes a priority, things like this would have been averted. But most times, the state coordinator is holed up in his or her office.
Then we talk about the tedious exercises that are not fit for every corps members, the dilapidated infrastructures within the camps. Corps members sometimes have to come with their own bed or even buy one. The camp toilets, food, and water are nothing to write home about. The state of most of the orientation camps coupled with the strenuous drills could cause ailment. According to reports, Udeme suffered from diarrhea before his death. Diarrhea is an infectious disease which could be caused by food poisoning.
It is high time we rethink the NYSC scheme because it is no longer orientation camps but death camps; the death of the three corps members is one which is avoidable if the necessary things had been put in place. Rethinking the NYSC scheme has to be a holistic one, and it is important that in the process, we must not continue to sacrifice the life of young people on the stable of gross incompetence.
If we had the opportunity to choose between the lives of these three heroes and the NYSC scheme, we would not hesitate to do away with the scheme. The bottom line is, if the scheme is no longer expedient or has served its purpose and no longer needed, we should bid it farewell.