President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been riddled with scandal after scandal.
Mainagate, grass cutting, budget padding are just a few of the scandals which have completely muddied the pristine white agbada of anti-corruption Buhari rolled into office with. Last week, Kemi Adeosun, Nigeria’s Finance Minister joined the throng of cabinet ministers who’ve made a sham of their boss’ anti-corruption rhetoric.
Premium Times revealed that Mrs Adeosun did not undergo the compulsory one year service every Nigeria who intends to work in the country must, by law, do. Kemi Adeosun’s alleged crime did not just stop at neglecting to participate in the NYSC scheme but also went ahead to forge the NYSC certificate with which she picked up plum jobs like Managing Director of Quo Vadis Partnerships, Commissioner for Finance for Ogun State Government and eventually Finance Minister for the Federal Government, a crime which the Senate was supposedly aware of but let slide so they could blackmail the minister into doing their bidding.
The National Youth Service Corps Scheme was brought into being by Decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 following the wrecking ball effects of the Nigerian Civil War which pitted the Igbo tribe against the Nigerian government. The war which lasted for three years (July 6, 1967 to January 13, 1970), was triggered by a pogrom launched against the Igbos (and other persons of southern extraction) from May 1966 to September 1966 as retribution for the coup masterminded by Major Kaduna Chukwuma Nzeogwu, which saw to the assassinations of the federal prime minister and the premiers of the northern and western regions. During the entire stretch of the civil war, over one million persons lost their lives, especially due to hunger. By the time the war came to an end, nationhood was in fragments.
Yakubu Gowon, the Head of State, in a grasping attempt to put back together the splinters of national unity, initiated Decree No 24 which mandated every University graduate to give one year of their lives after graduation in service to the nation. This was the original intendment of the scheme.
“The purpose of the scheme is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian Youth the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasise the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background. The history of our country since independence has clearly indicated the need for unity amongst all our people, and demonstrated the fact that no cultural or geographical entity can exist in isolation.”
Going by the constant flare-up of ethnic crisis around the country, primarily the herdsmen menace which more than one person, including a former Army General, T.Y Danjuma described as ethnic cleansing, it’s hard to see how the NYSC scheme has made any progress on the united Nigeria front. Moreover, it wasn’t too long ago that a man supposedly made in the image of Ojukwu arose as the self-proclaimed leader of the Igbo tribe and thousands of Igbo rallied in support of his factional agenda.
Seeing as the NYSC scheme has pretty much failed in the primary objective for which it was set up, thriving more as a cesspool of corruption, where millions are budgeted for kits and the like but what corpers receive is worse than Made in Aba; where children from privileged homes can “work” their place of posting or avoid serving altogether and still come out with a valid NYSC certificate simply by money changing hands, it’s understandable that Mrs Adeosun wanted no part in it, preferring instead to polish her career profile in the United Kingdom.
Currently, the flaws of the mandatory national service far outweigh the benefits the founding fathers saw when the idea was first mooted.
While, the purpose of the scheme is “primarily to inculcate in Nigerian Youth the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasise the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background,” recent developments and events in the country has made this difficult.
The level of insecurity across the country is totally different from what was obtainable in the early years of the scheme, and most Nigerians want to as much as possible be far from the flashpoint of crime or perhaps, be in the nearest secure place.
The government is yet to tackle majority of the security challenges currently being experienced – insurgency/terrorism, kidnapping, communal clashes, banditry and most recently, the herdsmen/farmers crisis, in what appears like the geopolitical zones (in the North especially) wait on the other to experience its own share of the challenges, flowing from this, eligible graduates for the scheme have always found a way to avoid these areas or redeploy (illegally most times) when they are posted by the Corps to such places, and more often than not, monies change hands.
This is outside the many cases of deaths of young Nigerians killed from road crashes occasioned by bad roads while travelling long distances, incidences of riots like it happened in the North East after the 2011 Presidential elections where innocent Corp members were the target of the assailants and other situations where ‘Corpers’ are the primary target in conflicts as a result of dissatisfaction with election results, communal clashes, etc., or even cases of extrajudicial killings by overzealous law enforcement agents (as in the case of Linda Angela Igwetu killed in Abuja a day to her passing-out-parade recently).
With incidences as this, how then is the mind of the upcoming generation open to accept that we live in a united country?
It is almost safe to conclude that parents and guardians celebrate the successful return of their children home after the national service than any achievement their wards recorded prior to that time.
In addition to this is the massive rot that is entrenched in the system, so much so that there is a high level of resource mismanagement and corrupt practices in virtually every aspect of the scheme; from the transport allowance sent to corps members to report at their respective orientation camps, the quality of food offered to the corpers at the 3-week camp, to the payment of the monthly stipends popularly called ‘allawee’ where monies sometimes get missing during the payment cycles.
It is even estimated in certain quarters that N70,000 is set aside for every NYSC uniform kit, with the assumption the kit should work like a Navy Seal uniform which would expectedly be durable. But, the reality is quite different, despite the billions of naira appropriated to the body annually.
Most worrisome is the fact that the scheme has become a criterion to eliminate perfectly eligible candidates for jobs in reputable organisations, as it is impossible to even be considered to progress to positions of power in the civil service or public office without an NYSC discharge certificate, though it has nothing to do with competence.
The ensuing development is free labour for government and private companies as mandated servitude seems a fantastic yet exploitative resource for government parastatals and companies, who have no intentions of letting go.
That the NYSC as it is currently run today is a massive public sink cannot be over-emphasised, and in the opinion of many, the scheme appears to have not only being skewed to serve vested interests but has outlived its purpose, as successive administrations at the NYSC board have been unable to purge the scheme of the massive corruption that goes on there annually.
This leaves many in amazement as to why the government still holds on to the scheme and at same time pump billions into such a conduit for corruption?
As much as we want to use the ‘dangers’ many Nigerians encounter when embarking on the mandatory NYSC scheme to eclipse the gains, we can’t toss out the way that in some circumstances, it has been beneficial. Without mincing words, the NYSC is a period of self-assessment and an opportunity-ridden move far from our comfort zones.
Beginning from the time, corp members are at the orientation camp, or when the postings are released, opportunities begin to surface but, as is often the case, prejudices and ‘single stories’ of those areas and/or cultures begin to cloud our thinking.
To be completely honest, some may have great stories while others have terrible or offensive stories of the one-year encounter. However, regardless of what may have experienced during the scheme or the preferences many have about other ethnic groups, it doesn’t generally appear as it sounds. There’s always (unarguably) the feeling of mixed sentiments, aside from the individuals who clutch their biases and inefficient convictions to such an extent that they begin processing their way out of where they were initially deployed.
Corps members are the envy of many undergraduates. But, upon getting to camp, there’s a quick remembrance of the rechristening of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to Now Your Suffering Continues – a fallacious belief that strengthens our prejudices and puts a cloud over the rain of opportunities that usually falls on us; assurances you can say.
As a Nigerian citizen from Southern Nigeria, it usually sounds like a plague when the NYSC website gives such information as: “Congratulations, you have been posted to Jigawa” or vice versa. In actual fact, religious biases prominently push young graduates to seek redeployment. It is at this point that we desire that the whole system be changed. It is at this point that we also begin to find faults in the system and why the idea that birthed the scheme has been flawed.
The camp is a regimented experience. Corps members form new relationships and relate freely with one another; networking begins right from there. Most times, as people who have shrugged off dogmas, we do not allow ethnic or religious sentiments disturb our relationships. We alter or add to our beliefs, we understand that life partners could come out of such gatherings and so, we have to learn to interact (notwithstanding the background of the other person), we network, we find people who become our mentors, our teachers.
At this point, we still deal with situational or accidental friends but, we share happy moments, taunt each other, hand-off our prejudices so we are corrected, talk about things learnt in school – politics, pop cultures, our worries, our sex escapades, and most prominently, our cultures. It is in camp that we begin to comprehend that there’s no culture that is bad to the point that it’s without aesthetics.
With this new mindset (sometimes its pseudo), we enter our host communities with open minds, hoping to acquire new knowledge, hoping to expand our network base, hoping to break the jinx of the single stories that are passed on from others who are stiffed brained.
Why not? One of the reasons NYSC was founded was to ensure cultural integration, and the current Director-General of NYSC, Brigadier General Suleiman Kazaure, captures this when he charged corps members to learn the language of the host communities, learn other parts of the culture and ultimately leave their footprints as they leave for home.
During his visit in 2017 to corp members in Akwa Ibom Kazaure, said, “You are expected to initiate and execute a project. A project that will add value to your host community.
“First of all, access your community; look at the needs of the community. Is it water, health facility or signpost? Add value to your community of primary assignment.”
We cannot even begin to talk about the discounts that professional institutes hand to corps members. There is no gain thinking: “Since it’s just one year, I should be done with this nonsense and go home”.
It is in an attempt to leave a legacy that corps members strive to improve the living conditions of the people in host communities by initiating projects and helping in providing a more conducive environment, and some other great stories that are most times not reported.
NYSC is what you make of it. That ‘useless’ 1 year made me a solid broadcaster. I learned how to write, edit and read news. I made the leap into radio, I volunteered at a station to work/learn unpaid for 9 months.
And I built relationships that ensured I’m still employed today
— #Ubumuntu2018 🇷🇼 (@TheFavoredWoman) July 11, 2018
NYSC needs to be restructured not cancelled. 🤷🏽♀️
— 🌻omotoke🌻 (@Omotoksss) July 11, 2018
— NYSC SDGs CALABAR (@sdgcdscalabar) March 1, 2017
There is no perfection in any policy the world over, however, such things as the compulsory one year service is exactly what you make of it.
In listening to young people today (people who recently finished from University) you will see that to them, NYSC is just a sheer waste of time. They do not take it as seriously as they take school and even work. Words like “I’m not sure I want to do NYSC” or “It is just a waste of time”
Many entrepreneurs have found ways of avoiding the scheme entirely and the children of wealthy Nigerians jettison the whole thing by sometimes travelling for their Masters or relocating to another country – almost similar to the case of Adeosun.
Some other youth who have the time and heart, pose like they do it but do not really participate in the scheme. It is called ‘ghosting’ and it comes in different forms – it can be as flexible as the parties in agreement want it to be. NYSC ghosting has become a cash cow for NYSC officials and it is no doubt putting food on the table for many families. No form of ghosting can be done without the direct/indirect support of NYSC officials.
It is a situation whereby the Corp member arrives in camp, does the required registration and leaves the camp almost immediately. After camp, the Corp member most times give a percentage or full allowance to the NYSC official in turn for the Corp members absence from his/her NYSC duties. The benefit here is that the Corp Member at the time of the Passing Out Parade (POP), will get authentic documentation. Maybe Adeosun should have just ghosted – Nigerians do not frown on that.
Under the above confines, ghosting can be done in anyway and it is frankly a web of activities that cannot be truly curbed. There is also an absence of willpower for it to be curbed because that is how the officials make extra cash.
NYSC, in all honesty, has tried to make the scheme more attractive to Corp members and recent graduates with the introduction of the Skills Acquisition & Entrepreneurship Department (SAED). It has helped some in tailoring, cooking, software designing, etc. But the quality of the SAED program depends on the kind of location the Corp member is in. There will obviously be no Web Designing class for a Corp member in Saki-West Local Government in Oyo because of the level of development there.
The main thing Government can do to incentivise youth and recent graduates to participate fully in the NYSC scheme is to increase the allowance to at least ₦50,000, curb out all the organisational inefficiency in the system by making all processes faster, provide more social amenities for Corp members in developing states and suspend posting to states that are not safe or have security challenges. Perhaps they can make it even voluntary, or a payment fee for exemption (who knows).
However, NYSC has also done a decent job of giving Corp members options for choosing the states they will like to serve, but the key ingredient will have to be the salary increase. With that being said, majority of those invested in eradicating the scheme are from wealthy families, who see it as an unproductive use of time. A greater percentage of Nigerian youth, those from rural areas love the NYSC, and cannot wait to serve and dream about the ‘hefty’ ₦19800 currently paid by the scheme.
But, let’s not deny the fact that the situation of Adeosun allegedly forging her certificate is symptomatic of a bigger problem in Nigeria – that we value paper certificates even unrelated ones, over competence. Many Nigerians will wonder what this scandal will do to Adeosun. Will it ruin her otherwise career? There’s no shadow of a doubt that this forgery scandal will do next to nothing to hamper Adeosun‘s career. This is because Nigeria is not ready to make the hard decisions. We are not ready to enforce punitive measures for crimes committed. The number of those who have pillaged the country and are still walking free and are recognised in the international scene is a pointer to Adeosun’s fate.
The deafening silence from the minister on the issue suggests that she may be guilty and she knew fully well what she was doing before embarking on such a risk – an informed one. Adeosun understands that though the West and its friends, including the Arab world speak big about bringing an end to corruption in Africa, the reverse is the case. They are heavily invested in its continued existence. International Oil Companies (IOCs) have parleyed with government officials over the years to rob the nation of its oil. Shell and ENI were recently embroiled in an oil bloc scandal – OPL 245 – were the IOCs dolled out millions of dollars to top government officials, one of whom was said to be the immediate former president of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The Attorney-General at the time, Mohammed Adoke, who fled the county at the end of Jonathan’s tenure was caught on tape offering a bribe to Carlamaria Rumor, a female journalist with RAI Television in Italy. During the interview, Adoke was said to have admitted knowing that the $1.1bn oil deal was a scam.
“I was aware of the illegal fund diversion that was made,” Adoke said.
The former Attorney General who indicted a former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete added, “You need to understand that some oil, Malabu oil workers, some Italian oil workers collaborated with Etete and some people here to divert some of the funds to a foreign account. The money went to Etete, not only Etete, not only Etete, the money went both to Etete, some Italian oil companies, also involving the agreement and in the betrayal, uhm . . . some . . . also some other officials here in Nigeria, not only to Etete.”
French president, Emmanuel Macron recently asked Africans to stay in Africa, adding that the West is not going to develop Africa. As true as Macron’s statements are, his country is still entrenched in enslaving its former colonies, especially those in West and Central Africa. France has played a huge role in supplying weapons to governments, rebels and armed groups in some war-torn countries. And some of these deals which go through backdoor channels is funded by proceeds of corruption.
If Adeosun actually forged her NYSC certificate, then she took a gamble and could be disgraced publicly. If she survives the scandal, Adeosun already has the ear of the president and has made a lot of powerful and influential friends the world over. These ‘goodwill’ and relationships alone may bring more value and appointments to her in the future.