If you think that Honourable Abudulkadri, the Minister of Youth, is wrong is saying NYSC participants must be posted to the terrorism affected states of Northern Nigeria, think again. Let’s not go the direction of fact, that the average Nigerian politician has exported all his/her children abroad and when they return to serve, they will be safely posted to Lagos and Abuja. Let’s focus on Abdulkadri speaking as a minister of the Federation, and must uphold the law of the land.
The Minister may be wrong, but his assumption of right is based on a literal reading of the constitution, which says every state of the federation must have NYSC participation. If the law essentially says that you cannot exclude a state from the programme, then one cannot simply stop posting to the states with terrorist violence without contravening the laws of the nation. In that light, the minister could have had a point.
However, Nigeria as it presently stands is facing a situation the military government, which decreed NYSC upon generations of unborn Nigerians, anticipated. They probably never foresaw a satiation where sectarian violence/terrorism annexed an entire section of the country without a strong response from the leaders of the Federal Republic. They probably never foresaw a Nigeria where the leadership plays politics with treason, and a direct assault on the existence of over 40 million citizens who live under the protection of the Federal Republic.
Because the military leaders did not foresee GEJ, or Abdulkadri, they put what is essentially an unbreakable bond on the laws establishing the NYSC. Yes, a major amendment could take NYSC away, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. The political capital that would normally be required for such exercises would never be wasted on NYSC, when more pressing subjects like tenure elongation, state creation (to increase access to the national cake) and cassava bread exist.
The reality remains – scrapping NYSC is not going to be easy. The law is clear on that in Section “315(5)(a)- Nothing in this constitution shall invalidate NYSC decree & it shall not be altered/repealed except as in s.9(2).”
But Abdulkadir is wrong. The doctrine of necessity, which essentially brought this government into power in the first instance, could be adopted in the following ways:
- A parliamentary resolution suspending NYSC posting to such states temporarily until the security conditions improve, or
- NYSC does an auto/opt-in mass redeployment from those states, which ensures that the constitution is not breached, but thousands of young Nigerians are not fed to violence.
The other reality that Abdulkadir has overlooked in that the terrorists up North are running on a platform of eliminating Christians and Western Education. A great deal of these young people are Christians, and they are ALL educated with ‘western’ certificates. This marks them out to be prime targets.
So why are we sending these young people to potentially become cannon fodder? We may never know the logic of the Nigerian leadership, but the reality is that the minister in charge of NYSC has stated that there is no turning back in the status quo (credit to the National Assembly, which had earlier said ‘corpers’ can’t be posted, although they now need to do more in order to prevent the minister having his way).
So we are nwt faced with an NYSC program which cannot be scrapped, and the leadership has refused to amend. We are also faced with the need to prevent our young people being slaughtered by purveyors of violence, and only one option remains: breaking the NYSC.
Despite its seeming all powerful nature, NYSC remains at its core, a voluntary program. One you cannot be drafted against their will – the consequences for opting out are quite difficult to ignore, but it is a voluntary programme. It is this window that could be exploited by graduates, parents and state politicians to break the program.
Although many parents are the reason graduates cannot opt out of NYSC, even more parents are beginning to rethink the value of the programme. These doubting parents should support their children to stay out of NYSC, and make their support public. If we have a decent number of parents and graduates voluntarily staying out of NYSC, it will encourage other parents sitting on the fence to make up their minds and keep their children out, if they are posted to the violence prone states (VPS).
Parents and graduate also need to work with their state executives and representatives to push for a ban on posting their graduates to the VPS. This may not happen, but will give significant political covering for the graduates. The state governments could also offer to place them in their service, should they redeploy.
Ultimately, if a significant number of graduates refuse to ‘go north’, or opt out of the NYSC, it would break the fundamentals of the program, embarrass the officials who insist on the relevance of the program, and compel them to act. If a big fraction of NYSC members redeploy to their own states, the entire purpose of the program (regarding the mythical national integration and unity) will be defeated.
Maybe then, something will be done.
Unfortunately, the biggest loser in this is Northern Nigeria, which needs as many ‘corpers’ as possible to fill the teacher gaps which exists in their schools. However, the answer lies in a simple phrase: existence before essence.