Joseph Udofia: My NYSC Experience (Part 1)

THE DIGNITY OF THE SCHEME

The stamping of footsteps during parades, the early morning drills, the regimented schedules among others, were the hallmark of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Camp. The training, administered by highly disciplined soldiers strives at instilling a high level of discipline into members of the NYSC. One can only expect that Corps Members discharge their 11- month long duties with the highest level of discipline and dignity.

However, a few months after discharge from the 3-week long Camp, this dignity is called into question.

Corps Members, often called “Corpers”, seen as a Paramilitary organisation should command a lot of respect – The type bestowed upon soldiers. In some cases, this is true. In my Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) for example, the Uniform means you get to ride on motorcycles across military check Point while others get to push their motorcycles across the check point. The uniform invites salutes from members of the Community, amidst chants of “Corper, Corper” from all angles. The uniform means your employer can trust you to deliver when called upon to do so. The uniform means you are a government property and if anyone dares lift a finger against a you, a battalion of soldiers will be at your doorstep in seconds – well that is the general saying. In some other communities, the uniform is nothing more than a covering.

In some communities, corps members are seen as government property in a different light, like many government controlled schemes – abandoned and neglected. This translates to reduced fares, lifts and some free gifts which are not necessarily dignifying. Corps members go as far as standing on highways, putting themselves in harm’s way in search of lifts from strangers, to their destination. Worse still, Corpers turn themselves to bootlickers, paying unsolicited courtesy calls to important dignitaries in the community, in a bid to eat the crumbs from their table.

I partook in the electioneering process that brought in the present administration. While the process was adjudged free and fair, it could have been fairer. In the build up to the elections, several political parties held meeting with Corps members, who were to be Presiding Officers for the elections, doling out tens of thousands of naira, to swing results in their favour. As the adage goes, he who pays the piper dictates the tune.

The dignity of the scheme is also called into question due to the ridiculously low stipends paid as monthly allowances to corps members. N19,800 an amount, considered too low to sustain Corpers for a month, forces members to engage in illegal activities just to make ends meet. While I took on teaching jobs to increase the size of my pocket, it wasn’t unusual to see Adejobi Adeola, switch names to Barinedum Koate in order to be enlisted to partake of the N600,000 given out by Shell Nigeria to every indigene of the Bodo and B/Dere Communities of Ogoniland, as compensation for oil spillage.

The NYSC Officials are not left out. In my PPA for instance, the Local Government Inspector often handpicked females to be the Corper Liason Officer (CLO). The reason was not far-fetched. The Local Government Officials and powerful members of the community usually need a little booty-shaking to stir them to support the Corpers financially. While every corps member reported to the Local Government Council on NYSC uniforms, our beautiful CLOs appeared in erogenous garments. Well who knows, maybe they are not erogenous, just maybe I need to keep up with the latest fashion trends.

While some others have defied this terrible trend and truly upheld the dignity of the scheme, a lot need to be done to preserve the scheme from being brought to disrepute. My senior colleague at my PPA painted the school in 2013, a colleague and I set up a Reference Library, a junior colleague plans to donate computers to the school among others. People in other places are making positive contributions in other to preserve the motto of the scheme – Service and Humility.

The dignity of the scheme is under threat and a lot needs to be done to address these issues before it is too late. A stitch in time they say, saves nine.

 

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