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The National Youth Service Corps has come under scrutiny in recent times regarding its relevance in the scheme of things in the country. Some stakeholders have consequently advocated for its scrapping. However, this position was countered by some schools of thought, who argued that the NYSC remains critical in the scheme of things in the country.
Another area of discourse is the involvement of the NYSC in elections in the country. It has also been argued that the participation of corps members in elections in the country has exposed them to harm, as evident in the unfortunate incident in 2011 where some corps members lost their lives as a result of electoral violence that characterised the elections in some parts of the country.
Consequently, this medium sought the views of stakeholders with regards to the role of the NYSC in nation-building and specifically in midwifing credible elections in Nigeria.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a program set up by the Nigerian government to involve Nigerian graduates in nation-building and the country’s development. There is no military conscription in Nigeria, but since 1973 graduates of universities and later polytechnics have been required to take part in the National Youth Service Corps programme for one year.
Over the years, the scheme has evolved to play roles in some aspects of national life. One of such roles is the participation of youth corps members in elections as Adhoc staff. According to Igwe Ude, a youth empowerment advocate, he stated that the NYSC as an institution had played a critical role in the socio-economic development of Nigeria. He further asserted that there is a need for the government to continue to evolve strategies that would maximise the potentials of youths across the country.
“The NYSC is a critical component in nation-building in Nigeria. Its contribution to national development has been outstanding. Take the example of corps members as ad-hoc staff during elections. That is very critical if we must admit. Let us imagine how elections would have been without the involvement of corps members as ad-hoc staff.”
Bamidele Alolanle, a development expert, corroborated this view; he posited that the NYSC scheme has been contributing positively to sustainable growth and development in Nigeria. He averred that the challenge is that most people still see the NYSC in light of the ’80s, where the focus was exclusively that of national integration.
“The NYSC has evolved over the years into a scheme that addresses some of the contemporary challenges in the country. The recent drive with regards to skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development is a point to note. This is aside from the involvement of corps members in the conduct of elections in the country. The recent elections in Anambra state provide us with a good example of how critical the NYSC is in the conduct of elections. There was footage of the NYSC DG moving around the state encouraging corps members to give their best without compromising.”
This medium was able to gather from reliable sources that the management of the NYSC has been emphasising nonpartisanship on the part of corps members during elections. According to information collected from sources in the NYSC secretariat, it was revealed that before elections, the NYSC management sensitizes corps members on the rules of engagement during elections.
A top management staff of the NYSC, who pleaded anonymity, stated that the management of NYSC has continually emphasized fairness in the discharge of their duties during elections due to its critical role in the credibility of the electoral process in the country.
“If we recall, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would continue to use members of National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) for the conduct of elections in the country because corps members had contributed enormously to recent success and improvement in the overall conduct of elections in Nigeria.”
“This is informed by empirical evidence on how the NYSC has been instrumental to the success of elections in Nigeria. I can tell you that under the new dispensation, the DG of the NYSC has been outstanding in ensuring that the NYSC remains a partner in progress in the conduct of elections in Nigeria through numerous innovations and the Anambra elections provides us with an example that saw the DG on the ground in Anambra state to supervise the participation of corps members during the elections. This is a first and an indication of how dexterous the DG can be with regards to the operations of the NYSC.”
In a statement credited to the DG of the NYSC during the Anambra elections, he stated that corps members had written their names in the annals of history, having contributed towards the entrenchment of the credible electoral process. He enjoined them to remain impartial and perform their duties in line with the established rules.
In a similar vein, the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, commended the involvement of the NYSC in general elections in Ekiti State. He stated that Ekiti was adjudged the freest and fairest; this was made possible because of the cooperation of stakeholders to deliver on their mandates, especially the NYSC.
This medium concludes that the role of the NYSC in midwifing credible elections in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized, and it is hoped that the relevant stakeholders continue to extend support to the scheme in the fulfilment of its mandate.