Every year, Nigeria’s tertiary institutions churn out graduates with ease. After graduation, it is expected of every graduate to serve their fatherland on a mandatory one-year service. Instead of seeking and securing employment, graduates embark on the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). According to the NYSC official site, it is stated unequally that “the NYSC scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile, and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil War.” Decree No. 24 of May 22, 1973, states that the NYSC was established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.” The NYSC has been a fulfilling and resourceful innovation for graduates who could utilize their service years to maximum effect.

During the service year, there are four cardinal programs: Orientation Course, which ushers graduates into the service year, progressing to primary assignment, and Community Development Service (CDS), also known as a secondary assignment. The last of the programs is “Winding Up/Passing Out.” Every corps member must pass through the listed segments to qualify for passing out at the end of the service year.

However, the service year for graduates in Nigeria has been a recurring decimal. Many youths now see service to their fatherland as a “waste of time and resources,” claiming that a year in service is akin to being “unproductive.” On June 22, 2023, Batch B Stream 2 Corps members were given their certificates for serving their fatherland for one good year. Their passing out is a thing to rejoice in and a step in the right direction in their various callings. Serving Nigeria in various Places of Primary Assignment (PPA) shows a great sense of responsibility. This means they are ready for the task ahead—even in this economic austerity we face. There are not many jobs that graduates will cherish and opt for to make a good and desirous living. We are faced with a hydra-headed monster of an unemployment rate in the country; the scourge of mass unemployment is a Pandora’s box as the nation tries to solve it.

Essentially, the primary purpose of the scheme is “to inculcate in Nigerian youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background.” The nation’s graduates are countless; therefore, they join the existing “bandwagon of unproductive labour.” During the service year, few graduates are fortunate to be retained after the one-year program. Apart from the PPA, there can also be other job openings in your community or state. But the menace of unemployment remains a problem to be solved.

The country’s unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in the first Quarter of 2023. This was contained in the National Bureau of Statistics Unemployment and Underemployment Report for the 1st Quarter of 2023. This implies that only four of every 100 Nigerians are unemployed, which is not the reality of what we can see in the country.

Going by the disclosures above, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme should go beyond mere integration of cultures or traditions, a payment of ₦33,000 monthly, which is not enough in this dire period, and the opportunity to visit and reside in another state apart from your state of origin, among other reasons. It is not an overstatement when you hear from youths, most especially corp members, when they advertently or inadvertently utter statements such as “the scheme is a waste of time; after graduating, you will go out and start searching for a job where there is none;” the scheme is enriching some corrupt government officials; and “I am not ready to serve Nigeria for one year while my mates are making money. I have been serving Nigeria since birth. What else?” among other utterances.

To be candid, few graduates have the nous to develop ideas that will galvanize them from the so-called myopic “white collar jobs” to being erudite entrepreneurs. The ₦33,000 stipend is nothing to write home about. It is poor, discouraging, and demeaning. In a contemporary world and advanced climes, a youth scheme like the NYSC will be promoted and assisted by empowering the youth to be great leaders in the foreseeable future and develop better in all ramifications.

You will be gobsmacked to see graduates after their NYSC contemplate what to do. Many need more creativity, using the available and immediate opportunities within their ambit and catapulting themselves to greatness. You will be abashed to see them lamenting, complaining, and rejecting that the government has been a debacle since they were born. Youths need to stand up, capitalize on the present economic challenges of the country, and develop themselves into world-class leaders who are always ready for the nation’s problems.

In this regard, the Director-General, Brig. Gen. Yushau Dogara Ahmed of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), and other stakeholders must widen the scope and endeavour to enshrine more dynamic and pragmatic vocational training into the scheme. This will ensure that corps members all over the country learn, develop, and become self-dependent after the scheme. It will interest you to know that there are a plethora of stories of former corps members who were able to utilize the opportunity given to them by acquiring various skills and vocational training during the service year.

Nigeria and the youth must rise to the present tasks. We can only solve our problems when we are ready, committed, and dogged towards our challenges. Therefore, a nation like Nigeria, with vibrant and viable youths, must not be told that we can only solve our problems by taking destiny into our own hands. Doing so will take us to our dreamland and help us compete strongly with other countries.