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Is NYSC Nigeria’s new beacon of hope?, by Kachifoo Nwobodo

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Is NYSC Nigeria’s new beacon of hope?, by Kachifoo Nwobodo

In a fascinating high drama that foreshadows the growing quest for a better country among Nigerians, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has become the moral icon for the Nigeria of our dream. Indeed, the service scheme which is celebrating its 50 years of existence this year has shown a remarkable hunger to point Nigeria towards the path of national renewal and ethical rebirth.

In the words of the great novelist, Chinua Achebe, “one of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” We all didn’t see it coming, but NYSC began its journey of acclamation with a blunt refusal to be compromised. And that is the point.

NYSC earned its weight in gold when it broke away from the well-worn path of fractured integrity that has defined government agencies in Nigeria. Resisting every subterranean attempt to compromise it, the scheme stood its ground at the recently concluded hearing of the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Enugu. It affirmed its earlier declaration that indeed, the NYSC discharge certificate submitted by governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State to INEC was not issued by it. In Nigerian terms, that act was against the run of play. It was a clear indication that NYSC had refused to cut a deal.

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However, long before the election petitions tribunals began to sit for hearings nationwide, NYSC had signaled its intention to take the path less trodden. Appearing as a guest on a national television, the Director General of the Scheme, Brigadier General Yusha’u Dogara Ahmed had put out a disclaimer on Mbah’s discharge certificate. Ahmed had remained resolute on his stand in spite of subtle threats and actual commencement of a defamation proceeding against him by Mbah and his minions in an attempt to intimidate NYSC into silence.

The deeper signification of this precious slice of modern Nigerian history is that at a time when all eyes are on the Judiciary to pull Nigeria back from the brinks, the NYSC, under Brigadier General Ahmed has deftly set the moral tone for government institutions vested with the authority to preserve public trust and reminded them that their first obligation is to Nigeria. The logic is therefore, if NYSC can stand to be counted at a critical intersection of Nigeria’s democratic journey, the Nigerian judiciary has been handed the moral boost to act on behalf of the people and save this nascent democracy. After all, if NYSC can show courage in the face of overwhelming intimidation, the judiciary must not flinch from the weight of history that will follow its judgments at the tribunals so long as their pronouncements align with the clamour from the overwhelming majority of the citizens. The course of justice would be said to have been served that way.

The truth is that Ahmed and his team have sent a strong warning to cutthroat politicians in the country, and their message is clear… that their allegiance is totally to Nigeria. In so doing, NYSC has raised flag for a better Nigeria and earned the confidence of the people. It has forced naysayers to accept that not everyone is on the take in Nigeria. And it might not even be stretching optimism too far to say that with the courage of institutions like NYSC, Nigeria might not be beyond redemption.

Truth be told; the overriding symbolism of NYSC’s courageous stand against Peter Mbah’s attempt to spit on the Nigerian constitution is the metaphor of the mushroom. It signposts the inevitability of hope. Hope is like a mushroom which grows out of the decay and rot of dead things. So, out of the morass of eroded values and paper-thin integrity of typical Nigerian institutions, the NYSC stands out as the symbolic mushroom; sturdy and firm, untouched by the swirl of grime and filth around it.

Nigeria needs more institutions like the NYSC. Institutions that will stand unscathed by the thief-catching theatrics of the Department of State Security (DSS) which sent its retired personnel to defend Mbah and point feeble fingers at the NYSC. In saner climes, Yusha’u Dogara Ahmed would be given a medal of honour for doing a great job while the DG of the DSS, Yusuf Magaiji Bichi would be compelled to explain the shameful subterfuge of sending a demobilized officer to do the dirty job of defending a brazen violation of the Nigerian constitution by the governor of Enugu State.

Nwobodo writes from Nara, Unateze.

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