The Fear of Boko Haram

NYSC members during a parade
NYSC members during a parade

Fear grips many graduates of Nigeria’s higher institutions as to where their NYSC posting will take them in view of the Boko Haram insurgence ravaging some northern states

|  By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jun. 10, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

JUSTIN Nduka was excited in February 2011 when he was posted to Bauchi State for his National Youth Service Corp, NYSC, scheme. His excitement was spurred by the fact that the NYSC scheme would afford him an opportunity to visit other parts of the country outside Benin in Edo State, where he has lived from childhood. “I was eager to serve and I prayed to be posted to a state I have never been to. I wanted to see other parts of this country, so when my letter came and I saw Bauchi, I was very excited,” Nduka said.

Few months after his posting to Bauchi, Nduka regretted his decision to have gone that far. He almost lost his life in the post election violence that erupted in Bauchi and other northern states that year. “After what I went through that year, I won’t advise anybody to serve in that state again. Other corps members and I had to run through bush paths to escape when we heard that some angry youths were killing corps members,” shye said.

Peretimi Apeli, a graduate of Niger Delta University in Bayelsa State is another youth corps member who luckily escaped being lynched by irate youths who were protesting the outcome of the 2011 presidential elections in Katsina. Like most of his colleagues, he lost everything except a faded shirt, a pair of trouser and the bathroom slippers he was wearing before the mob came. “It was around 10:30 am. I was in front of the house when a guy ran into our lodge and told everyone there to run for their lives. As we were running into the car outside, I saw the mob. I saw death. That we are alive is by God’s grace because if they had met us in the house, they would have killed us all.”

Unlike Judith and Peretimi who live to tell stories of their escape, some NYSC members were not so lucky. Official report confirmed that about nine of them died while many others were injured and displaced.

Since the killing of some corps members during the ethno-religious crises in Jos in 2009, there have been calls from several quarters for a review of the NYSC scheme. The post election violence once again brought the issue of the desirability of the scheme to the front burner as many people began to ask questions about its relevance. The attack and eventual killing of some corps members who were recruited by the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, as ad-hoc staff by irate youths protesting the results of the presidential election, renewed calls for the proscription of the scheme which seeks to promote national unity.

Youth Corp members at the Lagos camp
Youth Corp members at the Lagos camp

While some support the idea of reviewing the scheme, others are calling for its proscription. Roseline Ikewenji, whose three children are undergraduates, opined that scrapping the scheme was a viable option if the government cannot guarantee the security of those serving outside their states. “There is no parent who will want his child to be posted to a place where they will be killed. If government cannot guarantee the security of our children, let them scrap the program.  How do you expect a parent to feel after spending so much money to train a child in school only to lose that child because he is serving his fatherland?”

But James Usen, another parent, posits that scrapping the NYSC scheme may not be the best option as it is the only scheme that can foster national unity. He said:  “Scrapping the scheme because of what happened in recent times would amount to throwing away the baby with the bath water. As far as I’m concerned, the NYSC scheme is one of the best things that has happened in this country. May be what we need to do is to restructure the system by posting people to their geo-political zones, but scrapping the scheme is definitely not a good idea”

After the post election crises, there were suggestions that Bauchi and other states where corpers were killed should be de-listed from the scheme. But there have also been cases of attacks against corp members in other states, an indication that corpers are at risk everywhere. For students who have just been mobilized for the next batch of the NYSC which begins next month, it is a mixed grill. While some look forward to being posted to any part of the country, a few others are not willing to take the risk.

Esovarhe Amena, a graduate of Delta State University, Abraka, said he would prefer to seek exemption from the scheme than to be posted to Borno, Adamawa and other volatile parts of the country. “Serving our fatherland is a good thing but by doing so, we should not put our lives in danger. If I am posted to Borno or Adamawa state, I will ask for an exemption letter because I don’t want to die.” Brenda Obi, another graduate of the institution, said she looks forward to serving as long as she will be posted to a state within the southern and western parts of the country.

As the next batch of corps members eagerly awaits their postings, it remains to be seen what the future of the NYSC scheme will be.

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