I was on the phone talking to one of my former students and a friend who has just been posted to Kano state for NYSC when I decided to make this appeal to the National Assembly and GEJ’s administration. My friend said he has not slept since he picked up his posting letter. His family has warned him not to go to Kano. His cousins in Kano are concluding plans on how to relocate from Kano and have told him that he is on his own. So, why should he risk his life embarking on a journey to the dreaded Kano? Why should Southerners take the big risk of ‘serving’ in the North? It doesn’t follow common sense. So, I came up with ten reasons why the Federal Government must stop sending Southerners to the North.
1. First, the slogan “Youths obey the clarion call; Under the sun or in the rain” is for an enthusiastic copper looking forward to the adventure of National Youth Service and not for one scared of kids in his neighborhood even in the school where he is conducting his primary assignment.
2. The backbone of Decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973, establishing NYSC which was “encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity” is no longer tenable under the present spate of targeted bombings by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. The ties are broken and a big question mark hanging over the unity.
3. The gruesome images of Coppers that were senselessly killed as the fallout to the 2011 presidential election in Bauchi and other northern states would have been enough for a proactive National Assembly and administration to restructure or scrap NYSC.
4. A couple of weeks ago, we saw a dress rehearsal of what reappraisal attack will look like in Kaduna. The spate of recent bombing is a pointer that Kaduna and Kano in particular and all northern states are just disasters waiting to happen.
5. If southerners that have lived in Kano, Kaduna and other northern states for years are fleeing the states for their safety, common sense warrants that fresh graduates should not be offered for sacrifice in the name “serving Nigeria.”
6. In 2004, Olusegun Obasanjo said that any Nigerian who was not prepared to die for the country did not deserve to be a Nigerian citizen. If what it takes to be a Nigerian citizen is to sacrifice the lives of young graduates, these graduates will rather prefer to be living citizens of their states than dead citizens of a dying Nigeria.
7. The NYSC objective of trying to “inculcate in Nigerian Youths the spirit of selfless service to the community” can be actualized in any part of Nigeria even in one’s own state.
8. The NYSC objective of emphasizing “the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background” has been defeated by Boko Haram elements under the watchful eyes of elites and governors from the North.
9. The slogan “Nigeria is ours and Nigeria we serve” that we are forced to memorize at the orientation camps across the country runs contrary to the reality of everyday governance in Nigeria. Nigeria belongs to the crooks at the national and state assemblies and government houses and not the youths. So, why ‘serve’ to be killed then?
10. I agree with Mr. Bola Ige who once said that he was sure that Nigeria was worth living for but he was not so sure that it was worth dying for. My friend who has just been posted to Kano feels that way too. Mr. Ige eventually died ‘serving’ Nigeria but I don’t want my friend to die too.
From recent events regrettably, it is clear that the Nigerian government is incapable of saving a life. Whoever is responsible for sending Southerners to the north to be slaughtered may not “give a damn” but I do.
The real problem with Nigeria is that we make “a lot of noise” after avoidable national disaster and calamity and then go to sleep. The resent clash of DANA airline 6 years after Sosoliso is still fresh. As the latest batch of Corpers start their ‘orientation’ across Nigeria this week, most of us have forgotten about the premeditated killings of Coppers in Bauchi state last year. The relocation of orientation camp for Corps members posted to Borno and Yobe States to Adamawa is not enough as no state in the North (including Adamawa) is safe for Southerners as recent spate of killings have shown (maybe with the exception of Benue, Taraba and Kogi states).
Finally, we don’t have to wait for another senseless killing to do what we can do now. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and the National Assembly should not relax in their safe havens in Abuja and eat ewedu and pounded yam as fresh Nigerian graduates from the South embark on another risky ‘National Service’ in the North. They should therefore be proactive and immediately restructure/scrap the program or simply stop sending Southerners to the North.
In March 2011, I lost a cousin in Maiduguri and many Southerners can also recount their personal loss. Unnecessary death of Nigerians Coppers is avoidable. Going forward, I want every Nigerian to therefore hold the National Assembly and GEJ’s administration accountable for the life of every Youth Copper. A word they say is enough for the wise.