The first Director General of the National Youth Service Corps, Colonel Ahmad Ali said it was a very tough moment commencing the Scheme in 1973.
The medical doctor, military officer and politician, Ali, who played host to the current Director General, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim at his office in Abuja recently said that piloting the affairs of NYSC from the scratch was the most challenging time of his career.
He said “President Gowon invited me and told me he had absolute confidence in my ability to start the scheme. He gave me copies of youth programmes gathered from across the world and told me to study them as a guide, then come up with a blue print of what NYSC should look like. I did just that and today am happy the template I developed has produced a scheme that Nigerians are proud of.
“Another challenge was the protest staged by undergraduates all over the country, resisting the establishment of NYSC. They erroneously perceived government’s motive as a deliberate plan to delay them from picking up readily available jobs. Some parents on the other hand supported the students’ move out of fear that their children were being deployed to strange lands to be killed. This was probably because as you are aware, the scheme was launched in the wake of the civil war.”
Ali full of optimism assured his guest that the faint clamour from some quarters for the scrap of NYSC will continue to jam brick walls because the scheme has now become a darling to Nigerians, owing to its matchless records in grooming youths for leadership, as well as its contributions to national unity, integration and development.
Earlier, the present Director General narrated how challenging it is today to cope with the growing population of prospective Corps members, which he attributed to the proliferation of corps producing institutions.
More worrisome according to General Ibrahim is the recent discovery that some universities, mostly from African countries are presenting to NYSC for mobilization names of people who never went through the four walls of academic institutions of higher learning.
“Sir, as we speak, we are investigating some of these so-called graduates. Most of them can’t make a sentence in English either verbally or in writing. The desperation by Nigerian youths to be mobilized for service is a clear departure from what you experienced at your time. This underscores how prominent NYSC has now become.
“Sir, while I pray to God to grant you longer life to witness more glorious days of the scheme you practically gave birth to, I assure you that I am fully committed to seeing that the NYSC Act is followed strictly in our operations.”