Saturday, April 16, 2011


The bomb blast on the eve of the parliamentary elections at the INEC office at Suleja might have come and gone, leaving victims in mortuaries or bleeding in hospital beds, but the families of the five NYSC corps members killed by the blast will always live to remember that day and their loss forever.
It is regrettable that the country has sunk to the level of anarchy and senseless bloodletting, and innocent people are being sent to their early graves. It even hurts more that the youths who have been at the receiving end of the Nigeria’s retrogression have now become sacrificial lambs for those who have vowed to turn Nigeria into a wasteland should their ambitions suffer defeat. The five NYSC corps members who died in last Friday blast like most Nigerian youths went through an epileptic educational system in the hope of a better future for them and their families, but the country once failed them.

The deaths of these five corps members bring to memory all the other deaths of promising young Nigerians who were killed or were victims of some harm during their mandatory one year service. It is hard to forget the three young men who were massacred during the Jos crisis in 2008 or the female corps member who was raped and killed in 2009 while serving in Bornu as she went looking for dinner. It is confusing that the government is prepared to continue dancing around the safety of the youth corps members without making any concrete plan to provide a solution to these crimes perpetrated against them. It is even more galling that they are made to serve their father land for free, only to be killed for nothing. Let us not forget that the government which asks so much from these youths did not contribute in any way to their education. In a country where there is hardly any educational grant, I find it highly irresponsible for the proponents of NYSC scheme to argue for its continued existence without taking into consideration the plight of families that have struggled to send their children to school despite the harsh times, only to lose them in gruesome circumstances. The anguish of a father or mother who labours under the unforgiving sun to provide education for their children cannot be imagined in the event of their untimely death. Why should the ordinary citizen be made to sacrifice his child while many Nigerian leaders with bloated stomachs send their children to posh schools outside the country, and away from the possibility of being blown apart by bombs?

While several communities profit from the presence of these corps members, the same cannot be said for the corps members themselves. Many have to endure the lack of basic amenities when they are sent to some remote areas to render service to their father land. They risk hostile communities to impart whatever knowledge they gained in the university to their hosts. And at the end of the day, there is no guarantee that their efforts will be rewarded. If they are lucky, they finish their service year alive.

The government has to go back to the drawing board as regards the NYSC scheme. The scheme was meant to be a vehicle for national unity upon its inception in May 1973 by the then military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. It was meant to broaden our understanding of the different cultures abound this country. However, the decline of the country’s socio-economic strength has seen a drastic change in the quality of the scheme. In those days, NYSC corps members represented the future of the nation and were treated with respect by their host communities. They were given comfortable quarters and paid allowances that mostly met their needs. At the end of their service year, they were sure of job offers. They could even afford to choose where what companies to work for. Presently, the story is not the same. Now NYSC corps members have assumed a new status in the country. They have become martyrs.

The president may have meant well in his condolence speech following the bomb blast in Suleja, but I don’t understand why these young corps members had to be the ones to sacrifice their lives for Nigeria. Was it not bad enough that most of them came from families that live below one dollar a day while our politicians award themselves ridiculous salaries and allowances? Why can’t our leaders themselves give their own children to be martyrs? The government has not been responsible enough to its citizens to demand such a heavy task from them. Most parents who do not bear such titles as “honourable” and “senator” or even “president” hope to see their children grow up to become success stories. They put in time, effort and money into the education of their children to ensure that those children achieve the education that might have eluded some of them. Since the government cannot live up to its task of moving the economy forward or raising the standard of living in the country, then the government should at least allow these parents enjoy their children who mean everything to them. If the NYSC has become a vehicle of death and sorrow, then something must be done about the scheme. The government must either provide adequate security to corps members or scrap the scheme altogether.

Nigerian parents do not train their children to become martyrs. If it were so, they certainly didn’t need to work themselves like animals so their children can have better lives. As for the unfortunate corps members, I doubt that they had any plan to offer their lives for Nigeria. An unwilling martyr is no martyr. He or she is merely a victim. So to correct the president, the youth corps members who were killed were victims and not martyrs. They were victims of a corrupt leadership that has no vision for its youths. President Goodluck Jonathan may want to really look again at the faces of those parents who have lost their children. Those are not people who deserved to lose their children just so they can be called martyrs. These are hard working Nigerians who do not have the luxury of luck. They will rather have their children alive than sacrifice them to a country that has never done anything for them. They will rather have children than martyrs. If the president doubts this, he should ask himself what he wants for his own children.

1 comment:

  1. The masses always bear the brunt of pain in safeguarding the interest of the political class, which translates to National interest. The bones of the powerless class always form the foundation in Nation Building everywhere, and in Our Own Dear MotherLand.


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