I write to you as a matter of necessity this day. I initially had the intention of living in self-pretence because of the seeming anomalies that are becoming norms in our country- in the case of NYSC, the suffering and smiling syndrome as sang by Fela- Nigeria’s unsung lyrical prophet.
Secondly, I thought that silence was golden, until I stumbled upon the time-honoured truism in the legal parlance- to every general rule, there must be an exception. The exception to the golden nature of silence in this case is that, this silence could be dangerous and destructive.
To start with sir, there is no time to leave you puzzling who the author of this letter is. I am a youth corp member who finished from the orientation sometimes ago. Sir, to furnish you with my name and other particulars for the sake of verification is not my fear, but I have decided to do otherwise because I have watched several longsuffering and passionate Nigerians took steps in righting wrongs, they ended up being tagged as ‘strugglers for fame and relevance.’ As petty as this phrase might look to you, it sure stopped me from including my name. Relevance or fame is what I have come to realize no man needs to struggle for, only if he can live his life right. I will get that fame sir, and the relevance will come in due course. But except any youth corp member lives in self denial and penchant for allowing wrong grow fat and large, the issues I shall address are true. Also, do not believe the verdict of the deceitful ones that may likely exist among those around you that I am a sponsored missile aimed at bringing you or your tenure as the DG down. The truth is, this is about the institution of the NYSC, not you. The first and only time I met you, you exuded utmost finesse and deftness that I can say that you remain the DG till eternity. I am neither a typical Nigerian politician nor a destructive critic who barely achieve without destroying another. I signed a pact with myself, I’ll quit writing any day I realize that destroying people and making money is what this can fetch me.
I was originally posted to the core North, but the intimidating security situation of the country automatically changed the venue of our orientation. To my consternation, but in the negative, the moment I alighted from the car with my luggage, I was welcomed at the gate by two soldiers who ordered that I go some metres back and do frog jump back to them with my bag on my head. Sir, before I was given this laughable instruction, I already saw many of my colleagues performing the same ritual- male, female, young and even those old enough to be my parents, but whom life left with no choice than to falsify their age in a bid to serve. As a practice, I do not break laws. After all, violation of law is what crippled peace, and crippled peace is the reason for shattered dreams. I felt that I mistakenly crossed the lawn or did something wrong and I approached a civilian at the camp who told me it is the culture. To make it more demeaning, we were given a mantra in Hausa language to chant as we do the frog jump with our bags on our heads. I cannot accurately remember the exact sentence in Hausa, but when we later realized the meaning, it was literally ‘fool has come.’ Nigerian graduates became fools just because of the zeal to serve their fatherland. Mr. Director-General, are you in the know about this? I have perused the Act guiding activities on camp and I concede beyond any iota of doubt that from a legal standpoint, it is illegal.
As if that was not enough, a series of disturbing, demeaning and dangerous events took place in camp. I shall be brief on these Sir. On two occasions, we were all forced to wake up at 12 a:m and 12: 44 a:m respectively because the soldiers blew trumpets for a false fire alarm. Then, we were lined up on the parade ground in the middle of the night. On the first occasion, it was to listen to the camp commandant who probably felt that addressing us in the broad daylight is wrong. Many ladies came to the parade ground on just night gowns, some on wrappers. In fact, a lot of people sustained injuries in the rush process, though minor. On the second occasion, it was to make a roll call- that type of method one adopts when he wants to know the number of the offsprings his new animal produced. It may interest you to know that on the second occasion, we were only released around 4 a:m. It did not change the fact that we woke again at 5:30 a:m the following morning, but what changed was that the clinic was filled up.
To me, punishment by its characteristic nature is corrective and not destructive. However, in the case of these military men, it appears to tilt more to the latter than former. I witnessed more than 10 ladies sitting inside the mud or the murky water on the order of the soldiers all in the name of punishment. Sir, it takes a simple logic to know that a thousand and one infections can be the effect of such and some may be fatal. Mr. Director-General, you cannot be everywhere and I know you are not aware of this. Some soldiers in NYSC camp have taken the duty of providing security and other similar services for us with liberty. Even though morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated with proper measures. They should be educated that we are not being recruited to join the force and that our coming to camp does not make us less human to deserve such varying degrees of insults on our persons. Friends shared similar, lesser or worse demeaning experiences in their camps too. Sir, we were graduated in different fields by different institutions- that in itself matters. I hold that the intellectual, physical and psychological stress we went through to achieve that enviable status of youth corp members should be respected by anybody as long as we comply with the rules and regulations in camp. This is not so in most of the camps- the soldiers act as if their egos are being threatened by our enviable status of a graduate serving our fatherland. Some would even be advised by ex corp members to get close to them to prevent some of the show of shame and enjoy camp. Must we? Must soldiers break buckets of youth corp members because they were fetching water when another program is about to start? Over 15 corp members were locked up in the guard room for almost an hour on an occasion and honestly, it was not a sight to envy. I know there are individuals who are delinquents among us. Nevertheless, when a stubborn housefly perches on an elderly man’s scrotum, he must not react with a heavy blow so as to avoid touching stories. It does not just commensurate to ask a youth corp member to lie in the drainage because he wore a pair of slippers to the kitchen instead of a white pair of canvass. It is unacceptable for a soldier to pull a youth corp member by her hair and refer to her as a prostitute just because she was going to her hostel later than usual on a camp fire night- camp fire night Sir. I was eager to go to camp, but now that I am back and I look back, I cannot honestly answer the ‘is it worth it’ question in the affirmative. I was giving up on writing you this letter because of the consolatory remark by colleagues- it is just for three weeks. Sir, it takes less than three minutes for a well-laid legacy to be destroyed by wrong administrators. You have laid a sound legacy and you are making efforts to sustain it, may it not be ruined by anyone.
Lastly, I seek to beg of you that the #3,000 fee for the printing of callup letter is not too okay for the financially less fortunate among us. The #1,000 for printing of redeployment letter in my opinion is also not necessary. It is the security situation of the country that warrants the redeployment. The institution should not make the plights of those posted to the challenging parts of the North an avenue to extort the poor ladies and gentlemen who struggled through school by paying through their noses.
Mr. Director-General, you did emphasize the need to be truthful always when you spoke to us that day. I have not addressed the media, I only addressed you through the media. I hope that I have discharged this duty without fear or favour as justification remains my defence. In service and humility, I look forward to your rapid look into the matter.
LL.B (University of Ilorin); B.L (Nigerian Law School); Youth Corp Member.