The National Youth Service Corps plan has been clouded in uncertainty. Its relevance has been questioned in certain quarters; in others, its contribution to peace, unity and progress has been acknowledged. Due to the impasse, this study aims to determine if this plan is relevant and whether it can be improved using a public relations method as a result, a survey was conducted on Nigerian undergraduate students. It finds, therefore, that the scheme's structures should be preserved. An intensive execution and regular review of the plan are therefore recommended to make it more productive.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
By every conceivable standard, Nigeria is a country that is richly blessed in human and material resources. Like many other African states, Nigeria’s human endowment is a conglomeration of different ethnic groups. Uwechue (2004:15) identifies the larger groups as “Hausa, Fulani, Tiv, Kanuri, and Nupe in the Northern parts; the Yoruba, Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw in the Western parts; the Ibo, Ibibio and Efik in the Eastern parts”. It has an estimated population of 158.4 million people (World Bank, 2010). Apart from its immense mineral wealth, of which its oil and gas resources are currently the most prominent, the country is also endowed with rich agricultural lands capable of sustaining a wide variety of crops across the savannah and forest zones (IIDEA, 2000: 89). The need for peaceful co-existence and perhaps, sustainable development among these diverse cultures prompted the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914. While Obayori (2002:25) out rightly debunked the position that it was meant to “serve the exploitative aim of British”, Ekwueme (2000:31) and Ajayi 2000:72)
However, view the amalgamation as an act by the colonial overlord to bail the North out of its perpetual deficit, translated to mean that “customs revenue could be shared between Southern Nigeria with a coastline and the landlocked Northern Nigeria”. In contention of this, Okonta (2000:7) insists that such utterances are promoted by Southerners to portray their Northern counterpart in a negative light as he remarks that before 1914 “ ..all Hausa cities were well sufficient in food and other necessities. Kano was one of the greatest market centres in Africa and had trade links with Egypt and the Mediterranean World”. Independence marked the beginning of self-rule. From that time successful administrations have come up with various policies and schemes to put to rest the issue of political, economic and socio-cultural imbalance among the multiple cultures which, Amana (1997:110) estimate to be more than 400. In view of the overt disagreement over salient issues like the 1963 national headcount and the general elections, Nigeria was plunged into a civil strife which began “on 6th July, 1967” (Uwechue, 2004:7) and lasted till 1970. In the spirit of post war reconstruction, rehabilitation, reconciliation, and to foster the spirit of oneness the Gowon regime, in 1973, introduced the National Youth Service Corps Scheme. Going by the objectives as clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June 1993, it was established with a view of proper encouragement and development of common ties and promotion of national unity among youths. And one of the expectations of the programme is that corps members should be posted to cities or villages and states far from home and states of origin, where they are expected to mix with people of other tribes, social and family backgrounds where they could learn the culture of the indigenes in the place they are posted to (http://www.nysc.gov.ng/history2.php).
The one-year mandatory scheme in Nigeria is only for those who are below 30 years old. Those eligible are posted to states distinct from their states of origin and typically work in sectors that urgently require graduate expertise like in rural farms, hospitals, and schools just to mention three. This is not peculiar to Nigeria. Civilian national services of this type have been instituted globally for similar reasons. Examples include Canada’s Katimavik, New Zealand’s Conservation Corps, the United Kingdom’s Community Service Volunteers, the United States’ Conservation Corps, the Gambia’s National Youth Service Scheme and theNational Youth Service (Zimbabwe) among others (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/national youth service corps).