I’m not the type that relishes early rising and this particular morning was no different. I’d just got out of bed, rushed a bath and breakfast and was rushing into my dress to head for school when my phone rang. I picked and a female voice blurted out from the speaker, “Hello. Are you the papa of Obudu?” I affirmed. This voice, obviously of a distressed owner went ahead to tell me it intended to come to the Family House. One of those unsuccessful run-aways, I thought.
“Your batch mates are already through with documentation and have all gone. What kept you back?” I asked.
I noticed the owner of this voice was in no mood for interrogations so I didn’t further my query. Besides, one more member in NACC Family House, Obudu/Obanliku Zone should instigate happiness before curiosity. I gave her directions to the Family House and encouraged her to come, things would be all right.
That was Obehi, now nicknamed “Last Born” by me and well adjusted to her original NYSC posting at Utugwang, Obudu Local Government after spending nearly two weeks in Calabar in a futile attempt to remain there.
I can relate with Obehi’s story personally and I’m not alone in this, I trust. A lot of other corps members have various degrees of affinity with Obehi’s story. Before posting, corps members create perfect imageries of El Dorado places of primary assignment and once reality insists on erasing it in favour of those more attuned to it, the stage gets set for grief, resentment, and desperation for reversion to those scarce El Dorados.
I’m not the Director-General of NYSC, neither am I the State Coordinator nor even a mere staff, but I’m six months deep into this scheme, and by my standard, I’m old enough to know the rudimentary what-and-what in it. Based on this confidence, I shall argue with five points, the importance of allowing NYSC staff do, without external influences, their job of posting corps members and the latter sticking to the directions of their posting letters.
1. NYSC motto is no mere Design on the Logo: Take a look at NYSC logo, for such things as logos are very likely ignored. Beneath it you’ll see an inscribing that reads “service and humility”. These virtues are the driving precepts of the NYSC scheme. As corps members thus, our mandate is to serve the country with no preferences for places, and to undertake this with “humility”. In other words, we should be humble enough to consent to serving in whichever places we’re posted to. So don’t go making choices of places to serve because by merely accepting to serve alone, you have agreed to this condition. A man does not refuse goat meat only to come back and consume its intestines, so says a Tiv proverb.
2. Don’t Die a “Home Boy”: Nigeria is one country for which the alias “Self-Contained” is nothing but apt. There is no ‘extreme’ you cannot sufficiently get out of this country: poor and rich; civilized and primitive; urbanized and rural; saints and demons – all crammed up in one! As a result of these extremes and their attendant diversity, there are those in this country who don’t know as much about others as to even imagine how they live. Now, that’s where NYSC comes in with its objective of national integration using no other but the very fulcrum of the society – the youths. Accept that posting and you just might be on your way to discovering how a community could have separate languages for males and females and how a people could live atop steep mountains.
3. That PPA Needs You: In my PPA – a public secondary school which identity is not important – there are 9 teaching staff and 8 corps members. Corps members produce nearly 50% of that poor school’s oxygen. My PPA may be a rare extreme example of the dependence of corps employers on corps members but this does not make any significant minus to the general scale of NYSC’s impact in this Nation’s scheme of affairs. Sometimes, corps members are that touch their PPAs need to be polished. In other instances, corps members have executed life-touching projects in their host communities especially in those rural areas, which are, sadly, more prone to the vice a write against. Accept that posting, you just might be that community’s long awaited messiah.
4. Better a Lion than a Dog: “Better a lion in the jungle than a dog in the city” goes the clichéd saying. Worst still, “better a lion in the jungle than a dog in a dog-filled city.” You are the metaphorical dog if your PPA overwhelms you into underutilization and insignificance. Most of the PPAs that constitute this demeaning metaphorical city are found in the urban areas, and they turn out this way because corps members literally shove themselves on them. This naturally gives them a haughty disposition towards corps members which leads to inhospitability and undignified treatment. Isn’t it better then, to stick to that place that’s scampering for your presence, and where your efforts will count? A good name is better than silver and gold remember?
5. Don’t Alter your Destiny: We can’t forget the spiritual because it influences us all. (Yes. All: this is Nigeria!) Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘for I know the plans I have for you’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God directs us all, and His directions can never be malevolent. Thus, delving into such thing as altering your posting without due consultation with Him might as well imply missing that light he has prepared for you at the end of the tunnel, or even in the tunnel. Personally, I believe in divine direction and I envy myself for that.
Let me quickly say, before I drop the pen, that I’m not a self-righteous person and I’m not trying to be one. Some of you’d be like, “who be dis preacher guy self? Him know as some PPAs bad reach so?” This guy knows that – and even more. He knows that there are PPAs in which there is no accommodation; no toilets; no electricity; no stipends; bad roads; and there is much distance to the nearest urban settlement. If your PPA has all these characteristics, note that you’re exempted from my advices – there is such a thing as negative extremism! But if yours has all but the first two characteristics, you should stay and enjoy your PPA as this writer is currently enjoying his.
Clifford Msughter ORTESE is a corps member serving in Bayalele, Obanliku; is president of NACC, Obudu/Obanliku Zone; and president of Drug Free and Quality Control Club, Obanliku LGA, Cross River State.