Here is a post likening the NYSC process for a young Nigerian university/polytechnic graduate to being handed a suspended prison sentence and being assigned to a parole officer to monitor your progress for one full year of your life. Your crime? You completed your education in a Nigerian university/Polytechnic and would like to work in Nigeria, or you completed your education in the abroad as a Nigerian and would like to come back to work here. As if ASUU strike in public universities and the expensive fees of private/overseas education are not enough punishment on you and your parents/sponsors.
So, it begins. You get to the final year, complete your project, defend and graduate. There’s even a party where you can afford one. Everybody is happy for you. This is where your problems really start.
Just like every other prisoner-prison arrangement, you are processed by your university/polytechnic in the name of ‘Clearance’ where your details are confirmed and sent to your would-be jailer, the NYSC. Your jailer receives your information and in turn, choose what state they feel will be appropriate for you to serve your sentence. This process is concluded and they inform your school who will, in turn, notify you of your jailer’s decision. You print your posting letter. You are now a prisoner and at the mercy of the NYSC. You now have to prepare yourself for transport, not forgetting to go along with necessaries enough to last you for three weeks.
Upon successful transport to the state where you were posted to serve, just like every other prison, you are all sorted and shared to platoons (notice how they make it sound cool, like you’ve been drafted into the military?), given numbers and ID cards, given your uniforms, meal tickets and assigned to rooms (cells) that are often overcrowded. This is your initial detention. This will be home for the next three grueling weeks.
Within these three weeks, your jailers are busy sorting where you will be sent to serve the rest of your sentence, who your parole officer is going to be, what Convict Support Group (also known as Community Development Service Group) you will belong to, all these while also trying very hard to remind you on a daily basis of your prisoner status with 5 a.m parades and headcounts, fire drills at 2 a.m. on random nights, endurance treks to nowhere, and other conditions a free man wouldn’t be subjected to on a normal day. Did I mention that you will be closely monitored by real-life soldiers throughout the three weeks? And have I talked about the food? Jesus take the wheel!
Finally, the three weeks are over and you have survived. It is time for your release and reintegration with the world. You can hardly wait. A night or two before the release day, your jailer gave you a little stipend. Depending on how serious you took your home training:
- You have either blown the stipend in blind excitement and will probably regret this decision when the excitement wanes and reality hits you;
- you spent part of it still out of excitement and saved part for life upon your release; or
- better still, you saved up every penny you received (good for you!)
Since you’re technically still a prisoner (now with the glorified name of Youth Corps Member), you cannot work mainstream, so your jailer has once again come through for you by assigning you to select establishments upon your release, where they will still be keeping track of you. These places, you will call Places of Primary Assignment. As the Prisoner that you are, do not expect to be treated nicely at these places.
Your release has conditions attached to it, top on the list is the fact that you cannot return home until your jailer either tells you to, or you apply to them and your application is approved. Prisoners in each given area get to meet once every week in the Convict Support Groups mentioned earlier. This serves as another weekly reminder of your status as a prisoner as you have to attend these support group meetings in your uniforms. These meetings are to ensure that the prisoners are still complete. You fail to show up without a concrete reason, you stand the risk of having your sentence extended.
Check out this story: VERY IMPORTANT TIPS TO SURVIVE DURING YOUR SERVICE YEAR
Your jailer promises to pay you monthly stipends barely enough to keep you alive throughout the year; the same amount you were paid in camp that you either blew or saved. Again, there are conditions:
- You satisfactorily attend your weekly CDS (Convict Support) meetings.
- Your taskmasters at your Place of Primary Assignment are satisfied with your conduct for the month and affirm this in a Clearance Letter to your jailer which you will hand to your parole officer on the day of Clearance.
- The Parole Officer assigned to you is satisfied with 1-2 above and clears you.
This process goes on every month for the entire year, and eventually comes to an end with a final clearance by your jailer and confirmation that you have served your time, with the presentation of a certificate to you at an event; your Passing Out Parade. It looks like this:
Sadly, not everyone is happy on this day, as some prisoners get to find out that their sentences have either been extended by a few weeks to months. Some even get to repeat the entire grueling process depending on how serious their ‘crimes’ were.
Despite the grim picture painted about the scheme, young Nigerians who still manage to find love and the “happily ever after” bit that goes with it, as well as establishing flourishing business venture upon the completion of their sentences, successful parole and eventual discharge or release. Surprisingly, some even swear they had fun all through the process and would do it all over again if given the chance. I served once. I never want to do it again.
After all these, show me a person tougher and more resilient than a Nigerian graduate that has successfully completed his/her NYSC. I’ll wait.
Akan is a quiet, young man on a quest to be at peace with himself and everyone around him. He holds a law degree from Igbinedion University Okada, and is presently running after his LL.M at BCU. He is a lover of good music and has an enviable collection of songs, he has quite a dark sense of humor and loves a good laugh. He is an Arsenal fan. You can follow him on twitter via @A291__