On Thursday 3rd October, 2019, the National Youth Service Corps, the body with the mandate to ensure Nigerian graduates undergo the compulsory one-year service to their father land has released the corps members who fall into the stream one batch of 2018 after their year of service. I congratulate them. Yet, this piece is to remind them of opportunities gained or lost as the case may be during their just concluded service year. There is also a charge for them to move on and conquer their world post national service.
Trust the digital natives who form the bulk of those who passed out, photos was all over the social media announcing the end of the rite of becoming a graduate in Nigeria. But, there are so many things that have come to an end with the passing out parade.
First and most important is the month stipend given to these youths while in service. It is popularly called Allawee. It is some kind of social safety net for fresh graduates. And it is collected for the entire period of the service year. This shields the kopas from the harsh realities of life beyond the campus. For some, the money is not enough to take home. For others, their savings from the allowance is huge. Whether badly spent or well saved. That luxury has come to an end.
Second, the protection given to the corps members is gone forever. As a youth corps members, they are referred to as government pikin (children). With the NYSC uniform, there is hardly nowhere a youth corps member could not access. The access is unlimited! But that is over forever. Some corps members leverage on that to network and connect at the highest places. Such connections have yielded a lifetime opportunity for them. That opportunity is no longer there. A government child of yesterday has become an ordinary citizen of today. What goes around has eventually come around.
Third, the opportunity to get employment opportunities or drive a business as a corps member is over. There are companies who long to recruit youth corps members with a view to paying less than they would with a fully fledged graduate. The experience does not always end well. But, some youth corps members cut the teeth of their professional practice in the organisations where they serve. They are luck to be retained. They never feel the pang of being jobless after service year. Others lose that opportunity because they fail to see a jackpot where they should. They believe there would always be another opportunity. So, instead of putting in their best and showcase hardwork, commitment and team spirit, they pass it on simply because they are just corps members. The folly of that singular action would soon dawn on them in a couple of months. For some, they hit gold because they are perceptive. They see their host community’s problem as their own and proffer solutions to them. The act of owning such a problem provides a source of livelihood for them. They become suppliers of that solution to the community. And for life they stay put in places where they serve either as an entrepreneur or third sector operator. Now, those who pass out have passed the opportunity over. The baton is for those coming in to take up. If indeed they know!
Fourth, the opportunity to experiment, ideate, incubate and accelerate business ideas by the corps members is also gone. Many fail to realise that the period of the service year provides an opportunity to experiment and launch a venture for themselves. The mandatory national service year is the dusk before the dawn of a real and tortuous journey of looking for jobs or trying to establish one. It is the period to search, prepare and secure a dream of securing the dream of studying abroad or acquiring industry relevant skills. Many succeed; many fail. But life goes on.
Lastly, the period of service year is an opportunity to fulfill marital dreams. A lot found the love of their lives in the course of serving the fatherland. Love relationships grow and blossom into full life time commitment. Others are scammed and scarred. Many young handsome men use the period to dupe beautiful, naive and unsuspecting female colleagues or even girls of their host communities. Whether negative or positive, good or bad, that singular opportunity is gone to return no more.
The lessons here are for those who have missed in action not to rue the missed opportunities. They can only be ready to explore other opportunities after service year. It is just that they are more hidden because they are more desperately needed. Those gearing to go and serve their country should also take note. The national service is not for the monthly stipend alone, it should be recognized as the needed gap year to have a career clarity and launch to become the best they could be after service.