Youth: The NYSC, Zamfara State and I

(By Anyiam Nnaemeka)

Living here is affordable, food is abundant, the sharia is not harmful, there’s fun in Zamfara. They even have a well-equipped amusement park when Imo State has none. I’ve seen their religious practices and I can now compare with mine. I’ve seen their flaws and I now know how I can help. I’ve understood that you don’t stand far off and make up convoluted stories about people. Come closer, live among them and friends, you’ll be amazed at how much you did not know. But more importantly, I’ve seen that we are all the same Nigerians and can exist as one; you as a Christian, I as a Muslim and life will still go on. Our cultural and religious differences are simply variety which we all know is the spice of life.” 

‘‘If Nigeria is to make rapid progress on all fronts internally, and if she’s to make her mark on the continent of Africa, and indeed, in the comity of nations, her youths must be fully mobilised and be prepared to offer willingly and without asking for rewards in return, their best in the service of their nation at all times.” – Gen. Yakubu Gowon, during the formal inauguration of the NYSC June 4, 1973.

BEFORE being a corps member, I used to blame these words for whatever ‘horrific’ experiences I would go through during my service year. As a fresh graduate you’re made to live with people of different cultural backgrounds, paltry stipend, often no accommodation, little plan for security and medication, language and religious barriers, etc. I got the impression the scheme was some post-civil war panacea to reunite the country. Well, they caused the civil war, why interrupt my life by asking me to repair the rift they had created, I thought. So I really hoped that the changing fortunes of time and government in Nigeria would abolish this trend before it got to my turn.

Today, however, I write as a corper, an Otondo, and a willing participant in a scheme I once wished would not see the light of another democratic government. And it’s amazing how beautiful the scheme really is, just from my first few months of serving my fatherland.

When I heard I was posted to Zamfara, it took a while to sink in. I sat on a pavement for hours with my call-up letter in hand. People laughed, some pitied and some were petrified with fear and prayed for my safety, while others gave long lectures on the process of redeployment and the medical lies I had to tell to get out of Zamfara ASAP.

From my findings, I had neither heard of violence in Zamfara nor any extra-judicial killings in the state as a result of the Sharia legal system adopted under Governor Yerima. Yet down South, we hear exaggerated stories of ‘hand-and-leg-cutting’ on the slightest contact with a lady. So I chose to be patient with the NYSC, be open-minded and at least see Zamfara. This decision changed the stereotypical labeling of northerners I was used to.

On that long six-seven-eight hour drive to Zamfara from Abuja, I saw massive but non-mechanised agriculture in such a large scale that I appreciated for once the natives of these states and their contribution to our agricultural produce. Millet, sorghum, corn, wheat, water melon, okra, sweet potatoes and the likes of it, all judiciously planted, sometimes manually irrigated, watched, harvested and stored by people who may have been given little or no government support as it were. The East practised subsistent agriculture, but these ones had much bigger plans.

In the orientation camp, we were grouped into platoons. Our dance and drama competitions brought together elements from the various ethnic groups of the country to foster national unity. I heard languages I never thought existed, names I could never pronounce and I met great people. We talked of national issues as security and corruption; and it was surprising to see like-minded youths call evil by its name regardless of whose ox was gored. Activities start with a Muslim and Christian prayer and it became pretty obvious that we all could exist as one.

We were privileged to have senior government officials, including the Emir of Anka, Alhaji Attahiru Muhammad Ahmad and NYSC State Coordinator for Zamfara,  Mrs. Ruth Bakka, educate us on the state and its people. The emir stated clearly that Sharia was to guide Muslims on their religious path and thus was NOT binding on NON-Muslims. Christians were free to go about their normal business without fear of molestation whatsoever but should dress decently.

Down South, we see the North, especially Zamfara, as a place with little or no education, especially for the girl child. But I was stunned to see over 3000 girls in GGDSS Samaru having good, standard education. In camp I met Muslim (northern) ladies with better grades than myself still neatly tucked in their white hijab. Once I sat beside a Muslim lady during a health seminar and asked her a medical question, her answer was seasoned. She quoted texts, researches, online surveys and shared practical experiences. Despite the Western Education, her religious values were intact. These ladies understand decent dressing. I was thrilled to know that someone with such an education could still keep to sometimes arduous demands of religion.

I also found that the average Hausa Muslim man is truthful, empathic and down-to-earth. When he tells you it is N10 gaskiya, so it is. Tell their bike men you’re stranded and you will more often than not get a free ride. In my PPA, my bosses will make tea in the morning and even the gateman will partake, using a mug from the boss’s office, but bosses in the South are to be worshipped from afar. Ordinary change is difficult to get in the East. Here a bike man in motion will stop to make change for a stranded colleague. Eastern traders are in constant customer tussle with themselves, but it’s not so here. Your effort at learning their language is instantly rewarded by slashed prices. These ones are really of a different ilk.

When posted to my PPA in Kaura Namoda and I lost my way, I was directed to the Muslim Corpers lodge. That’s where I was fed and attended to regardless of my religious affiliation. This selfless service to fresh corpers has been constantly rendered by the Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF), Muslim Corpers Association of Nigeria (MCAN), Catholic Corpers Association and the likes. These organisations are made up of Nigerians helping Nigerians regardless of tribe or tongue. Yet another dividend of the NYSC scheme.

Nigerians in The Diaspora have also developed a reasonable degree of empathy towards fellow Nigerians (Youth Corps). On several occasions, my fares have been either reduced or paid by a total stranger because I’m a corper. Organisations reduce professional exam fees for Youth Corps. Even some airlines have reduced fees for us. There’s that warmth in the heart when you see someone on the NYSC khaki. He’s a brother, a sister, a part of you. I’m now so confident that the scheme is slowly but insidiously achieving its objective: “To inculcate in Nigerian youths the spirit of selfless service to the community and to emphasise the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background.”

Serving in Zamfara has afforded me a lot of opportunities I would not have had if I remained down South in the East. At least I have experienced Zamfara for myself and can now separate fact from fiction. Zamfara is peaceful and friendly. You’re appreciated as a corper. Living here is affordable, food is abundant, the sharia is not harmful, there’s fun in Zamfara. They even have a well-equipped amusement park when Imo State has none. I’ve seen their religious practices and I can now compare with mine. I’ve seen their flaws and I now know how I can help. I’ve understood that you don’t stand far off and make up convoluted stories about people. Come closer, live among them and friends, you’ll be amazed at how much you did not know. But more importantly, I’ve seen that we are all the same Nigerians and can exist as one; you as a Christian, I as a Muslim and life will still go on. Our cultural and religious differences are simply variety which we all know is the spice of life. There’s really no need for the hate.

A few of these things, however, plague the NYSC scheme: The postings are always influenced these days. People now redeploy for the slightest of reasons. People just go where they want. This defeats the NYSC’s long-term goal of national integration. Again, the stipend is small. Organisations and states need to support the scheme by paying the corper a little extra token and ensuring that the stipulated accommodation is provided for this sojourning youth. There should be no preferential treatment for foreign trained graduates as what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. All camps should be made as lively as the camps in Lagos and Abuja, like in my camp; we didn’t even have the beauty pageant, while the Lagosians had celebrities singing for them. The kids of the rich should be sent to Zamfara too, because sometimes I feel it’s the children of the poor and the old that get sent here, with a handful of normal people.

• Nnaemeka, a Youth Corps member, wrote from Zamfara.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

RISE NETWORKS

"Nigeria's Leading Private Sector and Donor funded Social Enterprise with deliberate interest in Technology and its relevance to Youth and Education Development across Africa. Our Strategic focus is on vital human capital Development issues and their relationship to economic growth and democratic consolidation." Twitter: @risenetworks || Facebook - RISE GROUP || Google Plus - Rise Networks

26 thoughts on “Youth: The NYSC, Zamfara State and I

  • May 15, 2013 at 3:42 am
    Permalink

    Assumption has become an habit that must be stopped amongst nigerian youths today. No one is willing to go the extra mile to find out the truth but only rely on whatever they hear from other people who might not have witnessed but also heard a story. Zamfara is a state where you have no fear of whatsoever crisis and also cheap cost of living. People, most especially corp members should be advised 2 stay…..WHAT DOESN’T KILL ONLY MAKES ONE STRONGER….

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 4:03 am
    Permalink

    Lovely piece. Very objective and truthful, but u failed to mention their shortcomings. U only mentioned d good stuff.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 6:05 am
    Permalink

    Nice piece and truthful….when i tell people that i enjoyed my service in Ondo state after failing to get my desirable choice of Lagos or Abuja they doubt me. In these places you meet down to earth people who are open minded and you get to learn new things from your fellow corpers unlike the more preferential states where everybody is doing his own thing and chasing unrealistic targets.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 6:07 am
    Permalink

    Plus if this new policy of everybody teaching isn’t sabotaged by the NYSC officials themselves for personal gain, I strongly believe that the scheme would be seriously improved.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 6:30 am
    Permalink

    Beautiful piece…original too,I must say. I guess yhu amongst d lucky ones aving quite a positive experience. Honestly I love d idea of d nysc-to integrate youths,to bring solutions to issues through our exchange of ideas. Nevertheless, u and I know derz a but-when there is a controversy, the non-indigenes are the most vulnerable. That’s every corper’s greatest fear..gaskiya! May Allah continue to guide us

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 8:21 am
    Permalink

    My brother you have written well, reading your article brings back similar memories from when I served and I must tell you that the love shown to corp members is everywhere, I can remember times when I went to an eatry and after eating I am told that my bill has been paid. I truely appreciated and still appreciate the NYSC scheme as it depicts Unity in Diversity. I truely hope one day we all will be able to say proudly and boldly that we are ONE NIGERIA.

    Reply
    • May 23, 2013 at 8:26 am
      Permalink

      That joke is classic! It had me in sitechts. I doubt if it’s true though, although my cousin whose mum is from Ngwa in Abia state claims some people from Isi-ala ngwa do. Or it just the typical human way of trying to put other communities down to eleveate ones own the pull him down syndrome (phd).That’s true. That day someone even made the claim that people from Ondo were man-eaters and our Akure teammate deflected it to immigrants from Delta into Ondo.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 11:22 am
    Permalink

    Well nice article Nnam. It only reminded the few occasions we talked and I had to advice you to stay and see it tru. My service at Sokoto was fun and I got a family dere whom I still miss till today. Unlike before, I defend d muslims now like its my religion, I t tell people dat dey do not know dese people like I do. They are very very nice people. Am happy u finally settled in and could come up with this piece.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm
    Permalink

    So accurate and typical of northern states my dear,no doubts whatsoever.to the best of my knowlede,the likes of zamfara and sokoto have not bn associated with religious violence.their peaceful co-existence and affordability can’t be overemphasized when compared 2 the south yet the religious violence in states like kadunna can’t be overlooked either.so nice an article though,However, there re no misconceptions on nother violence,zamfara might b an exemption but it’s nt to b generalised either.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 2:07 pm
    Permalink

    Yeah
    I served in Gombe and truly, an Hausa man has a good heart, whether Muslim or Christian.
    Being Igbo, I can relate with Nnaemeka’s experiences.
    I think corruption is beneath all of Nigeria’s problem, and by this I mean that some people are eating off our wealth of goodness…

    Reply
    • May 23, 2013 at 5:58 am
      Permalink

      lolll eyahhh, so u threw it away? Anyways, meliacldy speaking u shouldn’t be eating after 12 mid-night Azuka. Or late at night. The reason is because people tend to sleep immediately they eat at that time and three things can happen: the food won’t digest properly, you may get acid reflux’ back into ur throat, and you WILL get fat lol.Guess what? I do it too (lol), but my reason is different. I’m trying to gain some weight. But since u’re trying to do the opposite, u may want to propel towards the opposite direction ps: Azuks according to ur investigation, I also did some snooping around, so ur cousin A is my tres bon mon ami (beaucoup) lol, thats so funny! I told her u’ll be a billionaire author real soon with the way u write lol as small as u are Thanks Doc. Symptoms exactly as stated.Small world isn’t it? We need to get her to start blogging, don’t you think?

      Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm
    Permalink

    Moj,I must say am proud of u. I trust u don’t know y. To have singled out this as an opportunity to educate people about dis state & wat is expected of all Nigerians,is commendable. Dis is d edge u have over oda corp members,who saw d whole story unfolding right in front of dem but didn’t care to ask or think what next. U took d extra step & I commend u 4 dat. Dats y we celebrate u today! As I’ll always tell pple,”Potential’s a dormant ability,a reserved latent power in u, an untapped strength, an unused success, a hidden talent,as well as a capped capacity”,until u decide to blow up. Kudos 2 my fellow ENACTUSER!!! Dats d spirit of a journalist! Maybe we could work together dese days…

    Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm
    Permalink

    Nice one Emeka, u jus said it how I would have… The only thing the piece lacks is the “shortcomings” just like akas mentioned. Like every other state, Zamfara state do have challenges, maybe not ethnic or religious but Environmental, I think, is the most obvious.. The harsh weather condition, inadequate waste disposal, Hygiene, etc…
    Well done bro!!!

    Reply
    • May 25, 2013 at 8:43 am
      Permalink

      OMG, I think I’ve heard that joke before but it didn’t stop me from crcikang up. I wonder how true stories like that are? My geography teacher used to tells us stories about his NYSC days in some remote village, probably close to Calabar. They were funny and scary. Hmmm, am sure Biodun will be fine.So where’s Calabar Girl? She’s gto to come and explain what her neighbors are doing.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm
    Permalink

    i guess i was one peraon that screamed the loudest…..followed by a bout of laughter…when you told me you were posted to zamfara…that was an answer to a prayer i carelessly said…but after the call ended, the usual worries set in…how you would cope, the strange and “unfriendly” environment…i left it to God. Having lived in the north myself, i can agree with all u have said….bt i can also be cautious about the things u havent said…A TRUE MUSLIM irrespective of location has a heart of gold. we only pray never to come in contact with the fanatics….and this applies to all religions..
    you’ve done a fantastic job ONCE AGAIN Donmoj!!!! ur treasured!!

    Reply
  • May 16, 2013 at 12:51 am
    Permalink

    Nnaemeka wow…!!! Lovely piece. you didn’t tell of our experience @ the colour party or oga S.Y. The bad side of Zamfara is that the level of Illiteracy is high even though the female child are massively enrolled into school they are not well trained. Imagine SS 2 students that can’t speak a single english, and also teachers teach pupils in Hausa, even english is explained in hausa whereas all these pupils can converse in Arabic, Arabic is not explained in Hausa though. Then the students lack motivation, few of them in zamfara go to higher institution, this challenge is only in zamfara that I know of, ve being to Kaduna and they take education seriously. And also students have to be lured to school with food. I am an optimist I believe zamfara can be come a commercial state. I believe in the state the students need real educationist, my friend Nnaemeka serves with PHCN I am a teacher @ GGASS tundun wada Gusau, so it is possible nnaemeka doesn’t know the challenges the education sector of Zamfara is facing. Zamfara is a good place to stay it is relatively peaceful with the usual hoodlum activity, the inhabitants are good and honest.Transportation is very cheap the cheapest have seen so far, places you go to In PH where you pay 200 in Zamfara bike will take u dr 4 40-60 depending on negotiation and carrierYea Zamfara is fine but it has it’s dark side which I believe is bcos of the level of illiteracy.Corpers in Zamfara are one big family. Another challenge is that indigenes are impatient this is what causes the little violence that might occur. My beloved zm.

    Reply
    • May 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm
      Permalink

      I think you’re buttressing all my points.illiteracy may be the inability Τ̲̅ǿ read and write, but •̸№†̥ the lack of education. If these ones prefer a type of education over anoda, they shouldn’t be made Τ̲̅ǿ feel any less educated than you and ♍ε̲̣̣̣̥. I think their type of education Ȋ̝̊̅§ working for them already S̶̲̥̅Ơ̴̴̴̴̴̴͡ what’s the point?
      And if its for peace, brother, yu bet zamfara Ȋ̝̊̅§ peaceful.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2013 at 7:51 am
        Permalink

        Dang!! You hit the nail on the head. Drinking hot chocolate and entaig bread in the middle of the night while sitting in front of ur computer. Thats the genesis of your weight gain. You are hereby banished from ingesting anything edible after 6pm till further notice.LOL!!! I know the village youa re talking about too. Its called Ugep and incidentally is in CR. Biodun is perfectly safe as everyone in Ugep has repented from entaig human beings. If at all they really used to eat human beings at all. Its a myth that was passed around a lot those days that bears no semblance of truth in these modern times. I’ll shout it out loud: Ugep people no longer eat human beings LOL!!!Sentence accepted. By the way, are you from Ugep? I think the lady doth protest too much

        Reply
  • May 16, 2013 at 6:37 am
    Permalink

    Nna men, u’re at it again. When i saw ur update directing us to a link where your write up was published, became too eager almost immediately to access it. Needless to say, ur piece is very good. I was ‘wowed’, my expectations were met. I like the way u write, its uniqe. I was enlighten as well as entertained. U made zamfara look like a haven, which i believe is not completely true. U highlighted the pros and cons the NYSC scheme, but failed do d same for zamfara state which made ur critique onesided. I also spotted a misformation. Imo state now has an amusement park beside Hero square along concord road and a freedom park at warehouse juntion. Nevertheless, i still remain ur fan, weldone!

    Reply
  • May 16, 2013 at 4:46 pm
    Permalink

    Very nice and thank you for beautifying my
    Place of service Zamfara the ZM sate.
    Anyway its really nice in Zamfara cos there
    Is less noise and the hurstling and burstling is
    On d minimal as compared to my place of
    Residence. The only flaw I observe is in the
    Health sector. As a corper in the medical cds
    Its often difficult to carry out certain
    Projects especially when it will involve the
    Female because of religious reasons. I
    Wouldn’t rate the state as excellent but I
    Will say its developing and its a nice
    Place to reside. Welldone Nnaemeka

    Reply
  • May 16, 2013 at 5:54 pm
    Permalink

    Thankyou all for your kind comments. I’m elated.
    Ȋ̝̊̅Й my opinion the southerners only hear of the extreme cases Ȋ̝̊̅Й the north without a balancing figure. That’s why I chose Τ̲̅ǿ say the good I know about zamfara and at least cut them a slack.if U̶̲̥̅̊ hear only of the bad, why feed U̶̲̥̅̊ with more bad, especially when d bad isn’t really true. Every state and country has it’s bad, even the almighty united states. However, I’m really impressed by zamfara and friends, y’all should try and pay a visit someday. Remember, get rid of the common stereotypes and look beyond ü® nose. Blame softly, praise loudly. Peace!

    Reply
  • May 17, 2013 at 10:48 am
    Permalink

    This is a wonderful, well presented, eloquent piece and I feel like all points were taken from my head.

    I served in Zamfara as well and throughout my service year and day after day thereafter, I make these points in arguments with anti-NYSC peeps or haters of the North (I’m from Adamawa). I think from now all I have to do is hand over a copy of this since it says it all especially coming from an easterner.

    Long live the NYSC and what it stands for. Do keep the fight and passion up, God bless you.

    Cheers,
    Tsamari

    #Respect #OneNigeria

    Reply
  • May 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm
    Permalink

    Good and very well articulated tale of revelation. It reminds of “The Danger of The Single Story”. We have all heard different versions of the same story. But only that you have not experienced this yourself. Truth is that things can turn around very quickly. Yes and you can guess- only bombs can create such as fast change. I saw and witnessed the first Jos Crisis, and I believe that most of us that give the North a ‘treaded’ look have had a taste too.

    “One Nigeria” is a mistake. It has only given birth to such socio-economic growth stagnants such as “federal character”, zoning, “northern forum”, and so many other paradigms targeted at creating efficiency-killing compromises.

    Enjoy your stay Moj. Enjoy cheap food while it last but dont forget to return home on the evening of your POP. Becos I CANT SHOUT O!

    Reply
  • August 10, 2013 at 9:15 am
    Permalink

    I really love your website.. Pleasant colors & theme.
    Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my very own site and want to know where you got this from or what the theme is called. Appreciate it!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *