By Leonard Aluor
A Congolese proverb says; “You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla.” The Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (DG-NYSC), Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim is an old administrative gorilla in Nigeria. He has dispensed himself perfectly, both as a soldier and administrator per excellence. Anywhere he berths his feet, it leaves in its trail, remarkable accomplishments.
Like his brief sojourn at the Nigerian Army University (NAU), Biu, Borno state, as pioneer registrar, Gen. Shuaibu’s two years’ stint as the DG-NYSC have similarly ingrained his peculiar mark of excellence as a scholar, an astute administrator, innovator, reformer, team player and goal getter in administering the scheme.
He has proven exceptionally, the ageless wisdom in the old Ghanaian adage that “All heads are the same, but not all thoughts are the same.” Gen. Shuaib’s thoughts bubbles with germinative ideas, which he monitors closely to fruition.
Gen. Shuaib has changed the fortunes of the NYSC from a wobbling, but sensitive agency of Government to a formidable youth scheme, through dexterous management.
NYSC is now amply meeting its core mandate of bridging the gulf between the years of academic work and the first practical experiences of young Nigerian graduates towards the ideals of ethnic inculturation, repulsion to religious prejudices’, self-reliance and personal development and national productivity.
The DG-NYSC has determinedly faced and overhauled the hitherto dormant Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme of the scheme and turned its dwindling fortunes into harvestable gold for corps members. He has successfully utilized the one month’s practical skills training in the orientation course content for corps members during camps for expansion of personal knowledge in various trades; an antidote to personal development and self-reliance.
Through faithfulness to this policy thrust, Gen. Shuaib is dialoging with The FGN and other relevant stakeholders to formally establish a legislation-backed NYSC Trust Fund. The NYSC Trust Fund envisages to source funding from a certain percentage of profits netted by some mega corporate bodies operating in the country; which in addition to financial empowerment of passing out corps members, would confer financial independence in funding NYSC projects such as expansion of orientation camps and renovation of dilapidate camp facilities.
Gen. Shuaib has tenaciously fought and purged the scheme of the menace of corruption in NYSC, evident in the admittance of prospective corps members with fake results. NYSC is no longer an abode for jobless Nigerians or roadside artisans, who never went to school, but dubiously sneaked into the scheme and became perpetual corps members, through his stern physical verification.
The NYSC boss, prioritizes the welfare of corpse members. Under his leadership, the Presidency approved an increment in the monthly allowance of corps members to N33,000, above the prescribed New National Minimum wage. It is intended to create a window for prudent NYSC members to save part of the stipends to invest into employable initiatives after service. And when the NYSC Trust Fund finally takes off, employment would have been dealt devastating punch in the country.
The NYSC leadership is restless and relentless to gain its financial independence, by harnessing initiatives designed to increase revenue flow into the agency. Therefore, the scheme is aggressively pursuing its investments initiatives to boost its income generation, rather than depend on the mono-source of revenue which at the moment majorly falls on the FGN and intensifies its financial stress.
Consequently, the abandoned NYSC water and bakery factories at NYSC orientation camp Kubwa have been revived and functioning maximally. The NYSC now uses its own water at orientation camps in many parts of the country and the products from these investments are competitively visible in the markets of neighboring states such as Abuja, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and, Niger among others.
Furthermore, Gen. Shuaib’s leadership, the NYSC has constructed a two thousand bird capacity poultry farm at Kwali, FCT. And it has almost completed the resuscitation of the NYSC Poultry Farm, Ita Ogbolu, Ondo state. He is injecting life into moribund NYSC ventures, as the NYSC Rice Mill Ezillo in Ebonyi is nearing completion for full operations; likewise, the NYSC Feed Mill in Lagos state, which is primed and technologized for the production of animal feeds.
The highly innovative DG-NYSC, in alliance with stakeholders have dialogued and obtained the consent of the State Governors of Edo, Ekiti and Nasarawa states on support for the scheme’s investment drives. These State Governments have graciously donated land for the establishment of NYSC Garment Factories for South -South, Southwest as well as a whooping 16 hectares of land for crops production for revenue generation and platforms of training of more corps members in industrial and agricultural capacities.
And through the direction of the NYSC boss, the first time ever, NYSC Wood (Film Company) and NYSC National Cultural Troupe have been established. And he has secured their thriving and sustenance by striking a smooth relationship with National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) for the proper indoctrination, training of corps members and technical supports.
Gen. Shuaib has repositioned the NYSC to begin to disseminate and articulate its activities to the public. He has therefore secured an operational license for the scheme’s proposed radio station, where corps members will directly be empowered to speak to Nigerians wherever they are domiciled for the primary assignment.
Partnership with relevant agencies, bodies and corporate organizations for the benefits of serving corps members is a focal policy of the Brigadier Gen. Shuaib’s administration. So far, the NYSC under his directorship has partnered a dozen of such organizations for the personal development of corps members and national productivity.
Gen. Shuaibu recognized instantly that the diversification of the economy through agriculture was a central policy and obsession of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. He has spared no stone in ensuring corps members are trained on the latest farming techniques and encouraged to embrace agriculture as their contribution to national food security.
In the pursuit of this laudable vision, as soon as Gen. Shuaib assumed duties at NYSC, he revamped the scheme’s four farm settlements across the country as part of efforts to key into the FGN’s agriculture diversification initiative. NYSC mega farms in Abuja, Bauchi, Kebbi and Oyo states have been activated.
Corps members have also been compelled to embrace the FGN’s rice policy programmes and excitingly, the scheme massively cultivated rice in its Abuja and Kebbi farms in the 2020 cropping season; as in the 2021 farming season, its rice farm at Ezillo, Ebonyi state, would join the fray of robust NYSC rice fields. And the hectarage of its farmland rose astronomically from 60 hectares to 160 hectares in the 2020 farming season.
To this end, the NYSC also partnered for the training of 68 corps members among the 269 pioneer graduates, trained as soil doctors and extension services workers, by the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) in collaboration with the Government of Borno state. It is a major step towards the rejuvenation of agricultural engagements in the country.
Additionally, the NYSC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Leventis Foundation Nigeria on training of corps members in agricultural best practices. The initiative is also to fully empower corps members with the relevant skills, bolster self-reliance and avail them incentives that would encourage the pursuit of food sufficiency in the country.
Similarly, the modalities’ have been worked out between the NYSC and the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation for the training for corps members on agro-allied related ventures. And Gen. Shauib also induced corps member to enlist in the national battle against the raging Covid-19 pandemic, which they participated excellently.
The Ghanaians have also posited in a proverb that; “If we put a hammer in every person’s hand, could they all become blacksmiths?” But Gen. Ibrahim Shuaib has demonstrated his competence as a blacksmith, who has effectively applied the hammer in his hands in the management of NYSC.
Aluor is a public affairs analyst and wrote from Oduduwa University, Ife.