Stella Dimoko How The Nigerian Civil War Led To The Establishment Of NYSC


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Monday, August 24, 2020

How The Nigerian Civil War Led To The Establishment Of NYSC

In May 1973, three years after the 30-month civil war that pitched the eastern region against the rest of Nigeria, the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon announced the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) by Decree No.24 of May 22, 1973, with the aim of uniting a highly fragmented nation.

Before the war, the Igbos had expressed their disappointment in the lopsided appointment in the northern-dominated public service and to register their displeasure, a group of aggrieved soldiers from the East led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu led the nation’s first military coup in January 1966.

The coup ousted and led to the killing of Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister and Aguiyi Ironsi became the Head of State while Chukwuemeka Ojukwu became the Governor of the Eastern Region. It soon became widely termed an “Igbo coup”.

Renowned Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe in his last book before his death – ‘There Was a Country’, while opposing the labelling of the brutal coup as a ‘tribal coup’.

He wrote: “Part of the way to respond to confusion in Nigeria is to blame those from the other ethnic group. One found some ethnic or religious element supporting whatever one was trying to make sense of.”

Achebe added: “There seemed to be a lust for revenge which meant an excuse for Nigerians to take out their resentment on the Igbos.”

Six months later, some soldiers led by Murtala Muhammed staged a bloody retaliatory coup to counter the coup that brought Ironsi to power.

The casualties were Ironsi and other Igbos in the Army. In the northern states, the Igbo people became victims of what many historians have described as pogroms which led to the death of an estimated 30,000 people.

The pogroms led to a mass exodus of Igbo people back to the East. On May 30, 1967, Ojukwu declared the secession of the region from Nigeria over claims that the Igbos were no longer needed in Nigeria and they could no longer stay where they were not wanted.

In a statement on January 16, 1970, Ojukwu said: “Biafra was born out of the blood of innocents slaughtered in Nigeria during the pogroms of 1966.”

The declaration of the Biafran state led to a civil war that lasted for 30 months and led to the death of an estimated three million people.

When the war finally ended in January 1970, as part of the “3R” programme of the government — Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, aimed at rebuilding and uniting the country, the Gowon—led military government created the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to bridge ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria and to foster nationalism.

Why NYSC was Established

“The reason my government established the NYSC was to initiate reconciliation among Nigerians after the civil war,” Gowon said in 2017 while speaking on the 44th anniversary of the scheme.

“We also sought to establish it for Nigerians to know each other more; promote national unity and encourage the NYSC to offer services to communities around them,” the former head of state added. “We fought to establish it and I am proud of the scheme and all it has achieved and continue to do for the youth and the country.”

The scheme was originally designed to deploy university and polytechnic graduates under the age of 30 (at the time of graduation) to locations outside their region of origin and where they were educated, while graduates above age 30 at the time of their graduation get an exemption letter.

The corps members are then posted to places of primary assignment relevant to their field of study where they would acquire one year experience while earning stipends popularly called ‘allowee’ from the federal government and in some cases from the state government and their employers.

However, corps members are now being deployed to schools to make up for the shortage of teachers in many public schools across the nation. This has made many lose interest in the scheme. Many now allegedly bribe officials to be deployed to ‘juicy’ government agencies and private organisations.

Section 2 (1) of the NYSC Act mandates all Nigerians who earn degrees or higher national diplomas from Nigerian and foreign tertiary institutions (effective 1972/73 session) to participate in the scheme.

Section 12 of the Act also mandates all employers to demand the national service certificate of prospective employees before hiring, while Section 13 criminalises skipping the scheme as it prescribes 12 months imprisonment or a fine of N2,000 or both, for such offenders.

In 2018, a former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun was compelled to vacate the office for not participating in the scheme and presenting a fake exemption certificate for her screening when she was appointed Minister.

In the last 20 years, there have been debates and calls for the scrapping of the scheme over claims that it has lost its purpose. Many corps members who view themselves as a source of cheap labour for the government and some private employers also see the scheme as a waste of time.

In July 2000, the League for Human Rights called for the scrapping of the scheme over claims that it had deviated from the objectives for which it was established.

NYSC Scheme: To be or not to be?

Also in the last three years, there have been rising cases of abduction of corps members travelling to their states of assignment by Boko Haram insurgents and other bandits.

A corps member Abraham Amuda kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents in 2019 is yet to regain freedom. Some corps members have also been victims of communal clashes in the communities they were posted to serve.

In March 2020, a bus conveying corps members to NYSC camp in Zamfara State was attacked by gunmen while some corps members have also been attacked in different communities across the country.

Meanwhile, Gowon who founded the scheme believes the call for the scrapping of NYSC is misplaced.

“They are saying it should be scrapped. They believe that the NYSC has out-lived its usefulness and is no longer relevant to society. The scheme has done a lot to bring about national unity and integration,” he said in 2017.

Meanwhile, through the scheme, some corps members have secured gainful employment and also met their love partners.

For Oluwasegun Fabiyi and Oluwaferanmi Daramola, who got married in June 2020, the call for scrapping the scheme may sound absurd to them. The couple met during their orientation course at the NYSC camp in Jigawa State in 2019 and their love story started from there.

50 years after the civil war and 47 years after the establishment of NYSC to promote national unity, the country is still battling terrorism and ethnoreligious tensions across different parts of the nation. In all of these tensions, corps members are easily the target of bandits and rioters.

From neusroom


  1. The objective has already been defeated..NYSC is now a necessary evil..It has done nothing at all

  2. The war never ended....
    There still a silent war going on btw the igbos and hausas....
    One-day,just one-day,it's will happen,let's just pray they come to forgive and forget soon...war is never the answer.

  3. My dad served in 1981 at the age of 33,the below 30 was started in late 80s.
    He said after nysc then,they offer you appointment immediately but Unn employed him as best graduating student

  4. Nysc has not ended the war in the land so they shld scrap it. It is meaningless Hoooo-Haaa!!!!

  5. The first sentence and first paragraph of this article is wrong.
    Was Col. Ademoyega an Igbo man? Was he not part of the officers
    that plotted that coup?
    The Igbos did not plot any coup, it was a group of Nigerian military officers
    that did it. And their grouse was not the civil service but political corruption.
    They did not kill civil servants, they killed politicians.
    Nigeria can do herself a lot of good if the correct history is taught in schools.

    1. They buried it all,The Hausa's and useless leaders don't want the next generation to have a clue of what happened in the past.

    2. Tell us how many Igbos and non-Igbos were involved in the coup. Also tell us the ethnic group of ALL the people murdered in the coup. And who benefitted from it after it happened? I mean the ethnic group that took over.

    3. @13:28
      So, you escaped my question; is Col. Ademoyega an Igbo man?
      Did they kill civil servants because they were "dominated by northerners?"
      Who stopped the coup and arrested the coup plotters; an Awusa man?
      Who resisted the coup in the North; was it not the commander of the Kano brigade,
      Col. Ojukwu -was he Awusa?
      Keep avoiding the history of your country.

    4. @1600 u too r sidestepping his question which is more pertinent. U r using d presence of a single yoruba officer to justify a coup executed by igbos predominantly n who still turned out to become d primary beneficiaries or r u denying that too.what is d punishment for failed coup plotters? yet those ones lived long enough to still join d war against d northerners. Members of an ethnic group cannot eliminate leaders of another group n preserve theirs to enjoy d benefits n not expect a form of retaliation. Let d case be reversed n see what it will look like to d igbos. As an igbo man I condemn the extent of their retaliation but not without condemning our overambitious brothers that cast the first stone.for there to be real healing n forgiveness the truth must be told no matter how ugly or painful

  6. Yet... Innocent children were always the target when any need to shed blood up north arose.

  7. It is indeed ridiculous that 47 yrs after its establishment, the progress of the country's development and purposefulness of the scheme remains undetermined.
    During my NYSC, the orientation camp was the only time that remains forever imprinted in my memory. The rest of the activities in the program remains unnecessary.
    The government doesn't provide proper security for corporate outside camp, yet as a CORP member, you're expected to visit your LG at least once a weak for so-called CDS during programs are said to be organized at subsidized rate but looking back, was it really subsidized.
    Secondly,voth in camp and outside camp in the government provided housing, Corp members are treated as hobos (please if your hostel in camp was nice then you were an elite sect in an elite state e.g lagos or Abuja). No light, no water, nasty environment filled with mosquitoes and other insects
    Thirdly, NYSC is supposed to be a time to gain experience in your field of study but how can you do this when you're forced to teach for one year. Teaching irrespective of your course of study, most Corp members are treated as slaves, loaded with the entire work of actual working staff who cannot be bothered to be at work even though they are paid every month. Any Corp member that tries to complain in the slightest Way is reprimanded and reported.
    There's much more to complain about and if the youths dare complain, they're called lazy, disrespectful and irrespective
    It is no wonder then that Nigerian youths have found solace in BBN a program that assures instant fame and wealth as well as connections to the high and mighty.
    No wonder fraud is the main career path for many and people don't care who they use for ritual or kidnap just to survive.
    These are just a few instances but until the youths are satisfactory of the operation of the country and significance of NYSC, the country will remain a mess and violence will prevail.
    P.s Nigerian govt pays current graduates of higher institutions on NYSC less than they did in 1973. If you doubt this then cross check with exchange and inflation rates over the years

    1. Troy, God bless you for this. You said nothing but absolute truth concerning this useless one year scheme. NYSC should be scrapped abeg

  8. They should stop posting students to the north abeg its not safe for students abeg the northeners can hold their north and students that schooled in the north should serve the serve many lives lost in the name of nysc:::tis well

    1. It is not safe anywhere anymore

  9. And uptill now what is happening.Disunity still on the increase more than before

  10. Can they post their children out the same way they post peoples children out. I can't see any national unity the scheme is fraudulent. #spotremover#

  11. the scheme should not be scrapped but the objectives should be long as we remain a nation then it should continue. how can we all live in a country and people do not know anything about other regions? how can we call for national unity when a yoruba child has no knowledge of what the hausa culture is like and vice versa? born bred and school in lagos all your life yet you dont know anything about the north or middle belt. so sad that the unity this scheme has sought to bring is still like a mirage in the nigerian society..look at the tribal wars and sentiments even on social media?yes alot has gone wrong like most things in nigeria,so the same way we are calling for a reawakening in how govt is run the same way changes should be made in the scheme. allowances should be reviewed and employers mandated to take corpers on board. volatile areas should be avoided for now. truth be told, anything govt has the same naija diseases so we can only look for ways to make things better. as long as we are still a nation living together the NYSC is one way of people knowing about other parts of this country. abeg i taya to type jo

    1. Thanks for this, I knew about Sokoto state because of Nysc. Before then I was told horrible things about the north but serving there made me realize that the state and the indigenes are good. This scheme has made people visit states they have not been before to experience things for themselves that is different from what they have been told by others around them.


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