By Modiu Olaguro
If there ever was a platform that evinces the sweetness in our diversity as it does the acute fault lines in our claim to nationhood, from ethnicity to religion, culture to creed, and how they’ve all come to shape the worldview of the youthful population, the one year mandatory youth service which I’ve just completed is one of such.
With NYSC, one is afforded a rare privilege to having a semblance into what the nation would look like in a few years especially along leadership lines and economic patterns; for it is the most comprehensive assemblage of young Nigerians with every stock of the population ably represented.
Having completed my undergraduate program at the University of Lagos, I was eager like every other graduate to be mobilised into the scheme. Not once had my sponsor inform me of a family friend who, being a senior official of the scheme had on few occasions asked him to forward names of any relation of his who intend to get favourable postings. So it was not surprising hearing him tell me about the gesture which I declined outrightly.
My decision of non-interference, firstly, was rooted in my fervent advocacy for a better Nigeria, one that is free from the naive thought held by some that the rot and indiscipline which permeate every nook and cranny of the nation must necessarily begin from the top. With this as a guiding principle, it would have amounted to a contradiction had I effected any plan whatsoever to influence my posting.
Secondly, having lived all my life in Lagos with only two languages to my lexicon, my desire to speak as many languages as possible would be a pipe dream should I decide not to exploit the scheme to reside in a different part of the country amongst people whose look, tongue, and demeanour ordinarily would have set us against one another were it not for the country we have in common. This made me long to get posted to a part of the country as far away as possible from Yorubaland. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be as I was posted to Kwara state where the majority of the people speak Yoruba.
Thirdly, I saw NYSC as a window to see Nigeria from a new, practical perspective, vis-à-vis the condition the people live in, how far or close things I read from the media are to reality, and the state of nationalism amongst the people in the face of ethnic differences and religious affiliations.
Fourthly, I perceived the scheme as a humble way of paying back my country for finding me worthy of citizenship. For 25 years, I’ve plied hundreds of roads built by the federal, state, and local governments; benefitted from medical services paid from our collective purse, and enjoyed various public facilities and gestures including a two year undergraduate scholarship by the Lagos State Government which went a long way to ease the pressure on my parents.
With the above four, my mind was already set that however remote a place I find myself and whatever challenges I might encounter throughout the service year, it would only strengthen my resolve to further work in making my nation better than I met it.
As nature would have it, I found myself at Government Arabic College, Jebba where I taught mathematics. The school compound, which houses more dilapidated structures than erect ones, stands as a basis for any conscious citizen to gauge the performance of previous governments alongside the current crop of leaders we have in the country.
You travel far and wide in the land to see traces of landmark infrastructures built by regional governments laid to waste by men who neither see reasons to build on them nor maintain what their predecessors laboured to erect with scarce resources. In one year, my previously held position on how irresponsible successive governments’ post-civil war are was reinforced.
Their nonchalant attitude to the development of the nation is manifested in a town like Jebba wherein even as it enjoys uninterrupted power supply due to the generation plant on the River Niger, one might confuse it for 16th century France as the government has not exploited such opportunity to bring in investors to industrialise the area. If Jebba is made a case study, it might not be out of place to conclude that should Nigeria achieve the needed mega wattage, industrialization would still remain an impossible feat.
The nation needs to wake up from its slumber. Our leaders must realise that their blatant looting remains the biggest impediment to the making of the Nigeria millions of her people toil in no small way to sustain. The police official somewhere in Osun State whose signature is tied to N1,000 else the police recruitment form on his table would be left unattended to needs to be reminded that his actions go contrary to the oath he took; the citizen who resort to kidnapping because to him, the nation has no provision for him should know that his action contributes in no small way to stifling the Nigerian project.
Having served my fatherland, I hereby pledge to remain as patriotic as possible in line with my desire to see Nigeria flourish. Going into the labour market, I pledge that I will better remain unemployed for the rest of my life than pay a dime to secure a job.
Whether I fall into little or plenty as my journey into manhood intensifies, nothing will tempt me into stealing from my country and her people. Either in public or private capacity, Nigeria can sit comfortably knowing that she houses a citizen who would rather double his taxes than evade it.
Even in the face of intimidation, my civic responsibility of holding public officials accountable for the greater good shall not dissipate as I shall continue to shout at the top of my voices against those amongst them whose motivation for leadership is solely to steal from the masses.
I thank the creator for finding me worthy of creation.
I thank my parents for finding me worthy a child.
I thank my teachers for finding worthy a student.
I thank the University of Lagos for finding me worthy of a degree.
I thank NYSC for finding me worthy of mobilisation.
I thank Mr Kola Akinola and his team at the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) for finding me worthy of volunteering.
I thank Nigeria for finding me worthy of citizenship.
Modiu Olaguro, a graduate of Education/Mathematics just completed his national youth service.
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