My NYSC year remains my most fun year ever. Maybe because I’m just a lazy girl but 1988/89 was the year I worked the least number of hours in my life. It was the year I had no lecturer’s deadline to meet. It was also, above all, the year I didn’t have to worry about my father’s bell for morning prayers (that big school bell o) and I didn’t have to worry about my mother timing my cooking and grinding pepper for the daily vegetable soup. Yeah, ‘efo riro’ was a daily dose in my family. NYSC bailed me out of them all.
I woke up at 8am or shall I say the aroma of goat meat stew and ewedu of ‘mama ibeji’s next door (buka) woke me daily and I never resisted the temptation of eating ‘amala’ for breakfast for most of that beautiful year. So, it was always a quick shower, then my hot amala before setting out for the School of Nursing, Adewole Estate, Ilorin, where I was a Nurse Tutor (English). I also taught at the School of Midwifery on the other side of town (Moraraba or so) for a few weeks, teaching or tutoring students who were my mother’s age mate.
My tutoring hours were about four hours in a whole week! See why I love my NYSC days. I slept till 8am, ate amala, worked average one hour per day (or less) and then played scrabble till 3am with my flatmates, Tunde and Tolu, in front of our colonial house accommodation, opposite the Outpatient Department of the Old Unilorin Teaching Hospital. I can still see in my mind’s eye the chimney in our kitchen, the table fan I bought with N200 out of my N250 allowee. Oh yes!
But I hated Yikpata, the orientation camp, the biggle man, the dry harmattan and the horrible food. I did the endurance trek though. Well, I returned in the back of a van. One leg of the endurance trek was all I could endure.
So, why am I regaling you with this amala and scrabble (note, I still play scrabble daily till date) story? It’s the sad thing that happened to the immediate past Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.
She did not do the mandatory NYSC year. She missed the fun, lazying away a whole year and getting paid for it too in those good old days when N250 could buy you a fan and you still had change. The poor ‘assort’ (imported babe) returned to Nigeria and was shown the real Nigeria nobody told her existed.
Born and raised in the United Kingdom, the ex-Minister was a ‘Britiko’ who had to obtain a visa to visit Nigeria until she got her first Nigerian passport at the age of 34. When she eventually relocated, she was confused as to where she fitted into the NYSC law and the one-year mandatory service. She wasn’t a Nigerian, officially, until she was 34, by which time she had graduated.
But wait a minute! Didn’t the 1979 Constitution clearly disallow dual citizenship? According to Section 26 (1) of the 1979 Constitution, which was the law in operation when Adeosun returned to Nigeria, she was strictly a British citizen, not a Nigerian when she clocked 30. Therefore, not eligible!
That 1979 Constitution was in force till May 27, 1999 when the 1999 Constitution came into force by which time Adeosun was too old to be a youth corper. Are you shocked or confused or both? Are Americans allowed to do NYSC too in 1979 or it was just something for Kemi Adeosun because by the time she became a Nigerian she was no longer eligible to serve. But then, what do I know, bloody journalist like me meddling in political things topped with law?
So, was she a Nigerian or a British graduate? Did all ‘returnees’ who were born, graduated, lived, worked abroad, pre-1999 constitution, until they relocated to Nigeria and were appointed Commissioners, Special Advisers observe the NYSC year? Aren’t there SAs, commissioners, etc in different states of the federation who only returned to Nigeria in their late 30s or 40s after living all their lives in the US or UK? Did they serve? Should they serve? Should they resign?
Excuse me, I have met a few of them in the course of this job. Though they can now swallow amala and fufu, their accents still give them away.
Were these returnee-Nigerians bound by NYSC law when they graduated at age 22 in Ireland, Dubai or Pennsylvania? Would NYSC have deployed them with their British or American passports and all if they had presented themselves for service just because they have Igbo or Ijebu names?
All those ‘Nigerian’ babies left back in Libya now, when or if they finally make it back here in their 40s, having lived and graduated in Libya and become brilliant architects, accomplished artists, world acclaimed parasitologists with names like Tareeq Adebanjo, Abdullahi Ngige, Aisha Egbemode, Nasredeen Omorodion, what will we do then? Deploy them for NYSC or reject their expertise?
I am, by no means, querying the NYSC law or attempting to give Kemi Adeosun a pat on the back. I’m just trying to understand how far we can stretch this law. I’m also trying to figure out the number of flouters of this law in the system and when they will resign, or if they should resign.
I must also alert the NYSC that there will be an influx of many Kemi Adeosuns in the years ahead, considering the number of Nigerian babies being born, as you read this, in Canada, Ireland, London, U.S and God knows where else. They will grow up there, have great education, graduate at 20, have Ph.D at 30, become big boys and girls at HSBC, World Bank, even FBI, carrying foreign passports, bearing Nigerian names.
What will happen if we need them or we’d never need them because they did not do NYSC? There are up to a million of them already all over the globe, including China and far-flung Australia. Will the next National Assembly take another look at the NYSC law before we ostracize all our brilliant babies the developed world is helping us develop? Or will we protect some and fillet the others and grill them for political dinner when they have served their political purpose?
One more lesson from Kemi Adeosun’s resignation: never delegate what you can do yourself. The Yoruba adage that says “a kii fi ise igbonse ran omo eni” will suffice here. Those who told Mrs. Adeosun they could fix her NYSC problem probably got paid handsomely for the shoddy job. May God also reward them handsomely!
In all, Adeosun has done her bit. Whether she had NYSC certificate or not, she did a few things right as Minister of Finance. We won’t forget that, but today is not the day for listing them.