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If you have just one opportunity in a lifetime to meet with the President/Commander-in-Chief and make a wish which would immediately be granted by the president, what would that wish be? For Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, ace actress, it is that the National Youth Service Corps should be scrapped.

According to Omotola, one of Time’s 100 most influential personalities, our president’s top priority should be NYSC; not food security (Omotola is UN’s WFP ambassador); not the education sector; not access to healthcare.

The actress’ burning heart’s desire was expressed in a recent interview with a newspaper. But it turns out that the only thing that was clearly conveyed by the actress was that she nursed a deep resentment against the programme. What she could not convey with equal clarity, or rather tried to conceal, was the reason for this resentment.

In the interview, Omotola said she had “looked at the NYSC programme THOROUGHLY” in terms of “exactly what it is supposed to have achieved over the years”. And her verdict – that “there is no credible or tangible result”.
Now, what goals or objective of the NYSC programme against which Omotola was measuring performance, the actress did not say. I doubt that she had consulted the relevant materials as thoroughly as she claimed, or whether she had done so at all. Otherwise, she would have, without any doubt, be more articulate in her objection to the programme beyond the generally nebulous and meaningless comments about “total waste of time” and “no tangible result”.

Or maybe she actually did (try to) provide some specifics. In which case it is her intellectual capacity, rather than her ability to articulate, that is in serious question in this case. In the only practical ‘evidence’ that the actress provided as proof of ‘failure’ of the programme, Omotola said that she has had to replace her staff who had left to participate in the NYSC scheme. So, what has this got to do with the goals and objectives for which the programme was set up? What is the connection? Where is the logic?

Besides, it is like saying that because Mrs. Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (MFR) lost a screen role because she had gone to Abuja to take part in a National Honours event, so the National Honours Act should be repealed.

As an alternative to the NYSC Programme, Omotola said government should do “skill acquisition” programme instead. Obviously, our Queen of Nollywood does not know that skill acquisition and a 12 month post-graduation National Youth Service Scheme are not necessarily mutually exclusive. And that there are a number of government skill acquisition programmes operating in Nigeria.

Worse, if she had taken even little time away from her other numerous engagements to inquire, she would have known that there is currently a skills’ component initiated by NYSC called the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Scheme, (SAED), with loans provided by the Bank of Industry (BOI). Yes, some of us have suggested that the skill acquisition segment should be expanded in terms of content and duration. Such input appears to me to be more constructive than the one purporting to be interested in a social development project but ending up knowing little and saying nothing about the subject.

So it is either that Omotola’s claims of having “looked at the programme thoroughly” is very questionable, or more plausibly that her motives are highly suspect. That is, her interests are separate and lie completely elsewhere, very far from the interests of those for whom she claims to be speaking.

Apart from her NYSC comments, the rest of the interview questions focused entirely on her personal (private) life. So the context suggest that NYSC service is a rather personal matter for our Nollywood queen.

For starters, it is obvious that Omotola did not participate in the NYSC scheme, since none of her online profiles (including her personal website) says anything about when and where she did her NYSC. And so far, neither Nollywood nor anybody else has bothered her about her NYSC credentials because, obviously, the actress has not gone looking for paid employment. If she is suddenly waking up more than ten years after her HND to complain about NYSC, then it means that her failure to participate in the scheme is beginning to become a problem for her.

But it cannot be that Omotola needs an NYSC certificate to attach to a job application so the lack of NYSC experience is becoming a hindrance for something else.

In keeping with the new fad in the industry, that something else can only be a burning political ambition which requires her to start organising her certificates, especially the ones that she previously had no use for in her life in showbusiness, and outside public service.

So now Omotola finally needs an NYSC certificate, which she does not have. By her reasoning, this obstacle can be removed by a presidential declaration abolishing the NYSC scheme. So because Omotola did not do youth service, the scheme should not be useful for anything, much less serve as a necessary condition for a career in politics. But in reality, one thing (Omotola’s lack of NYSC certificate) does not have to concern the other (relevance of the NYSC scheme).

In any other context, a debate on the relevance of any government programme is relevant, even necessary, to the extent that we desire that public expenditure on any programme should produce the most socially beneficial outcome. But a debate can only be useful if the arguments are limited strictly to the facts of the case, and conducted by those who have done proper due diligence on the matter.

Perhaps if our Nollywood actress was not too preoccupied with trying to do too many things outside her professional competence, she would know that the NYSC scheme was not set up to help business organisations like hers avoid the consequence of their manpower planning inefficiencies. In which case, she is kindly advised to leave the NYSC matter for those who are sufficiently informed about the programme to do the debating.

Written by: Adie Iyaji

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