Chief Gregory Kas Enegwea is another pioneer corps member. He shares his experience on how he won the presidential honours award, amongst other experiences he had during his service year.
What should we be expecting from the NYSC in the next 50 years?
Unfortunately, I may not be around at that time because right now, I am 80 years old but if there is anything that is to be considered great in the history of this country, it is the creation of the National Youth Service Corps. In my own case, I always celebrate it, do you know why? It’s not only because it gave me a job, not because I was the pioneer award winner, not because I was amongst the first corps members, not because I was the one nominated by the Nigerian government to go and establish the National Youth Service Corps in Gambia but because when I was serving, I got a lady who was my girlfriend then and I married her immediately after our youth service.
Because of my marriage to that woman that I met in Kaduna in 1973, everyday is Christmas in my life. She is also from Edo State but we met during NYSC in Kaduna State. As long as she lives and I live, I will not just remember the youth service corps but I will remember what God has done for my life.
I congratulate Gen. Gowon who during his administration put everything in place. The history of NYSC dates back to many years before Gen. Gowon resumed as Head of State. Following many things that happened in Nigeria, especially if anyone remembers the “operation wet é” in the western region during Awolowo and Akintola time, then came the Civil War after that, and a lot of other things in the country.
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So, Nigerian students, especially in America, started to convince the nation of the need to establish the youth service corps in Nigeria.
Would you say NYSC has lived up to its expectations?
Yes, it has lived up to its expectations.
What was it like being a member of the NYSC at the time?
We were the pioneer set of the scheme. I recall the respect we earned as corps members; it was something to be proud of. You go into an institution, they give you accommodation, and everything was very good then. Unfortunately, it is just a few corps employers that provide accommodations for corps members today, but during our time, we were lucky. I commend those who are handling the scheme presently. They have done well.
What state are you from and where did you serve?
I am from Edo State but I served in the North-central state which comprises Kaduna and Katsina, so I served in Kaduna.
What earned you the presidential honours award?
At that time, most of us were teachers. I was basically a teacher but as a corps member, I was a presenter of many programmes at the Kaduna State television, I was a writer for the Observer Newspaper, I contributed many articles to the New Nigeria Newspaper and all these made me popular. People knew me everywhere, especially in Kaduna, Katsina and Kano. This feat earned me the presidential honours award at that time.
At what age did you serve and what university did you graduate from?
I was exactly 30 when I was called on to go for my youth service and I graduated from the University of Ife.
Where was your place of primary assignment?
I worked with Queen Amina College in Kaduna.
What are your thoughts on what corps members and the scheme are going through?
Even before I finished writing my degree examination, I had gotten eight job offers. During our days, the Civil Service would go to higher institutions and interview people in their final year for jobs. By the time I completed NYSC and was the award winner in our set, I had another job offer which made it nine offers but I chose to be a teacher. However, I still ended up working with NYSC when I was called upon.
What’s your assessment of the NYSC and Nigeria today?
It has done so well I must commend it. I sincerely pray that nothing would dislodge it or make it get scrapped.