NYSC: Why Okenwa Will Not Serve In The North


“My husband’s killers broke the news of his death to us in a malicious way”-Mrs. Tessy Elliot Adohe (wife of the late Mr Elliot Edohe a Youth Corper murdered in Bauchi). This is the story of the sad and pathetic end of a married young Nigerian called Mr. Elliot Edohe who went to serve his fatherland in Bauchi State for the mandatory one year National Service.

He was murdered in cold blood by blood thirsty fanatics and fundamentalists in the North who were protesting the outcome of 16 April 2011 Presidential election. Hundreds of people including serving corpers were killed as a result of the mayhem. Elliot’s wife, Mrs. Tessy Elliot Adohe told the world that her husband’s killers broke the news of his death to them in a malicious way.

Now read what the widow said: “There was one of my husband’s uncles, Colonel Clark, who spoke with my husband that fateful morning. He had called to inform him about the crisis in Bauchi and also asked him for N2,000 recharge card which the uncle sent. The uncle was later worried after he waited for about one hour without my husband calling back to acknowledge receipt of the recharge card. So he called my husband’s phone only for a woman to pick it and said. ‘That one, we have killed him in the police station’.”

The Colonel did not believe this strange woman but the rest is now history. Elliot Adohe, the Youth Corper died in the hands of a criminal gang who do not know the meaning of life and the value of human life.Okenwa Igbokwe was born on 4 May 1991 and at the age of 9, he was admitted into Lagos Model College , Kankon, Badagry.

He was there for three years until the excruciating pains of going to and fro Badagry with its choking traffic gridlock compelled me to change school for him. Okenwa entered Secondary School in year 2000 and in 2001 his brother Chibuike joined him. In 2003, we withdrew both of them because the suffering and pains of going to Badagry almost every other week became unbearable.

The school run in Lagos was something else but endured it like every other parents until both left secondary school and entered the University in 2007 in Otta Ogun State .For almost four years now, we have been doing our duties as parents to raise kids that will take care of us at old age. We have been trying to raise kids that will equip us to answer our critics.

We have been working round the clock to raise kids that will make us proud when we sit among our people. We have been pushing, encouraging and supporting them to know that growing old is mandatory while growing up is optional. We see them as our future hope and the hope of our dear country. We see them as leaders of tomorrow.

Last year, on June 20 precisely armed robbers nearly killed me, my wife, my two daughters, and Okenwa on our way to Otta to see their brothers. We are lucky to be alive today to tell the story but our vehicle was never recovered. My books – my treasure and other vital documents were never recovered. Today, I still mourn the loss of my books.

The mental picture of what happened to me and my family has remained with me. The nightmare and the pains have remained with us to date. My nine-year old daughter is still living in fear to date after that terrible and dreadful experience. I can never wish that experience even to my worst enemy. Time without season, I have continued to thank the Almighty God even for life and the smallest thing in my house.To the glory of God, Okenwa will be graduating this year and probably by next year he will be going for the National Service. Yes, he is going to serve Nigeria but Okenwa will not serve in the Northern part of Nigeria.

Okenwa can serve in the South East, South West and I can manage South South but not anywhere in the North East, North West, and North Central. After raping and murdering a female Youth Corpers last year or thereabouts I remember I had written then that none of my children will serve in the North. It was then that I lost interest in the NYSC.

The National Youth Service Corps was set up 38 years ago to foster national unity, promote ethnic and cultural understanding, and love for one another. I can at once agree that we have made significant progress since then but what we hear and see these days especially in the North has put a serious question mark on the existence of NYSC. Under our eyes our trained children are being slaughtered in the North like goats anytime there is a crisis there whether religious or political.

For 20 years, I have been studying the developments with respect to the welfare and security of Youths Corps members and have come to the unhappy conclusion that time has come to protect the Corpers or we confine NYSC to history. Nigeria cannot afford to continue to sacrifice the lives of vibrant young Nigerians in the name of maintaining a body that has been overtaken by event.

The innocent blood of 10 Youth Corpers sacrificed recently in the North breaks my heart as a father as I put myself in the condition of those parents who were robbed of their hope, precious jewel and lifetime investment. As a father I know what it takes both human and material resources to train a child from primary to the university.

In fact, you cannot quantify the input parents make to raise their kids. When such children are killed, hope is killed.The Human Rights Watch just reported that about 800 people were killed during the recent uprising in the North. Let no one be deceived, the blood of these slain corpers is crying to high heavens and we need to sit down to think. And my take on NYSC is this: send the kids to their states of origin or disband the NYSC.

Okenwa or any of my kids can never, never serve in the North. Finally, let me appeal to Northern leaders to rise up to the occasion. The economy of the entire North is in ruins courtesy of incessant and repeated uprising in that region. Kano State which used to compete with Lagos in terms of investment is now a shadow of itself. Potential investors and resource persons are leaving the North in droves, and I think Northern leaders should do something.

The world waits for nobody and if Northern leaders think it is business as usual, it means then that they did not know when the train left the station.


•Joe Igbokwe wrote from Lagos


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