Imagine If #Nigeria’s Footballers Had To Do NYSC

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Imagine Stephen Keshi calling Mikel Obi after he just graduates from his youth soccer academy in London …


john_obi_mikel“Mikel, I think you should play for Nigeria. I mean the way you move with and without the ball is something that other players foreign and local could learn from. I know you already have a multi-million job offer with Chelsea, and we don’t want to disrupt that agreement, we just require that during the African cup of Nations you leave your club for about 2 months to represent your country and that you are available to train when called upon. Plus the government will pay you if you win…it might not be on time but they will pay up.”

“Ah Keshi…I would love to play for Nigeria. No need to ask me even. I love my country die! When and where do I sign” Mikel replies.

Then Keshi lowers his tone and says “There is one problem Mikel o…have you done your NYSC?” and Mikel is like “NYSC? No now I have been in the London youth academy training for the past 4 years. You recommended I come here to Europe to hone my skills.”

Keshi then replies “Ah…you know you cannot really play for Nigeria unless you have done your NYSC.” long silence…

Then Keshi is like “But it is not a problem…all you have to do is attend a 3 week orientation camp in Nigeria. I mean the camp is not the greatest, soldiers will scream at you almost everyday. And the toilets might not work all the time. In fact you might have to sling shit over the fence on some days. But you will survive”

Still silence…but Keshi continues “And then after you leave camp you have to play soccer for a rural football club in the village for 9 months…they really don’t have electricity or running water except for the occasional rain that brings falling water and electric thunder…but the government will pay you 30K a month.”

“30K dollars a month? I might be able to manage that.” Mikel finally replies, breaking the preceding silence.

“Actually Mikel its 30K Naira” Keshi replies. Silence…

“Hello…hello…Mikel are you there? Mikel. Mikel….” dial tone…CALL ENDS.

All jokes aside, imagine if Super Eagle foreign based players were required to complete 1 year mandatory youth service before they could play for Nigeria. Like they had to go for a 3 week orientation camp, then play for a local football club for another 10 months, while earning 30,000 naira every month!

I’ll tell you what will happen, they will end up playing for other countries, other countries like Danny Welbeck of Ghana did for England, like Zinedine Zidane of Algeria did for France, like Obinze Ogbonna did for Italy and even USA…yes USA as Oguchi Onyewu of Nigeria opted to play for them…although we are not really complaining about that last one.

Ironically that is exactly what is happening today. Our foreign graduates, most chased away from Nigeria by perpetual strikes, disruption, poor educational quality and high unemployment rates…end up in Foreign Universities. They excel despite some struggling to make ends meet while fighting language/cultural barriers.

They eventually graduate top of their class…best in their craft and are offered lucrative jobs, which they accept. They live in that system…the foreign system where everything works, until they get that phone call from Stephen Keshi their parents telling them to come home…your country needs you.

Like the Mikel example above, very few will come back, not just because of the NYSC barrier, but because those other countries need and want them to stay. So they poach our best foreign talents, entice them with greencards, scholarships and a better standard of life just so they remain and make that other country better…But our government’s only offer is NYSC…take it or leave it.

What the Nigerian government fails to realize is that we are in a human resources war. The war has being going on since the early 1900’s. America and most of the other developed countries are aware of this war so they set up strategies to get the best talent from all over the world including Nigeria while simultaneously fighting to retain their own best talent.

But the Nigerian government does none of that…instead we chase our best students out of the country in the millions and then set up barriers upon barriers to make their return difficult.

A country that does not know its fighting a war, will always lose that war!

A country that does not know its fighting a war, will always lose that war! We lost the war on our natural resources in the colonial era largely because we did not even realize there was a war going on and till today we are still recovering from that unknown war! But we are yet to learn anything from that experience as we are currently losing another war…the war on human resources! Trained and valuable human resources.

Over one billion dollars (not Naira) is spent by Nigerian students in Ghana. I don’t even want to put the amount that is spend in the UK or USA in this article … because you might break your laptop or phone in shock. People are paying to escape Nigeria.

All I am begging is that our government officials realize that a war on Human Resources is going on and if nothing is done to reform obstacles like NYSC and others, we would see even more of our citizens playing for and improving other countries.

I leave with this last thought….Imagine an African Cup of Nations match…. Victor Moses cuts to the byline and floats a long cross over to Mikel Obi, who finishes with a stunning header scoring against Nigeria while wearing a Ghanian jersey…its already happening!

twitterWritten and Drawn By Okechukwu Ofili of
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Words by Okechukwu Ofili of
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43 comments on “Imagine If #Nigeria’s Footballers Had To Do NYSC

  1. Ofili there is so much insight in this piece. I really feel government has almost lost this war. Our human resource are never seen that way, to us (govt) its mere population and just numbers. Little value is placed on human capital over here. The issue is how long shall we remain on the loosing side ?

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      Abi o. Stephen I tire. In fact people look at foreign graduates as negatives…as in what I this people feeling like because you went to the abroad. But when it comes to soccer we do the reverse, not realizing the underlying similarities.

  2. Sigh I can relate to this. Currently serving at the moment, a batch c corps member now and the painful part is they restrict you to schools and local government where your brains will dull out and expire…I chose to go to a school just so I can keep reading and keep brain alive….NYSC sucks bricks Me Ofili….btw I need that 10,000 if the offer is still up. Have a lovely weekend

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      There is really nothing wrong with the service aspect of NYSC I just think it can be modified a lot and improved upon.

      • Same here!I’m in support of NYSc just that it could be modified to favour youth corp members especially those serving in the North….

  3. Ofili. Interesting article but it is not about finger pointing. I agree that the NYSC needs reforms but foreign graduates should get a pass. The program was designed as a tool to give back to society. If you have true intention of transforming Nigeria, monetary gains should be last on one’s list. We need action minded people not critics

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      I never said anything about foreign graduates getting a pass. Secondly my article is simply highlighting that Nigerian students are leaving Nigeria at an alarming rate and not returning to Nigeria. Government should not take the issue lightly.

      Thirdly, NYSC was established in the 1970’s when our Nigerian University system was something to be proud of. Today our University system has fallen, but yet NYSC has remained the same…this is a problem.

      Laslty, since you don’t feel foreign graduates should get a pass, do you feel foreign Nigerian footballers should get a pass? I mean why don’t they do NYSC as well?

    • Nnedimma on said:

      I do not mean any disrepect, Yomi but I say you are wrong. We need critics! Every system that works does so because of critics as well as other contributors. And what’s not to criticise about the NYSC program? Sometimes, criticism is not just action but Positive Action too. If we criticise enough, maybe someone who CAN actually change things will hear, care and clear the currently ineffective NYSC path for a better system of “giving back to society”.

  4. Ofili. Interesting article but it is not about finger pointing. I agree that the NYSC needs reforms but foreign graduates shouldn’t get a pass. The program was designed as a tool to give back to society. If you have true intention of transforming Nigeria, monetary gains should be last on one’s list. We need action minded people not critics

  5. Brother I feel you! The immigration’s examination that happened about two weeks ago is another eyesore that we don’t even know is an eyesore! But in the very practical terms, the government the way it is today, cannot solve this unemployment! It takes a government that has the love of its people at heart to do that! Obviously this is not that government! Though it may be difficult at first, but I am always an advocate of people looking inwards and finding their strengths and running with it! It can be done, it’s been done many times over, it’s what I’m doing, it’s what Ofili is doing! And we don’t have two heads! The government and private sector can only offer so much jobs…

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      Thank you Ayodeji. I mean look at Kanu Nwankwo, that guy has set up soccer academy’s that have raised our soccer levels. Okocha has opened businesses and given employment. Stephen Keshi has raised our soccer game. So if foreign students come back en-mass…they can and will create jobs! Just like Jason Njoku and Uche Eze did. O well…

  6. Na true you talk, my brotha. Nigerian government only has NYSc to offer. You teach in community schools then pass out to face an Employer who says you have no Job ready skills and no Experience..

  7. kenneth on said:

    Ofili! I wish our government could fight to snatch Suarez to score for Nigeria against Uruguay, I wish, I wish, I wish. Eziokwu bu ndu,I ji ezigbo okwu here. jide ka iji!

  8. Somebody on said:

    Ofili, thanks for this! As someone whose parent’s have starting to beat the drums with tunes of returning home (and me dreading it, of course), I’m concerned about the skills I may lose while getting next to nothing (I’m not even referring to money here) in return.

    It saddens me that with all the knowledge I’ve gained while working for years in financial industry in North America, I would not be able to contribute much to the same industry in Nigeria because I may be forced to teach agricultural science or physics in a school.

    Ofili, you forgot to mention Canada. It’s the hottest destination for Nigerian students now with many of them coming in large numbers every year.

  9. Queen of Posh on said:

    Lol…..this Ofili guy’s thinking is dope…and nice article…So true and I absolutely relate to this. Doing NYSC scares the crap out of me honestly…esp the thought of no light and possibly internet. And 30k? Really? I thought the pay for all dat suffer was more dan dat… na wa o

  10. Ofili, you just spoke the minds of a lot of graduates both at home and abroad.

    For the umpteenth time my brother has asked me to come home for my NYSC and I keep asking him why should I? The only reason I get is “you can’t do this, you can’t do that….without your NYSC certificate” and I tell him I don’t want to do any of the “this and that!”

    The NYSC as it is today is a sham! Giving back to the society? What has the society given to us? A society that frustrates the lives of its youths? A society that cannot guarantee that at least half of the graduates participating in the NYSC would get a job upon completion? A society with broken education system with dilapidated infrastructure? How long does the average Nigerian that attends a Federal/State university to graduate? With ASUU strike and all that….

    When NYSC was initiated in the ’70s, it was a great program because our education standard was great. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the state of education in Nigeria today. The government don’t really care for education – they just want ASUU to get off their back.

    A review of the program is way overdue! I’d rather have it abolished. However, the government insist on continuing with the program, it needs some serious reforms. The reform should begin with an overhaul of our educational system. A professor should not be using the same curriculum he used in the ’70s and ’80s (during the early years of the NYSC program) to teach students today!

    The program needs some serious makeover. First, let’s start with the conditions of the NYSC shit holes called camps (excuse my french). Build better camps. Make the NYSC experience something folks look forward to NOT another obstacle.

    If the education system isn’t significantly better, there’s really no need for another obstacle to creativity and human resource development.
    Segun Pryme latest post is ‘Nigeria’s Mark Zuckerberg’ Gossy Ukanwoke – Founder of Nigeria’s First Private Online UniversityMy Profile

  11. I’d be going to serve in July and the thought fills me annoyance, after spending seven years in the university and one year for internship, I’m too old for that bullcrap… lol. The main reason for NYSC was for it to be a unification tool, 44 years later are we any more united?
    I wish the programme could be scrapped immediately, the pay is a joke #19700 and the conditions of service are terrible, you get posted to a strange place most times you’re not provided with accommodation and you’re expected to give your all. My friend is serving in Ebonyi with no accommodation provided and she has to work days, nights and weekends on #19700 cos “they don’t have enough pharmacists”
    Sadly I know a man who was over thirty who falsified his age to be able to serve, why? “that may be my only opportunity to get regular pay in a long time” Nigeria- the only country that regards its youths as being of no value.

  12. Chuk Ejim on said:

    Well said.

    Sometimes I fear that one day the entire system will implode from the ground up, so that it can be rebuilt

    ….so many theories on how to fix Nigeria…Oke, since you’re on the ground often, maybe you can answer this…are any of these theories seeing the light of day?

  13. It’s sad that the NYSC scheme is the proverbial Rubicon that every Nigerian graduate must pass if they hope to ever get employed or vie for political office. That’s the way it is! You either “work” your posting to a favourable location/establishment or you resign to fate and hope you don’t waste one year of your life in the name of National Service. My heart bleeds for the millions of young graduates and even those still in school! They have absolutely no idea what the real world out there looks like. They are being prepared for a world that no longer exists-a time that has passed/changed. They are being given an obsolete education that is not relevant in today’s reality. Hence, the frustration on graduation. We need to change our minds…

  14. Joshua on said:

    Ofili..this is like speaking to me directly, because i am in final year…studying in Ukraine and parents are telling me to come back and they don’t want to hear what i have to say against it.
    Its a big war ahead of me, cos i know i will end up fending for myself here, but i know its worth it because going to Nigeria is very unfavorable, people even forget to write ‘N’ in Nigeria in capital letter.Anyway, pls don’t stop writing, i usually brag about you to my Arab friends that Nigeria has unique writers lol

    • Thanks Joshua for the brag. Think about your decision wisely, if you can get a job in Ukraine good. If you can find an opportunity in Nigeria even better. But just weigh everything out.

  15. Manny on said:

    The irony of it is that scrapping NYSC will lead to a loss of livelihoods seeing as there are professional NYSC servers i.e. people that serve for other people year in year out and collect the stipend on their behalf. The entire system in Nigeria is messed up and honestly, I see no solution in sight

  16. Adeyemi Oluwole on said:

    Ofili, what are u talking about? The orientation camp may be worthless. Yes, but that is part of the training, to prepare you for the harsh and unforgiving world out there. And as for, this is pure paradise! In my time it was 180 Naira per month. Oh yes, one hundred and eighty Naira, out of which I spent 80 Naira and saved 100.i served in the then serene plains of Daho in Plateau State, drinking muddy water and sleeping in a mud hut. I survived. Today, I am better off for it and the experience has been invaluable. That is not to say, however that the scheme is not in dire need of reforms and improvements. As in all Nigerian things, government sets up institutions and promptly go to sleep. This is not good enough. As for your imaginary Mikel Obi, he does not even qualify ab initio. One can only hope that some people are listening. Bless you bro.

    • Adeyemi your statement here is the big issue with Nigeria “The orientation camp may be worthless. Yes, but that is part of the training, to prepare you for the harsh and unforgiving world out there. And as for, this is pure paradise!”

      That is like a politician saying hey the Nigerian roads are bad, NEPA is harsh, Bokoharam…we know it sucks, but it is to prepare you for the harsh and unforgiving world…so vote for me. Huh…will you vote? Let me tell you the Nigerian mentality that suffering is a good thing is what is killing us and you have that mentality. To call Orientation Camp pure paradise is to call the Bokoharam pure angels.
      Okechukwu Ofili latest post is It’s Not about Whether You Did or Did Not Go To ChurchMy Profile

  17. Adeyemi Oluwole on said:

    oops, I forgot to add that out of my savings, at the end of the service,I bought my first 2-door Sanyo refrigerator and a 4-burner cooker that I started life with. Can you beat that?

  18. Peterpidia on said:

    I would never want or agitate for NYSC’s scrapping..i’d appreciate ‘good and massive reforms’ to the existing system..nigerians are so used to nonsense that we give positive reasons to accept them..going through some senseless training exercises and living in shitholes called orientation camps wouldn’t prepare one for real life..why not make the conditions better? Would staying in humane and neat hostels make us see life so easy? I have a friend who just ‘passed out’..while serving,he was mostly at home..why?–he was posted to serve in a polytechnic thas has been on strike and is still on,has that young man ‘served’ his country?
    Ofili,i’m happy you aren’t part of the ‘many’ who live outside nigeria and comes home with speaking of foul language as their identity..thanks for being a true nigerian…#God’sblessings.

  19. Jasmine on said:

    If footballers were to do the NYSC thing…hmm…now wouldn’t that be interesting? Hehe.

    Now. About the insurgence of Nigerian students into foreign lands. Well. Its a government issue and a “we” issue. One can’t drop it all on the Flag and be like ‘hey, its all your fault’. We, on the other hand, don’t know the power we wield. Youths are to be heard, seen and felt. If you don’t like something, make it known. Simple.

    Or is it, really?

  20. Hmmmm, someone earlier talked about giving back, giving back oshi wo? Tell that to those who died during the last elections. Anything that you do post university should help in furthering your career not take you off the path. How can I study Electrical And Electronics Engineering and be teaching Physics for a whole year. That’s the most ‘stupidest’ idea ever.

    As far as NYSC goes, I think It’s added post school training for professional courses But a total waste of time for the others.

    I think NYSC should be made to benefit the graduate and not the government. If I partake in a program that immensely benefits me, I’d be more likely to be loyal to my government n country than a program that wastes my time and doesn’t leave me better. That’s my opinion

  21. Mayowa Ade92 on said:

    I strongly support a restructuring and reform of the NYSC program to fit the needs of the participants and the nation in present times. When the program was set up in the 70’s, it was to bring Nigerians together which was sorely needed after the civil war had threatened to tear the nation apart on not just political but social lines as well. For that, Yes it had a purpose. But today, our nation is in need for a different approach. NYSC should be structured to provide work experience for the future workforce. Graduates should be posted like in internships to establishments that serve the community while simultaneously providing effective work experience. Participants should have access to subsidized housing costs and and the question on whether it should be mandatory is open. These are simple ideas that I thought of as I began typing. It is not rocket science.

  22. Nnamdi on said:

    Most of us youths, see ourselves as visitors rather than citizens of our country. Play your part in Nation reform, rather than complian and point fingers. When we begin to use our strong creative minds to fight the bad government, that is only when those in there will take us seriously. Nigeria is our home, no one will fix it for us, except us. Please our brothers in foreign countries, come back and apply what you have gained from a system that everything seems to work. Don’t come back here and expect to be served jobs like fried rice and chicken.

    • Nnamdi,

      The “Don’t come back here and expect to be served jobs like fried rice and chicken.” is a funny statement. You realize that the unemployment rate of Nigeria is close to 50% and that America has an unemployment rate of about 7%, I don’t think people are running back to Nigeria for jobs, because there are barely any. For those that come back my push is to create jobs where ever possible.
      Okechukwu Ofili latest post is The Problem With Being A Work Stunt ManMy Profile

  23. joshua on said:

    Greatest Nigerian Students!!, my name is joshua and i really have a

    testimony to share with you all , i graduated this year precisely feb

    22, so i thought to my self how i wish i could follow this 1st batch in

    march to serve . But i actually knew it was impossible cos they are

    pilled up list from last year , and this years march batch was meant

    for them, so i just thought let me try my luck if i could serve , so i

    contacted this official, Mr Ayodele and it told me it was possible, and

    to my big surprise it worked, my name was pasted on the correction list

    sent to my schooland i was the only one in my department that went for

    service this march, i mean this man is a pro and he does wonders.I just

    pray God bless him for the way he helped me. Any interested individual

    that needs help regarding posting or call-up letter can call him on


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