Around May of this year, President Muhammadu Buhari made what most observers considered to be an avoidable error of judgment when one of the most efficient public institutional leaders Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim was moved from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and a replacement made in the person of Brigadier General Muhammadu Kaku Fadah.
That was similar to a doomsday scenario whereby a landlord decided to pick an undertaker as his caretaker of his gigantic building and this caretaker rather than take care of the skyscraper decided to destroy a foundation of a skyscraper as a way of looking after the housing assets.
This was exactly what took place when President Muhammadu Buhari pulled out the widely acclaimed effective leader Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim from office of the Director General of the NYSC to put in his place a total stranger to leadership qualities and an absolute neophyte- Brigadier-General Fadah.
The change of leadership in the over 48 years old Federal Institution, is seen as a major error because it is inexplicable how the President decided to move out a versatile educationist with a doctorate degree and indeed holds the academic title of associate professor in the person of Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim to bring in Brigadier Fadah who is virtually a nobody as far as management or leadership position in Nigeria is concerned and whose past records are as unknown as they are shrouded in mystery.
The overwhelming doubts and scepticism of observers of NYSC regarding the monumental mistake of May 2022 in the change of leadership in NYSC became immediately notorious when it became so clear, indeed as clear as the bright star in the sky that Brigadier-General Fadah is clearly unsuitable for the high office of the Director General of the NYSC and his appointment will in the shortest possible time destabilize and demolish all the legacy projects established by successive hierarchies of the NYSC and with specific reference to the immediate past Director General Shuaibu Ibrahim who was redeployed by President Buhari to make way for Brigadier-General Fadah.
It did not require a rocket science for the apparent unsuitability and what many described as crass incompetency of Brigadier-General Fadah to begin to manifest and stories began to fly around that NYSC may eventually implode if no remedial step is taken to restore the NYSC back to the path of efficient and effective leadership and growth.
There were series of public protests and threats to carry out protests to force President Buhari to save the NYSC from imminent collapse by dismissing General Fadah who is not the appropriate leader to head the scheme.
One amongst the plethora of petitions circulated by concerned Nigerians clearly stated that Brigadier-General M.K Fadah is a square peg in a round hole just as the writer openly canvassed the immediate sack of the then Director General.
Ironically, twenty four hours after this and many more damaging petitions circulated, President Buhari did the right thing by sacking Fadah before NYSC collapses under the heavy weight of manifests leadership inertia and failure of charisma to raise the scheme to greater heights or even to maintain the high standards established by Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim- led management at the NYSC.
The petitioner stated that the National Youth Service Corps was established in 1973 by the Federal Military Government of His Excellency Gen Yakubu as a beacon of national unity and integration, designed to drive the process of carving a nation out of the multiplicity of ethnic nationalities making up the entity, Nigeria.
Over the past 49 years, the Scheme has pursued vigorously the lofty objectives of the founding fathers. The NYSC has equally grown exponentially, mobilising over 350,000 Nigerian youths for Service every year.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Corps is a great institution that refocuses the mindsets of Nigerian youths, making them more patriotic, amenable to being mobilised for national causes such as: national elections, census, polio eradication, HIV/AIDS campaigns, among others.
Through the Scheme’s Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme, thousands of ex-Corps Members trained under the initiative have been able to set up businesses, employing other Nigerians and contributing immensely to the country’s economic development, which is a remarkable achievement of the Government.
In 49 years, the Scheme has had 19 Chief Executives, starting with Col (Dr.) Ahmadu Ali, a brilliant medical doctor that laid the foundation of the Scheme, upon which his successors have continued to build upon, as the Scheme is work-in-progress.
The performance of a good number of the past Chief Executives was of sterling quality. Notably, among others, Col Ali, Col Edet Akpan, Col SA Sofoluwe, Brig Gen Samson Dule, Brig Gen Yusuf Bomoi, Brig Gen Maharazu Tsiga, Brig Gen NT Okore-Affia, Brig Gen Olawumi, Maj Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim all made varying degrees of outstanding contributions to the progress of the Scheme as Chief Executives, for which posterity will remember them.
The petitioner then alleged that Brig Gen MK Fadah took over the reins of leadership from Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim whose tenure witnessed a lot of positive actions as the 19th Chief Executive but almost got the institution destroyed within a very short time frame. As Philosophers use to say that is is easier to destroy than to build, the petitioner alleged that the coming of Fadah, whose antecedents are anything but noble remains the greatest disservice to the youths of this country which the Scheme caters to.
The allegations continued: “It is most regrettable that the President who has great abhorrence for cutting of corners; was misled into appointing an alleged misfit the Director-General of a Scheme that he has always given tremendous support.
Fadah is allegedly a representation of all that is wrong with Nigeria. It is very surprising how the character rose to the rank of General in the Nigerian Army that has produced the likes of Gen Muhammadu Buhari, Gen Joe Garba, Gen Dambazzau, Gen Domkat Bali, Gen Tunde Idiagbon, Gen TY Danjuma to mention just a few, the petitioner asserted.
One wonders how he got commissioned into the Nigerian Army without the presentation of NYSC Certificate of Service; without passing through the Scheme when he was officially within the age of service at the time he purportedly graduated.
Disappointingly, it was learnt that days after his assumption of office, some members of staff were able to articulate a 5 — point agenda for him, but he cannot express the meaning of the agenda before his staff and members of public.
Since the month of May that he took over, he has been struggling knowingly and unknowingly to dismantle all that his predecessors laboured to build in 49 years.
The worst thing is that even when all these allegations were in circulation, the person being accused of maladministration was unwilling to counter them.
History was therefore made when confirmation of his sack came as follows; “Following the removal of Brigadier General Muhammad Kaku Fadah as Director General, National Youth Service Corps by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, Mrs Christy Uba, Director, Information and Communications Technology, the most senior Director in the Scheme has taken over the leadership of the Corps in the capacity of Overseer, pending the appointment of a substantive Director General by Mr President.”
The statement was signed by Mr Eddy Megwa (fnipr) the Director, Press and Public Relations.
As a reminder, let me reel out just a few of the achievements of Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim as Director General of NYSC up until May this year before he was moved away.
These milestones should guide President Buhari to appoint an officer of the best educationial, managerial and ethical high ground to become the next Director General of NYSC.
Just before he was redeployed, the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State Engineer Abdullahi Sule had described the recently promoted Director General of the National Youth Service Corps Major General Shu’aibu Ibrahim as a worthy ambassador of Nasarawa people for his strategic role in redefining the operations of the NYSC Scheme as a catalyst of development.
He said his achievements were testified by the Founding father of the NYSC General Yakubu Gowon and many State Governors who appreciated his impactful leadership in reinventing the NYSC and making it more relevant.
Engineer Sule who was a Special Guest of Honour during the GRAND reception organised in honour of the NYSC DG for his elevation to the rank of a Major General in the Nigerian Army.
The Governor, who paid glowing tribute to General Shu’aibu, admitted that the then DG worked hard to deserve his elevation especially in the area of empowering corps members through Skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development, reinvigoration of NYSC ventures and ensuring provision of a comprehensive documentation of NYSC activities and interventions in national development agenda.
“I’m a proud Governor because every state you go, the Governor will speak eloquently about the way you have redefined the Youth Service Corps in his state. You came , you saw and you have redefined the NYSC through many interventions which you mostly created ” the Governor stated.
Speaking further, Governor Sule commended the new policy drive of the NYSC then aimed at empowering corps members through
acquisition of skills for self-employment which he said is the best option out of the problem of unemployment for our teeming graduate youths .
In their separate goodwill messages, the Emir of Keffi Dr. Shehu Chindo Yamusa and House of Representatives member representing Nasarawa Toto Federal Constituency in Nasarawa State, Honourable Ari Mohammed Abdulmumini expressed delight at the unprecedented achievements recorded by General Shu’aibu which earned him successive promotions up to Major General especially his numerous accomplishments in the NYSC Scheme.
They both said Nasarawa state people are proud to be associated with his uncommon achievements and wish him more success in future. I must say that all of Nigeria is proud of the rare leadership qualities of Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim during his stint as DG of NYSC.
The Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, represented by his Permanent Secretary Alh Isma’ila Abubakar commended the then Director General for providing the required leadership which motivated staff to support him in achieving the successes recorded. He urged him not to relent in his efforts to further elevate the NYSC Sheme to greater heights.
In her remarks on behalf of NYSC Staff and Corps members nationwide, the then Director, Information and Communication Technology, (ICT) Mrs Christy Uba who is now acting as Director General enumerated the achievements of General Shu’aibu to include among others; optimum utilization of the potentials of corps members, reinvigoration of NYSC Ventures and Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship (SAED) programme, enforcement of a credible mobilization process, documentation of NYSC activities , enhancement of staff and Corps welfare, provision of ICT Centre, proposed NYSC Radio among others.
In his response, General Shu’aibu thanked God for His grace in his successive elevation in the Military and appreciated the Governor of Nasarawa State, Community Leaders, Staff and Corps members for the uncommon honour.
The then NYSC Director General expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for finding him worthy to be so appointed as the Chief Executive of the NYSC Scheme. He equally appreciated the Minister of Defence and Chief of Army Staff for believing in his capacity and their endorsement of his promotion to the rank of a Major General after earning a steady elevation in the last 28 years of his career . The DG further stated that his principles in life is targeted towards touching lives and pledges to devote his life in furtherance of this philosophy.
“All I have achieved in life was as a result of prayers of those I have come across in the course of my life”, he stated.
The then Director General commended various stakeholders of the Scheme for their support and called on them to sustain their advocacy for the success of the proposed NYSC Trust Fund which aims at empowering youth Corps members and addressing infrastructural challenge of the Scheme
The then Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim, went on to pour encomiums on the President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for finding him worthy to be appointed to showcase his potentials.
He also thanked the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Army Staff for having him worthy to be promoted to the rank of Major General in the Nigerian Army.
Ibrahim who stated these during a grand reception on his elevation to the rank of Major General in the Nigerian Army said his rise to the rank was not a surprise as he had neither missed any promotion nor lobbied for it for the past 28 years.
The then NYSC boss said that he had never missed promotion in his 28 years of service in the military, which was facilitated by his principle of touching lives.
Recently, an observer reflected on some of the milestones made by the then Director General of the NYSC and captured these in such a way that there is no longer doubts that the rise of the Director General of the NYSC has inevitably led to the phenomenal rise and growth of the institution that he has led in the last two years and some few Month as the Director General. Sadly, the appointment of Brigadier General Fadah nearly collapse the NYSC.
The DG then Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim reportedly attracted funding for corps members business proposals. Some of the new collaborations in this regard include an enterprise development programme with the Unity Bank tagged Corpreneurship which offers a sandwich training and competition leading to award of business funds as prizes. The British America Tobacco Nigeria America Foundation (BATNF) is also funding a “Farmers for the Future” programme which offers agro-entrepreneurial training and mentoring for corps members and empowerment with money, land, agricultural inputs and services to the tune of N5, 000,000. Others are the Enterprise Development Centre partnership which has benefitted 140 corps members, the Access Bank Lions’ Den partnership which is offering a package of business funding and mentoring totaling N3, 000,000, the Leventis Foundation one year internship in its farm settlements and empowerment to establish afterwards and the NIRSAL MFB special loan package without the encumbrance of collateral.
The farms and agricultural ventures of the Scheme have equally been expanded and strengthened under the watch of Ibrahim, as documented in a well articulated newspaper article recently.
The administration of the DG of NYSC at the moment keyed into the Government’s policy of diversifying the economy through harnessing opportunities in the agricultural sector. In line with the Federal Government’s policy on rice production, he is reportedly upgrading and repositioning NYSC farms for massive production and processing of rice. New equipments have been purchased for the NYSC rice farms in Ezillo, Ebonyi State and Saminaka, Kebbi State. He also recently secured 16 hectres of land from the Nasarawa State Government to expand the scope of the Scheme’s farming activities.
These are in addition to ensuring optimum operation of the NYSC Bread and water factories in Kubwa, Abuja and the Garment factories in Anambra and Niger States and resuscitating the NYSC Feed mill in Lagos. His efforts are yielding the desired result as the revenue generation profile of the Scheme through its Ventures initiatives has tremendously improved. Apart from expanding the Scheme’s agricultural ventures the DG has engendered partnerships with several agro-based organizations to contribute and boost the Federal Government’s initiative on food security as well train corps members on agro business. They include the IITA, ARMT, NALDA, NCRI and NCAM among others.
Engagement with critical stakeholders is inevitably one important strategy adopted by the Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim hierarchy of NYSC then which was quite effective as it has attracted tremendous increase in stakeholders support for the scheme.
His audience with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum led to State Governments making remarkable gestures including Completion of new NYSC permanent Orientation Camps in Anambra and Edo, construction of a 500-capacity’ hostel at the NYSC Orientation Camp, Kaduna, provision of power transformer, 1,500 double-bunk beds, 3,000 mattresses as well as on-going construction of a 5,000-capacity Auditorium and internal roads at the NYSC Camp Rivers State, construction of 250-capacity hostel at the NYSC Camp, in Akwa Ibom State. Others are provision of land for the expansion of the NYSC Secretariat in Dutse, construction of 700-capacity hostels, Camp Clinic, Staff Quarters and sinking of industrial borehole at the NYSC Camp in Delta State, construction of 2,500-capacity multi-purpose hall at the NYSC Camp, Niger State, Construction of internal roads at the NYSC Orientation Camp in Nasarawa State, among others. Literally, this young military officer from Nasarawa with a choice Doctorate degree sleeps, dreams and walk thinking only about how to strategically reposition the NYSC Scheme to assume a high pedestal.
The impact of the yearly meeting with representatives of State governments (also instituted by the Ibrahim management) has been profoundly rewarding. It is said that at this year’s meeting in April, the Ekiti and Edo State Governments promptly approved lands for establishment of NYSC Garment factories few minutes after the request was made at the meeting. The Lagos State Government has also put in place modalities to build a 14,000 capacity Orientation Camp while twenty five states have commenced upgrading and rehabilitation of camp facilities and nine are expanding their camp facilities to meet the Scheme’s 5,000 corps members’ capacity need.
Other notable gains derived from the meetings include, constitution of functional NYSC State Governing Boards in seventeen states, eighteen states have enhanced payment of state allowance to corps members, provision and upgrading of Corps transit camps in thirty one states, increased partnership with the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and provision of office and residential accommodation by states hosting the headquarters of the new Area Offices among others.
Security and welfare of corps members which are among the key areas of focus of the Major General Shu’aibu Ibrahim’s administration has equally recorded phenomenal success.
As an exemplary demonstration of empathy and commitment to the welfare of Members of the Service Corps, it has become a tradition for him to personally visit and commiserate with parents of corps members whose wards were involved in accidents and other unpleasant incidents.
Before he was unexpectedly moved out of NYSC, he Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim had visited and encouraged corps Member, Saidu Mohammed Adamu, who was admitted at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, as a result of gunshot injuries he sustained while on election duties during the bye-election in Ekiti-East Local Government Area of the State in March 2021.
Nigerians expect from President Muhammadu Buhari nothing less than the appointment of a credible and seasoned educationist with proven managerial records of progressive leadership acumen and strategic approaches to drive NYSC to greater heights.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.