New Telegraph

NYSC and the Akeredolus

Departed Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, deserves a place in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Hall of Fame. A Yoruba man from Owo in Ondo State, he met Betty Uburuamaka Anyanwu, an Igbo lady from Emeabiam, Owerri during his youth service in Enugu. After their first meeting in 1978, love struck and in three years, they got married. That union lasted for 42 years until death separated them on December 27, 2023. The couple rose from love to humanity and did so much towards bonding with different parts of the country. Their relationship further solidified the dreams of the founding fathers of the NYSC. At the end of the Civil War in 1970, there was a need to bring the various ethnic nationalities closer, to foster national unity. Graduates of tertiary institutions were seen as the hope of a New Nigeria. The idea of national service for graduates from various backgrounds was the brainchild of Prof. Uzodinma Nwala and some distinguished gentlemen who bore the brunt of war. The Administrator of East Central State, Ajie Ukpabi Asika, gave them all support and passed on their recommendations to the Federal Government. Gen.

Yakubu Gowon bought the idea and by 1973, the scheme took off. Col Ahmadu Ali of the Nigeria Army Education Corps was appointed the first Director General of the NYSC. The tradition of appointing Army officers as head of the scheme has lived to this day. The NYSC has been full of twists and turns and has been in the news for different reasons especially in the Fourth Republic. Presently, some members are presently in captivity in the NorthWestern part of the country, abducted by terrorists, on their way to their Orientation Camp in Sokoto State. NYSC Director General, Brig. Gen. Yushau Dogara Ahmed, must identify with the Akeredolus in this moment of grief. He represented the positive side of the scheme and his story says so much about national unity. Betty, a graduate of zoology, was working with the Federal Department of Fisheries, Enugu when he met the young lawyer, Rotimi, an NYSC member. She was 25 and her love was three years younger. Neither age nor tribe could separate them. They remained attached to each other. That love across borders continued to lift the man. In 1997, Akeredolu was appointed Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State by the Military Administrator, Commander Anthony Ibe Onyearugbulem, an Igbo naval officer. When Onyearugbulem was redeployed to Edo State in 1998, his successor, Col. Moses Fasanya, a Yoruba, retained Akeredolu. Fasanya was moved to Ondo, from Abia, an Igbo speaking state. The man who succeeded him in Abia, Lt. Col Anthony Obi had roots in Enugu.

The Akeredolus and their Enugu love story continue to go round. Ahmed was Commandant of the Command Secondary School, Enugu. It is intriguing that one of his tasking moments as NYSC boss was the authenticity of the discharge certificate of the Enugu State governor. Celebrating Akeredolu is another way of highlighting the gains of the NYSC. Nigerians wake up regularly to listen to negative vibes about the scheme. In 1996, the then Director General, Col. Hafiz Momoh, was one of the hostages abducted by hijackers of a Nigeria Airways flight. In 2009, three NYSC members were murdered in Jos. Oluwole Odusole, Oluwatosin Akinjogbin and Olalekan Akinde, all Yoruba, died while serving the nation. One of the criminals was bold enough to pick a phone belonging to one of the victims to inform the family that their son had been killed. Things got worse during the 2011 Presidential Elections. About 10 NYSC members were killed in Bauchi by supporters of a particular candidate. All but one of the victims was from the Southern divide of the country, including a mother. Akeredolu was able to make something out of his time as a member of the NYSC. The Director General should use the opportunity of the funeral to invite Gowon to Owo. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the second President to have served and the only surviving one, should also be invited. Politicians must learn from Akeredolu. As governor, his actions were based on a broader experience of national cohesion. While some of his colleagues in the South-East and South-South could not raise their voice, he maintained that after President Muhammadu Buhari, power must shift to the South. We thank President Bola Tinubu for eulogising Aketi. Akeredolu was President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the best way to honour him is for the Rule of Law to prevail. The late governor came out boldly to fight insecurity in the SouthWest. Mr. President should do the same for Nigeria.

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