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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Nigeria, like most other African countries, is known for her diversity. The diversity is evident in the culture, language, religion, belief, climate, natural resources, economic and social organizations of the people (Adedeji, 1976:235). One major issue that has been a constant source of challenge to Africa as a continent, and to Nigeria in particular is the huge diversity among the people, in the respective states. The inability of most African governments to effectively manage this heterogeneity has made the continent the perpetual seat of conflicts of all sorts. To be sure, the history of ethnic plurality in Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular has been traced to the colonial era, especially the period between 1884-1885. This was when the European powers met at what has now been popularized as the Berlin Conference for the partitioning or sharing of Africa (Adedeji, 1976; Akanji, 2011). The disregard of the colonial governments for the heterogeneity and distinctiveness of groups characterizing most pre-colonial states has continued to shape post colonial politics in Africa. For instance, the British brought together peoples who were different in every way to form what is known as Nigeria. Consequently, the disparate ethnic groups, characterized by diversity in language, culture, belief and religion, have been incapable of burying their agelong differences. This inability to rise above identity politics has thus remained one of the major causes and sources of conflict in the state of Nigeria today.
Although there is no consensus on the exact number of ethnic groups in Nigeria, however, there is this general acceptance that they are well over 250 (Nnoli cited in Ejiogu, 2001; Ojo, 2009; Fashagba, 2010). These groups with distinct languages, cultures and traditional political administrations and which qualified to be ascribed the status of a state in the pre-colonial period, were merged together by the British authorities into an “artificial” state called Nigeria (Akanji, 2011; Ejiogu, 2001; Osaghae, 1990). As Osaghae rightly puts it,
This question is apposite because Nigeria, in its present sense is an ‘artificial creation’ which does not exist prior to the amalgamation of 1914. It is possible that if the British did not create it or even if the British did not create it the way they did, Nigeria would not have come into being at all or it would have existed differently. Accordingly, Nigeria could be regarded as an historical accident. In this accident, Parcel of influence claimed by the British was marked out mostly arbitrarily as Nigeria. Those groups which belonged to this parcel at once then became indigenous to Nigeria notwithstanding their historical origins which many of them traced to places outside Nigeria (Osaghae, 1990:596).
Ekanade (2006:288), aligning himself with Osaghae, noted that ‘the goal of the British in 1914 was not to create a nation state but to demarcate one of their spheres of influence from those of other European colonialists’.
The motivation of the British colonialist was basically economic, as such it did not really matter if the composition of the inhabitants of the geographical sphere now called Nigeria was altered, as long as the economic ends were met, the motive was justified (Ayoade 2010:4-5). Not only did the colonialists pay little or no attention to the distinctiveness of the several people or groups that make up the present Nigeria, the British further entrenched and made more obvious these differences through the adoption of different policies. For example, the indirect rule system, which was introduced under Colonial Governor, Sir Fredrick Lugard (Osuntokun 1979:92), dictated that the administration of the Nigerian territory be carried out through native rulers. The system of administration did not take into cognizance the unity of the Nigerian territory, instead it reinforced the view that groups were distinct and that there was the need to administer them separately (Iyizoba, 1982). The exercise of 1914, that is, the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates was only on paper as the protectorates in both politics and administration remained separated. This separatist policy, with several others, was implemented in Nigeria by the British colonial administration. To be sure, the divide and rule tactics were a deliberate ploy of the colonial government, to keep the north and south separate. By 1946, a new constitution, providing for regionalization, was enacted by the colonial government. By this provision, Nigeria was divided into three regions; the northern, western and eastern regions. This balkanization further lent credence to the fact that despite several nationalist forces and enterprises, which Nigerians were championing to establish a united front, the British were fostering division among the divergent groups. This policy of regionalization marked a new phase in ethnic based politics and rivalry in Nigeria.
The creation of regional legislative councils in 1946 necessitated the conduct of elections to elect representatives into the regional assemblies. This necessitated the establishment of political parties to enable interested people contest the legislative elections. The study of parties from the first to the current fourth republic reveals that tribalism, ethnicity and parochialism have taken the better part of Nigeria's existence (Oni and Ogundinwin 2010). The composition, structure, and objectives of the parties that were formed in the first republic left no one in doubt as to the emergence of a new phase of Nigeria. Indeed, none of the parties was national in outlook. Each of the three parties that emerged was dominant in each of the three regions and had little or no influence in other regions. The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) emerged from a socio-cultural group the Jamiyyar Mutanen Arewa and was based in Kano (Northern Nigeria). Similarly, the Action Group (AG) developed from the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, a socio-cultural group and was based in Western Nigeria, while the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC), which before this period had enjoyed national acceptance was left with no choice but to play along, as such it dominated the politics of the Eastern region. The sudden appearance of these ethnically based parties was an inevitable response to the colonial administration who instituted ethnic groupings (Oluwaniyi, 2010:87).
The British authorities however, kept the union from disintegrating not necessarily in the interest of the Nigerian state, but of the British capitalists who had invested so much in Nigeria and would not watch their investments go down the drain (Ekanola 2006: 288). The departure of the British from administering Nigeria in 1960 unleashed the “latent forces of diversity” that remained among the groups (Osuntokun 1979:102). In the immediate postindependence years, Nigeria was confronted with the artificial bond constructed by the British as well as sundry other inherent challenges, including that of “integrating into a cohesive socio-political whole, the various entities and strange bed fellows that were lumped together by the colonialists” (Olukoju cited in Ekanola 2006).
The first republic, from its outset in 1963 started to manifest centrifugal tendencies that had lain quietly over the years. It started with an intraparty rivalry within the Action Group, and which was exploited by the government at the centre to silence the party. There was also the census controversy in 1962, which revolved around the fact that the allocation of resources is done based on population, as such no region wanted to be left out so as to get the chunk of the available resources. The last straw that broke the proverbial Carmel’s back was the federal election crisis in 1964/1965 and the western regional elections of 1965. This was the height of ethnic politics and the beginning of a new era. For the first time in the history of the country, the military took over the reins of power, though absurd, howbeit, a necessary and timely termination of the first republic (Adeleke 2006:26-32).
Even the military was not spared in the primordial affiliations that dominated the scene in the post-independence period. This fact was manifested in the manner in which the intervention went. At the vanguard of the coup d’état was an officer of Igbo extraction (the dominant ethnic group in eastern Nigeria), and the victims were individuals mostly from the northern and western Nigeria. The emergence of a new national leader, who was also from the eastern region, cemented the suspicion of other ethnic groups of a possible ethnic cum political intervention. A reprisal coup led by officers from the north was carried out in July 1966, just six months after the first one. Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, the then Head of State, was assassinated and Colonel, later (General) Yakubu Gowon, a northern officer became the Head of State, thereby restoring the northern hold on leadership.
The centrifugal forces continued to rage and in 1967, the Eastern region under late Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, threatened to secede, the military force response of the federal government to deter the move resulted in the civil war that lasted till 1970. At the end of the civil war and the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ declaration by Gen. Gowon, the stage was set for a herculean task of nation building and national integration. Taking a retrospective look at the post colonial period before the 1970s, Akpan (1971) avers that the series of events that culminated in the failed secession attempt by the eastern region had brought about a lot of mutual distrusts and suspicion among the three major ethnic groups, that even if there had been no secession, there was bound to be a fight-if not a full scale civil war - in Nigeria. Thus there was no other time that was more strategic than the end of the civil war to seek for an appropriate measure to unite the state. Hence there was a renewed determination on the side of the government to ensure peace and progressively build a stable and united nation. The post-war nation building campaign was therefore aimed at seeking ‘lasting peace and a voluntary national unity’ (Obadare, 2010:21).
Thus, the Nigerian government under Gen. Gowon embarked on a post-war agenda of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, with the aim of burying the acrimonies of the past and forging ahead as a united nation. One of the programmes employed at achieving the objectives of the three Rs was the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) (Obadare, 2010; Kalu, 1987). This programme has been operated for about thirty nine years in Nigeria. It is therefore, becoming increasingly necessary to further examine the extent to which the programme has succeeded in achieving national integration and unity.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
About thirty -nine years down the line since the existence of the NYSC programme, there has been mixed reactions about the relevance and the continuity of the programme or otherwise. For example, an opinion survey carried out as far back as the 1980s reveals that there were both positive and negative opinions about the programme, with some respondents calling for the outright scrapping of the programme. Some of the problems enumerated then include; financial inefficiency, the belief that the financial input far outweighs the output, as such the programme was viewed by some as a waste pipe, a device to siphon the nation’s wealth. It was also a widely held belief then that the youth, who are the target group, are inappropriate because their perceptions will have already been formed and such cannot be easily persuaded or dissuaded from their strongly held beliefs. A view that the programme is a source of cheap labour, offering corps members paltry stipend that is never commensurate with the services rendered made some youths recast the meaning of the acronym NYSC, making it, Now Your Suffering Continues (Nnwere, 1984; Ojukwu, 1985; Ezeja, 1986; Ekuma, 1982 in Kalu, 1987). In the wake of the political cum ethnic conflict in Jos, Plateau state, in November 2008, three corps members were among the numerous people killed in cold blood. This is aside the sundry other ethnic, political and religious crises that have claimed the lives of innocent corps members serving outside their places of origin.
More recently, particularly, after the April 16, 2011 presidential election, the call for the scrapping of the programme was intensified again following the massacre of not less than ten corp members in the violence that broke out in some Northern states. This event led to the evacuation of corps members of Southern origin by the governments of their respective states, while the authorities of the National Youth Service Corps stopped further posting of corp members to the turbulent states.
Also, the activities of the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, which is still currently ravaging some northern states, have further threatened the major objective of the programme, particularly because parents are now wary of releasing their children to serve in distant places, outside their home states particularly in the North. The call for the regionalization of the programme or its outright abolition has cast aspersion on the continuity of the programme and its relevance in Nigeria's present circumstances as an instrument of national integration (The Punch. Jan 28, 2012, pp 20-21& the Nation, Feb. 23, 2012). Other than the instances cited above; there are some internal contradictions within the NYSC programme itself that have made the objective of national integration elusive. One of such contradictions is the policy on posting, which according to the NYSC decree, corps members ought to be posted to states other than their states of origin. Present realities have shown however that a large number of corps members do not move out of their states of origin, and a few that manage to move out, do not move out of their ethnic base. Another trend noticeable now is that in exchange of monetary rewards, officials assign corps members to choice states, particularly economically viable ones like Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and some states in the oil producing region, in the belief that after the service year, they will be able to secure a permanent employment, this act of favoritism in postings is a direct confrontation with the objective of national integration. Another contradiction is the level of corruption within the system itself, which today has reached an unprecedented height. As Ojo (2009:76) avers, this has made the youths disgruntled, thus making the programme counter-productive. The paltry stipend which corps members receive is demoralizing even with the recent increase, it is far from being a motivation, and this has led many corps members to abandon their duty posts in order to augment their earnings. Indeed, it appears the relevance of the programme has been questioned due to the negative development that has been associated with it. Hurting, maiming and killing of corps members, together with the internal contradictions have combined to throw up a huge debate among the protagonists and antagonists of the programme. Although we do not intend to join the newspapers debates in this study, but rather undertake a scholarly appraisal of the effectiveness of the programme as a tool for national integration.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
This research seeks to answer the following questions;
(1). has the National Youth Service Corps achieved its objective of national integration?
(2). will the programme remain a relevant strategy for national integration in Nigeria in the nearest future?
(3). what can be done to make the programme serve its desired purpose(s)?
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This study sets out to assess the performance of the National Youth Service Corps programme as an instrument of national integration.
Specifically, the objectives of this study are:
(1) To examine the National Youth Service Corps programme.
(2) To evaluate the sustainability of the programme in the context of present day realities.
(3) To proffer suggestions as to how the programme can positively serve the desired purpose(s)
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
National integration, particularly in plural societies, is a prerequisite for development as well as democratization. Hence, its absence in a nascent democracy like Nigeria will not only stall development, but also hinder the process of democratization. Ultimately it could lead to anarchy. A study of this nature is so important at this stage when the relevance of the NYSC programme has been questioned. This study will seek to expose the challenges that have undermined the programme in achieving the desired objectives. The work is significant because it is capable of laying bare the gap between intentions and realities in the implementation of the programme.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study examined the role of the National Youth Service Corps programme as a national integration mechanism between 1999 - 2011.The choice of the time scope was based on the fact that since the beginning of the fourth republic in 1999, as Adeogun (2006), Alanamu, Muhammed and Adeoye (2006), and Asamu (2006) have cited, there has been an increase in the outbreak of conflicts, a manifestation of the rivalry between and among various ethnic and religious groups. The study was also limited to two states of the South - West region namely; Lagos and Ogun states. The choice of the selected states was based on the following criteria; Lagos stands out among all other states in the region, being the former capital city and at present the economic capital of Nigeria. It is also a metropolitan state and houses several tertiary educational institutions. It was created in 1967, thereby belonging to the first generation of states in the region. Ogun state, on the other hand belongs to the third generation of states in the region; it was created in 1976 out of the western state. It has a good mix of the rural and urban population and boasts of nine registered universities, the highest in any state in Nigeria.
This study employed both primary and secondary data. The primary data was sourced from questionnaires administered on serving corps members, ex-corps members, and university undergraduates, who are prospective corps members, and non- participants. On the other hand, the secondary data was sourced from newspapers and magazines, textbooks, official publications of the programme and academic journals. The analysis of the data was essentially by descriptive statistical methods, including frequency tables and percentile.
1.8 ORGANISATION OF THE STUDY
This essay comprise of five chapters.
Chapter one contains the background to the study, statement of the problem, research questions, objectives of the study, significance of the study, scope of the study, research methodology and organization of the study.
Chapter two focused on the literature review, as well as the theoretical framework. It also examined the imperatives of national integration as well as examined the different strategies of national integration employed in Nigeria.
Chapter three focused on the National Youth Service Corps as a strategy for national integration.
Chapter four focused on the methodology and data analysis.
Finally, Chapter five included the summary and recommendations.
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