Lanre Amu graduated at 24 and returned to Nigeria at 54 in 2015, after 34 years in the United States (US), and enrolled to serve the country under the National Youth Service Corps scheme. He explained why he took the action, sharing his experiences.
Why didn’t you serve immediately you graduated?
I left Nigeria at age of 21 in 1982. I graduated in the United States (US) at age of 24. You have to undertake the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme on Nigerian soil. I stayed, schooled and worked in the US for 34 years, so the opportunity or the awareness was not there. I returned to Nigeria at the age of 54 years in 2015. All of my university studies were in the US.
I actually did not know I was not exempted until I approached NYSC, trying to get an exemption letter, and the official in charge explained to me that I was not exempted and that I must serve, because it is mandatory, so long I was below 30 when I got my undergraduate degree. He explained how unfair it would be for those Nigerians similarly placed who did not leave the country and had to serve. I got the message clearly and I served.
What made you want to participate in the scheme, years after graduation and having grown older?
I did not want to do it. I needed to enter into the professions and my NYSC certificate or exemption certificate was requested in some places I went to. So, I went to NYSC office in Maitama, Abuja.They asked me to go and bring my credentials. I finally did. When they examined my credentials, they computed the age at which I got my first degree and said I must serve, that there is no exemption certificate for me, because when I got my first degree, I was less than 30 years old. So, I enrolled and did the NYSC and passed out in December last year.
What were your experiences in service?
Interesting. I was posted first to the State House/Presidency, but was rejected outright. As far as I know, three of us were posted to the State House: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s daughter, Dr. Tabiti, and I. The only person taken at the State House of all of us was Osinbajo’s 20 something year old daughter. I found that interesting. Mind you, Osinbajo and I were schoolmates at Igbobi College Yaba, Lagos as teenagers.
I then tried to serve at Osinbajo’s Simmons Cooper Law firm, but I was also rejected. Shortly thereafter, Osinbajo was on the front page of national newspapers urging MDAs to stop rejecting corps members. Should charity not start at home? More so, with the government of change? I wrote a protest letter to Osinbajo on that hypocrisy, but he never responded to my letter. I ended doing my primary assignment at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. It was a worthwhile experience learning a great deal about Nigerian laws.
Right from the orientation period, how were you relating with other corps members who were obviously much younger?
NYSC afforded me the opportunity to meet young people and young girls, but I know what you mean. If I had not left Nigeria, I may have had some of them as children. But the focus and preoccupation for many of us in the US is different. The priority is not amassing wives and making babies. For example, former US President Barack Obama said he has just two daughters, so is Presidents George W. Bush Jnr, Bill Clinton has only one daughter.
Osinbajo’s daughter getting better opportunity than those of us that had more to contribute to the country at the time reveals the mindset and orientation of the people in leadership, despite all of their hypocritical talk about ability to lead, change, etc. It boils down to putting self and self-preservation above national interest or selfless service to the nation.
Any particular experiences you would never forget?
The hypocrisy of the administration vis-à-vis posting to State House, and SCP Law firm are things I cannot forget. Talk is cheap. They do not live up to the good things they say and that we read in the newspapers when you approach them one on one.
From your exper