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Female NYSC members who prefer skirts in camp should be expelled from the scheme

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If you prefer to wear a crop top, bum shorts, bikini or skirt during NYSC camping, maybe you shouldn’t have enrolled for the scheme in the first place.

I always have a problem with people who know what they are getting into, who know the rules of what they are getting into, but who want to form ‘wokeness’, ‘religiosity’ or ‘awareness of rights’ once in.
There’s been some controversy in the land lately after two members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) from the 2019 Batch C Stream 1 in the Ebonyi State camp, were sent packing for wearing their official white T-shirts on white skirts instead of white shorts.

The most amusing and gut wrenching aspect of this entire controversy arrived after the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) waded in and took sides with the expelled corps members on the basis of religion.

“The fundamental rights of the people as regards religion must be respected,” said Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the CAN President, Rev. Adebayo Oladeji.

Nigerian Corps members in party mood [Guardian]

And that is why, a few months ago, when some Muslim women were protesting over the wearing of hijab at the Law School, we refused to speak against it because it is their right and thank God, they won it.

“We are appealing to the leadership of the NYSC to revisit the matter.

“In this country, religious right is an inalienable right that must be respected. They must allow the people to practise their religion.”

That has got to be the most hare-brained take on any matter I’ve ever read. Like, how was religion quickly thrown into a subject that bordered on ethics and codes of an organisation? And how do you compare the legality of wearing a Muslim outfit in a classroom to wearing skirts for drills, exercises, jumping around camp fires and playing hoops out in the park? Apples and oranges anyone?

A Catholic Church in Nigeria (Punch)

CAN’s take on the matter as relayed by Oladeji, is one more example of how we continue to suspend logic and critical reasoning in our national life once religion has been thrown into the fray. No one would be comfortable carrying out the array of military drills undertaken at NYSC camps while wearing skirts, pulling on a cassock or tying wrappers. And this should be common sense for anyone with half a brain.

The NYSC is a paramilitary outfit with dress codes
The NYSC is patterned after the compulsory one year military training for graduates or for young people practised in certain countries.

It is essentially a paramilitary scheme tailored to improve the physical and mental well-being of young people before they join the labour force. It’s been that way since it was established in 1973.

According to the NYSC Director of Press and Public Relations, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi, it is inappropriate (and near impossible) for female corps members to embark on obstacle crossing and other training activities on camp while wearing skirts as this will “obviously expose them indecently, thus, leaving little or nothing to the imagination.”

Adeyemi adds that: “the scheme has maintained one dress code since May 22, 1973, when it was established, devoid of ethnic, religious or gender bias. The dress code remains, depending on the activity; a pair of khaki trousers and shirt; crested vest; white vest; a pair of white shorts; a pair of zebra-stripped socks; a pair of jungle boots; a pair of canvas; belt and fez cap.

NYSC members at a contest (Punch)

“It is imperative to state that the NYSC, predicated on discipline and decency, is a training ground for corps members. Any other dress code, contrary to the officially sanctioned one will not promote the course of decency.

 “It is apt to state that the NYSC does not issue hijab as part of the dress code. Rather, the scheme permits the use of white hijab which must not be more than shoulder length and must be tucked into the uniform. The policy of allowing hijab which does not deface the NYSC uniform is not new.”

Rules are rules

That, really, should suffice. Everyone partaking in the NYSC scheme already knew the rules ab initio. If you want to wear skirts, bum shorts, bikinis, crop top or lace at the NYSC camp, you really should be booted out because you are going against the codes and ethics of the scheme. Rules are rules. It really is that simple. 

Which is why this writer won’t be shedding a tear for Okafor Obianuju and Odji Oritsetsolaye–the two young women who violated the NYSC dress code by defiantly wearing skirts to prove a religious point–and who were expelled from camp as a consequence. They belong in a church, not at the camp. 

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