“Why would someone wear a pink shoe and a purple bag to go with green and white? Even if you want to wear something different from the uniform, wear something that matches. Well, they are showing off what they have and what is trending I guess.”
A corps member, Gloria Efe (not actual name) tells a colleague after seeing another colleague walk by in ‘inappropriate’ dressing during a Community Development Service, CDS meeting in Abuja.
The rampant abuse of the National Youth Service Corp, NYSC, uniform by the corps members is becoming alarming just as it is becoming a trend.
The standard uniform every corps members is supposed to wear is the green Khaki trouser, with the white polo shirt or the NYSC crested vest and either white sneakers or the jungle boots.
But in various states, corps members wear their khakis with different colours of polo shirts, different colours of shoes and at times different shades of trousers. Some go as far as getting the khaki material to sew something entirely different from that approved by the authorities.
“Even with the right outfit, there are ways we were told not to dress as that will be an abuse of the uniform,” a corps member says.
“Yes I remember soldiers in camp telling us never to tie our khaki jackets around our waist. If we are not wearing it as a jacket then we should keep it.
“Some soldiers even punished us while in orientation camp for abusing the uniform one way or the other,” she adds.
Corp members are supposed to wear their NYSC uniforms on the days of their CDS, biometrics or when going for anything official which concerns the scheme.
So far, this has not been adhered to properly. Some of them gave reasons for this in separate interactions with the reporter.
Some corps members said they do not like the uniform, ‘so they go for something better that they feel more comfortable in.
Justin Ove said, “I don’t like the uniform we were given in camp and I never got my size of the jungle boot so I wear something else that I am comfortable in.”
A corps member also said he did not want to be associated with the uniform as people always jocularly call him, “corper” and otondo” thus showing disrespect.
A corps member, Blessing who refused to provide a surname gave her reason too.
“As a corps member walking on the street or wherever you find yourself, people just feel they have the right to call you out and its annoying. Even a taxi driver or hawker on the street will be shouting “corper”, “Otondo”, “Ajuwaya” etc. and it’s annoying the way they call it and expect you to answer all the time. It’s almost like they are making fun of us.”
Gold, another corps member said, “one of my corper friends, who is a doctor said she will rather wear normal clothes to office than anything NYSC uniform because she’s more respected when she’s like that.”
Another who also does not give her name gave a unique reason.
“At times PPA (Place of Primary Assignment) where they are serving makes them not to be proud or comfortable with the uniform and seeing them in ‘corper’ uniform belittles them and they feel uncomfortable because of their ego and pride.”
A bouquet of reasons
Some, who would not give their names for obvious reasons, said they want to look good and since they see others ‘adjust’ their uniforms and it looks good, then it is okay.
“I love to look good in whatever I wear and the khaki never makes me look good plus the low quality and different shades of khaki shared in camp, trust me you won’t look good.
“After all efforts to adjust the khaki to your size, it ends up going out of shape/style and then you have to go (and) get the material and sew something for yourself,” another corps member says.
Another said it’s now a trend because, “if one person blends or alters his or her uniform and it looks good, every other person tends to follow.”
“It could also be as a result of the fact that youth easily get tired of one thing, we are highly dynamic when it comes to what we wear, not forgetting the fact that we copy a lot. We are easily influenced especially when in a social environment,” she said.
Another said he thinks it is only fresh corps members that wear their complete uniform, adding that they ”will change after a while.”
It is common for fresh corps members that are usually proud of the complete and right NYSC uniform even though they know people will notice them and refer to them as ‘Otondo’ because they love to kit up 7/7. Still, they are proud of the outfit until the euphoria of serving the fatherland starts to wear off.
Perhaps it might still be as a result of the obedience to rules and regulations that they have been forced to obey while in camp,” he said.
Other corps members interacted with said they do not like putting on the uniform when they have to go to public places like the market or the mall and then”people assume they have money because they are being paid by the government.”
“For me I think it’s the stereotype attached to being a corper. For example If I wear the 7/7 to the market, the sellers hike their prices saying that we are rich.”
While a few other complain about the low quality of the uniforms, other complain of being mocked by members of the public whenever they put on uniforms.
A corps member, Ada, complained that people always question her and make her feel,”like it’s not cool to dress completely in the uniform.”
“I don’t mind at all, I always dress completely. Sometimes my friends used to mock me when I dress completely,” she adds.
“My friends always say I am too serious with the way I dress in the khaki. They always say am I the only one proud of the uniform? Don’t worry with time you will get tired,” says another, Faith.
While Jerry feels corps members like him begin to hate the uniform as times goes on, Osas, another corps member said dressing in any manner is not such a big deal.
What the regulations say
The NYSC Act says there is no specific sanctions for improper dressing by corps members.
The spokesperson of NYSC, Adenike Adeyemi, said there are no specific sanctions for such,”as it depends on the situation and occasion.”
“When we have NYSC functions, the rule and the policy is that corps members should wear the appropriate uniform. It is a rule and because it’s a rule, it must be enforced. Besides you know the rules guiding uniforms, it’s not by choice. Uniform is a form of identity.
“There is no specific sanction, it depends on the situation and occasion, so you don’t say generally this is the sanction for not wearing a uniform.
“For example, if you are in the state secretariat and a corps member comes and says, I am a corps member but he is not appropriately dressed, the officer may decide not to attend to that corps member because at that point in time, you are not a corps member. If you are a corps member, you will be appropriately dressed, you will identify with your organisation.
“As it is in the military or any organisation, if you are on duty, you go to your duty post in your uniform. It is a global practice, and that is what is expected from corps members. The uniforms are there and they know when to wear what and they are always told. If you decide not wear it at the right time, depending on the situation and circumstance, sanctions are meted out.”
She however said corps members,”are always encouraged to wear the uniform because it’s a form of identity, and that there is a reason for it.”
”It is a policy and also you don’t change a brand. The uniform is a brand and the NYSC says it is so.”