Having background in Computer Science applications, I appreciate that the design of any information (collection and processing) system is crucial. Performance of a system could be the best there is, theoretically, but a disregard of potential users in mind could make the enterprise a failure. That crucial design stage is when cultural nuances are embedded, religious options are made available, minorities are made relevant… In the past few weeks, while assisting my wife in registration, I have laid the following charges against NYSC (Nigerian Youth Service Corp): Kufr, Sexist, Tyrannically Bad… and for good reasons
NYSC has been automating its registration process; which seems like progress. It depends on whether progress is simply moving forward, or moving forward without crushing your subjects.The main issue is simply that when a woman decides to keep her surname after marriage, the precocious NYSC registration system changes her surname for her, and even cleverly requests that she cannot proceed with the registration until she provides documentation for Change of Name. And her forcefully changed name is what will appear on the NYSC certificate; that necessary paper to get a decent office job in Nigeria.
Who cares if you are married or not, during your NYSC? Your spouse and kids if you have those. Without a proof of marriage, get ready to be deployed to any of the thirty six other states in Nigeria. But show up a marriage certificate, and you shall be with your household.
NYSC is Kufr! Kufr to Muslims mean rejection of an established truth. Groups like Boko Haram attribute it to individuals, institutions and organisations to legitimise deadly attacks on them. Forcing a Muslim to take an option, which is not conducive to the Shariah, is to force a Muslim to go against the Shariah; in other words Kufr. So when two separate NYSC staffs inform you that you have to change your name because that is what the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution says, before you can perform the obligatory NYSC as a married Muslim woman, then many will be willing to call the practice of NYSC is Kufr! I thought so… for a while.
But it is actually not. What the NYSC is doing is that it is enforcing an option that is not recommended according to Islamic tradition. True that some would insist Islamic tradition requires a woman maintain her maiden name, but it is mostly for the sake of identity and lineage so some sophisticated social security number could make it easier for those Muslims to accept that a woman should change her name to her husband’s. Until Nigeria’s social security number (or National Identity Number) gets fully deployed to address this Shariah requirement, those who consider NYSC as the arm of the devil would have a strong point… if only the reference to the Nigerian constitution is true. We checked the Nigerian Marriage Act of 1990, and guess what, it is quiet about change of name. Neither do customary laws instruct adherents to change their names on marriage; which by definition depends on the varying custom. So it is not Kufr because the NYSC staffs are wrong. Whether it is Kufr or not, the issue remains: a woman who decides to retain her name after marriage cannot register for NYSC.
NYSC is sexist! This issue is a female issue; specifically a wife-issue. Since NYSC has failed to give an explanation for why this issue exists, we have no choice but to interpret as fit the situation, with no obligation to be generous in the interpretation. By refusing a married woman the option to keep or change her name, NYSC is saying what many men are saying, which is that married women have no identity seperate from their husband’s; while accepting that her husband’s identity is indifferent to her existence. Double standards, from point of view of both equity and equality. This set up even makes women’s maiden name ominous in the sense that changing her name is equivalent to the her husband purchasing her from her father; that’s what you do when you buy a car from someone.
Perhaps it is not sexist. But how could this excuse pass? There is one way to pull this off, and even courts, as well as the Shariah, agree with me. The crime of the mentally sick is a crime void of intent; in other words it may not be punished but someone is going to fix the issue, and someone else is going to a facility/hospital to be fixed or quarantined. The crime here is by NYSC on married women. NYSC registration system is either sexist or mentally sick… actually it could be both, but let us focus on the latter. Simply looking at report cards of kids in primary school, it is a thin line between being an extremely poor student, and a developmentally slow. So NYSC is either an incompetent organisation or developMENTALLY poor.
Based on the above, a conclusion to be drawn if one is generous to NYSC, is that NYSC registration system is poor at best because it is discriminatory.
When incompetence becomes the air you breathe, or the water you swim in, you lose your sense of identifying excellence. As we have seen, you become difficult to distinguish from the mentally incapacitated, which also means critical thinking is nowhere to be found around you. Your arguments become appalling so much that the only more unsettling thing is the casual way you defend your actions. When you stay quiet on an issue, we can only suspect why you fall short, but when you speak, you risk exposing your dumbness. After engaging the management of NYSC staffs on the above issue, there were two defensive arguments where I think staff of the NYSC outdid themselves.
The first defense is that their registration system forces women to change their surnames to their husbands’ in order to prevent other women who lie about their marital status from manipulating the NYSC into getting posted to the state of their fathers. Apparently these women create fake documents showing that they are married to their fathers. I’m sure NYSC felt really smart coming up with this idea, but they seemed almost dogmatically amnesiac in how they fail to see the implications of their “brilliant” idea; or how they dismiss it. The first implication is that ALL married women in NYSC who do not wish to change their names will now have to change their surnames just so they can do NYSC. Secondly, the registration system automatically rejects the application of any married woman who has the same maiden name as her husband’s surname. Imagine how many tens of thousands of graduates suffer from this, every batch from this batch.
Their second defense is simply “deal with it, what is the big deal”. Very Nigerian indeed. The message we kept receiving was what is the big deal in changing a woman’s name to her husband’s surname. It came in different flavours: “Just change your name, it is easy now”, “every woman should be proud to use her husband’s surname for herself”, “It is just change of name, it only means changing your surname, not that your own name has to change”. Patience is a virtue when you are being condescended on by people who fail to see the implication of being forced to change your name. Identity and its construction is obviously something the management of NYSC have not pondered upon. How could an organisation like the NYSC with the aim of nation building be so sociologically ignorant?!
As far as critical thinking goes, there were other noteworthy but less impacting follies which they brought up as their arguments. But I reserve the right to forget them. I thank God I am done with NYSC, and I am not a married woman going into NYSC. May God make it easy for married Nigerian graduates.
PS: Any feminist or women rights group interested in raising this issue up, contact me please for more info.