This post has actually been a long time coming. Just thinking of it, I probably postponed it because it’s a lot to put down.
I felt nostalgic just thinking about my days as a corper and felt the need to write about the times.
Let’s see… where do I begin?
The NYSC is a mandatory scheme required by all graduates of higher learning. It lasts for a whole year and includes a certain number of parts namely: Camp, PPA, CDS and now more compulsorily, SAED.
Of all four, the camping ‘season’ was my favorite time of the year, aside some other highlights of the year. After graduation in October 2014, I went for camp close to a month after. The scheme actually posts prospective corpers to various states and although I wouldn’t encourage anyone to ‘work’ their posting to a place most preferred, mine was done due to safety concerns as well as other concerns which was to be averted from past experience (no need going into details).
I remember that time in November when I was ‘engulfed’ by anxiety over not receiving my posting letter at the time some of my colleagues were receiving theirs. LOL! To think that I allowed myself to worry over that. What a waste! While some, actually a lot of them went on to camp, I soon later realized that there was a massive number of prospective corpers for that year which caused the scheme to spill some of us over to a second batch. Don’t blame me for worrying. I worried because each time someone asked why I wasn’t in camp (I mean, by that time, they were all putting up DPs of them in their khaki and all that) and I replied saying there was going to be another batch, no one I told seemed to believe there was anything like that. Like it was unheard of. So their response to that statement heightened my worries. Especially coupled with the fear that I may have been scammed by the agent that promised to get me my preferred placement.
Long story short, by the time the scheme’s website sent an email asking me to go ahead to print my call-up letter, for the second time, I was surprised to find that I was sent to camp at Oyo state. LOOOL! You can just imagine the fear by now. It was only later, after consulting with some other people I knew hadn’t gone for camp too, that I came to understand that even in the second batch, there was too many of us still and so some of us had to be sent to camp in other states. I was okay with that. At least, it’s only camp. I thought to myself.
On the 25th of November, 2015; a fine Wednesday morning, I had my things ready and left for camp. I boarded a bus which took me to Iyana Ipaja where I met with a friend who also happened to be posted at the same state as I was. We planned to go together. So off we went to Oyo. The journey lasted about two hours tops. No traffic, by the way.
Oh my! Upon arrival, the drama that ensued was a totally different welcome. Military life activated! We hadn’t even finished taking out our things from the boot of the cab when a soldier beckoned on us with a stern look to run to meet up with other corpers who were already feeling the ‘warm’ welcome of camp life. LOL! See me running with my box.
I didn’t even run with mine actually. I ran with my friend’s. She had a much bigger box which she couldn’t really lift and so we had to switch boxes. I ran excitedly to squat with the others with the box on my head. In this position, we were asked to sing along with one of the soldiers. Forcefully. I can’t quite recall the exact song but one song I do remember which we did sing that first day and for the next three weeks in camp goes thus:
Them go born mumu, them go born mumu
If corper marry corper; them go born mumu
Them go born better, them go born better
If soldier marry corper; them go born better
HILARIOUS! I mean why would… never mind.
Next thing, we were asked to race down to the camp. All the while, we were outside the camp, on the road leading into the camp. On getting inside, we were greeted with more soldiers. We then sort of signed into camp and did a kind of initial registration—the kind that shows that you actually reported for camp on the said date. After that, we were thoroughly searched for contrabands. We were asked to place our boxes once more on our heads and run across from the gate into the field, where there were other graduates (I think the term ‘corpers’ is wrong at this stage. It’s only after the swearing-in occasion that one can be called that). We didn’t do this just like that; dryly. We were forced to scream at the top of our lungs. Oh no!!! I’m trying so hard to remember what we were asked to scream, running.
Really long pause.
Oh! Nothing still. I guess we’d have to do without the word…or phrase.
At the new spot, we were asked to squat once again, and with our boxes on our heads. To think these people would change things up. Box on the head again. I wasn’t complaining. In fact, I was enjoying every bit of it. I just dislike repetition. We were addressed by another soldier who we soon came to know as the head of camp activities or something like that. Not important in this story. He spoke of the rules to be observed as well as the general activities we should expect while in camp. I was giddy about the parade. I just really looked forward to being selected eventually.
Next, we were lined up in batches and led to our various hostels. Racing. Nothing in camp is done gently. LOL! In fact, it’s a taboo to do things gently. Walking. Talking. Everything. Rapid movements were the soldiers’ expectations. And so we pushed ourselves to run or jog (whichever way you can manage, just don’t walk) to our hostels. On our way there, we were intercepted by men and women who we soon came to know were photographers; who with time became like your ‘followers’. It’s like everywhere I turned, the guy whose tag I had was there to take my picture. In fact I kinda lived like a celebrity *winks. Paparazzi and shii.
But you know, the need to take pictures during the NYSC is actually important. If not anything else, for memory sake. They handed out their tags, competitively, to each and every one of us.
There were several buildings, each with a distinct name, which was to house us all; some for the guys and some for the ladies, set apart from each other. Of course. I and my friend made sure to stay close to each other. For now, to us, every other person is a total stranger, so we thought it best to stick to who we know. Ourselves. Especially knowing that stealing was impending.
As we got to the entrance of our soon-to-be hostel, we were asked to form a queue. And one by one, we were called up to our bed space. The room was actually quite big and narrow, with restricted movements within. I think in total, we were about 40 in that one room. There were bunk beds and mine was the bottom bed by the left while my friend’s was opposite mine but the top bunk. I immediately loved my spot because I had the wall to myself; which was like an edge for me. So if there were times I didn’t want to see faces, I could simply face the wall. Sweet! This was all the privacy I needed since that was now far-fetched in such an uptight room.
We had barely gotten accustomed to our new environment, when we were summoned once again to come out for registration. Now this registration was essential to acquiring our kits which contained the khaki, white shorts and shirts; (really poor quality), jungle boots, socks and face cap, amongst other essentials like meal ticket etc. Once again, we formed queues, really long ones. (This was commonplace in camp as time went on). The registration exercise was most definitely going really slow and before we knew it, night was slowly but surely creeping on us. We were dismissed and asked to return the next day. We left, had our shower, ate and slept. Day one had passed and we hadn’t been registered.
Day two came.
With a loud whistle and drum-rolling by men and women who we later knew to be members of the man-o-war village, singing funny songs, we were quickly called up from our slumber. It was 4am in the morning. Our new reality. Bang! A soldier busted into our room. A male soldier for that matter. No decency. LOL! But they have female soldiers. I thought. Why did he have to be the one to bust in like that? “Come out from there, all of you!” I was already wide-eyed from the noise that could be heard from the far distance as they approached our hostel. We scampered to put on our clothes. At least something decent enough to be worn out. Mind you, aside what I wore to camp, I had my own home-bought white short and shirt but like a child that didn’t want to dirt her Christmas cloth, I chose to wear the same cloth I had worn to camp only the previous day. I actually came in a satin top so I was able to wash and air-dry it the night before.
I should state at this point, in emphasis, that it is very essential, that as a prospective corper going to camp, one must go with their own whites. The kind they give in camp is too poor. You know the kind of cloth that would slack after the first wash, leaving the wearer looking mad, that’s the sort of material you would get.
We raced out of our hostel towards a large field. The same one we were made to squat upon arrival. There, we had our morning devotion which was a regular activity as time went on. After which we recited the national anthem and pledge. There was always this proud feeling during that time. Maybe the raising and lowering of the national flag made me feel like some warrior whenever we sang the national anthem. LOOOL! You might be saying to yourself: Warrior ko. You see, that’s why it’s my own NYSC experience not yours *tongue out* After that, we were addressed by the camp director and announcements which contained important information were made to us.
The next fun thing was the morning exercise which I always looked forward to. Immediately after the exercise, which was often accompanied by really loud music, the parade training commenced but only those who had acquired their kits from the previous day were allowed to participate. To the soldiers, the rest of us still in mufti were foreigners and they often showed a kind of disgust whenever we were seen anywhere aside from the registration area. They would literally punish whomever they met roaming around camp in mufti, almost as if they were at fault. And so, we were practically cut off from engaging in every other activity aside the morning ritual and seminars often held at noon. I didn’t really like this and so I doubled my effort to beat the ‘traffic’ in the registration queues by assembling quickly at the registration point.
Even with my improved effort, I still didn’t get my kit up until the weekend, which was actually like three days after arriving to camp.
********************************End of the first series.
This is going to take a looooong while to finish. Not to talk of even keeping up with actually making time to write it.