This is a sequel to my previous post, The Mobilisation Palaver. A friend asked why I haven’t written on the more interesting stuffs like my journey to the orientation camp, registration, drills, parades and many others. Truth be told, I can’t afford to leave those aspects untold, it’s just that I’ve been incapacitated in a way for some few days now. Now the time has come…
It was the 5th day of March, 2013. I woke up as early as 5am, not because I couldn’t sleep or very anxious about what the day was going to be like, but because I needed to be in the motor park by 7am. I was able to beat the time and I beamed with smile when I saw the almost full nice looking—with good performance as I later found out—space bus awaiting three more passengers. The park was teemed with people, most of them in my category with the same purpose; to get a bus to our various places of deployment. Minutes later, a classmate joined and in a few more minutes the bus was full. The arrangement of luggages, collection of the fare and the annoying money issues and settling among the driver and the “officials” took what seemed like hours. Finally, we left the park. Location: Ibadan. Destination: Asaya (Kabba), Kogi state. The time was 10:13am.
Apart from the constant revs of the engine, the occasional discussions triggered by the sights and sounds—the hills of Ekiti, the winding roads, the music (thanks to the driver, Afro-juju sounds nice)—nothing much really happened. We all sat quietly (convenient or not), feeling big (forming…as we do call it), and minding our businesses. A fraction of our thoughts, if not all, was similar I’m sure; we were all looking forward to getting to camp.
Approximately four hours after departure, we got to our destination: NYSC permanent orientation camp, Asaya, Kabba, Kogi state. Immediately we alighted, Kabba boys rushed at us to help with our bags (definitely for a token), but we refused. We’ve been warned against that except we want to part with a few of our belongings…without our consent of course.
Policemen and soldiers filled the place probably to compensate for the camp’s lack of a fence. We were checked with a metal detector to discover the presence of contra-bands (security is a prime issue) and asked to open our bags for further assurance. Contra-items were dropped and logged at the gate. We checked in and advanced for the actual registration. Our details were logged and a state code was issued at the spot alongside the platoon number. The code is similar to the matriculation number in our undergraduate days, standing in place of our names. Apart from the administrative purposes, it is quite convenient. I don’t have to loose my teeth trying to pronounce anyone’s name (you need to hear the complexity in some names).
The remaining stages included registering with my platoon supervisor (Platoon 1 in my case), collection of kits, collection of NYSC materials and the exeat card, procurement of mattress, and finally, moving into an hostel. All the stages involved standing on a long exasperating queue. The situation of things at the kit collection unit corroborated what I’ve heard way back; getting a kit of your exact size is really rare. You have to manage, adjust (if you can…though kind of illegal) or exchange with someone in a similar predicament. NYSC kit comprises of the following items: Khaki shirt and trouser (1 each), NYSC cap, crested vest and belt (1 each), Jungle boots and convas shoes (1 pair each), plain P.T vest, P.T shorts and stockings (2 pairs each).
I advanced to the next section to get the various NYSC publications (the bye-laws, handbook for corps members on teaching assignments, national youth service corps act and decree…), number tag and importantly, the exeat card. The number tag is an ID number to be worn around the neck at all times. I guess the name “Exeat” card is a blend of the two words “Exit” and “Eat.” Just from the root words, the card is a pass for exit (after lots of frustrating formalities) and the procurement of food. I went to get my bed and the mere sight of the flat thing (about 2-3 inches thick) already gave me the hint: we are in for serious wahala! (problem). Finally, I moved into the hostel and then settled in…so I thought.
Having gone through all the stress of travelling, registration and the likes, I was without doubt entitled to take a nap or at least rest. Well, rest is one word the platoon commanders and instructors do not understand. A few minutes to 4pm, the sound of the trumpet (beagle or so…don’t know the exact spelling) filled the air. As a journey-just-come (newbie), I didn’t understand what it meant until an officer in uniform came shouting; “Everybody in this hostel! I count from one to ten! If you’re not out you’re wrong! I hear?!” Fear gripped me. I rushed out half dressed…without my P.T short and canvass. I ran and dressed at the same time towards the field. My day has just started.
Under the hot sun (Kogi is comparatively hotter than Ibadan), shining at its best as if in a competition, we were amassed to begin the day’s drill. If you call a soldier a merciless man I’ll gladly support the motion. We jogged, squatted, sat on hot sand and several other activities all in the name of exercise. Youth service turned to youth torture in no time. The crazy thing was that they (the instructors) seemed to enjoy the show and were occasionally adding; “You never sabi anything. You think sey na joke? No be you wan’ serve your papa land?” Imagine going through all these on an empty stomach! It all came to a halt when the P.R.O addressed us, telling us the aims and objectives of the NYSC, the rules and regulations, the meaning of the beagle sounds and many others (mttcheeew…as if I was listening).
Again the trumpet sounded, this time to tell us food is ready (that stuck to memory so fast). Although they called the food Jollof rice, God knows it tasted more like that thing we eat back in school called konkorsion—an improvised version of Jollof rice prepared with less condiments. I know I sound embittered, but these were all I went through. Of course, there were good areas. However, as far as my first day was concerned, the bad outweighed the good.
This is actually a convenient spot to pause a little. As much as I would love to, I won’t put down all I experienced in this piece…but I’ll try to continue in the next one.
Life on camp could be strenuous…and exciting at the same time.
“The Experience of a Corper II”