NYSC DAY 3: SWEARING IN & ELECTIONS

The third day, I was beginning to feel it. I knew some of my schedules; so it was beginning to get easier. I knew times I should eat heavy and when the time we’d spend at the parade ground would be very long. We were asked by the soldiers, “how was our night?”. Some of the crowd echoed “not good” while others echoed “short” as they tried to express how awful a night it had been by the loudness of their voices. It turned out funny when the officer in charge had corrected us to always reply, “no option”. So, the next time he asked us a question; the reply was always, “no option, Sir!”

The soldiers were in a way pleading to us that we actually make them proud, by putting our all in the swearing-in parade. To them; we were not yet corps members rather we were still PCMs (prospective corps members) until we’ve taken the oath of allegiance and sworn in by the Chief Judge of the state. It was actually fun to watch and it seemed very serious. I stood under the sun, but it appeared like I was solar powered; the more intense the sunshine, the more intense I was. I read and digested every word from the oath; and there and then I decided I was going to be obvious in this camp.

Meanwhile, my beautiful friend whom I thought wasn’t so strong pulled of a very strong one during the parade. She stood firm all through; one only needed to look at her, to be fueled. Her infectious smile and laughter puffed out by the soldiers; but she still had the smouldering intensity. But the sun was really really harsh and we were told it was easy as Ondo is know as the sunshine state.

After the swearing in; it was a jamboree for about three hours, before we were called to the parade ground. I remember one guy asking me if I think I’d find my wife here (laughs); his parents had met from camp according to him, so he believed his wife was here. Well, (smiles) what do I know? There were lots of ladies; all bright and beautiful in their own definitions.

When we came back to the parade ground in the evening; turns out this is when the whole business starts. We were divided into ten platoons. Soldiers as drill instructors, Man O’ war coordinators and administrative staff shared amongst us; till it got to time for elections for positions. I had never contested for a position among people of this huge differences on tribes, religion, states and beliefs. I looked behind and see huge people and didn’t know if I’d win. But I didn’t want to sit back and watch someone who I’d do better than, be our leader. So, I campaigned and election came and I won (smiles).

Well, it turns out business was really business. We were going to be busy. I had intended joining the department on broadcasting and the music department had made me join them when they caught me and some friends rehearsing together. I guess I could say, I was beginning to enjoy the camp. It was a once in a life time thing; so I guess I was not willing to let it slide by; I had to be in it!

The Camp commandant had given us more dos and don’ts to further regiment our stay. I guess punctuality was to be a watchword for me. I wanted to join the military; even the U. S. Military, but I was an only son. So, that dream was quashed; I guess that’s why I love being a corps member. We were told to never walk on a particular tarred road. Always be ‘on the double’ when on that road. Sometimes, I did feel these soldiers weren’t harsh but feigned to be so, lest we take them for a ride.

I lay gappy on my bed, in anticipation of the next day. I wanted tomorrow to come; but after a perfect night rest of course (smiles).

Thanks for sticking through. I’ll be coming up with a better one! Stay glued (smiles).

NYSC DAY TWO: SWEARING-IN PREPARATION

An image of me with the mountains behind.

As early as about 3am this Tuesday morning, I was awoken. No, not the bell or trumpet as you’d expect; I was awoken by members of my hostel who woke up before the 4am when we were supposed to wake. I went with my friend Peter Isaiah from the Western part of Nigeria; he lived in Lagos, Nigeria; and was from Edo state which bordered Ondo State. He was very important as he could speak the Yoruba language which the indigent people of Ondo spoke.

Maybe because of the mountains, but the air was too cold that I wanted hot water. Peter bought a small bucket of cold water for twenty naira; and I thought I’d get same amount for hot water. I was really surprised when I saw them giving me just a cup of hot water for ten naira. Well, Peter spoke the ‘magic language’ and I got three cups of hot water for twenty naira; a nice bargain for the overtly money conscious traders here.

Parade was getting more interesting as the sun set.

“Say, ho ha ho”, the happy Man O war man shouted with zest; as part of the morning drills. Many corps members participated in this morning exercise with much enthusiasm; but there was this girl beside me that cared more about her fingers and her canvas remaining white than she did for any damn exercise. I had to leave her side lest I be contaminated by her lazy aura. Later, we were rearranged in threes (a person in front of a person in front of you) and next thing this ‘fine’ girl on medicated glasses is tugging at me to come forward that I’m a guy; and the next minute, I’m being told to go to the last that I’m a guy, by a soldier.

You’d think it end there; but this vivacious female was not going to stop. In the face of this cold Ondo air coming down from the mountains behind me; all I needed was warmth. And here was a female so vivacious and ‘fine’ before me; that it took all in me not to hold her from the waist till she remains calm under my pressure. Well, in my head; there was a poem in a baritone voice I had going on for her. The first line?

“The mountains behind me nudging me to hold onto your giddy waist”.

(Laughs) well, I tapped her shoulder and told her how I’ve been in great struggle not to hold her for warmth and now she’s twisting to the left and right; what do I do? Her boisterous laughter was one so peaceful I was warm already.

“My name is Paul, but I love it as Paul Kay; may I know yours?” I asked her with a smile.

“Oh! I’m Mary Jane” she said in her usual happy vibe!

Gidonku“, thundered the young soldier in anger; followed with a gesture of his full palms facing his culprit in a bid to say waka. Stopping all sorts of communication with the fine girl. This swearing in parade seemed to mean more to the soldiers than the corp members. The way they went about it, I was certain there’d be a benefit accrued to them if we did well before the dignitaries the next day. Did I even mention that the parade which started from about 5am was done till about 8:45am, when we were permitted to go and refresh till 9:30am.

Well, we were taught how to hold our caps (head gear) and how to replace it; attention and at ease. “Under the sun, and in the rain”, was something this soldiers wanted to make us know they meant. Well then, after our break by 11:50 am. I needed a foot massage but my guitar was close by. So I just brought it out to strum and some guys, (David Obot and Gideon Eze) joined me and we made magic. Some persons were struggling to be part of us; till the soldiers trumpet interrupted us to go to the parade.

We stood as a soldier chased a corp member round the parade ground; and next thing we all started shouting “morale, morale, morale”. He didn’t catch the corps member, his colleagues did. But, we were punished for doing that. “Kai, una go suffer”, he said in very serious anger. I knew this time he meant business. It was like this till the evening when we were addressed by the state coordinator known as ‘the gracious grace’, Mrs Grace Akpabio. She stressed on the need for NYSC scheme. Her speech gained more weight after she asked how many corpers have been here before; and only a few admitted.

An image of I and a few friends during the parade!

At the end of it all; we were dismissed in preparation for the next day. The camp was getting interesting; I had registered for News and Broadcasting Team. Though, I wondered if their work won’t obstruct that of my blog. I had made friends both male and female. The hostel was getting interesting; though my mood switched when some would say they are relocating from Ondo after the camp exercise.

I think the evenings were quite lonely because we haven’t settled in. But I was getting sure; I’d enjoy it. The hustle and bustle for mending of the corper khaki was another sight to see. I was lucky I had done mine before the evening; we were required to wear the khaki and the NYSC crested vest for the swearing in occasion, and everyone wanted their size. As I struggled to pass through, I got stuck in between two ladies; with my crotch region directly in front of the butticjs if this voluptuous Yoruba corp member who spoke the language to the tailor. She noticed and spoke something in Yoruba to her voluptuous friend and kept on moving her buttocks to make contact and increase the effect. I had to mice away to avoid any kind of reaction; and then I met Mary Jane! (Smiles).

I would have finished typing this earlier but for fear of being punished; after a previous room was punished. A soldier had asked from the window in his nice Hausa accent, “Who be that talking?” and a corp member had replied, “who be that asking?”, I guess he didn’t know it was a soldier; he might have thought it was his friend and so were they punished for not singling him out. Well then; I have to sleep, you know. The parade the next day requires a lot.

Feel free to drop in a few tips or counsel too if you wish, at the comment box. (Smiles)

NYSC DAY ONE: THE PILOT

I and my ‘bus mates’ (Favour, Goodluck, Jessica, headed for Ondo Camp

As I lay on my bed typing; I feel so weak and nostalgic. I had been looking forward to this for so long, but now I’m not so sure I want it anymore. Three weeks in this Ondo camp be seeming like three years. But it wasn’t so sad at the beginning.

I had joined a bus filled of ladies only before a guy jumped in. It was a nice trip with my driver keeping a steady speed of 80 to 120 km/hr. It was an 8 hour trip; but the closer we got to the place, the more I longed for home. I found myself sleeping and having ‘dreams’ of me back in Port Harcourt. I tried to fight it with the idea of an ‘iyalode‘ whom I longed to see.

Well then, there were wonderful views to behold. Aside the gardens that lay around the roadside and the tall trees that would pads for a love garden; there was this looming rocks. So close you’d think they’d fall on you. Another view that caught my interest was the precolonial houses that were still present here. But the mud houses also scared me too.

An image captured by me en route Ondo

On getting to the camp; my waning enthusiasm picked a little boldness. I watched around as my heart gladdened at the culture mix up. It was really fun to witness or so I thought; but I felt quite alone as people spoke in their tribal languages and it seemed like I had no one to speak mine with. The Hausa’s especially had this so called tribal bond. They didn’t need to know you; all you need do is to just speak the language. The Yoruba’s, whose language I also adored made sure their voices were heard.

My first frown came to my face, when I had told a ‘brother’ to help me with his pen; but he said no, and waited for his Hausa speaking brother to come around. I marvelled at the grip tribalism had. The registration process was one so hectic and rigorous I wished I could actually sleep after my eight hours journey. I made some friends, make and female; of all of them, one stood out. She was a female and actually cared.

An image of corps members going into Ondo Camp

My prayer when coming here was to meet the right persons and I did meet some; as the guys around me were actually clowns. We threw jibes late into the night, till it was lights out. Well, I did have my fears; I still do. I’m scared of theft; I feel there must be a case of theft, but I just pray I’m not the victim. I wished for tomorrow to be better than today. I almost forgot to complain how every single person who rendered any service or sold any goods here, was out to exploit us. From the sachet water to cleaning of shoes, to laundry and even to smile (laughs).

I just pray tomorrow be better. But right now; good night from the Sunshine’s city of Ondo state.

NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE CORPS

In Nigeria, All graduates of universities and polytechnics are required to go on a mandatory paramilitary service to the nation for one year. This is NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE CORPS. Its mostly termed NYSC. Its importance in Nigeria, can be likened to that of a degree certificate.

In the service year, youths are posted to states that are different to the state of their origin and also of their school; with the exception of those who are married or physically challenged who get posted to where they want, on presenting the required documents. The Youth Service program has been lauded by many as a tool of unity amongst youths in the country; but it has also been criticised, especially in view of members who lost their lives in the year of service due to religious and tribal wars which the country is often plagued with. The most recent is that of a member kidnapped in northern Nigeria; but the one I can’t forget is that of a member who was murdered in day light at the nation’s capital, Abuja; while working as a trainee journalist in CHANNELS TV last year. On watching the video, I can still remember how his mother wept and lamented of her son’s unquenchable thirst for journalism, which eventually led to his sad demise.

Well then; having been due for this since January 2019 but due to red tapism and excessive bureaucracy, I am now going for it by 2020. I have been in the highest gear of anticipation and enthusiasm. I had graduated from University of Port Harcourt, Southern Nigeria; and was posted to Ondo State, Western Nigeria. Apart from the former capital of the nation, Lagos State; I’ve never been anywhere in the Western part of the country. It was now I saw why most people greeted the program with criticism.

The one year NYSC program comprises of a three week orientation period in a military controlled camp. After which, corp members are then posted to various primary place of assignment (PPA) within the state.

Well (smiles), I am due for it now; and my orientation period is to start by Tuesday, but because of the huge amount of people that would be there on Tuesday; I will be leaving Port Harcourt on Monday. Since the estimated time of arrival from Port Harcourt to Ondo is eight hours by road. I am partly filled with enthusiasm and anxiety due to uncertainty. The culture difference, maybe weather difference, difference in ideas are a thing I look forward to; I enjoy travelling. But then, in a nation where our safety is often at risk due to tribal affiliations. One would fear, which is more reason why Southern Nigerians avoid or fear going to Northern parts of the country.

This my little speech should be an introductory one; as I’d make sure you get filled on in the happenings in an NYSC orientation camp. I would be creating a new category so whatever you missed, you can be able to peep in and view. I am sire it’d be a nice one.

By the way, if you have any tips under your sleeves on how to survive in a strange land. Do know that my comment box is open. So do well to also share knowledge. I and many other persons would be grateful