Every passing night seemed short and I felt deprived of enough rest as the soldier blew the beagle loudly and every Corper in all corners of the camp began to bleed out of their hostels. After the praise, worship and prayer session everyday, a representative of each platoon came forth to read the day’s meditation just before the chronicle of events was read out to us. I was always too cold so for me, dozing while standing was inevitable. Don’t ask me how I did it because I have no idea of how I suddenly became a pro at dozing off on the parade ground.
The sound of the beagle at 6am and 6pm interrupted any activity going on at that moment as we were all expected to stand still while they mounted and dismounted the Nigeria flag. It was a popular joke I got tired of hearing, “lazy Nigerian youths wake up at 3am to get set for the days activities but na Nigeria go first sleep by 6pm and go come wake late by 6am, abeg na who lazy pass?” Snapping this picture was a great risk because if I was caught not standing still my phone would have been seized but I made sure I got you pictures because I care about you. Anyway I didn’t have a say and couldn’t do as I pleased because according to them,”the camp is highly regimented.
The parade drill began in earnest and regardless of how tired I was, I did everything possible to remain on parade as I had heard from Uncles, Aunties and lesson teachers of NYSC that people on parade are usually more favored than other corps members They made me understand that as a guard on parade we would be the first set of people to get our PPA or relocation letters on the last day of camp, we would be posted to nice places in the state’s capital as our PPA, those who applied for relocation would be granted and we’ll get some monetary favors from the governor. All I craved for was a good PPA in the state capital as that alone would make or mar my 1 year experience in Kebbi State; so I was motivated to be on parade all through the camp.
A day came when we had comedy night during socials and every platoon had a representative who was meant to keep us entertained. A certain prophetic guy came out and made us realize that only rain could give us some time to rest so we needed to ask God for rain. He sang the popular worship song, “open the flood gates in abundance and cause your rain to fall on me…”. The night was filled with laughter; the song was still on people’s lips even after that day and that was how we began to have more and more rainy days. The downside of the extreme Dakingari weather was that the rain fell heavily with loud thunder which almost took off the roofs then the blazing sun came out immediately after the rain to make mockery of our skins on the parade ground. We were also left with no choice than to parade on the muddy ground and get our clothes messed up.
I was always prepared to parade under the sun or in the rain even when I sprained my ankle a few days to the Interplatoon parade competition, I kept marching with my swollen leg and acted like I was alright so that I don’t get kicked out of the selected 48 guards needed for the competition. It was my last hope of getting a good PPA and with the help of my initial parade commander, Corper D aka, crazy Dafidi, I learnt all the parade commands speedily; I ll teach you the complete demonstration though it sounds like a foreign language:
Pradeshun! Standaheight! Pradeshun!
Parade we advance right turn, parade we advance by the right, slooow march!
Parade we advance from slow march to quick march, division into columns, by the right, quick march!
Three guards by the left, left wheel!
Three guards by the left, left form!
Three guards, open order aah!
Three guards eyes right!
Three guards close orderaah!
Three guards left wheel 2x
Three guards into line, left form!
Parade we advance on review order, by the center, quick march!
Three guards hault.
We did perfectly well in my eyes yet our soldiers were not impressed and kept saying we were doing our village thing. They made jest of us saying,” some of you are over 40 years old but instead of you to allow your children to serve, you refused and decided to serve by force; that’s why you are giving us bad demo for your village chief.”
The daily lectures made me weak and most of what was said were a repetition of what had been said before. I always made sure I sat beside my friends because they were always fun but what happens when the entire squad falls asleep?
Rumours had it that our monthly allowance had been increased so the entire pavilion went haywire; this was the talk of the town till camp was over. Anyway we were still payed our #19 800 at the end of that month and the hopeful ones can’t wait for the #49 800 to become a reality in September. Don’t worry I’ll sure keep you posted but if it is real, many of my colleagues were already showing interest in increasing the duration of their service to 2 years or more.
Social activities such as Mr Marcho, Miss NYSC, Big bold and beautiful/handsome, Miss Lepa, Mr Fine Face, Cultural dance, drama, cooking and sports competition as well as the camp carnival were all fun activities I never looked forward to because all I wanted by that time of the day was to be asleep on my bed.
3 weeks came to an end and it was time to leave camp but it was a rainy day; the queue which lead to where I was ought to return my mattress was an extremely long one but I had to be cleared before I could get my PPA letter so now you can say that my orientation course was indeed one which fulfilled the promise of under the sun or in the rain.
The passing out parade started immediately the representative of the governor came around. I got my letter afterwards and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was Government Science College, Zuru Local Government Area; so all my efforts towards getting Birnin Kebbi the state capital had failed and the only possible service I would render in a boy’s only science college was either to teach English or work in the Administrative Department of the school. I was sad but still optimistic that it won’t be so bad after all.
The local government bus took all Zuru Corpers on a 2 hour drive to Zuru Local Government secretariat after I had offered my first dose of flowing tears in the presence of Corper Ike who I think has a degree in consolation even when he wasn’t sure of his own fate yet. He took several videos and pictures of me just to get me back to my excited self and it worked out just well but on getting to Zuru, it was a different story.
After all the hype that Zuru is a lovely town, I was extremely disappointed by what greeted me there. The so called town was not different form the regular bushes and farm lands I had passed through in other towns except for the presence of a bank, market and tared roads with ugly looking schools, no hang out spots and quite a number of churches.
I was still keeping my calm until I got to GSC, Zuru with the other Corpers then the older Corpers took us to the Corper’s lodge and it dawned on me that this is reality. I wasn’t just going to be teaching in a boy’s only science school in a Hausa town but I’ll also be living in some place that looks like a dungeon. I dropped my box outside the house and began to cry. I wasn’t ready to step into the room because I had had a full meal of disappointment already. I just wanted the whole nightmare to end and let someone just say it had been all a joke. Everyone persuaded me to no avail, I washed my face, tried to put myself together and get used to my new apartment but I sat on the floor of the room where I began another season of tears. All I wanted was to sleep and wake up to another life else I had no choice than to accept what NYSC had dished out to me.
The following day I felt better and determined to make the best use of my situation as life was about to teach me something different from the life I was used to. I went on with all my documentation and was accepted by the school as an English teacher. I soon back to where I call home and was set for my 14 hours return trip to Ibadan on the terrible Nigeria road and wooden bridge in the presence of a lovely landscape. I wish the Federal Government of Nigeria could just do me the favor of moving Kebbi State forward on the map, just for my sake abeg.
I’ll bring you further details on how life in Zuru, Kebbi State treats me from time to time, but till then just know that there is a reason you are where you are; you just have to discover it patiently.
Written by: StacySpeaks 2018.