I needed a change of environment, something new; but didn’t envisage that the organisers of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) were secretly listening to me. I registered for the programme through their portal; I was super excited and counted myself among the lucky Nigerians who would be called for service just two months after graduation. At this point the only question that went viral on social media was, “what states did you pick?” While my mates were casting and binding any power that was trying to get them deployed to Northern Nigeria I was just so calm and confident that I will not be posted too far away from home.
I heard that my call up letter was ready; I suddenly began to pray and reject what I wasn’t sure of. Immediately I opened the portal, the letters that formed ‘KEBBI STATE’ stared at me like an evil spirit; I didn’t know whether to be sad or happy about this because I’ve never heard anything about the state throughout my life. I wondered if the state actually existed or has even been merged with another state.
My momentary curiosity led me to locate Kebbi State on the Nigeria Map; I just wanted to know where exactly I was going and have an idea of how many states I’ll pass through before I get to my destination. My doubts were suddenly replace with an optimistic mind, I hungered to see what Kebbi State and northern Nigeria had to offer; this was the change of environment I had wished for after all.
Still excited, I spilled the news to my mum and dad, I had already made up my mind and had even packed my bags for the journey not minding by what means I would get to my destination nor how long it was going to take. The Orientation course was set to start on Tuesday 24, July 2018 at NYSC Darkingari Camp, Kebbi State but since I had heard stories that resuming early would get me a nice bed space and being among the first 100 corps members in camp would automatically make them post me to the state capital for my Place of Primary Assignment. I was naïve and believed this; I won’t tell you if that was bobo yet.
I left my house with my small box and handbag on Sunday 22, July 2018 and headed to the park to board a direct vehicle to Kebbi State. I was glad that majority of the drivers there could speak Yoruba so I could relate with them. I informed the driver that I was a JJC Johnny Just Come and it was my first time embarking on the journey, before I had even finished speaking he was already saying, “Ahhh Corper, you sure say camp don open because na tomorrow people dey go camp o? He tried to talk me into waiting till the next day before going on my journey but I refused to agree with him. I begged him to take me straight to the camp as I was ready to pay the extra charges but he declined and made me understand that where I was going was completely out of his route. He assured me that when we get to Kebbi State he’ll hand me over to another driver who would drop me at the camp.
I sat for almost four hours waiting for the vehicle to get filled up but it took forever. Our journey began at exactly 3:09pm, we drove out of Ibadan then passed through, Oyo town, Ogbomosho, Kwara State, Niger State; I looked out for Kainji Reservation Park and River Niger, they were all beautiful. I was getting the adventure I longed for but began to notice that Niger State didn’t seem to come to an end. Every sign post I saw continued to read Niger state till it became dark then our fast and furious driver stopped at a joint to eat. We all highlighted from the vehicle and got ourselves something to eat as we still had a long way to go. Oh I forgot to tell you that we were just two prospective Corps members in the vehicle while the other passengers were old Hausa men who I couldn’t relate with due to Language barrier. The other corps member and I ate white rice and stew, the rice was extremely soft and surrounded by water. I just knew in my mind that I didn’t have a choice so I swallowed my food and accompanied each spoon of rice with a sip of water so that I won’t throw up.
The journey continued quietly as midnight met us close to Kebbi State. I was glad the trip had almost come to an end as many sign posts stated Kebbi State but three hours had past and we were still on the road. I didn’t know how but I dosed off at some point and the next thing I heard from my sleep was, “Corper, wake up, you no sabi where you dey go and you dey sleep. Come down we done reach ‘Koko’ na here you go take car wey go carry you go camp”. I sharply carried my luggage out of the vehicle; the driver helped me negotiate with the cab man who was going to take me to Dakingari camp. After all was said the driver looked at me and said in Yourba, “give him only 500, don’t let him cheat you. Don’t chatter the vehicle so that you won’t be alone in the car with the driver in a strange land where you can’t speak their language. Make sure you are not in a hurry to leave as no one is ever in a hurry in Hausa land”. He said all this to me and gave me his phone number to call him when I get to my destination or in case of emergency then he took off.
This cab did not get filled up until about 6.08am; while I waited in the front sit of the car I really needed to pee so I assumed that every Nigerian understood ‘Pigin’; I opened my mouth and asked a young man “Abeg where I fit piss for here?” The words that proceeded from his mouth was a big shock to me as he said, “Peace e no dey”. I just said OK and held back my laughter and confusion. How would I communicate in this land for the next one year? We soon continued the journey to Dakingari which was about an hour drive from Koko.
We got to an immigration check point and met some custom officers who stopped us to check the vehicle. One of the Soldiers asked where we were heading to and the driver replied in Hausa words that I don’t understand till now. The soldier asked, “Are you a new corps member here? What state are you coming from? I answered him and he requested for my phone number saying he wasn’t sure the camp was opened but he’ll check on me in the next few minutes to know if I was in safe hands. He was really nice and gave me the impression that military men are not just harsh and brutal but they are full of compassion.
I entered the Dakingari camp gate filled with anxiety and a lot of expectations after my journey which almost lasted for 14 hours. Yes the camp was opened and other guys were seated in front of the admin block waiting for who would check them in. As the first female corps member on camp I was given preferential treatment, I was checked in and one official helped me carry my mattress to my room while I rolled my box to Female Hostel 1 room 1.
The sun that greeted me at 8am was one I would forever live to talk about but as the first female on camp, the sun was the least of my worries at that time and I thought I had met the first requirement to earn a spot in Birni Kebbi the Capital city for my Place of Primary Assignment.
Join me next Friday for the rest of my story.
Written by: StacySpeaks.