The alarm rang out at 5am, it was a Friday but not an ordinary one. It was the 17th day in the month of November 2017 and to every prospective corp member it simply meant it was ‘Call Up Day’, the day we got to know where we are deployed to serve our fatherland. With trembling hands I opened the portal to check for my call up letter and the four letter word stared at me. Abia. I was going all the way to Abia State. Was this a dream or a joke? I had mixed feelings about this but who could I run to when it was too late to cry over spilt milk. I had never been to the Igbo region of Nigeria in my entire life so I was thrilled at the idea of going to explore a new locality, culture and ethnicity although I could feel a fear of the unknown lingering somewhere within me.
Preparations began in earnest. I parked up a couple of important things I hoped will make my first 3 weeks at the orientation Camp an easy one for me. It took me the whole weekend to get myself prepared and convinced that I was going to Abia State real life. On Monday November 21, 2017, sleep had departed from me as nostalgia took over; I was up and ready to hit the road as early as 5.30am. I got to the bus park at exactly 6.02am and was dismayed to hear that the bus going to the Capital of Abia State, Umuahia was fully booked. Instead of nursing my wounds I immediately took off to another bus parks in the city of Ibadan, Oyo State where I was delighted to find a special bus conveying corp members to the Orientation Camp in Umuahia, Bende, Abia State, Nigeria.
While I sat in the bus waiting for it to get filled up and zoom off, I met two other corp members from my alma mater (Bowen University, Iwo, Nigeria) then I felt slightly at ease knowing I wasn’t experiencing this nightmare alone. Regardless of the tension in the air, I found it extremely funny when I saw a certain lady shedding tears as the reality just dawned on her that she was about to embark on a journey that will change her life for the next 3 weeks. The bus took off at exactly 7.23am. Goodbye Oyo State.
I made quite a number of guess on which route would be leading us to the eastern part of Nigeria but not all my guesses were right afterwards. The driver drove us through Ogun State which linked to the Benin expressway. As the journey was progressing I connected my earphones to my phone and plugged them into my ears while I listened to Dare ‘Art’ Alade’s song titled, ‘Pray For Me’ since the lyrics were in line with the reality ahead of me. In fact I had put the song on repeat and it played for the next two hours till my eyes closed. I had drifted into a short sleep; the next time I opened my eyes we had gotten to Edo State, Nigeria where we had our first stop over. At this point we were allowed to stretch our legs and get something to eat so I got myself some banana and roasted groundnut with a cold bottle of water to help me continue the journey.
We passed through Delta State, Nigeria then crossed over the bridge while passing by Onitsha, the city that houses the popular Onitsha market then I decided to get some more sleep because the journey did not seem to end anytime soon. When I woke up we were in the city of Owerri in Imo State, Nigeria; it was now clear to me that another world existed outside the one I was familiar with. This was a whole new world as I saw women riding bicycles and motorcycles very comfortably; I am sure they have done this all their lives and are so used to it. We passed through Anambra State, Nigeria before I finally saw a sculpted wall which read, ‘Abia State University’ I immediately knew our journey was close to the end. At exactly 4.53pm we arrived at Abia orientation camp where our bags were seriously searched by police officers. They were quite friendly as they made jest of the amount of provisions I had package to be consumed in the next 3 weeks. Registration began in earnest; I always thought registration in Bowen University, Iwo was stressful but I had been wrong all along because the stress I went through was incomparable. The registration lasted for the whole day and at 10pm we were asked to retire to our rooms. We were also given the NYSC starter park which means all the clothes we brought to the camp were going to be useless.
I had only closed my eyes for a few hours before I heard a loud sound at 4.30am. Could it be day break already? I felt like I hadn’t slept for up to an hour but sadly it was time to get up for morning parade. At this point I was convinced that this shit just got real. As we got to the parade ground we started the day with prayers then sang the national anthem and a couple of anthems (the NYSC anthem, Abia State Anthem); I sincerely had no idea of their lyrics but I had to chew my mouth in an attempt to keep with the flow. The National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) State Coordinator came on board to give us few tips on the do’s and don’ts which will guide our conducts throughout our 3 weeks at the camp. As he spoke his booming voice pieced through my eardrums; he was truly a military man who does not accept any form of indiscipline.
After so much talk we began to learn basic marching routines in preparation to welcome the dignitaries at our swearing in parade the next day. The marching drill lasted for about 2 hours before it was breakfast time. In my entire life I had never seen that type colour of tea before, it looked transparent and at this point my provisions came in handy as I added several spoons of milk and beverage to brighten its look. I ate my bread and tea in silence as I didn’t have the guts to complain. Parade continued immediately after our meals without giving us sometime for our food to digest as we spent almost the whole day marching under the hot Abia sun.
Before I knew what was going on, it was a brand new day in the camp and it was our swearing in day. I wore my green khaki pants and jacket with a white vest and orange jungle boots, I began to take pictures with my colleagues as I was determined to flood the social media with pictures of the latest Nigerian Corp Members. I looked forward to seeing how the Igbo governor would dress to the occasion but was very disappointed to hear that the governor would be represented by his Secretary. We were sworn in by the attorney general and not before long the occasion was brought to a close. At this point I knew my whole life was about to change but wasn’t sure if the change was going to be exciting; all I can do is to observe each event as they unfold.
This is an original write up by Tope Oriowo2017. Photo credit: Google Chrome.