Happy New Year! I apologize for not writing since. Things happened. I came back home to Nigeria, celebrated Christmas with family and friends, entered the new year and then got called up for NYSC.
What is NYSC? Time for a little history. “Rubs hands together in glee”. NYSC stands for National Youth Service Corps. It is a mandatory one year service undertaken by graduates of universities and polytechnics in Nigeria. It was established in 1973 by the then military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon as a means of unifying Nigeria. You see, the Civil War just ended in 1970 and the country experienced great loss, as is the aftermath of any war, and he wanted a solution. It works like this: one cannot get posted to states they are indigenes of or states they schooled in, although the rules have shifted a bit. There is also a 3-week military controlled orientation camp where you are trained and drilled and made to endure. Basically go and lose weight. Anyway, I am from Edo state in the south and schooled in Ogun state in the west. I was posted to Ebonyi state in the east.
Now prior to this time all I knew about Ebonyi state was from the states and capitals song- Ebonyi- Abakaliki. Oh, and that we ate Abakaliki rice at home. My 3 week camp was done in Enugu state so I got to visit two states for the price of one.
I landed in Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu (Ebonyi has no airport) a day early and went to orientation camp the next day. Enugu is full of red sand and hills. Enugu apparently means on top of a hill. It is very quiet, virtually everyone speaks Igbo language and by 7pm latest no one is on the street. Now where I live, there is so much traffic congestion and by 2am, the people are still very much awake. Imagine my surprise.
My orientation camp experience in Awgu, Enugu was something . The camp site was extremely hilly, with my hostel at the back of the camp on top of a hill and the parade ground at the bottom of the hill. My second day in camp after climbing the hill one hot afternoon I very nearly fainted. It was a sight. I just sat- laid on the dusty grass not caring that people were passing by and staring at me in wonder. By the second week though I was walking comfortably and by the third week I was running from my hostel to the market at the entrance in mere minutes. As a boss. 😎
I also met people of different ethnic backgrounds, all of us Nigerians. It made me realize that there was more to Nigeria than where I lived or schooled. In school I met people, but it was nothing compared to camp. Interesting personalities, behaviours and beliefs.
My hostel room was occupied by about a hundred girls. It was a long room with bunk beds on either side. Different languages were always being heard- English, Ibibio, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and my favourite, pidgin English ,specifically Warri pidgin English were the main languages I could identify. If you hear Warri pidgin, your life would not remain the same. The hostel governor of my hostel was an expert in this. I was on the top bunk so sometimes when she started talking or shouting I would just place my hand under my chin and listen to her talk with this look of wonder on my face. I also got to meet and interact with soldiers, man o’ war and other security personnel.
We were out as early as 5am, doing morning meditation and drills. Marching every time. Our camp uniform was white short sleeve shirts on white shorts, white socks and white canvas. After the first two days I stopped caring so much about my appearance because the marching kept raising red dust which landed on our clothes. Plus the season at the time was harmattan. Then from 8am to 9am there was breakfast. 9am we either went to march some more or went for 5 hour lectures. You’re lucky if you got to sit down because the plastic chairs were insufficient. After this there was another break from 2pm to 4pm for lunch and siesta which we all observed without complaint then marching continued till 6.30pm. After that social interactions began. Competitions, meetings and generally hanging out and interacting continued till 10.30pm which was lights out.
Have an awesome week.