It was a Friday. My closest pal, Bobbee had just returned from Jumaat prayer and we went to eat at the school Cafteria together with Emeka and Obinna.
“NYSC posting is out.” Announced Emeka.
“Are you for real? Did those on Error list names show?” I asked enthusiastically.
“Ah, we for go GK go check am oh.”
“Them Rahim done go.” Bobbee said.
“Rahim and who?”
“Rahim, Bukky, Nelo… all of them dey there.”
And then we sat and started eating. For thirty minutes I was lost in the maze of suspense.
Where would they send me? Where would I even like to go? Not North! Not North! I’ve stayed nearly all my life here. Maybe middle belt. I know Calabar has very fine chicks…
We finished eating and made small talk while we earnestly waited. And then the calls came… All our phones started ringing, we picked one and put it on loudspeaker. Heard the rapt voice of Bukky amidst other voices in the background.
“Bobby na Kano.., Bobby Kano.”
“Dozie nko?” I asked, my heart thumping.
“Rahim and Judge Kastina, Nelo Ebonyi, Emeka na Abj.”
“What of Obinna?” Obinna asked frenetically
“Dozie nko?!” I interjected.
“Obinna na Cross River.”
Honestly, I was scared. I had literally never considered the State Ekiti as part of Nigeria. I barely knew it existed and now I was meant to stay there for a year? I was going to a place where I knew nearly nobody. Was going to be locked up in a camp for three full weeks with people from diverse Universities, Backgrounds, Ethnicities, morals and most importantly Fraternities.
I met Pamela, my friend and Course mate who was also posted to Ekiti at the car park. There were two other ladies there going to the camp too and during the journey we conversed. I realized they were as scared and uncertain as me.
Well, if everyone in camp is like this I guess I’ll get along just fine.
The infrastructures we beheld on our debut entrance into Ekiti were far from encouraging. Pamela’s facial features hardened. She was crestfallen, and I believe it was there and then she made up her mind to redeploy. I was personally fascinated. I had made a resolve during the trip that was going to be an avenue to test myself, to see how well I could adapt. I figured if even I had a thousand other Youth corpers, we could make it work.
When I entered the camp in Ise Emure for the first time, the fear came back again. I stared at the wide expanse, the place I was to dwell in for three weeks. Being one who had never stayed in a dormitory or hostel, this was all new to me. There were already loads of people inside. Some were already dressed in their all whites and marching.
I called Ebi, my school mate who was also camping in Ekiti and had briefed me me since his arrival a day earlier. He said he’ll meet up with me shortly.
We were first directed to pick up beds. Then we were given our hostels. After which we proceeded to a hall for registration. At the hall is where I believe my real NYSC camp experience began.
It was choke full with people. They were lining up on various lines at various stages and all the lines seemed insanely long. I meekly joined the first line at the back. The line had spiraled from inside, turned outside the hall and did a second turn outside… It was that long. I stayed there for five minutes and then I realized I could be there for hours before I even did the first part of the registration.
I am a student of FUT Minna. If I learnt anything from my five years of shuttling buses from Bosso to GK and vice versa, it’s how to shunt lines. I am an expert… we all are. I lost my patience standing at the back of the queue, this was something I wasn’t used to. Minna or Ekiti, shunting was always possible.
I strolled in, and studied the line for a while. I looked for soft calm faces. I located a group of guys, a reasonable distance away from the front to not cause too much trouble from officials but at least, minutes from getting there. They seemed to be quite friendly. I walked up there acting like I was brooding, stood near them for a while, walked back, walked there again and waited patiently. Finally, one of them brought up a discussion about soccer and I gladly joined in. We gisted for quite some time and by the time the talks had calmed down, I had joined their queue and no one quite noticed.
There were three steps for the registration process, each with astoundingly long queues, I shunted all and was done within the hour. On leaving there, I reflected; Minna, Abuja or Ekiti, people would always be people. A nice smile and friendly communication would work anywhere, anytime.
I was assigned the State code EK/13A/1006 and made a part of Platoon 6
I remember the first morning in camp. I had no problem sleeping amidst the snores since I had come prepared with my headset. I was awoken by the sound of people rushing… yeah that’s right, I woke up late my first night on camp. I grabbed my bucket and hurried to join a queue at a pump. When I fetched my water and headed to take my bath I faced one little snag… I had no idea where the bathroom was. I asked somebody and his reply was:
“See this one. You de find bathroom? You no go find one place near tree go baff!”
And for some reason I took his word for it and concluded that no bathrooms had been created for us. Thus for the first time in my life, I took my bath outside…