“Guy, posting is out, go to school and check yours”, he said over the phone.
This was the call I had been waiting anxiously for and sometime in early 2011, it came.
I had tried working my posting to Rivers State with the promise of a favorable placement in one of the oil companies in Port-Harcourt. Well, I didn’t have much faith in the “arrangement” hence the mixture of enthusiasm and apprehension I felt on the way to check the NYSC placement notice board in school.
I was posted to Bayelsa State. I didn’t know whether to be happy I didn’t get one of the Northern states or sad that I didn’t get the state my father parted with his hard earned money to ‘arrange’ for me.
“Well, Bayelsa and Rivers State share the same border in the Niger Delta so maybe I didn’t get such a bad deal after all”, I said while trying very hard to mentally compensate myself.
NYSC camp was a little over a week away and so began my “all white” shopping. We were promised the provision of white shorts, tops and shoes to be used in camp but any smart Nigerian knows the suicidal implications of trusting a Nigerian firm desperate to cut costs with their clothes. We had to get our white wears ourselves to save one from the embarrament of wearing under size or over size clothes that required constant patching.
The D-day had arrived and I was armed with my box filled with clothes, provisions (the essentials like cornflakes, milk, milo).
I had this proud-first-corper-in-my-family smile as daddy dropped me off at the airport to board a flight to Port Harcourt (Bayelsa didn’t have a functional airport back then, don’t know if they do now).
I landed at the other side of Nigeria a little under an hour after we left the local airport in Lagos. I called daddy to inform him that I had arrived safely and then began my quest to get to Bayelsa and locate the camp in Kaiama.
After about three hours of a mixture of cab, bus and bike modes of transport I arrived the Kaiama bus park just before the NYSC camp. I got to the park with a few other corpers and we were met with the enthusiast shouts of
“Corper corper, N50 bike to camp”,
“Corper buy your bucket here, it’s more expensive in camp o”,
“Corper this”, “Corper that”.
“So I was finally a Corper almost 6 years after I entered the University. This is surreal”. I thought to myself with the heavy box balanced on my laps while on the okada (bike) to camp.
I was still in this bubble of excitement, deep in my own thoughts when the words “heeeeey okada, drop am here” brought me back to Earth. I had arrived at the camp and those were the words of the soldiers positioned at the gate.
“Come down and open your box”, they seemed to say in unison. I alighted, payed the bike man and opened my box. Like an NDLEA agent looking for drugs, they ravaged through my box and removed “contrabands” like my iron fork and bread knife.
“You can go”, they said. “Thank you Sirs”, I replied with as much vigor as I could muster coupled with this fake pearcing smile.
I entered the camp to see people queing up and I immediately joined the line. I didn’t need a sooth sayer to tell me it was the registration line.
It was on the line I met Kelvin who happened to be my first friend in camp. “If I had to get girls in camp, I had to hang around fine boys” I thought to myself and Kelvin was surely a tall fine boy.
After a while on the line, I registered, got my mattress (the mattresses given in our camp looked sick), located my bed space in a crowded room filled with friendly looking chaps from all over the country. I got to my bunk and as luck would have it, my bunk mate took the upper bed side while I settled for my preferred option down under.
“Hi, my name is Kurtis”, I said to my bunk mate with a smile while he replied “my name is Aminu”, he replied. I had myself an Hausa bunk mate. Now that’s nice………
I arranged my bed space, left with Kelvin who was given the bunk bed just opposite mine. While other corpers were more concerned with registration and getting their khaki, boots and all white outfits, Kelvin and I were more concerned with getting a place to watch the UEFA Champions League match that was scheduled for that Tuesday evening. “Wow, the dude thinks just like me”, I mustered under my breathe. A budding friendship in camp was born.
We managed to get a place to watch the match after which we joined the queue to finish registration and get our NYSC branded outfits.
As if to end our blossoming friendship, the NYSC officials posted Kelvin and I to different platoons. Not their fault actually because we both ignorantly stood beside each other on the queue and while my number was BY/11/A/1050 (ending with 0 so I automatically got Platoon 10) his was 1051 (Platoon 1).
That wasn’t even the most annoying thing that happened on my first day. The NYSC officials not only gave us weirdly taloured outfits that needed the services of the tailors in camp but ended up giving drunk looking belts to hold up the over sized khaki trousers. To add salt into injury, I was given an under-sized boot. The biggest size available was size 45 and for my 6ft 4in frame, a size 45 wouldn’t cut it. I was in deep s#$&.
I was too tired after the day’s journey to have any argument with those mean looking officials so I jejeli took my undersize boots with my oversize khaki and my funny looking belt into my room. Dumped them under my bed, mumbled a few words of prayer and fell head first into my mosquito net protected bunk bed.
To be continued………….