NYSC… WHAT NO ONE TELLS YOU

Moving away from home – your comfort zone – to report at a PPA that isn’t in your state can be one heck of a task. In fact a whole new ball game entirely. I was ‘lucky’ as everyone around me said, to have been posted to the barracks. But why? I asked. The answers were always the same.

‘Don’t you know there’s security, free light and water? Ehehe see you o even their mammy market is enough you won’t need to go to town to get stuff and you’d be able to save.’

‘Oh I see’ I will reply halfhearterdly.’

Prior to the day of my journey from Ilorin to Niger to report. I felt normal. I had no funny feeling or fear. I wasn’t scared of losing my way around Minna because the city is well organized. One marwa and you are at your destination.

I went to the park with 4 big bags to my annoyance, trust Nigerian mothers. My mother kept saying ‘it is just small foodstuff till you can find your feet’ as she stuffed satchets of spaghetti, rice, garri and what have you in the bag.

My first disorientation came from getting slyed by those I made traveling plans with. They booked their spaces and left me out. I was pained but that taught me my first lesson. NEVER EXPECT MUCH FROM PEOPLE.

I got to Minna and proceeded to the barracks to report myself. Lol. The soldiers with their intimidating looks broke into a toothy grin when they realized I was a corp member posted to the barracks. I met another shocker when I saw the lodge meant for corps members. My friend had obviously added too much sauce to the gist when she was telling me what it looks like. According to how she described it, it was as if the floors were tiled, the kitchen floor terazzoed and the slab made with marble. She made it sound as if each corps members has a TV to his or herself, she spoke as if the lodge is no match to Transcorp Hilton hotel. I broke into a bitter laugh when I saw the ‘beautiful’ chairs that sat grimly infront of every room like an unpaid gateman. I learnt lesson two. DON’T EAGERLY TAKE PEOPLE BY THEIR WORDS.

I greeted the lady going about her business in one of the rooms because the place was deserted. She flatly told me that I can’t stay in the lodge for that day because the Welfare officer that’d allocate me to my room isn’t ‘arand’ and I can only drop my big loads in the common room and find my way to one place to lay my head. The slim, fair lady with a square face told me her name was Dumebi and she indeed looked Dumebieish. I made to drag my bags but her voice stopped me ‘we don’t wear shoes inside the common room’ I nodded as I fumbled with my bags and sandals. My friend offered me a bed at the RCCF fellowship and I agreed, who am I not to agree? lesson number two learnt…ALWAYS HAVE MORE THAN ONE OPTION.

After eating a hot meal of rice and well cooked stew. I was surpised when we were all called to the chapel for the evening devotion. I found myself singing the hymns and clapping minutes after. When the preaching began I couldn’t help but smile as the preacher went on for minutes on why his fellow Christians need to steer clear of Muslims because they are of darkness while Christians are of the light. Lesson learnt? I DONT EVEN KNOW YET.

By evening the next day, we were allocated to temporary rooms at the barrack by a smug, llama-faced guy who calls himself the LCO – whatever that means. Three of us were led to a dusty room and given flat student size matress that strongly reminds me of Paiko camp! We were told not to carry our bags there because we would get our spaces when the welfare officer comes. We were also told not to use bags – small, big, medium to carry our stuff from the common room to the rooms but our hands. They however allowed us when one of us complained that she can’t be going to and fro for maggi, salt and pepper. Lesson learnt. SPEAKING UP HELPS TO A LARGE EXTENT. It saved me at least from diplaying my ‘paents’ and bras to everyone sitting outside.

I settled down for a much needed sleep after sweeping out the room with my temporary roomies. I stretched my aching bones and tossed and turned but sleep evaded me until I picked Born on a Tuesday and fell asleep within it pages. I was still dreaming of Almajiris and Boko Haram when I heard the whistle. I turned. It was a dream. Then I heard it again and again followed by ‘fellow corpers it is time for route march!’

‘Fellow corpers you have just 10 minutes!.’

I flung my duvet and struggled into my khaki, went the wrong way twice with the remaining corps members and eventually found myself on the parade ground. We waited until the soldiers took the attention by number and the bugle was blown at 6 to wake Nigeria up. Through it all I thought awfully of how little difference this was to orientation camp.

‘This only happens once every first Friday of the month’ the soldier beside me said as if he could read my thoughts. I nodded and gallantly joined the mumu walk round the whole of Minna Military cantonment! Lesson learnt the hard way… DON’T GET COMFORTABLE!!!

After the route march, we were at the headquarters the next day to collect our clearance. That was where the Commandant, y’all remember him?? That was where he told us all that we shouldn’t have joined in the route march because we were still new corps members.

‘Didn’t the old corpers tell you that?’ He asked.

None of us could answer because we were too pained.

And I learnt another lesson, AT TIMES YOU HAVE TO RAISE YOUR MIDDLE FINGER AT SOME THINGS AND RISK IT. The third lady in my room did that and she is fine!!!

We left the headquarters to eat a sweet meal at Mammy market and we saw this.

Welcome to Military ‘cartonment’

Apparently, Niger state has laws regarding public sale of alcohol so the barracks became the only place where you can freely buy and sell it. The market was dusty and most shops were unoccupied, the opened stores had cartons of beer and other alcoholic drinks only two stores sell food. And the one we settled for sells only pounded yam. Lesson learnt, IT IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT YOU THINK IT WOULD BE.

So that’s all for now folks. Till I come around your way some other time. I remain yours gallantly… Officer Kanzah.

PS – Nigerian soldiers are amazing people, eager to help and the best to be around. Please erase any negative thoughts you might have of them. Tankio!