“Should I bother to plug this phone?”
10.58 pm, it will soon be lights out. I remember that I have not written anything and this is my second night in camp. Don’t blame me.
First camp night was meant to be for recovery from the stress of the 12 hour journey, originally put at 9 hours by Google, from Abeokuta to Abia state and down to the orientation camp at Umunna Bende. I am not sure I did much of any recovery last night, maybe just more of a shut-down to block out the reality of my location.
We first had to endure some flimsy search at the gate that ended with them seizing my scissors and one of the soldiers collecting my ‘number’… 756 can readily read as 765, right?
Then, Tainy got us buckets and bowls and we proceeded to pick up mattresses. I don’t know about you but a mattress is supposed to be like a shock absorber, taking upon itself your physical, mental, financial and psychological burdens. Well, this particular mattress was a shock in itself.
We got directions to the hostel where as earlier mentioned, ikunle abiyamo.
This night, the lights eventually off, I am supposed to recuperate from the ordeals of registering, platoon allocation and kit selection. However, something tells me that once I recover and recuperate, I may not remember. The short memory effect blurred into an imperfect long term memory blend, leaving room for improvisations otherwise not needed. Brother NYSC, you sabi this English?
Two days before call-up letters were available on the National Youth Service Corps portal, I had spoken with my father and one of the things we touched on was the supposed assurance that I would be posted to my desired state. In all the registering, preparation and waiting, I had not considered the possibilities outside that state. Funny enough, I only started wondering if I was not being too relaxed about the whole thing after that call.
Why did I have a desired state? The thing is, NYSC does not consider that not all of us are jumping straight from graduation to their camp. We have spent enough time outside some institution to actually integrate ourselves and get some roots that do not necessarily equate to marriage or getting pregnant.
Apparently, those are the ones they consider. We have jobs, communities, affiliations and commitments that would be badly set back if we are hauled off to some other place even if just for a year.
Oh, but NYSC is not compulsory, is it?
Somehow, it is some societal construct that the program is some kind of rite of passage. For some of us, it’s until we mention, “I’m serving now”, that we are believed to be finally done with schooling and ready for life. For some others, their potential jobs require them to have gone through the NYSC whether or not it added anything to their required skill set. And while others do not entirely subscribe to it, they would ask you, “What if you want to be the health minister some day?”
So, it is not compulsory. But the social construct has it such that an individual is in limbo without getting it over and done with. The exception to this is having enough money to throw an expletive at the face of NYSC, Nigeria and maybe even the world or you have found some other leeway that would not suffer if you skip the whole service year and maybe if you are already established beyond such worries.
Downloading my call-up letter two days after and seeing Abia state, I think I went into some brief hysterics. What is Abia? Who is Umuahia? Where is East? Which is why? I was just laughing.
Learning my friends, except one, had suffered similar, if not worse states, exacerbated the hysterics.
Two of them were meant to travel to Jigawa for camp after been posted to Borno state and the other was to report to Gombe. The intended Gombe-Corper-dear friend of mine just kept exclaiming, “Ha, wow!” I think that just triggered more laughs from me and I was of no use in consoling her. Although, what was the point of consolation? Baby girl was going nowhere near Gombe. For what?
We were even undecided on which was more shocking; the posting itself to Gombe or the stark failure it represented of her plug’s efforts in influencing her posting. Luckily for her, it was a family, unpaid for, plug.
Unlike the fellow who paid a plug close to N50,000 to be posted to places like Lagos, Oyo, Abuja, but got Yobe, Taraba and the likes. Interesting cases of money not answering all things and how a plug can just be an audio plug.
But, all these plugging, contacts and influencing aside, why is the government still allowing postings to these kind of states? There is this surety that one will be immediately relocated to the state of choice on account of insecurity after the three weeks of camp. But, is it not hilarious that they think they can actually promise Nigerians of the safety of their wards for those weeks? Or, oh, they think since the camp has soldiers and tight security, all is well?
Cultural integration they said, so, most times, it is those in the South that are catapulted to the North. How many of them can afford flight tickets? Let’s even say they have private cars, of course, they can’t drive down themselves as per NYSC rules, so they would have to drag their parents along or some chauffeur.
The other majority are left to the mercies of transport companies, pothole ridden, death-trap roads, bribe-thirsty policemen and road safety officers, kidnappers, and what other concoctions that make up the cocktail of long journeys in Nigeria. Can or has the government protected from those?
So, why even post people there at all? Still makes no sense to me. Yes, nowhere is safe but some risks are avoidable.
Back to my hysterics self, I made a call to the Knight to inform him of the ‘good news’. We laughed and I slept.
Maybe I went straight to acceptance seeing as I did not see the news as enough to warrant the stages of grief or maybe I was just quick to adjust that night. But by the next day, I had gotten teary and emotional.
Three weeks away from this Human Being? Jezzez! What will then happen in a year? The plans I had in mind for my spiritual life and integration? What of my french classes and the ripple effect on other plans? And the familiarity I had come to build around this place, these people, this environment?
I had two days to get prepared and get moving to Abia state. Fortunately, I had done most of my shopping days before. I had even packed my box, or at least, done a mock trial of it. I was physically and logistically ready, but, I was not ready to leave, psychologically.
My father would wake up later to see my message on the family group about my deployment to Abia state.
“Ah, I’m just seeing this.”
He concluded that seeing as all human efforts put into trying to secure my desired state failed, it was most likely God’s will for me to go to Abia state.
“Would this hold true if I were posted to Taraba, Jalingo, Yobe, Damaturu and the Federal Capital Territory is skipped?”
I don’t remember how many years ago it was then when my first brother was posted to Jos. The Jos crisis then was no joke. His posting to that very place seemed like a terrible attempt at comedy. My brother insisted on going that time but I don’t remember hearing some firm disposition about it being God’s will.
Anyway, my clarion call had sounded at God’s own state. His will be done. Plug or no plug.