The estimated reading time for this post is 4 minutes
#10of21, 6.36am… “Home we go, home I come’.
This was Tainy’s response when the announcement was made on the parade ground that morning. Due to the apparent spread of COVID-19 virus, all NYSC camps nationwide were being shut down and corp members sent home. This was day ten of twenty-one.
The day before, we had admonished each other on the need to wake up early enough to leave camp clinic, get to the hostel, have our baths, change into clean white shirts and shorts and get back to the clinic before the bugle went off. Some extreme sports that is considering that there were maybe four or five ‘alive and well’ taps to serve 500 or more ladies who had to, not only bathe, but to wash too.
Don’t even get me started on the bathroom facilities. While they were cleaner and spacious than I had imagined pre-camp, Praise Be, they were still not adequate. One thing I was really grateful for was that i was not going to be subjected to that weird open-space-bathroom style I once saw and endured in one of the SU camps. I mean, why should I have to find a private space in a public space and while bathing, try to steer clear of the private spaces of the other ladies?
Medicine has allowed me see different body types, skin types, statures and physiques but, all that was to be able to diagnose and treat illnesses. That weird bathroom style was going to bring an overload of diagnoses and turn these poor ladies to patients in my eyes. Nah, I could do without that for three weeks.
So, we had to get up early. We were tired of having to explain to the soldiers assigned to our hostel that we had to stay in the clinic overnight because of our fellow corpers who, like some night ago, could find themselves seriously injured in a 3 am stamped whose origin no one knows anything about. One of the victims said he woke up when one of the hostel dwellers, fleeing from the unknown, had hit his bunk and shouted, “Jesus”. He did not wait to ask what Jesus had done before leaping off his bed and joining the throng of scared men.
I remember waking up around past 3 am that 10of21 and realizing we had less than hour to get ourselves ready for the day, I called out to Tainy to wake up and in her sleepy voice, she said, “Let’s still sleep jare. I did not sleep early and I am still tired.”
I did not even argue. I was not in the mood to get out of bed either. However, I was awake, so, I picked my phone and started going through my Whatsapp messages. I had slept off while chatting with Babe, I am sure the guy has gotten used to that happening. There were some other chats I was to respond to but that morning, there was some activity going on in my class group and when I saw something in the lines of “… corpers sent home”, I knew I had to read more.
It started with Gombe camp and as the morning became brighter and Nigeria woke up, more updates came in; Lagos camp shut down, Oyo camp shut down, Lagos camp shut down…
Unlike other days when we struggled to keep people on the parade ground and out of camp clinic and sort out those who were really sick from those who were trying to get certificates in theater arts and dramatics, on #10of21, even the medical team was asked to leave clinic and go to the parade ground. With the prior information I had gotten from the class group, I knew what was coming and I had willingly, gladly and enthusiastically informed others around me of the possibilities awaiting us. The japafromcamp possibility.
Normally, the corp members are meant to be arranged according to their platoons but that morning, I was in platoon 10, with my platoon 3 tag on my neck and around me were others with their tags from platoon 6, 8 and so on. There was no order and even the soldiers had given up.
The camp coordinator was going on about how we are protected from plagues and diseases by the blood of Jesus. He was asking us to repeat some things after him which we were more than glad to repeat so long as we were getting closer to the main announcement. DaddySir, did you say, “Corpers wee?”, we are definitely, “waaah”, sir.
The moment the state coordinator made the announcement, I did not hesitate to update my classmates, family, friends and well-wishers; “Abia camp shut down”.
Brother NYSC, una see am now? Your enforced love no dey even carry weight. Small time, everything scatter. I no talk am? Nonsense and ingredients.
The jubilation was much. People were hugging, hurriedly taking selfies and talking in many small clusters, oblivious to the other extra information being passed by the coordinators. We had had enough. More than enough.
We were not sure of how we would proceed from that point onward. We had no idea how long we had to get ourselves together and out of camp… we later found out we had just that day. We had no clue what implications the shut down would have on our N33,000 allawee. And medically, we had to consider the possibility that one or some of those, ‘cough, fever, sorethroat’, was/were not just upper respiratory tract infections. Was the camp shut down just a letting loose of Corona-sick people?
But we knew, “home we go, home I come”.