Tuesday, 29 October 2013

THE NYSC Orientation Camp DIARY OF A CORPER...Part I

There is a thin line between Euphoria and Reality…that line is called EVENT. The long wait between graduation and Call-up (November – February…seems like eternity) coupled with the euphoria of serving my fatherland jolted to reality when I saw KT on the NYSC posting list that cold night at Niser Park in University of Ibadan on March 01, 2013 by 8pm. At first, I tried to picture KT as somewhere else, but then reality kept hammering KATSINA! KATSINA!! KATSINA!!!  In a rush, the prayers I had prayed incessantly in the recently concluded Winners 21days fasting and praying came rushing to my mind. “…Lord, I do not bank on ANYBODY but You, as regards my Service Year, let Your will be done!”. In that moment, joy filled my soul…an assignment beckons in far away North. I put a call through to my Dad (who had been working Abuja), he was stupefied and together with mum could only give parental blessings.
I’m not the type to sit in a bus for long hours, so immediately I got back home, I made my flight bookings. 3rd of March, 2013, 9pm, I left home for the airport bidding family and friends goodbye. In my mind, I knew there was no reunion for the next 365days except calls, SMS and social networking. I met a fellow UIte at the airport, Busola by name and together we boarded the flight to Kano early hours of Monday, 4th March, 2013. All through the flight, I peeped through the window and all I saw was arid land stretching kilometers.  Fear gripped me as I tried convincing myself we were still in Nigeria. Landing in  Kano, I bid Busola goodbye as she headed towards Jigawa ( I didn’t even collect her number) and took the first cab to Katsina. That trip was like the “Israelite Wilderness Experience”. Dry land, dry rivers, dry water-ways…and I felt I should have taken a truckload of LaCasera along.
I arrived at the Camp Ground and since the camp was to commence the following day, I sought refuge at the NCCF Family House. NCCF – Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship (well, if you are a Christian Corper and you don’t associate with NCCF, then you don’t know what you missed/are missing). Very early the next morning, we (new otondos) were brought to the Orientation Camp Ground as early as 7am and guess what, I was given tag no 224 despite arriving that early. Before entering the Camp (there was a queue at the gate), all prohibited materials were seized from Corpers. Although I had no exhibit in my luggage except a stapler, favor found me and I was ushered in without a search.
First thing to do (as I heard) was getting a mattress and a bed space. Off I went, and guess what…toast bread is actually thicker than those mattresses. They were like the thickness of a higher education exercise book. Well, it’s better than sleeping on the iron bunk or bare floor, so I grabbed the neatest I could find, secured a bed space and headed for the Registration hall. I was on the queue for over 3-4hours before I could commence my registration process. After completing stages 1, 2, 3 and 4, I was directed to the platoon officer’s office for the 5th and final stage of registration where I was to collect my training kits and meal ticket. Getting to her office, I met another queue…I almost cried! You mean I have to queue here again? To make matters worse, she had informed the early arrivals that she won’t be around until around 3pm. I checked my wrist watch, it was past 12noon. Choi! I will stay under this sun for the next 3hours? I glanced around and saw people chatting and gisting, apparently departmental mates from same school. Despite the fact that 93 UItes were deployed to Katsina, I was the only Computer Scientist in my class posted here. I was all alone to myself in front of the store where we queued and I watched as other platoon officers carted away the best of the kits for their platoon members. At this stage, the only reason I didn’t curse my platoon officer was because I lived the life of Christ.
She eventually arrived around 3:30pm, at that time, my eye socket were almost popping out due to hunger. I had been offered food earlier by the NCCF people which I rejected due to the euphoria of resuming in camp. Now, I wished I had eaten the food. By the time she arrived, most of the good kits have been carted away. I eventually got my kits around past 4pm. No sooner had I gotten my kits than I heard the beagle blown. At first, I was wondering what that was for until I saw soldiers running towards us with sticks, batons and whips sending everyone to the parade ground. Hunger disappeared instantly. I maneuvered my way to my bed space, kept my other kits in my bag, hurriedly changed to white shorts, shirt, socks and tennis and hurriedly joined them on the parade ground.
Chants of Parade Attention! Stand at ease! Attention by Number! Filled the air. Ofcourse, only intellectuals like me got it first-hand, others thought they were saying Praysion, Sanda-is… On and on this went till 7pm when they finally released us. At that point, I was crying within but smiling outside. I couldn’t attend service (fellowship) that night due to fatigue. I just went to Mami Market, bought a drink and collected my dinner (something that looked like rice…couldn’t tell in my hungry state), ate and went to bed instantly.
Immediately I closed my eyes (or so it appeared, cos it was so fast)…I heard the sound of the beagle calling us out for early morning parade. Again? Half asleep, half awake, we dragged ourselves to the parade ground. You dare not walk because the soldiers were ever at your heels. The call was for morning devotion, prayers and meditation. As soon as the Muslim corpers joined us, early morning drills commenced. Drilling went on till 9am. Breakfast was almost served immediately and you don’t want to miss it no matter how bad it was. They said they served bread and Tea, but I think I ate stone and hot sandy water. The bread served was as hard as you can imagine and the tea, well, whoever called “SUCO” (sachet tea) “Eruku Oshodi” certainly has not seen and tasted the tea served at Katsina NYSC Orientation Camp. I just knew I took hot water with something inside. Food at the Orientation Camp here was bad or ‘badder’ than you can imagine. Although the food was a disappointment, yet the Tuwo Shinkafa served is a meal I earnestly look forward to. Always a delight to eat that meal in the night. A lot of people fell sick and hospitalized due to complaints from their body system. Thank God for the kind of system he gave me, I eat anything, anywhere, anytime, anyhow…without adverse effects. Glory be to him for that. So any form their meal came, met my wonderful system just on point.
...to be continued

Part II: