Last day of camp. Bags are packed. All mattresses returned. All queues dissolved. The closing formalities are all done. The NYSC officials come out of their camp offices with bags of papers. They are the posting letters. Everybody’s heart is racing. We have all wanted some specific area of Kebbi State or the other. We had asked questions; to the military officials (some ladies as far as befriending them, and such such, for answers and help), to the camp officials, to Kebbi natives, to our new Northern friends; we had enquired, which local governments are survivable? How do we survive? What’s the weather like? Northern states have too much land, how much does it take to travel from Aliero to Argungu? Or from Birnin Kebbi to Yauri? Are there shopping malls in Gwandu? What would it take me to access a bank in Zuru? We had made our choices. Such futility! NYSC had other plans for most.
The alarm blared by 4 am. I was awake by 3:37. I had brushed my teeth (outside, in the quadrangle, which I later learnt was not acceptable), used the toilet to flush out whatever remnant of the previous 3 days’ ordeal was still left in my system, and had taken my bath. It was like any regular camping experience, and I was no stranger to camps, so I knew to wake early and finish up my shit before the place becomes the muster point for a different kind of clarion call, a not-so-palatable kind. The alarm blare was accompanied, right on time (and they maintained this for all 21 days of camp, right on time, except the night after the carnival. We marshalled for morning parade by 6 am – two hours later instead – that day) by the military men, of various ranks and shades, blowing their many whistles, and I was on my mufti. I looked around; I wasn’t the only one in that room donned so, but odds were that in the entire camp of over two thousand potential youth corpers (yup, they made sure to emphasize the fact that going to camp does not equal becoming a corps member, everyday), that very Thursday, I would be one of at most seventy persons not dressed in the traditional white-on-white.
As unforgettable as testimonies go, this one I’m about sharing champions the lot as far as I am concerned. It is not testimony about one single event. It’s a thick broom, with a sturdy band holding all its individual strands – the individual occurrences that culminate to this feeling of gratefulness that overwhelms me – together. I am a man overwhelmed, and the more I think to bring this whelm under control, the more I remember, I am a project, a beautiful work of clay. The potter is not done with me yet. For now, however, I’ll take you through a briefed account on the nature of this broom, this one-year old broom, born on May 23rd 2017, and used for the last time on April 12, 2018.
I’ve misled you. Consider this a story. A not-made-up story, not-told in the form of a story, but yet, a story; one that is being told every day at that shoddy buka close to your home or in the fanciest of Chinese restaurants in the uptown areas around you; has been told since the beginning of male-female interactions of any kind, and will continue to be told after you’re done reading my version, in various forms, across various languages. Some varieties of it is the spice of today’s gossip—in The View, or amongst girlfriends hanging out at a park bench—and the more sombre other varieties have sparked revolutions, ignited hearts to march and has taught quite the number of millennials how to use the word woke.
We are all born with an innate unrestrained yearning to learn and understand the environment around us. As we age and continue to amass greater volumes of information, either through formal or informal means, the desire to put the knowledge gathered to use arises, bringing about the concept of work. The advent of organized world economies from individuals to corporations redesigns this rather unsophisticated concept of work from just ‘working’ to working ‘jobs’. The better and more relevant the job done, the better the pay, and in extension, the greater the need to explore and research more in the field concerned, spawning more learning; more education. This not-nearly-enough-involved cycle is a very natural process, and one should expect it to apply expressly in the case of every individual. It is a pity that in our world today, we do not have it that way.