My NYSC: A Full Year of Redefinition | Part 3: Abuja Storms

<span class="dojodigital_toggle_title">My NYSC: A Full Year of Redefinition | Part 3: Abuja Storms</span>

My NYSC: A Full Year of Redefinition | Part 3: Abuja Storms

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.

I was not in that party. Nope. Not at all. “Abuja Connection” had settled my move to Delta State. Mum wanted me closer; I had always wanted Delta State. God only knew why He sent me to Kebbi State I did not put in for. Hearts raced.

“If you do not get a posting letter, that means you are being redeployed!” I heard; we all heard.

The buses had started arriving. Buses to other local governments, buses to other Nigerian states. We were all told, redeployed or not, that the first thing to do after camp is to report to your LGI (Local Government Inspector). Was I going to Delta State immediately? From camp? I had already calculated my funds, and subtracting transport, I didn’t have enough to spend a night in a strange state, without shelter. I would go back to Owerri. But first, I would go to Abuja and spend the night with my uncle or aunt. I had never been to their places before, so it was prime opportunity. But first, I had to be sure where I was going.

It was as if the Nigerian government were the chess players, and we were all pawns.  They tossed us where they may. People cried on receipt of posting letters; others grew numb in shock; some grew outraged (I found that these lot were the ones their interviews with the officials who took record of persons wishing to redeploy for medical and marital reasons held some days prior did not go as convincingly to the officials as they had thought it did); and quite a number of new corps members rejoiced at where they were posted (a lot in this group was sent to Birnin Kebbi, the capital). I didn’t hear my name. So didn’t my platoon Vice President whom I had told you I quickly made friends with; nor my other two female friends whom I also told you I traipsed around the entire camp with for two weeks; nor did my camp bunkmate’s friends who were sidemates to my bunk. My bunkmate himself cried and disappeared from view). We were all being redeployed.

Buses had started filling up. One of my two female friends I had especially grown attached to, and I wished we would be deployed to the same state. I got Delta, as I cockily knew I would. She got Abia. Our mutual friend got Anambra, while the platoon VP got Delta with me too. She was the only person in that camp that I knew moved to Delta State. There were others. I didn’t know them. I later met another Dakingari corper at my PPA, but that’s for a later story.

So, my journey was from Kebbi, to Abuja, spend the night, then another bus off to Owerri. I would spend two nights in Owerri before heading to Asaba, capital of Delta State to report to my state coordinator, where I would have yet another interesting adventure of a corper, meet a godsent corper who showed me that there are still good people in this world, and reconnect with the platoon VP.

Saying goodbye to my camp-traipsing, Tae Kwon Do-co-student, new female duo-in-friendship was hard. Very hard. But goodbye we said, and their bus left. Lo!; and behold!; the aggravating results of the famed Igbo entrepreneurial supplanting tendencies encapsulating me in a very stupid struggle with the bus driver and the Igbo corps member who arranged for the bus (doing his best to ensure he had a cut) over bus fares and number of persons the bus should take t once, and if or not the driver will let us stay overnight in Abuja in his bus if night came upon us, all these happening after the bus spent hours ´on it’s way´ to us. To top it all off, the driver could not hear “go” or “come”. We only had a corps member who barely scratched the surface of Hausa helping out in translations. {I must learn Hausa and Yoruba in this my life}.

The struggle: the Igbo corps member who arranged the bus (from herewith, to be referred to as “the supplanter”) wanted everyone in the bus and was charging a thousand naira extra than what other buses charged. The driver wanted this extra charge, but did not want that many persons per time. We, the passengers, obviously wanted freedom and a cheap rate. It was a noisy stalemate, only resolved when some NYSC officials had to butt in. The supplanter rested, and shamefully left us, gaining nothing.

We ended up not paying the extra fee, and leaving with just the right number of passengers….by 6pm. I definitely was not sleeping in either uncle or aunt’s houses.

Journey was smooth, but this driver drove like a maniac at times. We prayed, those of us who knew how to. I was in my khaki, with a torn groin area from the man-o’-war games, cleverly covering it up with my white handkerchief casually draped over the area. We drove into the night before arriving Kubwa. We thought the driver would get us to Jabi. It was all Abuja territory, but a stranger’s land to one who knew not where he was, and I was it. At Kubwa, 2 am, heavy rain pouring down, driver stops us at a nondescript location, got all our property out from his boot, spoke only Hausa, jumped into his vehicle, and off he went, abandoning us to our wits.

It was raining, cold, and dreary. The entire matter was overwhelming. I was dealing with phone calls to and from many loved ones, an almost-dead phone battery, pitter-patter all over my body, a drenching cold, a desire to find shelter (which a gas station humbly refused to offer us, because, who-the-heck-knows?), and anger; seething rage at the inhumanity of the entire experience.

Every experience is a chance to make new friends. I found a friend who was going into Abuja town. She was an Abuja resident that still felt alienated from her place of comfort. We got talking, after the host of us had found a tiny zinc-roofed shed where “abokis” sell biscuits, sweets and some such, overturned, and covered in tarpaulin because of the rain. The night froze and our teeth clattered. We chatted, and joked, and lightened the situation with camp stories, and ghost stories, and family stories, and school stories, until I caught a 45 minutes half-doze by 5am.

By 6:30am, obviously not looking for a place to stay in again, I turned on my phone, calmed as many who called, and told them I had to save battery, took three different taxis, with the directions of my aunt on phone, from Kubwa, until I and my new-found corper lady-friend got to ITC park in Jabi. She didn’t have to get to the park, but you know we corpers, we identify; we stick together.

I bought a ticket, bought an obviously-fake power bank to help my phone, bought kilishi, and waved goodbye to my friend who waited for her relatives to come to the park and take her home.

I was Owerri-bound. At Kogi State, we stopped and I bought suya again. It started disturbing my stomach again the same way it did during the journey to Kebbi. I no dey hear word. I endured the pain with an inside laughter. I laughed because I had conquered. Because I reminisced God’s goodness, and His shelter, and help over me, and how, in all of the travails, nothing heinous or alarming happened to me. I got home, hugged my mom, glad to see my brother and sister, and shared my tales with them the next day. I was so worn out I couldn’t really make sense at arrival.

Lol.


This piece is a non-fictional account of my one year experience as a youth corps member.

I promise that every information shared here is factual and true. I, however, have willingly withdrawn information I would rather not share on a public platform such as this.

This piece is inspired by the feeling of gratefulness that overwhelms me whenever I remember my service year.

It is the third part in the series.



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