Everyday by 12pm for the next 21 days, I’ll be telling you what life is like at NYSC Camp. I was posted to Borno State, but the camp holds in Katsina state due to Boko Haram insurgency in Borno. You can read all the stories in the series here.
Today is my last Friday in this camp. Waking up, it is no different from the other Fridays I have spent here. But it feels different, and when the soldiers come banging at the door, my friend F. says that very soon, all this gra-gra will end. I can’t wait for it to be over. I really can’t. At this point, the soldiers do the most. Being forced to come and parade in the evening, forced to social nights, forced out of the rooms. This morning, they have added a new strategy to chasing us out: they pour water in the room. Sometimes I think that this camp feels like prison with a tiny slice of liberty. Each time I think thoughts like this, I understand the importance of freedom, of owning your time and doing with it whatever you want, the importance of dressing up in what you like, eating what you desire, going where you desire.
NYSC camp is the place where you learn to value your freedom.
Because it is the last Friday, we close the SAED skill acquisition program and do an exhibition of the things we have made in our various classes. The people at plumbing exhibit a shower with running water; those at makeup do a live face beat of a model; event planning/management exhibit a couple’s spot in wedding; agro-allied, a hen and some eggs in a crate. Those in tailoring exhibit a long gown, short gown, a kimono, and a dashiki. In leather works, they exhibit bags and slippers that I consider beautiful. My SAED class, Food Processing, exhibits cookies, cakes, salad cream, punctured and non-punctured doughnuts, glazed doughnuts, cup cakes. We also exhibit some tools of the trade: cookie cutters, measuring spoons, etc. I assist in decorating the cup cakes, putting sprinklers atop them, and fetching water to clean the utensils. After the exhibition, I leave for the OBS studio, exhausted.
Lunch is rice and beans. It is delicious, I must admit, but the fish is small and it is fried so deep it has become tasteless. I am about to finish the meal when I hear that they have started paying allowee. That excitement!
I finish up, clean my plate, keep it and dash to the Accounts Section. A crowd is there already: Nigerians, we too like money! The allawee is N19,800, forget that talk of it being increased to N31,800. To get it, you need to present your NYSC ID card. It is unlike the transport allowance of N1,800 which you need to present your meal ticket for. The Bicycle Allowance is N1,400. In total, you get N23,000 in cash from NYSC at the end of your 3 weeks in camp. I have collected my transport allowance. And it’s not even enough for transport anyway. I spent nothing less than N10,000 from Lagos to Katsina, so N1,800 is like a drop out of an ocean. I am yet to get my N1,400. Each time I go, I am told a new story—”Come back, come back, you keep coming at the wrong time.”
As soon as I get my allawee, I pocket it and find my way out of there. It’s just like someone said, “Some people go leave this camp with three allawee, you go see.”
E no go be my own allawee, biko.
The cycle continues: we are forced to the parade ground where we sit on the floor while the soldiers ferrett out those who are hiding from parade and marching. When they are done with their witch hunt, they let us go, but even then we don’t have freedom. We head to the football field or perch by the roadside or sit under the pavilion. We cannot go back to the hostel, we cannot go to Mammy Market, not even to get water.
I am tempted to complain, but then I remember that there was one time I prayed to God to help me go to NYSC, help me wear the white white and the khaki. Now that this prayer has been answered, why complain over what I specifically requested for?
Yes o, 1:20 AM in the midnight. This is the time I head back to the hostel to sleep. We just finished with the Miss Camp/NYSC and Mr. Macho competition where my platoon came third for Miss NYSC. Look, I am not siding my platoon or anything now, but the judging was not fair. Not fair at all. Anyway, God in heaven sees us, and I know that we will be vindicated, because I know that you don’t believe me.
But see ehn, guys do the most. To be fine boy no be by chest alone o. You must get something for upstairs.
After all the groundnut oil that the Mr. Macho contestants rubbed on their body, to answer questions became a war. One guy was asked to name the president of the United States and mans couldn’t. Another was asked to sing the NYSC anthem, and he took it from 0 to 1,000 in a second. But the one wey pain me pass na this guy. He was asked to list two countries bordering Borno state. Guess what he said?
China, South Africa.
This, ladies and gentlemen, was how everything burst.