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.
Do you remember this song? “Holiday is coming, holiday is coming, no more morning bells, no more teacher’s whip, goodbye teachers, goodbye students, I am going home. Holiday!”
When I wake up, I remix it: “Going home is coming, going home is coming, no more bugle o, no more morning drills, no more parade, nothing, nothing at all.” Mhen, the bliss.
Today, no bugle wakes us up. Sunday, like I said, is indeed a day of rest in this camp.
After service ends, I return to the hostel. There is not much to do, not much to pack. I am donating my bucket, rubber shoes and whites to the NCCF. They often take it for the Rural Rugged Evangelism. If this were a school, perhaps a university with the liberty of space, I would tour it. Take a final walk around, look at things, places, and allow myself a final moment of laughter, a time to say goodbye to the city. But we’re in a camp, bushes and soldiers around us, what is there to say goodbye to?
I lie in bed doing nothing until sleep takes me away.
Suddenly, there is the sound of the bugle. Next thing, soldiers are chasing us out of the hostels, asking us to go to the parade ground now. We dash out. People doing laundry abandon it and leave for the parade ground. We grumble, but we are happy because we know this is the last time.
And let’s be honest, what exactly are we being summoned for that cannot wait until we assemble for evening parade? These people and the unnecessary ways they use power.
When we get to the parade ground, we are told that we should go back to our hostels, get lunch, and come back to the parade ground at 3:40 PM. Dismissed.
This is so absurd, so annoying I don’t know what to say or do. This is what he wants to say and we are summoned? What happened to OBS? Why could it not wait till parade? Why oh why?
Lunch is rice and chicken. For the first time, I get a very big piece of chicken. My joy knows no bounds and I devour it with glee. After I finish with it, I go to the bankers to get my ATM card, and then I head to the accounts section to get my bicycle allowance. By God’s grace, I am given. Lol after days of going to and fro and I finally get paid. Chai.
The address is brief: tomorrow, we leave the camp. We are to drop our mattress before leaving. When we do, we get a ticket that becomes our pass to leave the camp. He tells us that the next batch will arrive on Thursday, and that we can stay if we want to welcome them. He’s joking though. He says that tomorrow’s breakfast is meant to be pap and beans, but he feels it won’t be ideal for us, given that we are to undertake a journey and so he has decided that we have bread and tea instead. We clap.
He tells us that those of us who are relocating will know our states of deployment tomorrow, and that given the closeness of the next batch’s resumption, provision has been made for us to visit our PPA, drop our letter or whatever, and resume second of January. Now we really clap.
The parade comes in, and when it is over, we leave there. It is the last time we will ever be on that ground.
There are no social activities tonight, and we are free to do what we want with our time. Many people head to Mammy Market where they shop for fabric, jewelry, perfumes, and other souvenirs to take home. Many head to get henna. Many head to spend time with their lovers at Mammy market. Many others wander around. I visit the photography stall to get my photos from the Man O War drill, the NYSC swearing in, the march past. I visit the tailor to amend my khakis.
When I am done depositing my khaki with the tailor, I head to OBS for our hangout/get together.
The hangout turns out to be even more fun than I expect. We eat skewered meat, drink Fanta and Sprite and Coke. We laugh. We take selfies. We exchange numbers. In so many ways, it feels like school, and I feel pricks of sadness when I consider the truth that very soon I will no longer see these people. We meet to depart is one statement I hear often, but this night, the truth hits me hard.
The Camp PRO who is also the head of the OBs gives us tips about life, about getting ahead. Fatherly advice which is also professional and tender. I listen. When he is done, we clap and clap. We present gifts to him. We take photos. Later, the OBS president plays a tune for us on the mouth organ. We become tear-eyed. This night is a night for cutting onions.
Tomorrow, we will leave here. Tonight, right now, we make memories to last us forever.