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.
Now, my watch has finally ended. Or maybe it has just begun, because I still have 10 months to go. But I have just read somewhere that it is nice to focus on the now, to dedicate my energies to doing the things that seem short term, and so I can say I am happy, truly happy, but also a little bit sad.
Regardless of your experience in camp, the last day is usually the one where all the emotions hit, especially when you consider the truth that you will never be together in one place again. Many people are relocating, and people are bringing reports of the new states they have been posted to: Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Enugu, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti, and all other states. Many more are flung to places in Maiduguri. We won’t ever be whole again, you know. We can only meet in twos, in threes, and these meetings are sometimes a thing of luck.
I go to get my khaki ironed and when I return, I sit on my bed and watch everyone pack. There’s that guy who once angled his butt to demonstrate a sexual position. There’s that other guy who said he could sleep with his friend’s wife. The guy we all refer to as Landlord, he’s over there. A guy we refer to as HIV passes a paper around for us to drop our WhatsApp numbers so we can create a group chat. We laugh. We joke. A guy pushes his waist pouch to his chest area, covers it clothes and calls it breasts. We strip the bunks of mattresses and return them. The metal framework glares back at us, bony and bare.
I dress up, but this time, there is no force. We have all the time in the world. We also have no time. There is the parade, the final parade. Before that is breakfast. After these two things are done, we have to make the trip back to our various destinations and people who are staying back in Maiduguri will get their posting letters.
I wear slippers and a shirt over my khaki and created vest. I turn my cap backwards, something I have been dying to do for days but am unable to, because it would attract punishment from soldiers who refer to that act as “Dragging Nigeria backwards.”
I spend time with my friends from OBS. We spent only two weeks and some days together, but suddenly it feels as though I have spent four years with them. F. who came second in the Mr. Macho contest takes bad pictures of me. I take bad pictures of him too, and some really good ones. We laugh. E. sets the self timer and we spend time jumping and making poses. I head to the kitchen to get what will be my last breakfast in camp. They serve bread and tea, and the man in charge takes my card from me, tells me to detach my passport.
It all comes down to this.
I head to the parade ground with A. He studied pharmacy, and will be staying back in Borno. People in medicine/medical professions are hot cake. In my next life, maybe I will study medicine. Dr. Kunle will be such a nice name.
“Hurry up, make una dey go. Leave us na,” a soldier tells us as we walk to the parade ground. They too cannot wait to be rid of us. They have families to get back to. Camp for the incoming batch resumes on Thursday, I hear. A little family bonding before that time is necessary.
“We don fall in love with you,” I say. “We no wan go again. We love you.”
“No don’t love us. Dey go house. We sef, we wan go do Christmas.”
Hard man, hard man, but love shed abroad during Christmas melts us all. I laugh as I move on.
This is the first time we are on the parade ground and I am not bothered. In all honesty sef, we are not on the parade ground. We take seats in the bush, in houses far from the field. Another world entirely while those marching are doing their thing. Our minds are no longer here.
When the parade is over, we burst out like school children released from a boring class. Those heading to Borno state go to receive their posting letters. People are posted to universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, ministry of health, and other places that are enviable. Someone I know gets posted to NAFDAC.
But it’s all fine and good, you know. It’s all fine and good. We all will find our places in life. Everyone should bloom where they are planted.
K. is heading to Lagos. I should too, but I have unfinished business at the bank, and I cannot leave it and dash to Lagos
Outside the gate, there are many motorcycles and tricycles and corps members waiting to leave Katsina, eager to leave this place. Was it not just three weeks ago that I received my posting letter and dashed from Ilorin to Lagos to Katsina just to be here? Three weeks gone by, just like that?
And I realise that it is not the time that matters or the number of days. It is what you make of it. I realise that it is just like life, living. One day you’re young, the next you’re old, dead and people are gathered, talking about the life you lived. Your years won’t matter then, I think. If you’re a hundred and there’s nothing to show for it, then it’s like dying at birth. But even if you’re thirty and you’ve done great things, touched plenty lives, then it’s almost like you’ve spent an eternity living.
I’m sorry if I am sounding too philosophical or whatever. Goodbyes often have me like this. I guess what I am trying to say is that the next way is forward. I don’t know what will happen there, but I’ll see.