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.
The sound of people wake me: “Dry clean your clothes, dry clean your clothes.” When I sit up to look, I see that they are men and young boys carrying white plastic bags filled with clothes to be dry cleaned. I fall back into bed and close my eyes. I am tired. I do not want to go to parade. I do not want to do anything. I simply want to leave this place. It will be a hectic day, I can sense it.
Last night, A. told me to help him get a bag of water. When I returned with the water, he had gone to the clinic for his night shift. A guy came to me for water, but I told him it wasn’t mine, so I couldn’t give him. He left. I also wanted some water, but I couldn’t take A’s water, it wouldn’t be right, since he had not seen it, so I left the water untouched and went out to beg for water elsewhere. Now imagine my anger when I wake up to find out that someone has torn open the bag of water and taken out of it. I rage, but F. tells me to calm myself; not everyone will be like me. I leave for parade still pissed.
Yesterday, Platoon 1 was in charge of everything: sanitation, kitchen duties, security, etc. At the parade ground, they are told that they performed badly. Today it is Platoon 2’s turn. I am in Platoon 2, and I know that this kind of thing na work.
Work begins. I am assigned as the sanitation head, and told that everyone will be involved in the sanitation. The Platoon Leader deploys some people for security shifts. His assistant does the same for people who will be in the kitchen. Trouble is brewing. While we are taking the roll call, a lady asks me who made you secretary? Did they choose you in public or in secret?
“Sweet baby Jesus, fight this battle,” I think to myself.
It takes working closely with people to discover their true characters. And in the few moments I have spent with the people in sanitation, I am starting to discover that many people are sweet and dedicated while some people, good as they may seem, are quite deficient in that moral nutrient called respect or courtesy.
Breakfast is pap and akara. Honest to God, it is a great meal. I didn’t have dinner last night, so it’s a welcome relief. I mix in milo and some powdered peak milk. It feels like heaven.
Yesterday, I signed up to join the OBS. But while other camps just absolve interested members, audition them or something, our own OBS here is something else. We are asked to design a program, submit it on or before 10:00 AM, and then the man in charge will decide if we made it in or not. I submit my own assignment, help the assistant platoon leader to submit hers too. We wait to see of we’ll make it.
OBS is the Orientations Broadcasting Service, the body that handles media in NYSC camp.
Lunch is eba and egusi soup. I am in the kitchen, assisting in its preparation. I help to cut the pepper, wash the meat. I attempt to blow dirt out of the egusi.
While at this duty, I realise again that decorum is a costly thing when it comes to some people. Take this Bros for instance. He is loud and rude and every adjective for people who think they can talk, must be leader of the group they belong to, cannot listen to anyone’s opinion, cannot have anybody rule over them, and always objectify women. Picture such a kind of person. Add that he likes to talk sex and other lewd things in public.
He spearheads the conversation about ejaculation and kayan mata and girls he’s had sex with and will have sex with and so on. He sings Saheed Osupa (which I like, to be honest, because my Dad played his songs a lot while I was a child). He picks a fight with the assistant platoon head. He talks about her in third person: “Some people always think that…” You know, that kind of thing. We manage to curtail that nastiness. But little do we know that it will soon end in tears.
This is dinner. Rice, stew and fried fish. People come out, get their food. Soon, food finishes. And here’s where the wahala begins, because NCCF people are only just leaving fellowship and coming for food.
Now begins the talk: You Platoon 2 people are just worst.
Didn’t you cook enough food?
How many people did you estimate?
What is the meaning of all this rubbish?
Platoon 1 was bad, but this one? Very very very very bad.
In this hot spate of public outrage, a guy throws away his food because he is not given a fish tail.
Wahala. The Kitchen Supervisor takes a picture. Tells us that definite actions will be taken regarding such terrible behaviour.
He also warns us: NYSC is a regimented camp. If you are in church at the time you should be getting dinner, then you should not expect that the rules will be changed for you. We will cook more stew, but this is the last time.
Remember Bros? Our loud, uncouth Bros? Well, when we took the leftovers back in, Bros picked up a fight with Assistant Platoon Leader, and there goes all our points for team loyalty. It is loud and nasty. He talks, Assistant Platoon Leader fires back. Platoon Leader who is usually calm steps in fires even more. Kitchen Supervisor steps in. Talks to Bros. Bros leaves in anger.
We leave for the welcome party. Apparently, it is by force. Soldiers bar people from going into their hostels, chase people away from places where they loiter. We get go the welcome party and it is just like a children’s birthday party. When it finally ends like the show of shame that it is, I am the first to leave for my hostel.