A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is a youth corps member currently without a place of primary assignment. She talks about the bleakness of her days, being frustrated by the NYSC scheme and the ways she sparks joy in her life.
I feel like my life ended when I started NYSC. First of all, I didn’t get mobilised with my mates because my university was playing with my certificate. I had to wait for the second stream.
When my posting came out, I ended up being posted to the north. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my redeployment to Lagos failed. After camp, I spent two months in a totally different state with no housing or family members. When I finally redeployed to Lagos, no PPA. And thus began the next two months of my life hanging in limbo doing nothing, waiting in uncertainty and listening to NYSC officials say the infamous, “just keep checking your NYSC dashboard for your new posting.”
The first thing I do when I wake up this morning is to open my NYSC dashboard to check my PPA portal. I’m met with the familiar disappointment of a blank page, so I log out.
It has been five months from mobilisation to redeployment, and I’ve not done anything significant. But that’s not the most annoying part. The worst part is that other people wake up with a clear idea of how their day will go and then there’s me who just, well… wakes up. A large part of my day involves figuring out how to occupy myself until everyone returns from work at 4:00 p.m.
Sometimes, I sleep or read a book, or just stare out into space. Nobody tells you how slow time moves when you have nothing planned for the day.
Another thing that frustrates me about the uncertainty of my situation is that I can’t get a side job. Every company I’ve interviewed with wants some measure of commitment, but I’m scared of taking a job, getting a PPA the next day and having to deal with clashing schedules. So I find myself declining jobs and waiting for NYSC to sort me.
Today is gearing up to be a long-ass day. I can’t believe it’s just 10 a.m. My initial plan was to scroll mindlessly through social media, but everyone online looks like they have their life together — and that’s just going to make me feel bad.
I can’t do NYSC, can’t do a side job, can’t scroll through Instagram. All I can do is wait for 4 p.m.
I find it ironic that I had more fun outside Lagos than I’m having in Lagos. Although NYSC chopped my eye for redeployment on the last day; I still had a swell time in the north. The camp was fun and I got to meet interesting people.
Now, my life is far from fun. My days are monotonous, and they repeat themselves. The only reason I remember that today is Tuesday is that I’m receiving a delivery for my sister whom I live with. Another aspect of not having a job is that I’m the designated “always-at-home-to-receive-a-package-person.” Sometimes, I feel like I’m part of the house and will soon merge with the furniture or the house itself.
By mid-afternoon today, tired of sleeping, I call my contact at the NYSC office for an update and he goes, “Why are you complaining? Are you not just sleeping and waking up?”
In terms of how great my life could have gone, things haven’t gone according to my plan. I’m not only humble, but I believe that I’m now a cautionary tale. People are now like “If NYSC posts you outside Lagos, don’t redeploy. *Yinka redeployed and now look at her life.”
At this point, I don’t mind working for free; as long as I can just start working.
Wait, I mind working for free. Lagos is too expensive for that behaviour pls.
En route to the Secretariat for monthly clearance today, one policeman shouted “corper wee” at me. I felt like coming down from my bike to punch his silly mouth because who is smiling with him.
This NYSC period has been full of only stress and frustration for my life. If not that allawee is tied to monthly clearance and monthly clearance is tied to wearing the NYSC uniform, where will people see me to be shouting “corper wee”.
In all honesty, even the ₦33,000 allawee is not enough to survive on. Before NYSC, I used to comfortably buy Chicken Republic Refuel Max, but now, my motto is that there is rice at home. I can’t believe part of the reason I left the north was because they didn’t have Refuel Max, and now, I can’t afford to buy it in Lagos.
Today, I find myself very grateful for my benefactor aka my older sister. If not for her financial support, I’d probably have died of starvation. As a way of extending my stay in the house, I make up for my lack of earnings by doing domestic work.
I clean, cook and do everything in between.
If my sister asks me to run an errand, I do it with no questions asked. How can I protest when a carton of Indomie is now ₦3800?
Once I remove money for data, transport money from running around to sort NYSC runs, there’s almost nothing left to spend from the allawee.
My mentality now is that if any activity is going to remove from my ₦33,000, I’m not doing it. I’m going to politely decline, stay home, eat rice and do the dishes after.
I wake up with this bout of sadness and an impending sense of gloom. I don’t want to talk to anyone around me; at least, not for a few hours.
I feel like the last five months has made NYSC a core part of my identity, and I’ve given it more power than I’d like. It has become an integral part of my conversations with people.
Friend 1: “How far your PPA?”
Friend 2: “Can’t you do the NYSC without PPA?”
Family and friends: “Why is this happening to you?”
Me: “I don’t know…”
I miss the old me. The fun me. I remember enjoying things like musical concerts, book shopping and watching plays. I’ve allowed life and NYSC take those away from me. But I can’t continue like this.
Today’s operation is to spark joy in my life. I’ll kick off the day by watching season 2 of the series, Ted Lasso. Then, I’ll listen to the Hamilton soundtrack and scream along when they say “how do we emerge victorious from the quagmire”. After that, the soundtrack is over.
By then, the day would be perfect for taking both Zikoko quizzes of the day. Finally, I’ll end the day by listening to Zikoko’s Love Life and that one will spark endorphins that’ll carry me for at least 30 seconds.
Less worrying and more enjoying.
If there’s any lesson from this period, I’m struggling to see it. But today is not the time for plenty of questions. I’m packing a bag to one of my friends’ houses where I can binge TV and let someone else worry about feeding me.
I could do with the company and distraction.
When my NYSC service is over, I’ll throw a party. Then I’ll tear my uniform. After, I’ll frame and hang my NYSC certificate because I’ve suffered for it.
I lied when I said I didn’t have any lesson from this experience. I do, and it’s that life doesn’t always go as planned. If you had given me a thousand guesses, I don’t think I’d have guessed that five months into NYSC I’d still be struggling to be posted. In my head, I thought that I’d be saving money from PPA [the subject has paying PPA options] alongside my allawee for jaapa. Then I’d also use the opportunity to build up hours for my minimum work experience.
All my planning is in the mud.
My prayer now is that when I wake up on Monday morning my PPA has changed. God pls.
Editor’s note: The subject in no way seeks to tarnish the image of the NYSC scheme. She simply wishes to share her experience of/with the scheme.