NYSC [A personal experience from Camp to PPA]

The NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) is a mandatory one year service that all Nigerians who graduated under the age of 30 MUST attend. Whether or not you graduated from overseas is not a factor here. Recent cases involving the resignation of Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun and the denial of Shittu a Governorship chance has further stressed the importance of this scheme.

After my graduation in 2012, there was a regular timetable for deployment and I was in the Feb/March batch in 2013. There wasn’t a registration then, at least online. There was no dashboard or dashboard portal, I didn’t have to login anywhere but I guess things must have changed in 2018.

Due to the tension in the land, I didn’t want to be posted to the North. Although, I grew up in the North, but I didn’t like the pace of life over there and the temperature. The unrest over there even added more to it all. Fortunately, I got posted to the Agwu Camp in Enugu. Before then, I had never been to the East and indeed, it was NYSC that made me cross that bridge between Delta state and Anambra; a bridge that I only saw on TV.

  1. Preparation for Camp

I tried to get as many details as possible and the Nairaland NYSC group helped a lot back then. The camp was supposed to be for three weeks and I have heard stories of how bad the food and general living conditions were. I don’t have a problem with living in a not so cool environment but I was concerned about the food. I heard stories about the watery beans and tea and they turned out to be true, although nobody will force you to drink it. I tried to rally family members to give some money but I could only arrive with about 12k when I stepped into the Camp.

When I came down from the Bus I took from Lagos, there were these soldiers who were waiting around the entrance. Myself and a few others that had arrived around the same time were made to carry our luggage on our head and run into the Camp which was very hilly. I mean, these are soldiers which some of us are actually older than and who most likely never stepped foot on secondary school and they were ordering us all over the place with whips in their hands which they very well used. It wasn’t a big deal at the time but looking back at it now, I realize we were all very stupid to allow those guys to order us. I am not saying you should fight with the soldiers or resist their orders; try and make fun out of it even though it makes zero sense.

2. Shoes and clothing

The NYSC has a budget for our clothes, shoes, and Khaki. The issue here is that most of these things are mass produced and nobody cared if it was your size or not, they didn’t even bother about quality. People that were big couldn’t get clothes that fit, and those of us who use size 46/47 couldn’t get any shoe to fit. In actual fact, I see no reason why the NYSC can’t allow each person to enter their size of clothes on a website and make it to everybody’s size. But of course, this is Nigeria.

Don’t make the mistake I made, come with your white shoe because even the one you would be given…stones can easily make walking very discomforting. The other popular shoe with the brown color, that thing can be so heavy!

Anyway, I had to spend from my 12k to buy a shoe which was expensive, but you can’t blame the sellers. My trouser was a bit too small and I amended it too and that took some more money from me.

3. In the hostel

After jogging my way through the constantly barking soldiers who were spread throughout the entrance; I finally got to the hostel. The place was disorganized and rowdy and properly dirty. We were packed in a classroom with bunks taking over any space. Some people who came with their mosquito net hung it up, but I didn’t have one. I found an empty space on a top bunk and I was OK with it. After all, I had lived on a top bunk for my first two years as an undergraduate. I placed my bag on the bed and secured it with a key while I greeted a few guys who came from different schools. Broken English was the main mode of communication and I have no ish with that.

4. Bathroom, toilet and mosquito, washing cloth

For a population over around 40 guys, we had 4 bathrooms to ourselves. Better to bring a bucket of your own and come with your slippers as the bathroom floor is in a bad shape and you can tell you will catch an infection. The toilet is something else, don’t even put your mind on it. In my case, I woke up early to go to the bush and do my thing. I wasn’t alone though, as there was always other people and even girls.

I was bitten by mosquitoes a lot but the malaria treatment I had didn’t let it put me down. So you should go with your net, the mosquitoes over there were nasty bloodsuckers who came to suck with a straw.

Washing of clothes was rather easy. There wasn’t water in the Camp but each morning, there was a huge tanker which came to supply good water. There was also space to dry the clothes but no light to iron.

5. Morning Assembly

We were all usually matched out for the early morning assembly. But remember I told you about my shoe situation. I couldn’t go to the parade for the first day as I had no shoe to wear. It was only the next day that I got my size and went there. We were made to match the about 3km to the parade ground but that is after our morning assembly.

The assembly was all too similar to the ones in secondary school. This time though, instead of senior students coming to chase you to the assembly, it was koboko wielding soldiers that came. If you are too slow to leave your bunk, they will flog you.

There was the National Anthem, the usual talk by the Camp Commandant and the Head of NYSC for the Camp. I don’t remember his name but the NYSC man was clearly the boss in the Camp and always preaching good behavior. Once there were these two boys that were caught sneaking out and they made a big deal out of it by calling them to the stage. There was always the OBS (Orientation Broadcasting Service) news where they try to tell us what was happening in the outside world. The internet could be terrible at that camp but I don’t know about now.

Once the assembly was over, the camp commandant was always at hand to bark into our faces. I pity those who are assembled close to the stage, I can tell he sprinkled some saliva on them when he talks. I was tall so I usually avoid the front. From there we shall all be matched in line to the parade ground.

6. Parade

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to tell you much about the experience here. The shoe I got was not so comfortable and since I knew that the guys in the OBS don’t go to the parade ground, I joined the OBS. I couldn’t care less for some parade anyways.

However, I knew that people go there and do their thing but I never felt like I missed anything. The OBS was quite ok but was filled with people who know too much or who wanted to prove they had the better English or attended a better school. I didn’t care about the OBS either as long as it kept me from the parade ground. I happily took the job of the sports reporter, all of them wanted to be in the studio and have airtime on the radio. I don’t like cramped spaces and I was happy to go out and cover latest sporting events and get the raw scores and that was where I got to know a few people in the sports division of the NYSC.

I also joined the taekwondo team and we had a presentation on the final day in camp.

7. Benefits of OBS, fashion, man-know-man, and sports team

  • The OBS afforded a few of us the chance to be posted to “town” and a lot of the peeps there put in extra effort to get noticed by the OBS coordinator, an NYSC staff who will compile the list of OBS members that will go to town.
  • The people who had benefits of going to town were those who participated in the various fashion show and placed 1st to 3rd. Mr. Macho, Mrs. NYSC…these people had the chance to win prizes and also get posted to the capital.
  • People who participated in sports like football and volleyball also automatically get posted to town.
  • People who are close the soldiers either by cash or by kind also stand a chance of going to town.
  • Lastly, people whose parents are influential or who knows those NYSC staffs or can pay their way will also go to the capital.

In my own case, I was in the OBS, I stood a better chance of going to the town than my peers who went for the parade. But I was so wrong, and you will soon find out as you continue reading.

8. Campfire night

This was a period that all corps members look forward to. Lots of boys have saved condoms for this day but all their chances went burst when a high ranked woman in the NYSC scrapped the campfire night for that batch. I was really looking forward to it because I had never had a campfire experience but that never happened.

9. Love

About 4 days before the end of the three weeks in Camp, I found this girl. Slim and pretty and we just happened to click, she was going through some bad times (keep it private) and I was there and we really got along talking. The best thing about her is how her clothes fit nicely into her shape. So, sure, as a girl, you can find love in the Camp and the girl I met left so much impression on me that I don’t think any girlfriend could ever leave.

I really looked forward to seeing her and we spent time in the Mami market a few times eating. We held hands, shared some smiles and she didn’t judge me in any way. The likeness was mutual.

There are other instances of people who went to do bad things at night or married women who couldn’t hold it up together and became loose in camp. The soldiers also had a nice time with the girls, they didn’t even need to pay. I figured the so-called “big girls” couldn’t “hold body” for three weeks.

10. Alcohol

That was my first time of meeting guys from around Delta and damn, those guys are experts at alcohol. I personally knew a guy who dropped his certificate as collateral and drank over 180 sachets of N30 gins.

The mami market was also a place where some of the guys do their thing with the girls. Others also “rent” spaces in the market with their girls especially when everybody else went to parade.

11. Entrepreneurship

There is also these long boring classes on how to be self-sufficient. The classes were not bad per say but the fact that they made us endure it was the issue. There were some decent ones like barbing, soap making, hairdressing and the likes, but I was never interested and I didn’t regret it. If you up for poultry or pig farming or similar things, by all means, listen to the class and gain some things.

12. Fake salary Increase

I think this is a recurring thing in every NYSC camp as there were rumours that President Goodluck Jonathan has doubled our allowance. Some guys were even opening some blogs to confirm while others called their friends in other schools, but all na lie!

However, till today, I still appreciate the then Enugu Governor called Chime. Dude paid ALL of us 10k and nobody was owed. In fact, in my case, because I changed PPA, my allowance was delayed by 3 months but Chime paid everything and I added 20k and used the money to buy a Samsung Galaxy Mega.

I don’t know the current state of things but I know that most states including the overhyped “Lagos” don’t pay or pay halfway.

13. Posting to PPA

Anyway, due to my OBS membership, I felt that I could get into town. In truth, I didn’t have a close relationship with the OBS coordinator who will compile the list. I didn’t even smile at him, I just did my thing. I got a great shock when I was posted to a village (more like a Hamlet) after Nsuka, close to the border with Kogi state.

To make matters worse, the girl which I had come to like was posted to Ngwo, a town very close the capital. We didn’t have a chance to say goodbye and I felt terrible that OBS let me down. It took 4 hours to arrive to the village from the camp and I felt lost, and lonely and sad. while people who got posted to town were in high spirit, our bus was quiet and everybody was down.

Our PPA was one that had no water and the only means of water was a pit dug up and cemented to collect rainwater. There was no service and only airtel had service on a tree. They also haven’t had light for two years. The two Lagos girls that came with me to the PPA just burst in tears, they couldn’t believe their lot. It was indeed bad luck to get posted to such a settlement.

I just couldn’t get calm, and for the first time in my life, my blood couldn’t settle. If the girl in Camp was here with me, I would have stayed! I remembered telling her this when I was able to call her. But I was alone here with a few other people. When we arrived, the school principal came to welcome us. In the evening, we went to their market. I remember that I drank palm wine I never tasted in my life. The taste was sweet, it was just a giant glass mug that sold for N150. I only remembered finishing it but till this day, I had no idea how I got back to the room that was organized for us and the distance to the room was around 2km. I slept my sorrow away.

It was only the next day that I was able to speak with the girl. The school Principal came and asked us to start writing our names and collecting our credentials. Immediately, I told the man to reject me but he will have none of it because they have been trying for a long time to have corps members.

All my mates registered including the ones that were crying the night before, but for the first time in my life, I appreciated the fact that I was the black sheep. I was frantically making calls to my family to pull me out of this hole, but nothing was quite working. In the midst of the confusion, I called the sports coordinator at the camp and he said: “why didn’t you tell me?” Immediately, my mind flashed back at one particular day in camp when I went to collate the scores for the days sporting event. This guy was actually writing out the names of sportsmen he wants to post to town, I was there, I saw him compiling the names, but I said to myself, “OBS got me covered.”

It was him who later helped to pull me out of the hole and brought me to the school where the girl was serving. I had a nice time, NYSC as at that time turned out to be the best year of my life. I will surely never forget the people.