NYSC stories 1 of 10.
We were back in school having already known most of us expecting 1st class were slapped with 2.1. I got to the sport complex of UNIBEN and met my classmates again, and a very thick crowd.
The struggle to collect the call-up letter was a very stiff one. In fact, from the top of a staircase, I saw for the first time, human beings falling, no pouring down when the bars of the staircase fell apart.
By the end, when the ambulance left the venue, red spots of blood filled the floor.
Well, the giving out of the letters started with the various shouts and wails as the case may be.
Where we were still queueing, you will just hear,
‘Ewwoooooooooh!!’, very loudly. Na Kaduna dem post the person be dat.
Another person will shout,
‘Yeeeeeeaaaaaaahhh!’, that’s Lagos.
‘I don dieee oooooo!’. Na Borno.
And as for those of us who were posted to normal areas, Osun and the likes, we just threw our fist into the air in jubilation.
Breeming with smiles, you will tell your former classmate and tell her;
‘Na Osun dem post me o’.
She will reply,
‘Me na Yobe o’.
Your smile will quickly disappear, so you will not offend her.
‘Sorry o; shey u don plan to redeploy sha’.
‘Yes o’. She too go reply you.
Eventually, we dispersed, having congratulated some people and made sad face for some others.
The next Tuesday, I was off to camp.
I reached Osogbo, the capital city and asked directions to Ede, venue of the Orientation camp. One guy told me to take bus, while another person told me to take bike.
I looked at their small and stuffy buses and went for the okada, thinking the distance is not much.
Tears rolled and flew from my eyes on the okada before we eventually reached the camp. It was the longest times I spent on a motorcycle. I was almost stretching myself while on it.
We reached the venue and as soon as I came down from the okada, I saw the unmistaken identity of a lady from my church.
Ehehehehhhe… I smiled at the ladiy as she handed me a tract.
‘My people; My people’, I thought to myself.
We were searched at the gate and although nothing was taking from me, stainless cups and forks and spoons littered the place.
Eventually we registered and were directed to a place to pick matresses.
One tall and fair-skinned guy who had been following me since we entered also registered just after me and we were given rooms at the same time.
We entered into a big room, no not room. A big hall, with double-deck metal beds, bunks were arranged from side to side, leaving a very narrow space between the two rows of beds.
‘Oboiyeee! This beds no go reach 200 so’. I thought.
But No; it was 25 bunks for 50 people. I was given a top bed while the fair skinned guy was given a bottom bunk.
‘Bros! You still dey here too? My name is Victor. I introduced myself.
‘My name is MERLIN’.
I laughed and asked,
‘Wey Arthur and Morgana?’.
When I saw he called himself his nickname, I regretted not telling him my name his Vikky-J.
We became almost inseperable after then, even collecting food together.
We were told while dropping our bags that the Registration, the proper one, had already started in the auditorium.
So, dropping my load in the hand of God, I ran out of the hostel, with Merlin also at my heels.
Come and see queue oooooo!
A very hot sun was also on hand to welcome us to life on camp. The heat and ache of our joints were enough to run home to mama, crying,
‘I no dey do NYSC again ooo…’.
But we all stayed and I started spotting my UNIBEN people.
From that queue, Merlin and I started yabs and making funny comments which got those around us laughing. And Merlin could laugh mockery laugh sha!
He will throw his head back and shout the laughter.
So while I was supplying the jokes, he made it count with his laughters and comments.
At least, it made the queue less tormenting.
We stayed on about 6 to 7 queues before the end of that day.
In one of the queues, a soldier told a boy, a big boy, graduate, to kneel down and riase his hands.
I thought the guy will argue his rights, but he went down like a sheep, I bet he even smiled. Ehehehhehee…
On another queue, 20 naira was paid for stapler. Chai! Just to staple a few documents together, because we didn’t have staplers, some little boys and old women, came with their staplers and told us to pay 20 naira to use the staplers.
It was to avoid this that made me come with my personal stapler. But even I forgot it in my bag at the hostel. How could I have known?
On another queue for kits, that is the khaki, vest, shorts, shirts and shoes, I saw some people on white at a far distance, marching.
‘Those people na corpers like us o; dem don come since and dem don already start to dey march’.
I was silently praying the it doesn’t get to my turn so that I won’t be made to join the parade just yet.
As the kits was about to my turn, it was announced that it is exhausted. We have to come back for it.
By now, Merlin had been lost in the crowd. I was on the 5th queue, meaning platoon 5.
NYSC stories 2.of 10
I was among those who distributed the NYSC kits, thus I was given opportunity to choose my own kit.
I took my boot, the shirt and the shorts.
The boot was too tight.
The neck of the shirt was as big as the space for 3 buttons.
The short was like the first ever short knicker.
I was angry at myself when I saw the misfits.
‘Why I no just settle down pick good ones now? Wetin dey worry me sef?!’.
By now, the camp was already getting bustling and by night, it was rumoured that dinner is ready.
For the first time, I armed myself with my narrow cooler and marched with Merlin to the kitchen.
I got the shock of my life.
So many persons. So many coolers. And because it was night, so many torchlights.
Merlin and I joined a short queue and we moved slowly towards the food container; distribution point.
When it was my turn, I handed the server my cooler and my food Card. It was rice they served; guess it was a way of welcoming us into the fold because most times, it was either Amala and okra, eba and gbegiri or ogbono.
Anyway, the server took a scoop and ‘boops’, into my cooler it went.
I was beaming with smiles; expecting another scoop when the guy motioned for me to leave.
‘Shuooooo…! E don finish be dat?
Na me wan chop this tin or na mouse?
Why una dey help Federal Govt manage money?
If I no chop free Nija food now, when I wan chop am?’.
These are a few of the numerous questions that came to my mind but I just told the guy with my great smile,
‘Ehehehhehe.. Put more na’.
He put a little more and I laughed and left the queue after collecting stew and a piece of meat.
Merlin also had a similar story, only that his meat was slightly bigger, and every time, he was always lucky with meat.
We went to our room where I climbed my top bunk and ate my food.
Some minutes later, I lied down and slept.
By to 4 am the next day, I woke up with almost everybody in the room. We were happily anticipating our first parade; anxiety and the unfamiliar matress allowed me wake early.
We made our way to the Parade ground around 4 am.
Eheheehehe… Ladies and gentlemen, that was the earliest till the end of camp.
The next day, it was great and sudden chants and loud noises that woke us.
The Man ‘O’ war will storm into our hostels, push and kick the doors, hitting their legs in unison on the cemented floor.
The first day they did this, I woke up afraid and ready to run for my life until I looked around and saw my mates already dressing up.
I can never forget the songs of those Man ‘O’ war men. I ran after them on one of the days and recorded the songs on my phone. I still find myself singing their wake-up songs sometimes.
On the day of the swearing in, the representative sent by the governor, the Commisioner for youths, came along to welcome us to the state.
I carried my camera along and took so many pictures; merlin and I.
As we were heading back to the hostel, I saw the Commisioner also leaving.
‘Vikky, abeg do your thing’. I thought.
So, I approaced the commisioner and told him,
‘Can I snap with you sir’.
He smiled and stopped in his strides as I handed my camera to Merlin and stood beside the man.
I arranged my well-practiced smile and took 2 to 3 shots.
Seeing the opportunity, Merlin quickly told the man to snap with him. I took his shots.
Before you know what is happening, people begin to gather, all asking for shots with the commisioner; and he obliged. At least, till I left them.
Sad story. By the end of the whole camp. On the very last day, as soon as I was getting ready to leave the camp, the memory card of my camera got corrupted and all the pictures wiped off.
Even cry, I couldn’t cry. A camera I bought a day before the camp opened.
NYSC stories 03 of 10.
On the 3rd day in camp, while on the parade ground, around 5am, it was announced that someone should come and preach to all the over 2000 corpers. As far as I can remember, I don’t usually present myself as a Pastor but on this occasion, I went forward and told them I will do the preaching. While it was still being decided, another guy came and also volunteered to preach.
I wanted to quickly tell the person in charge that the other guy should do it but my mind told me to wait.
So, as the other guy was still trying to convince them, I just asked,
‘So when am I doing the preaching? How many minutes?’
They told me it should be only 5 minutes and we all forgot about the other guy.
So when the time came, I stood before then, took the microphone and then,
‘Praise the Lord’.
Ehehhehehe… I told everybody to take John 3:16 after the count of 3.
The ground resounded with the sound of the multitude as we took the verse in unison.
When they finished, I now began explaining the verse and within 5 mins I led the prayer of salvation and returned the mic.
One of my church members back in UNIBEN came to meet me later and told me,
‘Victor, na you preach that time abi? I know your voice na’.
I was surprised because it was dawn and I didn’t expect anyone to even recognize me. I think after that time, one or two people called me ‘Pastor’ or ‘Man of God’. I will just laugh and change the topic.
Later in the day, we were told to meet on platoon basis and elect leaders.
I sat with my fellow platoon 5 corpers and then we started. Before you know it, I met another guy from UNIBEN and he said my face is familiar. When I told him my name, he laughed and said which kind of name is this? He told the name to his friend and they both wondered at how someone can combine ‘Victor’, ‘James’ and ‘Wahab’.
I gave them a funny reply and soon we became the godfathers, the INEC, the Jega of the platoon election.
Every single candidate that came forward with their manifesto, we make jokes at them and everybody around us will burst into laughter.
‘I will move this platoon forward’.
Bros, where you wan move am go? He pass these 21days?
‘I will make sure we are okay in every area’.
Oga, u wan share free food? What about our spiritual life?
One of us in the godfathers corner, a big man with thick beards that only shaving powder can shave, told us that he wants to contest for the Platoon leader.
We told him not to worry and that he should contest.
By the time they said he should turn his back on us to count the vote, only 2 or 3 persons voted for him.
Not a single godfather raised the hand to vote for him. The laugh I laughed that day ehn!
When the guy came back, he looked at us with wicked eyes.
‘Don’t worry, Abraham Lincoln failed many times too’.
After the elections, most of our (Jega) candidates won and till the end of the camp, those of us in the godfathers corner remained close.
I joined most activities on camp; but I couldn’t contest for Mr Macho since I do not have 1 pack talkess of 6-packs. In the first meeting with the social group, the group was divided into drama and dance. I knew I can only dance in my sitting room, so I opted for drama with about 7 other corpers, mostly girls. When the asked for any opinion on the type of play, I answered, when they asked another question, I answered again. By the time they wanted to choose the drama director, everybody pointed at me and I was made the director/producer/script writer/costume designer of the platoon. My name soon changed from Victor, no one even remembered it before. And people stated calling me drama coordinator. Most mornings, I will walk from the beginning to the end of our platoon’s line, announcing, drama members will meet at 3pm today under the pavilion.
People will just be looking and laughing at my yoruba intonation. By the next week, when I jus come to the front of the line,
‘Drama people! We don hear’, people will say before I even begin the announcement.
I didn’t act in the drama eventually since I was too busy directing. We came 2nd among the 10platoons at the end of the day and I was called forward to collect the gift, a carton of Onga maggi and an envelope. Before I could decide what to do with the gifts, I spotted the evil eye the woman in charge of the platoon was using to look at me from the crowd. No one told me before I quickly dropped everything at her feet.
I was also in the football team after about 3 screenings, I was taken although I was too slim to play in any of the matches. They removed me from the squad to play that day. I believe it was becuase when I removed my shirt, they noticed my flat chest and compared it with the broad and thick chest of our opponent. My platoon lost that game and when the threw coin to choose the team to progress into the next round, my platoon was again unlucky. How won’t they be, when they didn’t allow me to show my talent?
I heard there was a race too, 100m sprint. As soon as I got there, I was told I won’t be able to run. It was not offensive to me because ever since my primary school days people always assume I won’t do well in sports and every single time, I have proved them wrong. I didn’t mind the guy who I will not be able to run. I just went to the starting line and waited with 6 other guys.
At the end of the race, I came first and those skeptics, girls and boys were surprised.
NYSC stories 4 of 10.
For the parades or marchpasts, we were, at first, all forced to participate in the practices. But as time went on, even the soldiers themselves had to give up on some people. With fat belly and big legs, it was impossible for some persons to raise and drop their heavy legs.
At one of the rehearsals, one big pot-bellied black guy, not guy, a man, no; a daddy, was called to show everybody how to do ‘At ease’ and ‘Attention’.
The soldiers themselves, I don’t know if it was because they were hausas or because they do not know the right words.
Whenever they want to call the two commands, they will say something more or less like,
‘Sandaltize!’ for stand at ease.
‘Ottencho’ for attention.
So when daddy with his big belly was called to the middle of everybody, he raise his leg and shouted,
‘STANDARDTIZE!’. Laughter erupted and even the soldiers themselves were smiling and shaking their heads.
The daddy continued,
We stood at attention.
‘AZEEZ!’. Everywhere scattered.
At least no one needed to ask the name of the guy anymore. He is definitely Azeez.
While in flanks, marching, some of us won’t be able to hold back our laghters when we see persons, struggling to balance their legs. The head will move with the rest of the body to the right when he/she throws the right leg. The stomach and the laps will move to the left when he throws forward his right leg.
About one week to the end of the camp, more than half of the corpers had been disqualified.
We came one morning and the soldier in charge announced that they will be making the final selection that morning. And that every other persons will be removed.
I was almost the tallest of those of us marching and thus, I was on the extreme left.
‘ONE! TWO!’ The soldier was shouting and walking with us.
We marched in rythm with his commands.
Now, I was a very serious marcher(if that word exists); so serious that my classmate in school Iyke, who also belong to my platoon, complained. He said anytime I am marching, my face will be hard as if I was going to kill Goliath.
And in truth, he was right.
With tight face, strong blows set by my sides and my legs move deliberately. I will raise my head, ‘squeeze’ my face hard and keep my mouth shut. Even if you see me, you will think twice before saying ‘bro’. A passport taken with such a face will always be denied by terrorist-fearing countries.
Anyway, I was marching my usual serious way and we have not even gone far when the soldier came to me, put his hand on my shoulder and drew me out of the line.
There were some muffled laughter among the rest of the corpers as I was the first to be taken out.
I was surprised because I did everything right. About 15 more persons were removed like me and the soldier said we must not leave.
At the end, the soldier told us who were removed that we will be representing the platoon. And those who were left marching were told to continue marching to their hostels.
That day I perfectly understood the bible verse, ‘…the stone that was rejected as become the cornerstone’. And since I was the first to be removed, I declared myself the best marcher of the platoon.
If there was anything I love in the camp, it is the marchpasts. The parades.
The drummers were fantastic; with their tune of ‘When the Saints go marching in’. Oooooh! As I was marching in rythm to the drum, I will sometimes close my eyes and imagine myself marching into the kingdom of heaven.
And when they give the ‘Oh my home, when shall I see my home’ tune, I will picture my family and the day I will leave the camp. The feelings were glorious.
My platoon came 8th out of 10 in the parades but I was taken among the final list, for the general and final parade for the end of the camp.
On the last day, we marched for the last time and the representative of the governor moved among us for inspection. As soon as he was almost at my front, my nose began to itch me. Later it was my back asking for a kind scratch
Later my jaw started itching me. I did not even mind the rebellious body parts. I stood as resolute as ever, looking forward at an unseen goal.
He moved away and I sighed.
After the parades, we collected our posting letters and I was off to Ila-Orangun, Osun State.
Many persons have been jostling to be to be posted to the capital city since the start of the camp.
Firstly, it was rumoured that people who join the parade will all be posted to Osogbo, the capital.
Later, they said if you were among those playing football.
And though I was a member of almost all the groups, I was thrown to the last Local government; that even shares a border with Kwara state.
Ehehehehehe… I was happy anywhere and quickly browsed google for Ila-Orangun.
And off I went.
End of the Orientation camp.
NYSC stories 05 of 10
I arrived at the school I was posted to around 12pm, set to sign what I should and run home that same day. I was sitting waiting to be attended to when two corpers also entered; we were posted to the same school.
‘I hail o’, we exchanged pleasantries and sat together in the Principal’s office.
He came in sometimes later and asked for our names. I waited for the two of them before saying mine.
‘I am Ejeje Ichehono Adriel, read Civil Engineering’.
The principal struggled to pronounce the name and then the guy told the principal,
‘Just call me ICH’
The next guy,
‘My name is Mark Busa, read Industrial Design’.
‘I am Victor James Wahab’, read Microbiology’.
The principal gave a welcome speech and asked for the subject we can teach.
ICH went for Maths, they added Intro Tech and Technical Drawing, afterall he is an engineer.
Mark said he will teach Fine Arts and they asked which other subject an Industrial Designer can teach, he said he can teach English Language. I later found out he wanted to use the english to improve his public speaking.
So it came to me.
Since I finished my SS3, I have thought Maths, Chemistry, Basic Science, Physics, English, Biology, CRK, Geography, Social Studies and Intro Tech. But my brother had already warned me that if I go there and gave this long list of CV, they will pack all the subjects on my head and I will crack under the yoke of too much work.
So when I was asked, I smiled and the Principal asked or rather told me,
‘You can teach Basic Science na’
‘You can teach Biology too’
And that was it.
At the end of the day, I went home after 21 days away, having already completed the registration while the principal also promised to secure accommodation for us before we resume. It was the end of 2nd term in schools already.
After 1 month, I went back with two big bag of loads. ICH and Mark were already in town and they brought no heavy load.
While I came along with foodstuffs and cooking things, ICH came with Laptop and pad for games.
While I brought even dry fishes from home, Mark came with Motivational Books.
We went to school the next day and saw the boys and girls around different mango trees while the others were running about or cutting grasses.
The school was very far from the town; or is it a village now? And the Principal had to drive us to the area where we were given opportunity to choose between two houses.
The first was a boys’ quarter. All those houses that after the owner has already finished the main house, he changed his mind and decided to add another small set of rooms at the back. The toilet is as you know.
I will be able to walk from one end of the room to the other with three long strides.
The three of us exchanged glances and told the principal to take us to the other house. The second house was a bungalow with three bedrooms and a large sitting room. It was the type of house best for newly weds, only that they will have to be prayerful and get themselves some swords to arm themselves against the animals that might be present. The house was thickly surrounded with bushes but we took it all the same. One corper to one bedroom. The rent was almost twice the rent for the other house and since the principal had already promised to pay for us, we were left to furnish the very empty house on our own.
We knew it was impossible for us to furnish the sitting room so we just converted it to kitchen since the architect of the house forgot to add a kitchen. Ehehhehee…
Now to my two fellow corpers.
ICH is a cool guy with a gentle face though not as gentle as mine. He has the potential for a pot-belly as even in his youth, shirts don’t stand sraight on his belly. ICH will wake up some morning, and while I was stilll sleeping, he will push my door open a little and say,
‘Victor, fear woman’.�
I will laugh and I will tell him there is no need to fear woman,and then arguments will start. We argue on relationship and family lives, ways of living and many other topics. And every time we argued, if he is sitting, I will stand and pace. And if I am sitting, he will stand and pace. He was the decisipn maker of the group and since he was the richest of us and likes spending his morning on food, we fed well throughout the 10 months we were together.
Mark is a type of guy who worries over nothing. And he likes to laugh. Before the end of the first week after we met, one of his favourite talks is,
‘This Vikky no even serious’ after bursting into loud laughter. He sill remains the only person I’ve seen till date who burnt the water to make eba. He also is my motivator; he tells me stories of some of his guys who are using their talents to work. And there was always a guy.
At the end of the service year, I was highly motivated by these two corpers. ICH providing the money and relationship motivation and Mark providing the career motivation.
NYSC Stories 06 of 10.
My fellow corpers, Ich and Mark were the Buka type. And I wasn’t.
During the orientation camp, we were given the food card that will be marked anytime we take a mean.
Each and every single of the space on my food card was marked save one. It was on a day they served beans and Merlin and I went late to the kitchen. Even though I couldn’t collect the beans, I was given garri which I ate. I was very mindful of colleccting food at every mean time so that my food-collection record won’t spoil.
I went to the kitchen on camp on a certain day and while people were already on the queue, there were few servers. So I went up and joined the servers. That day, it was Yam porridge that was being served and the girl in charge didn’t allow me serve food. Maybe because my face was gentle and she though I will give out too much food, I don’t know. So she told me to mark the Food Card.
And I took it to a greater height. Ehehehehe…
Whenever someone comes, I will check the passport, look his face ‘korokoro’ and then mark it. After seeing the passport, I may ask,
‘Are you sure this is you?’.
And if I was unlucky to say it to a very hungry man, he will look at me with an eye that says,
‘No be me; na my greatgrandfather when he dey do NYSC’.
I just made sure I generally asked people one question or the other. It may even be something like,
‘Oga, wetin carry you come kitchen, wetin u dey find’.
And then the person might say,
‘So na kitchen be dis? Na shoemaker shop I be think say e be o. Mtcheew’.
We will laugh and the next person will move along.
After serving that day, I made new friends and also got triple of my normal food. It was a lunch and not so many persons came to collect food; so the leftover was left for the servers team. I took my cooler to my hostel, balance on my dining table, that is, my top bunk matress, and I removed my shirt.
I made sure I had water first and then I removed my siglet and shoes and socks. And with just my shorts, my food and I, I started moving the mountain.
So when I got to my lodge after the camp and my other two corpers told me they didn’t sing up to ten of the over 60 food spaces, I knew this boys are not my type. And we decided to cook together.
I soon volunteered that I will cook for them and it was one of the best decisions I made. Because I was already doing one of the most difficult jobs for boys, it was easy for me to dodge other work like running errands or fetching water although the guys catch me sometimes.
I cooked for throughout the 3 months in the third term and it gave bragging rights till now.
Anytime a female friend tells me cookin is not easy, I will laugh I boast,
‘I cooked for corpers for 3 months! What is hard there??’
And that thing pain ladies sha!
I was so good at cooking especially noodles that every time female corpers visit us, the guys will not allow the lady to cook. They will first of all boast of my prowess in making noddles and then they will beg me to cook it.
And sure enough, I will do my wonders again.
Rice, Indomie, foofoo and other soup food are what we eat together in the same plate.
When I finish cooking, I will put it into a large plate and take it to ICH’s room most times.
Mark will then go to take satchet water since we never drink the wellwater and then we will finish the first round. If the food remains and it makes sense, we will not even wait to make it lunch. We will eat the 2nd round and sometimes the 4th round.
But the case is different for beans.
When I finish cooking the beans, I will only announce that food is done and even I, the announcer of good tidings will go back to my room and resume my movie or novel. Sometimes, till tehe next day, the beans will be looking at us on the stove.
However, sometimes, the guys will be watching film with plates unwashed and when I announce that someone should wash the plates and yet no one washes it; some very few times, I will shake my head and go and wash it while most times I will wait for them to wash it or give ultimatum to eithe of them to wash it or else…
Soon, Mark made the submission that I was the mother of the house, ICH is the father, since he supplies the money sometimes when allawee is dry, while Mark is the child without a care. And Mark is the embodiment of carelessness.(Mark, If you are reading this, u sef know say na true. I don tell u tire).
Since they don’t do what their chores regularly, I told them by next term, I will stop being the cook and true to my words, by the next term, cooking became rotated.
We go to market together and if its rice and stew, Mark is the king of that. If it is yam or beans, ICH knows it. But I cook the soup most times.
We were in the market one day when my shoulder hit a girl’s hand and her handkerchief fell off.
She stood in the middle of the market and told his friend she will never pick it up, that I must.
I just bent down, shook my head, looked at her with pity in my eyes and gave her the handkie and that was one of my proudest days. It further confirmed my suspicions that I am a gentle guy.
NYSC Stories 07 of 10.
Two weeks after we resumed the secondary school, Change was noticeable even to the blind. Anytime the National Anthem was on, anyone who moves will regret it. When we enter the school, anyone who comes after us is doomed. When classes are going on, anyone we found loitering is in hot soup.
We don’t really beat the student except if their offence happens within the classroom. What we usually do is punishment.
And since Mark went to one of these Command Schools, we never ran out of punishment ideas. We even invented some news ways of punishing students.
As I am writing this, I try to remember if I even used the cane, but I don’t think so. I think I used anyway, but it was for few times.
ICH is the king of cain users; although he uses it in his Mathematics classrooms.
Soon, the secondary school changed and even the principal acknowledged this. However, some weeks later, he called us into his office, praise us for our efforts and then announced that the government has banned beating of students with cain.
To ICH, the news was like saying a thief should not use a gun, only a catapult. We voiced out to the principal that with the level of unseriousness and stubborness of these students, even the cane is not assured to keep them on the right track.
On one of the days, ICH beat a boy and the next day, his father showed up. His father was the photographer of the school; the papparrazzi.
Now, out of the 3 corpers, Mark and I understand Yoruba while ICH can only say Go, come and other words you see on those 20 naira books with language and meanings.
So when the man came, he was angry and maybe drunk. He was one of those type of people who believes they are Professors of English even when they don’t know a rule in concord.
When he came in, Mark and I decided to pacify him in Yoruba so that he can leave but Mark, though born in Ibadan, cannot grasp what the man was saying. That is why I said he was maybe drunk. He was talking zig-zag, something like,
‘You should not beat my child like that, the farmers will go to market soon.’ and then he will stop, looking for the next english word.
Well, I gave up trying to understand him and told him in yoruba, ‘Sorry sir’. So that he can know I understand his mother tongue. But it was even that time he went into another frenzy of those type of English the Queen of England will hear and have stomach ache.
He was trying to convince us that he too can speak english, afterall he is a photographer. Like some okada men do when you tell them in yoruba where you are going and they will reply you in english,
‘Climb on top’.
When you now give them money and say,
‘Can you hand over my balance?’
They will squeeze their fase like burnt akara.
Anyway, we left the photographer dad to continue and he ramble until he too gave up.
‘Thank you sir. We understand’.
He smiled. We were happy that he has finally calm down. The next minute, he was off again, rambling and threatening to use charm on us.
Weeks later, he came to take passports for the students and took free passports of ICH. We became confused and I concluded that he uses timetable to behave to people.
One day, after putting the school on lock-down and punishment for most of that day, when we headed home, some girls followed us afar off. Their plan was to keep railing abuses and curses on us till we reach home but since they couldn’t string one sentence in english together, they didn’t really had much to say except to grumble and laugh. And we also were laughing at their helplessness.
By the time we reached the road that led away from the main road, we met the boys their. They waylayed us and no one really knows what they intended to do. Maybe they wanted to beat us up.
Anyway, when we reach that junction, they started hiding on one another’s back and looking at us. I guess they changed their mind when they saw Mark’s bald and strong head, ICH’s jungle boot and angry face as well as my unpredictable gentle face and long legs.
Anyway, we didn’t even do as if we noticed anyone until we branced away and went home. While Mark and I laughed at the scenario, ICH was angry.
The next day, even before we did anything, ICH led us to the principal’s office were he told the principal solemly that there is a threat to his life. Ehehehehhe…
One who heard the way he said it will think bomb was already strapped to his chest with the detonator in one the student’s hand.
Throughout that day, we didn’t beat anyone or control the students in anyway, ICH didn’t even teach until the end of the day.
The principal noticed our silent protest and demanded that we point out those who we recongized from the previous day. At the end about 15 students were sent home to bring their parents and some never came back.
In all our bids to put the school in order, we couldn’t really discipline the SS2 students (the SS3 students had already finished their WAEC and gone). Most of the girls in the SS2 class were too big to be beaten, some of them had even given birth while none of us was even married.
And the for the boys, they were full-time okada men and part-time students. Tell me, how can I beat someone who is as tall as me with those types of hands that have known cutlass and strangling animals while I was still playing table-tennis. Hands that are hard and black and can never recover. Some of the boys even had the added advantage of having red eyes and black lips as a certificate for smoking grasses and green plants. While my lips are still pink, my hands are soft, and my eyes white.
The only thing I do sometimes is go to these boys in their okada park just below a tree in the school and advice them on the need for education; telling them of their mates who are now in final year in Universities. But how can you motivate a person whose life’s dream is to have a wife and give birth and survive?
The only way we could handle the students is to wait for the examinations.� we took over from the teachers and were the invigilators, supervisors and WAEC officials. The space between one row and another was so large, even a giraffe will put effort to see the next persons answers. And although most of them failed, the passmark was lowered in such a way that the people we targeted to fail eventually passed.
NYSC Stories 08 of 10.
(This one will be short and in pidgin).
One student report say person beat am o. Na hin the principal call all of us for hin office, come talks say,
‘A girl said ONE BLACK CORPER beat her. I am sure that is you abi, Victor?’.
Chaaaaai! As e just talk that tin, my head hooooot. I just dey laugh but e pain me. Me? Black Corper?
I know say na ICH dem dey talk say e beat the girl sha bcos na hin black pass. But as the principal come talk say bcos dem call BLACK corper, e mean say na me beat am, the tin pain me reach bone.
Chai! A whole me? That BLACK corper??
When we go back to our house, na hin I go carry mirror, come sitdown check my face well.
OBOIYEEEEE… See my face! I surprise that day ehn! Cos I come even black pass ICH.
When I come take picture, my face just come be like person wey wan act devil for all those old old mount zion film.
That kin blackness wey ur mind go dey tell u say if you use blade scratch urself, say charcoal go fall for your hand.
And I know wetin cause the blackness sha. You see, bcos say water dey scarce for that town, sometimes, we dey go school without bathing. We go just wake up, brush teeth, go school. And when we come back, we go use the small water wey remain take
Me no even know until my face don dey turn darkly black.
Another reason na say I go dey use one kin cream. Me think say the cream go make me fine o; until when I come dey ask people the root of my poblem, my blackness. The girl come tell me say that cream too dey make person black.
Shuooooo…! Na hin i dey use am??
To show how I take trace the root of my blackness reach, I call my mama siddon, I come ask am,
‘Mama, abeg when you born me, I black?’
na so she come tell me say out of the whole 4 children wey she born, say na me even light pass when we young.
The devil is a liar!
My destiny will not be change!
What is not my own will not be dropped at my door-mouth!
Na hin I reject am o. I go meet my sister, ask am say I wan go back to dey look like the time when I young o. Make the blackness comot.
Na hin she tell me say make I give am that blackening cream; she come give me another one. And since then, I always dey baff well with better soap.
The complexion wey una dey see for this my picture so, na the complexion wey dem born me with o, wey i lose b4, wey devil wan steal comot from my hand. But I no gree o.
I must maintain my natural complexion!
I no go get artificial blackness. And that is how my name was change from ‘That BLACK corper’ to ‘Our fine corper’.
Bcos as we dey waka for market after that time, na hin one of those market women wey dey talk truth come dey call me.
‘Fine corper, buy something na’.
NYSC Stories 09 of 10.
To say the truth, we often resume school later than the specified 8 a.m but we usually make up for this by teaching the students sometimes till around 3. So, the principal didn’t really commit himself to monitoring our time of arrival.
When we resumed, a time-book was given to us; the corpers only so that we can specify both time of arrival and departure from school.
Now, as you know, I can’t lie. I can’t come to school by 8:30 a.m and record 7:45. I can’t.
I always pen down the accurate time and though late, the principal never checked the time book, no one did. And if he did check it, he never showed it.
However, some representatives of the state officials took it upon themselves to monitor corpers strictly. Because the state pay us 5000, they send these inspectors to check our work. And one of the things they check is the time book.
The day one man with a loud voice and a heavy suit, sorry coat, came to ask after the corpers, he was told we were not around. It was one of those days when we will wake up, and because there was light, we will decide to watch movies in the morning. Ehehehehhee…
So when he came and didn’t meet us, he was very angry and he demanded for the corpers timebook. The principal truthfully told him the book was with us which made the man more angry. He then told the principal that we must come the very next day, promising the principal that he will come and check on us and that we must present the timebook. The principal called us and passed the information.
Well, I thought hard about the matter, since I am the only one who is really taking the matter of honesty in time recording seriously.
After thinking for a while and checking the time book, I saw that our latecoming is clearly stated in the timebook since we often fill between 8:15 and 9am. And I was sure the man will be quick to point this out, giving him an excuse to punish us. The 5000 naira we were being paid was not really precious to us but we didn’t want to lose it all because one man was over-zealous of his work.
So I told the guys, we have to leave this timebook at home. So that when he comes and ask for it, we will tell him it is at home instead of lying. Eheheheheh…
True to his words, the man came the next day with his think glasses and we noticed the teachers were jittery. I think he also inspects them. One of the teachers sent a student to us that the inspector was around and that we should run to come and meet him. We laughed and took our time.
When we were ready, the three of us walked like men who just finished eating pounded yam and hot egusi soup with cold water. The only difference is that we were not wearing signet nor were we sweating. We strolled and gisted until we reached the office were the man was already sitting down and waiting for us. And he was angry by default.
‘So you are the corpers’.
We smiled, ‘Yes sir, we are’.
‘Why were you not around yesterday?’
‘We are sorry sir’, we replied after giving a true but weak excuse.
He looked at us over his heavy glasses, adjusted himself and asked for our names.
And then, just as we expected, he asked,
‘Where is the timebook?’
I was the best at all these diplomatic maneuverings, so I took over. And since I was the one who wants to be honest and gave the idea to leave the timebook at home, the guys left me to answer.
I smiled my trademark smile and told the man,
‘Sorry sir, we left it at home’.
He was very angry, he protested, this and that, it is the property of the state government, why will you take it home?
I just smiled at him and said,
‘You are right sir. Don’t mind us’.
He went on with his threats and protests while I just sat there grinning like a person who just discovered his best friend is God’s will for him in marriage. Ehehehehe…
When the man saw he won’t affect us, he went on to observe our dressing.
‘Why are you not dressed properly? See your slippers (It was a palm sandal o)’
He said we didn’t tuck in our shirts, asked why ICH was wearing Jeans, this and that.
All the while, we still maintained our smiles, giving excuses when needed.
I know that inspector will be vexed that day; maybe he was expecting corpers who will engage him in debate. So that he can show them ‘pepper and onion’ and maybe stop our monthly 5k; but we were gentle corpers and he lost the war, since we came with no arms.
Well, he warned us to bring the timebook and change our dressing before he visits the school again, and we said,
‘Yes sir. Welldone sir’. And then we left.
I am happy to tell you that till today, that timebook never returned to that school.
And concerning the dressing, on the day he came back, exams were finished. I wore a shoe but didn’t tuck in, Mark wore palm sandals and Jeans while ICH didn’t even come to school that day.
When he asked why we were dressed that way, we quickly wore our marriage smiles and told him it was because the exams had finished and that light is bad in our area; which is also true.
‘What of the third corper?’.
‘He is not around sir. Maybe he is marking scripts’.
‘Tell him to meet me in the Board office’.
Well, till now, ICH has still not report himself to the board office.
to all those who followed the story, the rest as they say, is HISTORY…
NYSC STORIES 10 of 10.
(The grand finale;) whew, Finally!) You have to settle down to read this one.
All corpers are required to join a Community Service, CDS group, and mine was with the FRSC club. Mark was also a member. We were supposed to be heavily involved in Road Safety activities but most of our meetings were discussions on this or that. And although I prefer directing traffic, as you might suspect, I love discussions too.
A typical meeting of ours will go something like this;
After singing the National and NYSC anthem and other intros, we begin discussions.
The CDS leader will then present the topic while the rest of us will raise the points.
‘Corper Victor James, you have the floor’. I always made sure the James was added so my name could sound official.
And then I will stand and talk,
‘I am corper Victor James with code number…’.
We formed a caucus, Mark and I. During most discussions, we were the greatest influence on decisions.
We were the Tinubu behind the Buhari; the Okonjo-Iweala behind the Jonathan. We think alike and since we sleep and wake together, we make the decisions at home.
And then when we reach the meeting, I signal at Mark and he presents the idea. As soon as he sits down, I will take the floor and explain why we must do what Mark presented. Our opinions most times held sway since no one will be able to construct their english as Mark and I.
Besides, you can ask my sisters, I can’t do without speaking a big vocabulary when giving a serious speech.
And before you know it, even while I was a junior corper, my reputation as a speaker had already travelled far.
Such that other corpers meet with Mark and I, discuss their opinions with us before presenting it. Ehehehehehe…
We were like the OBJ of the group and I wasn’t surprised when rumors began to spread, people tipping Mark as the next leader and me as his Deputy. Another guy who had been eyeing the position had to appraoch Mark and beg him not to contest. I don’t know why the guy was bent on becoming the leader. It is not as if they pay salary. Maybe he wants to add it to his marital CV sha, I don’t know.
Anyway, he didn’t have to beg since Mark and I had already planned to boycott the elections. And on the election day, we travelled out of the state. Eheheheheh.
The most interesting thing about the CDS group is the traffic control. The way I took it serious, one will think my father is the founder of Yellow fever.
On the days we went out for traffic contro, while most other corpers stay off the roads, sipping drinks under a shade and telling themselves ‘I no go come kill myself bcos of NYSC’, I will enter the road, stay in the middle and direct traffic.
As you would have guessed, Mark was always my partner. And times I spent directing traffic showed me the difference between power and muscle.
Immediately I put on my NYSC cap and the FRSC jacket, even the biggest tanker will stop for me. I always ‘tighten’ my face, clench my jaws and shout at the erring motorists. �
‘Oga! Gerraway from there!’
‘Mr man! I say stop!’.
And when all those stubborn okadamen wants to prove something, I will lay my hand on the motocycle like those fire miracle pastors casting out demons and shout at the man as if Jack Beaur is my middle name.
‘Oga! I say you should stop! You no dey hear’.
And I didn’t meet a single motorist who argued with me anytime I show my Rambo spirit.
…. Let me add two short bonus stories in pidgin before we call it a day.
Ehen! Lest I forget, when dem bring another batch of corpers come our school, we gather ourselves, ICH, me and Mark go the NYSC headquaters to go welcome them.
For about 6 weeks, we don dey pray make them carry girls come dilute our boyhood corpership o and we dey trust say our prayers will be answered.
So, as dem come dey share the corpers to where them post them, na hin ICH see say na 3 corpers dem give us.
I wan laff tire that day. As ICH just see say girl no dey, the guy weak. Apart from that sef, out of the 3, one guy na hin gentle, the other two na strong ibo boys with hard voice and black lips. Ehehehhehee…
As all the old corpers dey welcome their new corpers, me, ICH and Mark just sitdown for where we dey. We dey watch the three of them from afar.
When the place don almost dry, we no get choice but to carry the three of them go our house.
Before them come, we don already make better eba and greenish red egusi soup and cow meat. As soon as dem chop our free food finish, those two black ibo boys tell us say dem wan stroll comot.
‘Where una know for here wey una dey stroll go?’
Dem laugh and comot still.
When dem come back, na hin dem announce dem buy something come for us o. I don even dey think say, ‘maybe these boys na better people o, dem buy bread come sef’. As dem open the nylon bag, oboi you know wetin de there?
Many packs of CIGARETTE and DON SIMON! Strong alcoholic drink.
OLUWA OOOOO!!! Which kin corpers be this ones? I don collect!
Me and ICH still dey wonder who we offend wey make NYSC send militants wey accept amnesty give us when we ask for better people, before you know wetin dey happen, them don ask for matches wey i dey take cook soup. Na hin dem begin they smoke their cigarette and drink their don simon bcos we tell them say we no dey drink those kin tins.
Na back of my room dem even dey smoke the tins sef, na hin i provoke, shout give them say make dem carry am comot from back of my window.
E no tay na hin we begin ask o,
‘When una dey go back to una side?’
‘This place is too local o,una no go redeploy?’
It wasn’t long before we helped them look for their own house. And I had to take it as a responsibility to always preach to them.
One day, while we were on orientation camp, on one of those closing nights, were even the gentlest guy goes rascal, the soldiers heard rumors that there were some cult activities going on on the camp.
So, around 2a.m., many soldiers stormed the male hostel, hit the doors hard and shouted for everyone to get out. All the male corpers were made to sit with their hard buttocks on the tarred road as torchlight was shone on their faces one after the other.
After some ramblings and threats, the male corpers were told to return to their hostels.
I was still sleeping when suddenly, I had the guys rushing in with so much noise I woke up with a start.
With cloudy eyes from a heavy dreamless sleep, I asked Merlin, my roomate as he came in,
‘Guy, wetin happen? Why the noise?’.
He was shocked at first, and then he bursted into laughter,
‘Victor! You mean say you no come out? With all the noise wey the soldiers make? Wey dem even check all the beds?’
‘So you no even come out of this hostel’.
I later found out I was the only corper who didn’t go out of hostel that day. Another version of the heavy sleep that fell on Adam when his Eveic rib was removed fell on me. I was happy and encouraged myself with that verse, ‘…a thousand shall fall at my right hand, tell thousand at my left, it shall not come nigh me…’. Ehehehehheeh…
Conclusively, my NYSC service year still remains one of the best times of my life, especially with my friends Engr Ichehono Adriel Ejeje, ICH, Mark Busaoswo Sunday and Kenneth Damai Audu. Looking back exactly one year after, I think I affected a few lives, I hope I did.
-Retired corper Victor James Wahab, state code number, OS/13A/0595, signing out with this chant, LET NYSC CONTINUE!