Since its birth almost 40 years ago, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, has been going through hard challenges creating in people’s mind, the belief that it has outlived its glory days. In the past, the major issue was many corps members not finding places for their primary assignments after their discharge from the orientation camps. More demanding issue of security of corps members have resulted in the calls for the cancellation of the scheme, which in 1973 was meant to re-capture national unity that had been battered by the civil war. Some critics of the scheme call it a waste while parties which use corps members as cheap labour will object to this position. None of these positions brought as much pressure to the scheme as the death of some corps members in riots in the Northern part of the country.
It has been hard for me, or anybody I meet, to explain the essence of the NYSC beyond the claim that it is an instrument for national integration. But in truth, the service part of the scheme had long been just something the initiators had in their minds. To say that the scheme, which has supposedly been a vital part of the grooming experience of majority of Nigeria’s current stock of human capital, has not fulfilled the service component of its goal is not to imply that it has served the purpose of national integration either.
With all the complaints, peaceful protests, incessant calls and efforts from well-meaning Nigerians, clamoring for the scrapping of the scheme or reviewing of the Acts of Geo-political posting, Mr. Jones and his cohorts, not wanting to seem weak, clueless or incapable, stuck to their damned gun, turning deaf ears to the cries of the future leaders even in the face of the continual assaults being visited on them and the threat to their lives.
Yet, I chose to serve too.
Like a lot others, I went spiritual. I sent my call-up number to different servants of God for special prayers all in the name of not going up north where I lost one of my colleagues recently to the post-election tumult. Fasting, praying and non-stop singing of prayerful hymns became the order of the day for me – a born-again free thinker. My family and few friends; who had scaled through the scheme and some yet to reach the qualified stage joined in the revivals turned crusades turned vigil services.
With faith, I started packing my bags, preparing and waiting impatiently for the D-day to come. Unlike most of my friends and colleagues, I chose not to influence the posting. So as fate would have it, I got posted to the God’s own state, the number one state on the country’s list of “state and capital” (knowledge from nursery school days) – Abia state.
I accepted my fate and embraced “God’s choice”.
After making enquiries from different quarters, I became heartsick on realization that the state, Abia, is ten hours drive away from the centre of excellence where I intend to travel from. With my innate aversion for public transport, I was left with no other choice than to have a warm romance with the state transport company – Abia line.
I made that choice over spending one hour or less by air to the nearest state (Imo), since Abia is bereft of an airport or spending seven hours going by a rickety bus filled with “businessmen” and market women leaving Osun state, the state of the living spring where I reside.
Call me Don Juan and you may or may not be too far from the true part of me who loves hanging around beautiful ladies almost round the clock (My twitter handle @lancs4allchic, a clear living witness). This decision was made out of me hoping to meet some attractive and comely female corps members who might end up becoming my “friends” since the bus will only take prospective corps members like me.
But I was wrong…
I felt like committing suicide and at the same time thinking murder when it was time to board. The bus was, to my greatest disappointment, loaded with only four females, mostly “old-looking” and unappealing and ten males – including me.
Only one of the females stood out.
She was of average height, got straight unblemished long legs (she was wearing a skirt) and obviously from her handy size, won’t be weighing more than 50kg (not fat). An impeccable set of teeth, sparkling Egyptian eyes, tempting lips perfectly glossed up and a long dark hair. All of these virtues took her inches past my average standard of a Miss Perfect Physique.
To crown it all, she was wearing an angelic smile, the kind that could have melted Hitler’s heart. She was looking really self-assertive and hearty but sadly was standing a little far away. All I could do was ogle and I did it professionally going by my years of “working experience”.
Call me a weird guy, but no matter how alluring and elegant a girl is, I value intelligence way more than the pulchritude the eyes can see. I see beauty from within and over the time I’ve developed an inner skill and expertism of discerning how intelligent an individual is, just by staring at them in the eyes. And from where I was standing, she was just a little fraction short of attaining eight out of the ten obtainable points. Everything about her placed on the wrong track the notion that “the beautiful ones are not yet born” because she was standing in all her grandeur, sparkling like the morning star, beaming like the sunshine which brightens our cloudy days. I was glued to the spot with too many thoughts running through my mind.
Is she single or engaged?
Is she with somebody here?
Is that the boyfriend she’s smiling to?
Wait! Did she just wink at me?
I kept having weird cogitations until the “official” brought the manuscript, ready to call us in one after the other.
I blamed Lucifer for making me book early because I was the second person to procure ticket and technically the second passenger to be called in. On entering, I started saying my prayers not for a safe trip but for her to be placed next to me or somewhere very close by. Wasted benedictions it later became when she, as the tenth passengers, was called in and sat two rows away from me.
Damn!!! End of story.
With no mortal to blame for the array of misfortunes, I got off the bus, kicked at someone’s bag, ignored some passengers exchanging pleasantries and boarded again.
“That was totally uncalled for”, I thought to myself, but who cares? I replied my thought as a great battle ensued in my mind. I looked around and realized I was in a “gay zone” as every other persons sitting around me were guys who seemed to come in company of another guy. I was hushfully lamenting while they joke away discussing issues I was only hearing but not listening to.
To make matters more dissatisfactory, announcement was made that the bus’ AC got spoilt “overnight”. Their recompense was in form of Five hundred Naira rebate and everybody, except me, seemed to overlook the dire position we’ve found ourselves.
I lead an Arcadian life and it wasn’t like I was used to much luxuries or feeling like a sybarite, but sitting in-between guys with earpiece glued to their ears for ten hours or thereabout in a non-AC bus is synonymous to an unofficial picnic in any of the state-run penitentiary’s solitary cell.
I got over the cry over spilled milk, made for my Blackberry and started “pinging” my contacts who, mostly, were former colleagues in university, planning to move and some on the way to their respective orientation camps.
No thanks to RIM, the manufacturer of Blackberry, who chose to build an almost useless and dumb battery for the supposed Smartphone. My phone signaled that it has reached the 5% mark just two hours into the journey. I switched off the device in order to save the remaining “charge” so as to be able to make important calls when I finally touchdown camp. With nothing else to do and the phone in my side pocket, I placed my head on the head rest of the front seat and gave in to nature to perform its contractual obligation.
Shame on our inept government, the Benin-Ore Express road was ironically the “best” road ever. A Guinness World Record awaits the highway in the nearest future as the worst “motorable” road in Africa. To think it’s a federal road made the whole matter more irritating. I couldn’t enjoy my nap, not a bit of it as I kept waking up every three-five minutes no thanks to the deplorable state of the road.
Finally, I woke up. Hale and hearty but something was not right. The phone I had carefully placed in my pocket was nowhere to be found. Like a madman, I searched through all my pockets on the double, but lo and behold, my famous Blackberry had grown wings and like an eagle soared away.