I knew a lot of things were about to change right there at the Camp security unit where I and the rest were searched thoroughly like convicted hardened criminals about to be committed into a Maximum Security penitentiary. Every forks, knives, boiling rings and other “dangerous” material were confiscated.
The rat race to get a good hostel, a “free” bunk and a manageable mattress ensued the moment we were cleared and given a “pass”.
I’ve heard a lot of stories and tales, both true ones and some fabricated, about how stirring and fun-filled camp always is. I was ready and prepared to get my share willy nilly. I did the necessary registration, got allocated to Platoon 6 and also got my kits – All set and good to go
Not far away from where I queued was a lady, standing almost dejected, looking frustrated and obviously bereft of the knowledge of what to do. She wasn’t on the queue and wasn’t pleading to join nor seem interested. I took pity on her being the gentleman my Mama taught me to be and have always been by allowing her stay in front of me. She eventually got the state code AB/2011C/1235 which should have been mine and I got the one after hers. I didn’t ask for her name nor pry into her personal details from the file she held. She looked too tired to be bothered so I just watched her walk away.
Like a village Yoruba boy who just got to Lagos, I stood at the centre of the hall and looked around. There were people, lots of guys and ladies, though some of the ladies seemed out of my league. They were either married, older, unappealing or pregnant. I cared less though because I was sure to meet ladies who will fall into my class and are endowed with what I love and also have soft spot for what I possess.
I had the worst dinner since September 17th 2007 when I was totally and completely broke back then in university days. So-called Jollof rice with a piece of meat a little bigger than the size of a ground nut was served by the Kitchen. I hadn’t tasted anything as unsavory as it ever but in camp I had to adapt and get by – at least for the night. I took a survey round the “mammy market” the next day and spotted few canteen where I got better food.
My hostel was the wackiest of all. It was later dubbed the sobriquet Malabo Republic (Only God knows what that means anyway) by the drunks, the noise makers and acclaimed “big-boys” who want to attain for themselves cheap popularity. The rack time we were entitled to were always hijacked, no thanks to their loud noise and argument which one could easily mistake for a riot.
Twice I bought a bucket, twice it was stolen, always with water I paid someone to fetch for me. Always, there were people wailing, screaming and shouting each and every morning over one missing item or the other. The most enthralling was the case of a guy who controversially lost his Blackberry Torch. He briefed the soldiers who later invaded the hostel around 2:00AM and ordered us to stand in the terrible cold outside until someone “froduce” the phone. It almost turned violent when corps members started challenging the self-imposing authorities for punishing over four hundred people for an offence more than 99% know nothing about. Trading of disparaging and obloquious words became the order of the day until we were ordered to move back into the hostel. No one could sleep that night as people kept venting their rage at the top of their voices.
Camp isn’t one of the places you sleep, wake up and start tweeting about how great the night was. Except you got drunk, left subconscious and being picked up from the gutter, nobody dare ask you the odd question “How was your night?”. The answer to the seemingly rhetorical question will be obviously staring them in the eyes. It was tough on me, and everyone I spoke or chatted with, for the first two days but I got used to it since I hardly sleep on a normal day.
Every 4:30AM you hear the sound of the bugle and the soldiers screaming at the peak of their voice ordering you to wake up and move to the Parade Ground, not caring if you’ve brushed or bathed. I always beat them to it though, by waking up thirty minutes before due time, brush my teeth, have my bath and get kitted up before heading for the morning parade under the extremity of the cold weather.
Some of the soldiers were friendly and easily got acquainted to some of the Corpers especially those who find solace in the hot romance with alcohol. Some were hostile and somehow inhumane. There was a time one of this latter group of soldiers used his baton on one pregnant Corper’s protruded belly. Thank goodness, the lady didn’t think it twice before slapping the arrant simpleton in retaliation for the assault. It was a Sunday, a supposed free day but the “fire alarm” was sounded and everybody was ordered to report at the parade ground. The punishment for the lady’s reprisal assault on the soldier was meted out on every corps member present on the parade ground. I was busy helping my Platoon in the Kitchen so I escaped the humiliation as they were “forced” to “squat down” from around 3:00PM till 6:00PM under the intense sun. The Red Cross team and the Camp Clinic had the busiest day of their lives as corps members passed out one after the other like poultry birds hit by coccidiosis. It was later rumored that the erring soldier got his own fair share of the punishment “behind closed doors”.
I had a friend I guided via phone to camp. We finished from the same school though we never met. Her voice was so tiny and sexy, you could get your “man” standing if you don’t have a strong mind as mine. We decided to hook up the next day and we did. She was a bit different from the image of her I etched at the back my mind. She was “big” and had tribal marks – one on each side of her cheek. We became friends nonetheless because during NYSC, you need all the friendship you can get because you don’t know who-is-who.
Through her, I met Bolanle, a pretty lady who later represented my platoon as Miss NYSC, though she didn’t make the top three. We became friends and hung out for a while before I met Naomi.
Naomi has this beautiful smile that always make me wonder why we never met all these years. She was very cute even though her face wasn’t pimples-free yet not spot-ridden. She’s very lively and intelligent. It was always fun hanging out with her and “gisting” all day long. We got to know each other well.
Naomi appreciates my ardor for writing as she’s an avid reader probably because she studied Linguistics. We argued on a lot of topics and agreed on a lot more. We have lots and lots of things in common. Meeting and becoming friends with her was one of the best moments I had in camp.
Over the week, she started meeting other people and the amount of time we spent together took a decline. Days went by without any communication whatsoever, so I sought out to make other friends.
Before I left home for camp, I had already swore that no matter how close I get to anyone or even to the level of developing feelings for them, I wasn’t going to ask them out – meaning I wasn’t going to start a relationship with anyone in camp. I had a saying then that “whatsoever orientation camp brings together, place of primary assignment will put asunder”.
A former university colleague serving in the northern part of the country linked me up with a friend of his, right there in camp – Seun, another awesome female. We met in a hurry but promised to hook up later but never did though we chatted once or twice.
As camp calendar kept rolling and clock ticking, different stories went round. Lots of rumors and hearsays were spread – both true ones and the obviously fictional ones.
There was a “true life” story of a corps member in one of the female hostels who stole a Blackberry phone. She added a bit of humor to the scenario by joining the search team as well as allegedly accusing someone else of “probably” mistakenly pilfering it. She and the rest of the search team were thunderstruck when the phone number was dialed only for it to ring out from inside her pants, not pant trouser but her underwear. She apparently didn’t know how to switch it off because the phone was locked. I wish I were there to see the morose look on her sorry face but I already know her excuse which always is the fault of that fallen angel, Prince of Darkness and Archangel Lucifer. She was quoted to have said “It’s the devil. I don’t know what came over me”. Actually, I’ve heard that line a zillion times and have probably used it too being a stubborn kid when I was growing up.
Another case was that of a married female corps member caught “going all the way” somewhere around the dark corners of the pavilion under the dark cover of the dark night. After being nabbed, the next of kin, whose information was inscribed at the back of her ID card, was called. The case took an ugly turn and got out of hands when the supposed next of kin on the other side of the line turned out to be the husband and father of her two kids. The rest remained history.
Aside things I heard, there are things I saw. Some of which I may never be able to say or write about. More than twice I’ve seen a dead-drunk lying wasted in an unkempt place while he snores away enjoying his forty winks. I saw people whom I thought to be morally upright and somehow pious (that’s what they appeared to be) do drugs (at least that’s what smoking marijuana is).
One cold night as I was returning from the “mammy” where I went to charge my phone, I saw a respected muslim female corper, who goes by the prestigious moniker “Alhaja” and wearing the supposed-to-be holy Hijab, “doing it the doggy style” by holding on to one of the broken plastic chair around the parade ground while Mr. Man fired on. It wasn’t my place to stop anyone from doing whatsoever because I wasn’t appointed judge over anything or anybody so I just walked past them and pretended not to hear the loud moan as she climaxed.