There was a time a bigoted Christian, who had earlier challenged my belief as a free thinker and condemned me to “burn in hell”, was caught red-handed searching other corps members bags in the nearby hostel after everyone had gone for parade except for one corper who feigned sickness and chose to hide away under the bed. During the interrogation that followed the “arrest”, he claimed to be searching for a “nylon bag” to excrete in. Examination later conducted on his bag revealed that there were nylons numbering about ten or thereabout.
Who’s the “fool” fooling?
One sunny afternoon, while waiting for the commanding soldiers and assisting men o’ war to take charge of the parade, I spotted a lady standing not quite far from me. From where she was standing, it was obvious she’s from my platoon.
Quite slim and fragile. Too fragile I thought I might break her hand if I shake her. So I walked up and stood close to her without saying a word. She turned to look at me, kept mum and looked the other way. I introduced myself and later got to know her as Mobolaji.
Bolaji, the short form of her name, is a very brilliant and intelligent lady. She actually made a First Class in Computer Science. She spoke the lingua franca softly yet fluently as if it were her mother tongue. We didn’t get to talk for long before the parade started and I used “style” to escape “on the double” from the ground. Not like I was slothful, I’ve tried over and again, since the second day I got to camp, to perfect my “matching” skills but all to no avail and I decided to give up. We can’t know it all, can we?
I watched from a distance how she carried her legs “left right, left right” in obeisance to the orders of the commanding man o’ war.
“This girl must be smart“, I thought to myself. “She’s smart, really“, I concluded”.
We met by virtue of luck the next day and I got the chance to know her better. Coupled with her youthful look, unblemished face and her white gleaming teeth, the way she smiles, the way she talks and the way she listens to my unending talks were of the top class. She was unique. She was different. Way different from all the girls I had met recently. She reminded me of Iyanuoluwa, my ex-girlfriend of yesteryears.
I tried to get closer to her but something kept pushing me back. She was young and innocent – a lot innocent about a number of things. Days later we got talking about relationship and I realized she wasn’t “taken” yet. She probably hasn’t been in any relationship before because “she isn’t ready“. I talked to her like a friend and a brother should and I was glad she listened with rapt attention.
We hooked up a number of times. One of the evenings I taught her to play WHOT, a card game which happens to be my favorite game. She seemed to enjoy it and I allowed her the satisfaction of feeling like a good player by leaving her to win most of the time. She knew and just smiled it off.
Days flew by like time and it was close to the day of passing out of camp. She told me one evening how she applied for redeployment back to Lagos. I was dispirited because I already liked her and didn’t want the sweet, undiluted friendship to end abruptly. I had neither power nor authority to change her mind from not redeploying because the ironical God’s Own state isn’t a place someone sane enough will love to spend the next one year of his/her life.
Next day was camp fire night – An event whereby a huge fire will be set up and different platoons will compete in cooking competition amidst other fun filled events. I sat next to Bolaji the whole time and we talked about a lot of things. There was fight over food and I added my voice to the clamor because of the injustice been meted out to those who failed to pay the pastry sum of Three hundred naira. My argument was, since some people paid sum of money ranging from One thousand naira to Five thousand naira, they should, at least, spread the love and put, even if it’s just a piece of meat on their plate of rice. What is the fun in eating three or four pieces of beef and chicken when the poor lady sitting next to you doesn’t have a tiny strand on her food or getting drunk when the guy next to you doesn’t even get the chance to perceive the odour of the beer?
Things got settled when the soldiers and men o’ war came into the matter and procured a solution both parties happily accepted.
By the time I returned to my seat after the long fight for justice, Bolaji had left. I searched around for her and I saw her walking briskly towards her hostel. With nothing left to do, I headed for the hostel and called it a day.
List of names of those approved for redeployment was pasted the next day. As fate would have it, Bolaji’s name was missing. I tried to soothe her and talked her out of it but she was too downcasted and unhappy. I allowed her to spend time alone and figure out what was next to do. Later that day I learnt about my Uncle’s death which threw me in a pensive state. I didn’t leave the hostel because I was really crestfallen.
On the last day of orientation, I accosted Naomi. We talked for a while. She claimed to have “seen” her posting letter and already knew where she will be posted to. I was still in the dark but she hoped we won’t be posted far apart from each other so as to continue our friendship and see if it can lead us somewhere. I met Bolaji as well but we didn’t get to talk for long before we both headed to our various hostels.
I hooked up with some guys who share bunks not far from mine in the hostel and played WHOT till light out. Nobody could sleep as our mischievous friends took over. Everyone was full of merriment and the hostel, filled with noises of all kind. Some were protesting that they needed to sleep but no one seemed to care.
The day came…
I woke up, feeling quite lethargic but I dragged myself to the bathroom and later returned my bed and collected my final pass. I was agog as my heart kept beating fast. The unanswerable questions like…
“Where will I be posted to? Isiala Ngwa or Aba?
Won’t I lose all the friends I’ve made here?
Isiala Ngwa is a place rumored to be domiciled by cannibals. One son of the soil, Clifford Orji, was caught in Lagos couple of years back feasting on human flesh and selling other parts to interested individuals at “beat-down” price. Aba is the biggest city in the whole of Abia state. Home to the prestigious Enyimba FC and the well-known Aba International market. It was rumored that the rate of kidnappings and other crimes are of high rate coupled with the fact that it holds the ignominious award as the dirtiest city in the country.
After waiting for hours, the whole parade event was brought to a close. It was time to collect our posting letters and we queued up. It wasn’t so shocking when I saw I was posted to a school in Ohafia Local Government even though I’ve never heard of Ohafia until that very moment because I missed out on most of the drab lectures they gave back then. As fast as my legs could carry me, I ran to look for Bolaji so as to know where she was posted to.
I saw her almost at the last minute. She told me she was posted to a Federal Hospital in Aba but heading back to the centre of excellence because she wasn’t interested in staying. I pled on her to have a rethink, not give up so quickly and give it a chance. She eventually did.
Like Usain Bolt, I ran back to the spot where the bus sent by the Local Government will be picking us up. I was shocked when I saw two of the people I took bus to camp with (one sharing a bed close to mine at the hostel) on the queue. We exchanged pleasantries.
The next minute, I felt a tap on my back and I looked back only to see Bukola, the lady I helped on the queue the first day in camp. We talked a little, making it the first time we spoke. I was glad that I have, at least, someone – a female, I can relate with as soon as we get to Ohafia. It never occurred to me that more interestingly shocking things are on the way as the bus moved and headed for Ohafia.