The drive was less than thirty minutes. We got off the bus and headed for the hall provided, where we waited. I was more than consternated when I saw Seun and Bolanle at the hall. And also few other people I took bus with from Lagos to camp.
It got more interesting when my eyes landed on the pretty lady from the bus, my crush instantly got to wedding anniversary level. When she dragged her bag past me, I was so awe-struck my eyes could not blink.
“This is it, I’ve been blessed“, came my first thought. I have Seun, Bukola, Bolanle and now “my girl” from the bus; I won’t be mentioning her name as promised.
I talked with Seun and Bolanle for few minutes before I walked up to Bukola. I grabbed her by the hands and dragged her along as if I’ve known her all her life. We sat under the dilapidated shed where we shared a drink.
I was posted to a school believed to be owned by the missionaries. I got to know it was owned and managed by the Presbyterian Church. I made further enquiries from different ‘senior’ corpers to know about the place and I got diverse confusing feedbacks. One said it was a Boys Only school… “Do I look gay to NYSC“? I retorted. Another one claimed it’s a Girls Only school… “Voila, that’s more like it“, a part of me thought. The last one told me affirmatively that it’s a mixed school though it used to be a Seminary where pastors (all male) were being trained.
After the welcome address by the CLO, in company of others, I trekked to the National Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF)’s lodge which was provided and made available for interested Christian corpers. The lodge located at a popular “Old-Soldier” Junction is a bit far from the Local Government Council where we trekked from.
I’ve been trained well to handle change of environment, especially when it’s telling a negative tale on my state of health. I went to a university where everything wasn’t rosy as it’s supposed to be and that made me the strong man that I am.
Unlike a lot others, I’ve lived far away from my immediate family for more than five years and was already used to being alone though it’s always tough on me. I knew with my humorous, albeit controversial, character, I’ll make friends with people and get close to some of them. All was left to chance, nothing was anticipated and no sweat was broken.
I couldn’t stay in the accommodation provided by the NCCF because the ‘family house’, as it is being called, was already filled to the brim with all basic needs and amenities somewhat of a luxury. To say they didn’t try their best will make me and everyone who share that view a gross ingrate.
I and a couple of other corps members took a survey round the perimeters of the area and found an affordable guest house close by where we could lay our heads for the night under the luxury of electricity and a standby generator and cool air coming from the giant OX fan.
Staying in the guest house was in some way disadvantageous being the only teetotaler and my inability to stand the odour of cigarette. Nothing could be done than to adapt for a little before locking myself up in the room and sleep. The soft small bed, though a lot bigger than what I slept on for over twenty days in camp, was up to the task of offering some needed comfort.
It took two and half a day to get the necessary registration and documentation done. On the evening of the third day, I and a colleague decided to leave for the state capital; Umuahia, knowing we had nowhere to stay. NCCF over there took us in and it was almost a solved rubic if not for the strict rules and regulations guiding what to say, who to talk to and what to wear: Gladly not how to breathe.
It was a great reunion seeing some platoon members again, hostel mates and others I knew in camp. I saw Doyin, a platoon member I became friends with few days before I left camp, and we talked about our different villages and the challenges we are going to face as soon as we resume duty fully.
I left the family house as early as possible the next day, thanks to the NCCF who voluntarily took us down to our various parks.
I was heading to Osun but there was no direct bus. It took extra stress before locating the park conveying people to the acclaimed biggest city in West Africa. The city where there are more brown rusted roofs than the number of cars in Togo. Most, if not all my colleagues were heading to Lagos and it was all easy for them with the myriad parks everywhere.
I got my ticket and sat back at the Lounge waiting for the bus to be filled. There were no familiar faces around as I was left in the cold all by myself. I didn’t care a bit; the only thing on my mind was to see Abia in my rear view.
An hour flew by before the bus got filled up. We boarded but were asked to tip the driver and his cohort before our luggage could be loaded in the booth. I refused to part with a dime based on the argument that there was no moral justification for paying an extra #300 for ‘loading’ after #3,000 was paid as fare. I witnessed a robbery in flesh and blood.
They realized I wasn’t going to break nor bend so they gave up. The driver later threatened to remove me from the bus saying “This is Nigeria; you have to drop something before things can be done”. I replied him in the same manner “I’m a Nigerian but will never pay a penny to bribe anybody to do the job I already paid them to do“. I have principles I guide my life by and wasn’t going to shove it down the drainer just because someone threatened to refund my fare and walk me out of the park. Though I had no connection nor back-up, I courageously stood my grounds telling them that, that will make them lose their license to operate as I’ll do everything within my legal boundaries to procure justice. I don’t take ‘shit’ from people, older or younger, even when it’s coated in a sweet tablet of gold.
The argument denied me the opportunity of securing the back seat that I’ve always loved so I had to manage the last available seat which was by the door. Minutes later, the bus moved and someone started the ritual of praying for safe trip. I said few “Amen” far and few in between but little did I know, that the whole rite was going to turn into a revival going by the song of praise that followed the prayer, I made for my phone and my newly acquired earpiece and set Don Williams’ track ‘Lord I hope this day is good’ in play.
The lady next to me tapped me asked why I didn’t take part in the benediction and wasn’t still taking part in the singing. I just smiled at her without saying a word. She stared at me for close to a minute with skepticism etched on her somehow morose face, shook her head and added her croaked voice to the host of choir in the bus. I remained unmoved.
Couple of hours later, I rested my head and that was it; I slept off. We got to Ibadan around 5pm. My butts were already hot and burning, and my legs numb. I dragged my sorry self out of the bus and made for the park where I’ll get a bus heading to Ilesha; another one and a quarter-hour road trip.
Jaded as I was, only one thing was on my mind; seeing my elder sister. I knew my adorable and loving sister Nike would have prepared something really nice and tasty, so it was pointless bothering about food.
The short stay at home was great; really great I didn’t want it to end. My birthday on the eve of Christmas was a very special one and I treated it as such. Christmas and the New Year celebration made the holiday one of the best I ever had because I was able to repossess some, if not all, the weight I lost in camp – all thanks to Sister Nike’s kitchen’s Special Agents.
I got back to Ohafia in the first week of the New Year. Since school was yet to resume for the term, there was nowhere to stay other than the family house where I spent the next three days.
After visiting my place of primary assignment again, I realized how far and secluded it is from the community. It was situated at the outskirt of the town and the (prisoners’) corper’s lodge was built inside the school compound. To put a bullet to the head of a cadaver, we were three new corpers in number and all male, though I got information from the Dean of Studies that a female corper was later recruited after we left.
I was in a state of utter confusion. What if she’s married or ugly? Or worse still, what if she has tribal marks or its greater cousin, stretch marks; that I so detest? “Life will be miserable for the next ten months if I have to wake up each day and stare at a mutilated face“, I thought deeply to myself.
Anxiety and depression started setting in. I just sat there under the tree thinking not even noticing the lady that just sat next to me. We later got talking and there I got my answer. She was the lady posted to my place of work. I screamed, lifted her up high into the air and gave her the tightest chest-to-breast (though more like chest-to-chest) hug I ever gave since I ended my last relationship; I mean since my lady left me.
As hurriedly as possible, I took a photograph of her and used it as my Display Picture on my abandoned Blackberry Messenger. I was relieved, I was happy. I felt like I was high on some poor man’s weed (I really don’t know how that feels anyway). The major problem had been solved; all I was left to worry about was how I’ll survive without electricity. The thought, of not being able to use either of my laptops or my famous Blackberry whose battery doesn’t last for more than six hours when fully charged, was killing. But don’t I have a pretty ‘single’ lady to hang out and spend my time with? A big smile graced my face.
Her name was Maryam, I called her May. She hailed from the Muslim-dominated part of Edo state though a Christian. We parted after exchanging phone numbers and we talked later that evening. My excitement knew no bound because the fear of having someone with tribal marks sharing same apartment with me had evaporated.