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Surprisingly, Anu went to same university as I, though we never met nor heard of each other because we were in different departments; worse still different campuses over two hours drive apart. He’s from the largest city in Western Africa but claimed the centre of excellence.

Easily one of the coolest dudes I ever came across, Anu proves the generalization that “all OSU boys are touts” wrong. I do not know whatever standard is used in judging nor the characters needed before one can be tagged a ladies’ man, but whatever the standard is, Anu is a complete ladies’ man. Tall and built; though not in muscles, with more than enough beards than that which I spent more time and resources breeding and yet little or nothing to show for it. I would and could have nominated him for Mr. Nigeria but for a broken front tooth. And that is the flattery

He’s affable and quite social; though it takes more than 40 days of dry fasting and fervent prayers before he can finish a bottle of Star; not even when he had boasted of drinking three or four bottles at one sitting. I don’t know much about his relationship with the opposite sex and even if I do, I won’t say much lest I get sued for infringement of privacy. Albeit I’ve not met any man who doesn’t have affection for the opposite sex and he’s not an exemption. After all, he’s a working class, young and promising dude who can speak the Queen’s language perfectly. What’s not to like about him?.

Segun is the second guy; he hangs in the balance of being fubsy and not being fubsy. He acts and speaks in an elderly manner and we didn’t blink twice before forcing the epithet “Baba” (Father) on him, though he protested against it close to a thousand times. I recall he threatened to smack my face one evening when I called him that; which did little to deter me as I was having my little fun and nothing or nobody could stand in my way.

Baba isn’t different from every normal guy I know or met before and during service year. The fellow from the Sunshine state is good-humored and quite friendly though can be stubborn and sarcastic when having a heated argument. One of the hallmarks of being a man is the deep-rooted character of always wanting to be heard, reasoned with and proven right most, if not all the time. Segun and I aren’t much different in that perspective.

Sitting under the mango tree almost every evening playing WHOT, we invented numberless slang and lingoes, discussed lot of issues of varying topics and made lot of memories. While playing WHOT, I remember how Anu and I used to lobby to sit on the defensive side of him (Baba) just because it has been proven over time to be the weak link. You can be sure not to lose out when he’s the one playing the offensive. He’s a big fan of my culinary skills and his funny way of calling me ‘Copa Shola’ while sending a wink across just because my Egusi soup is sending some nice signals across his olfactory nerves still echoes.

Then comes Maryam, the sweetest, finest, hottest and the prettiest female corper in the lodge. Well, she’s the only female corper staying in the lodge and thereby won those descriptive unopposed. I spent the largest part of my service year with her. Though not in her arms as some may think but always together in the staff room, my room, her room, our different kitchens, in the market, at the secretariat for CDS (Community Development Service) and every other place you could think of. I was technically her aide de camp; always following her everywhere aside bathroom and NCCF. I became a stumbling block for some wannabe lovers because they felt or think I’m her man.

In ten months, I spent more time with her than I did my ex live-in lover of 14 months. As expected, we didn’t just have sweet memories. There are epic moments, honey mixed memories, super great periods and a number of sour ones too. I learnt some stuffs about ladies from her – though I still hold firm, the belief that no two persons are the same character-wise. I made her the standard unit of so many feminine characters and abilities. If there’s a girl somewhere who can’t cook better than May, it sure means she’s a terrible cook because she’s not half the cook that I am. She got it right a couple of times though. One was when she made yam porridge which I had to sneak into her kitchen to steal some more from after eating two plates; though her definition of ‘plate’ isn’t the same as mine.

Restoring my brain to “factory settings” with blank memory left, I’ll still be able to write nothing less than 998 pages about her and every line will bear a true depiction of who she is. She’s a lady, a good one, though flawed like every other mortal. She has a switch that swings between being nice and not being nice at all. I relate with her like she’s my little sister because in actual sense I’m old enough to be her uncle or better still her elder brother, and always try my best to be there for her. Sometimes I excelled at it, other times I failed in woeful proportions.

I do not feel bad in any way whatsoever when I call her names like “Olori poopo” meaning big head or when I remodifyed her name Maryam into Moriamo – the typical yoruba version of her name. No disrespect to her, what she lacks in bosom, she got in her spontaneous and funny laughs. She’s brilliant, though not the kind that comes first in every class like our parents. Everybody is unique I believe, so I’ll say she’s just Maryam, nothing more. Though ridden with some obvious imperfections, she’s still a lot of people’s dream girl – I’m awake though – and some other people’s wife material going by their varying standards.

From L-R: May, Anu, Segun & I

From L-R: May, Anu, Segun & I

For three weeks or thereabouts, a dear friend and fellow corps member squatted with me because he was still on the ultimate search to get a place of primary assignment that wasn’t forthcoming. Osogbiye Tunde, OJB and I came a long way though we weren’t so close then. He was one of corpers I took bus with from Lagos to camp and coincidentally landed in the same Malabo hostel and shared bunks not far apart. Our path crossed again when we took same bus from camp to our LG, (Ohafia) when camp signals went off the radar. Cool buddy studied Computer science and was a classmate of my sweet friend Bolaji. Time spent together was fun all the way and chores, since divided, were finished before they even started.

At the same period Tunde was with us in the lodge, Bolanle, my ex platoon mate and friend was staying with Maryam. The lodge became something one could call a ‘full house’, though it was shortlived. Bola was my friend and later became May’s crony and partner in silent gossips and loud gists. The taste of the vegetable she made on our first night in the lodge lived on my bud for a week and more. With all of us together, it was a full happy house with neither fuji nor commotion.

From L-R: Bolanle, Tunde, Maryam & I

From L-R: Bolanle, Tunde, Maryam & I

The school became a tad interesting when I found out there was another corper. This time a corper a batch ahead of me. Because she was the only corper around, she couldn’t live in the lodge all alone so she got her own apartment in the heart of the community far away from the school. Her name is Ochiabuto Jane, a female and yes, an Igbo girl. Someone arguably told me sometimes ago that Ibo girls from either Anambra or Imo are the finest and prettiest, she simply proved him right.

Jane has this beautiful smile that you need no CIA resource or FBI agents to dig deep into how she got her moniker ‘Jane Smiles’. As much as I love to be economical with the word ‘very’, I can’t but say she’s very kind, nice, quite generous and surprisingly for a lady having such character in such a good body, she’s down-to-earth. I was deeply elated when I heard she has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language even before we met officially but this same source broke my heart when he told me she’s married. Now, a fine line was drawn between getting close and being just friends and I didn’t cross it for a second. I found the first information to be true, but didn’t bother verifying the second. It wasn’t my place to dig into people’s private lives or background when they don’t want to talk about it.

She looked too sweet to be married; not that I hold the belief that married ladies aren’t sweet, and I always give her the stare I give to single ladies, the pretty and smart ones I mean. Seeing her each day, she always remind me of my sweet little sister, Iyanuoluwa,with her addiction to biscuit, chocolate, candy and the likes. She kept offering all these items to me though, sadly, I kept turning her offers down because I’m not really a big fan of snacks and other sweet junkies. For all the many months we spent together, we failed to discuss writing, poetry or any literature related topic. But there’s one thing I love, it’s the way my name sounds whenever she calls me “Shola”.

After we got settled in our PPA, it dawned on us how lonely and secluded we are from the town and the need for us to make friends outside our box became imperative.