Happy Birthday To Adebola, She Who Sat And Watched

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Composition

My name is Ayodeji Lancaster.

Few years back, I was Eight years old.

My best food is Rice and Beans with Dodo, excess meat with a couple of chilled malt drinks.

I have few best friends and my favorite color is blue.

I am chocolate in complexion though I have deep black curly hair.

The name of my mother is Adebola.

The name of my…… Wait, that’s it? Just a line for Mama even as she celebrates her birthday today? I got to be kidding.

Mama, couple years ago, you taught me to think deep by teaching me to write Compositions on almost every subject. I wrote about myself, my best friend, my best food, my best subject and even my class teacher. It’s quite regrettable that you never asked me to write about ‘My Mother’; and Mrs. Ibironke, my class teacher who kept blushing and smiling sheepishly as I read my composition on ‘My Class Teacher’ to the class, didn’t deem it fit to ask me to write about you. I’m sure you’ve forgiven her. And me too.

If I could, I would go back twenty years and rewrite my holiday assignment, I would rather write a composition on ‘My Mother’ than writing a letter to my imaginary friend in Port Harcourt telling him about the Egungu festival I never witnessed, and almost gladly so. But like you always told us, I need not dwell on the past anymore. What’s left is for me to channel my time, energy and resources at my disposal into making the greatest out of today while also securing a better tomorrow. This is the message you have always preached from my cradle and it’s a treasure I’ll surely take it to the grave.

So, today, as you add another wonderful figure to your years, I’ll write for you, for you and only you Mama. Words are not big enough, emotions are not capturing enough, even silence would fail in describing that awesome woman who birthed me, sat and yet didn’t just watch my infant head but worked tirelessly to make it grow until I was old enough to be watching some infants’ heads. Yet she’s not relenting.

Acceptably it must have been quite hard for anyone to raise a child like me. Every now and then, my friends, colleagues and everybody I come across always give a bowed head in commendation to that patient and ever-loving woman who raised me. It must have been a Herculean task they said, I could not disagree. It’s hard enough putting up with myself these days and I can just imagine how uneasy it was for you all those years.

The picture of me pooping and spewing on you as a child, unintentionally pouring your food away because I just would not sit down quietly, sometimes inconsolably peeing in your drink, not to talk of when I tried the table knife on your new dress and my new shoes, cutting my fluffy teddy bear open to see the cute dog backing and cracking your black and white TV open to check who the heck was talking inside the box and a lot other childish yet cruel, stubborn and insensitive things I did back then isn’t something I’ll like anybody do to me, not even my unborn child; though inevitably, I’ll reap that too. I know how quick I am to condemn whoever broke a plate forgetting I broke dozens of yours because of my love for neck breaking juvenile plays, not even when you get injured while packing the ruins.

How did you do it, Mama? How did you survive raising a child like me?

You truly are a medical miracle to have survived given birth to a sleeping baby; thanks to the silly nurse who induced you to sleep during childbirth of a kid who stayed over 10 months, let alone the shocks, injuries, heartaches and heartbreaks you went through when I was a kid and a lot more when I reached the teen age. Through it all you offered me protection, a lot of love and affection, whether I was right or wrong; even when my juvenility was vehemently insolent, you stood firm.

I really do not know what I’ve done to deserve this love which sometimes I take for granted because I know you are always going to be there and you never disappointed me. I know I don’t have to do anything right, you love me without a causantẽ, without a ‘why’.

You cleaned up my mess when I was a kid and now that I’m grown, you keep helping me out of messy situations that I deliberately get myself into. You’re my first best friend and you always reason with me and always see things even from my narrow and myopic point of view, even if you’re still going to gracefully disagree.

What’s your secret, Mama? How could you be this perfect?

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For all the years I’ve known you, you never had cause to repeat anything no matter how hard it is. At every attempt, you scaled through every hurdle and never failed at anything. It is beyond axiom that God truly had a Son, Jesus and a Daughter, Adebola. You should write a book about mothering and parenting for all trying parents, soon-to-be parents and accidental parents to learn how to do it right and tap into your wealth of knowledge, your ever flowing stream of wisdom.

The Eighth day in the month of April years ago, the world stood still; today, the world stands still to give respect and honor to the greatest woman ever as you celebrate your birthday. No one has the slightest inkling on how proud and happy and lucky and blessed I am to have you. Adebola; an angel, the ship that brought me to earth and yet placed my feet on the right path.

Mama, whatever and whoever I am today or become tomorrow is never going to be because of my hard work and or determination but because of your lasting love, relentless prayers and ever strong belief. Behind every successful man is surely a woman: Mama, you’re the main reason behind my everyday success and achievements.

Word will always fail me in describing how awesome and wonderful you’ve been to me, the entire family and how important you are in my life. Mama, I love you so very much. All I wish is for God to bless you with longevity so you can enjoy to the fullest the bountiful harvests of your toils; and fruits of your continual labour. You’re loved, appreciated, valued and respected.

Happy birthday Adebola, Happy Birthday Mama

The world and I celebrate you…

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Once A Corper; Diary of Ayodeji Lancaster (Part V)

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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.

Posing with the Press CDS' Shirt

Posing with the Press CDS’ Shirt

To My Parents, On My Birthday

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You made me the man I've always wanted to be

You made me the man ive always wanted to be

Dear Mom & Dad,

Thank you Dad for marrying a good wife who became mother and special thanks to you, Mom, for not feigning headache or tiredness the day or night you and Papa made me.

I can’t repay the lessons that you taught me when I was small nor give you gifts for the daily treasures I recall. I can’t return encouragement and loving words of praise in quite the way you did for me through all my childhood days. But there is one gift that I can give; it’s all the love you’ve earned – For love is what you always taught and love is what I learned.

Thank you for always being there and knowing just what to do and the right words to say when I’m feeling way beyond blue. Thank you for patiently listening to all my worries and stresses and for caring enough to get me out of all my messes. Thank you for being just a phone call away and your door always being open to me. Thank you for being my constant support when I didn’t think I could cope.

I wasn’t raised in a mansion or fed with a silver spoon. I wasn’t brought up to think money is everything. I wasn’t raised to live out your dreams but to proudly dream my own. I wasn’t raised to walk the popular path but to strongly pave my own. I wasn’t raised with material things but something great indeed – I was raised with love and love is all I need.

Dad, Mom; you both are special in every way, encouraging me more & more each passing day. You both are the reason why I’m so strong. With you two at the helm, not a thing could go wrong. You’ve both helped me through many trials & tribulations; you’ve made things better in every situation. Thank you both for always being there, and showing me that you truly care. Words could never explain how I feel about you, but I hope you know that I truly love you two.

Thank you for lifting my spirit and letting me know there is hope. Thank you for being the best parents. Today, my birthday, wouldn’t have existed if not for you two.

Happy birthday to me!!!

Love from…

Your Son,
Ayodeji Lancaster

Once A Corper; Diary of Ayodeji Lancaster (Part IV)

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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.

Once A Corper; Diary of Ayodeji Lancaster (Part III)

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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.