My Experience in NYSC Orientation Camp
After going through all the necessary online National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) registration process, call-up letter was finally out. On viewing the screen, I saw BENUE STATE. I kept starring, expecting a change. But nothing happened and as I held my letter, I regretted choosing the state. I resigned to fate and started making preparations to embark on a journey into the unknown.
I got to know that three of my course/classmates were assigned to the same state; and so, three of us – Arit Ekpo, Solomon Nkebem and myself decided to leave together. The third person, Blessing Omaleko, did not travel with us on that trip. The journey was long but fun. This was possible because I was travelling alongside people I had known for five years and counting. But less than two hours to the end of our journey, God miraculously helped us avert what might have been a fatal accident. Our vehicle was on top speed until the front right tyre flew into a bush path. The rest is history. We are all alive. Glory to God.
On getting to the gate of NYSC orientation camp in Wannune, Benue State, we were asked by the soldiers on duty to show our call-up letters; as that was the criterion for entry. Thereafter, we joined a queue inside the camp, where the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) officials screened our luggage for “contraband” like pressing iron, boiling ring, etc. We went through the various screening points for that day and were given mattresses with hostels assigned to us. My two female course mates (Blessing and Arit) were in my room and we got to meet other girls from other institutions.
By the following morning, the sound of the beagle woke us all and we had to prepare and head to the hall for documentation. We got our kits stocked with laughable oversized wears. It left me wondering why they made us submit our cloth and shoe sizes during the online registration. We had to enrich the mammy market tailors who charged us so high, just to help us amend our wears.
The soldiers in camp gave us no welcome treatment o! From day one, we heard, “double up, double up”! And since some parts of the camp were hilly, it was so stressful, especially for the “plus size ones”. Some people started frog jumps quite early but I escaped it o, all through my stay there. The drills were hard, especially when we had to do them under the sun.
However, the parade drills were enlightening. They made me realize that what we do in our schools in the name of “marching” is child’s play. We would leave the parade ground feeling very exhausted and famished. The soldiers always expected we act like them as we were addressed as “paramilitary”. There were days Corp members collapsed and had to be rushed to the medical center.
We had been sworn in, but the name callings did not cease from the soldiers’ lips. You’ll hear, “white fowl, otondo” and the likes. We had to accept it for what it was. Afternoon lectures soon started and you’ll find Corp members dozing halfway through. I was not exempted. And when we had to choose Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED), I opted for cosmetology class; as I had prior knowledge on how to make liquid soap and shampoo. In this class, I learnt how to make car wash, Izal, bleach, Vaseline, powder, air freshener and insecticide.
Meal times saw corp members standing with their plates or food flasks in straight files, according to their platoon. The length of the queue was dependent on the meal served. Mammy market was the saving grace for people like me who are very selective when it comes to food. They were some corp members who never used their meal tickets, others collected their meals and gave them to their friends. Mammy market swallowed a lot of cash. Their fruits were so sweet and very cheap, showcasing Benue State’s motto as “The Food Basket of the Nation”.
Back to my roommates. They were amazing group of people and a good number of them were “Akwa Ibomites”; and since I speak Efik, the bond was there. We were 13 in number. Our room was known as “The Akwa Ibom Room”. We organised suya night where we got to know more about ourselves. Oh! How I miss my sweet people. But such is life: “We meet to path and path to meet again”.
I was assigned to platoon 9, and right there, I was saddled with the responsibility of directing our drama group and co-directing our golden voices group for both competitions. For the former, we were nowhere near the three best but we were third for the latter. My platoon also won the Miss NYSC BENUE STATE CHAPTER AWARD.
Meanwhile, I remember when thieves were caught as they came to steal in the female hostel. They were stripped, beaten, thrown into septic tank for a while by the soldiers, and later brought out and handed over to the police. Oh! How they stunk. They can never forget such experience in their lives. And I believe that was the end of their pilfering.
There were lots of stressful moments but meeting old primary/secondary schools mates and new people made my stay in camp worthwhile.
Finally, it was time to leave camp, after three weeks stay. We got our letters and as I held mine, I saw, “Alpha and Omega Academy, Tor Donga, Katsina-Ala”. I carried my luggage, joined the Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF) bus and said my goodbye to Wannune Camp.
Life after camp was another experience entirely. I hope to share that experience someday.
By Chinyere Stephen Obasi