I remember waking up to shufflings and noisy footsteps all around me. I opened my eyes and tried to adjust them to the light in the room, all this time, I still wasn’t sure where I was. Then almost immediately, like someone had thrown a glass of cold water in my face, it hit me – NYSC Orientation Camp.
I was grateful that no one had stepped on my head while I was asleep or complained out loud that I was blocking their space. It was barely 4 am, yet almost everyone was awake and dressed in their white on white.
I had to change to my towel, get my toilet bag and head to the bathroom to take a shower. How I managed to do all in that borrowed space, I don’t know. I was glad to see water running from the taps because only heaven knows how I would have gotten some to shower that morning.
I took a quick shower, dressed up in my white and white that I brought from home and just sat on the mattresses, seeing as I had no bed. Then I waited, for what exactly? I wasn’t sure at the time, but I just couldn’t go back to sleep.
Then I heard the beagle, followed by several annoying whistling that went on forever. I found my way downstairs to the parade ground. I didn’t know my code number (even though I had one already), neither did I know how platoons were distributed so I just stayed at the back of a random line.
The morning parade felt like secondary school assembly all over again – praise session, some words of motivation, prayer and announcements.
I realized that I played myself though, cause other folks who had not collected their kits had worn their regular clothes and were chilling under the giant canopy. I, on the other hand, was being asked by several officials why I didn’t have a cap.
The camp official taught us the NYSC anthem and like sharp Nigerian graduates that we are, we learnt the song in minutes. He also gave us a run down of the day’s activities. All of it felt strange, very strange.
Not having any space to call my own, I couldn’t go back into the hostel, so I found my former classmates. One of us had been there a day earlier than the rest of us, so he took up the duty of showing we “newbies” around.
First, he took us to some stall where we could charge our phones and other gadgets for a fee of #50 for phones and #100 for powerbanks. Then, he almost swore about how good a particular food vendor was. We got there and her food wasn’t ready, nearly twenty minutes after and it still wasn’t ready. We tried to leave but she talked us into staying, our friend also persisted, claimed she was the best in Mammy (still wondering how he came up with that analysis in less than two days). The food finally arrived, and it wasn’t as great as we expected and it wasn’t pocket-friendly either. Well, that was the last time I ate there.
Not long after, the beagle was blown. I still didn’t get what it signaled but corpers began to assemble on the parade ground. We, who had not complete our registration and collected our kits, were asked to complete the process under the canopy.
This took forever, as the kits came in batches and my number was somewhere in the second thousands. A lady corper who had a pair of size 6 jungle boots told me she was interested in swapping if I got a size 5 pair. This was a good deal for me so I agreed. Eventually, I got my kit – a set of green khaki pants and jacket,a green belt, two white t-shirts, a crested NYSC t-shirt, two white shorts, a pair of socks with green stripes, a pair of size 8 white sneakers, a pair of size 5 jungle boots and an NYSC branded cap.
For reasons unknown to me, they all came in wrong sizes. Even after we were asked to fill out our sizes online, no one bothered to check. They were just handed to us to sort out by ourselves. Did I mention that they were poorly produced?
So here I was, with ill-fitting clothes and shoes in one hand, and no bed space and it was almost time for the next beagle to sound. Camp wasn’t looking good for me. The lady who wanted to exchange had found someone else and I was stuck with undersized jungle boots.
I decided to solve one problem – my clothes. Swearing in was the next day and we were expected to be in our ceremonial outfits – khaki trousers, belt, crested t-shirt, jungle boots and cap. I was on my way to Mammy market when I got a phone call about a potential bed space.
I dropped the clothes with my friend and walked/jogged/ran as fast as I could to one of the camp officials to ask if I could take the space. She asked me to check the status of the bed space to ensure it wasn’t occupied. I found the room in no time and after ensuring that the owner had left, I told a friend to man the space while I went to drag my luggage to its new home.
The beagle sounded for evening drills. We rehearsed for the swearing-in parade the next day. We stopped only to stand at attention when Nigeria was going to sleep (6 pm).
When it was over, I took my clothes to the tailors at Mammy who were more than glad to see us as they charged #800 to #1000 for adjustments. The laundry people were also calling, for “ironing of your khaki”. After dropping it off with a woman who promised they would be ready by 7am, my friends and I went to find dinner.
Bedtime was better than my first night. I got top bunk and I had a place to call mine.
I couldn’t go to bed without saying “Happy birthday” to my love though, I was sad that I had to be away. I hope I get to make it up to him next year.
Tip- Don’t bank on the outfits NYSC will give you,they probably won’t fit. Buy as many white t-shirts and shorts as you desire, and a comfortable & easy-to-wash pair of white sneakers.
A waist purse is also a necessity for every Corper in camp – for safekeeping of your valuables.