I have been at the NYSC Orientation Camp in Obubra, Cross River State for the past three weeks. And it felt like it wasn’t going to end. For readers outside Nigeria, NYSC means National Youth Service Corps. It’s a compulsory one-year service- every Nigerian graduate is required to serve in any state of the federation they’re posted to. Think of it as a mandatory civil draft. The NYSC scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war.
I got my posting letter on the 19th of January. I had mixed feelings about being posted to Cross River State, particularly after hearing that the orientation camp was a long four-hour journey from the city. I arrived Cross River on the 23rd of January and stayed over in a friend’s house.
We set out to the orientation camp on the 24th of January. The journey lasted for about 3 hours 50 minutes. The roads were bad, but the having friends around made the trip more enjoyable-we sang along to the great songs playing on the car stereo and took pictures.
I had heard tales of frog jumps and carry-your-box-on-your-head orders. But I thought my friends were exaggerating. To my horror, the stories turned out to be true. On arrival at the Orientation Camp, the soldiers made us carry our boxes- and yes; on our heads! After the ordeal, I had to get registered and hustle for a good bed space. The registration was arduous, to say the least- we moved from one long queue to another. I did get it done eventually, and my friends and I headed to the Mami market where they sold all kinds of stuff, including food and drinks.
NYSC provides three meals every day for all corps members, but the lines at the kitchen were never encouraging. We headed back to the hostel and queued up yet again to get water to have our bath. It was a long day.
The next day, we were awake as early as 3 a.m. so we could get water to have our bath. Then we had morning meditation and after that the parades, drills, and lectures. There were short breaks in between for food and sports. I escaped quite a number of parades; yes. I am Diusor after all. My best part though, was the early morning Man ‘o’ War drills, mostly because of the great songs we sang. This went on for 21 days. And oh, we were always dressed in our all-white top and shorts. The day I had the most fun in camp was the day of my Man ‘o’ War activities. I like to think that I’m adventurous, but surprisingly I was a little scared. I still laugh at myself whenever I remember that. I also participated in platoon activities. I served on kitchen duty, did some cheerleading, and represented my platoon as the Carnival Queen.
Many people say camp is fun, but that wasn’t exactly my experience. There were days I cried and wished it would all just end. The water in Obubra is quite hard, so my skin reacted to it. The dust was an issue for me as well. And I found the camp activities quite stressful too. Plus, the toilets weren’t even in the best state. But then again, I guess it’s all part of the experience- NYSC is a once in a lifetime. Still, I won’t deny that I’m relieved that orientation camp is finally over. The one thing I am grateful for is the few people I connected with in camp. In their unique ways, they helped make my stay at the camp worthwhile. I look forward to a great service year.
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