I remember going to school to pick up my call up letter and the whole surprise of where I was posted. I had prayed not to go to the Northern part of the country, irrespective of the fact that I do love travelling. Due to the different kind of uprisings that occur without any warning, and the language barrier was something I was quite skeptical about.
My dad wanted to ‘work it’ like most parents do try for fear of their kids safety but I told him to allow the will of God be done in this case. The D-day came and I was posted to Cross River State. I was quite thrilled because I had never been to that part of the country before. Though I had been regaled with tales of cannibalism in that part of the country, nevertheless I was quite happy. I went shopping and I asked my brother, who had done his youth service a set before mine, what the procedures are in the camp and the necessities to pack. I followed his instructions and bet you, I have myself to blame later for listening to him. I almost missed my bus on the day I was to leave. It was a night bus and I will get there the following morning. Dropped at Odukpani junction to board another bus for another four hours journey to Obubra where the camp is situated.
The three weeks was that of joy, crazy experiences and adventure and a culture shock. Then came the day of posting to our various place of primary assignment. I thought that being one of the four flag carriers I will be posted in the state capital. To my amazement I was posted to a secondary school to teach. I fought this posting for a while. I tried to get another posting in the state capital , but this proved to be a difficult task to achieve. Reluctantly, I went to resume at my place of primary assignment. I had a room to myself in a three bedroom flat which I shared with other corps members. Thus I started my village life for the next one year. I made friends and I had a family during my course of stay in the village, and I still keep in touch with them.
I remember my first experience at cooking Edikainkong, which is delicacy from that part of the country. I went to the market with a male friend who is a native of the village. We bought all the ingredients and back to the corpers lodge to cook the soup. Everybody at the lodge ate it with a big bowl of garri, it was a nice experience. To cook, you will have to walk about 15 minutes from the corpers lodge on a hilly slope to the village square to buy vegetables. In order to avoid this a bit often, I planted a vegetable garden at the back our lodge. This grew to become a farm that fed all the corpers with fresh vegetables the year long.
I had my share of learning another culture, tradition and the way of life of a Southerner. One thing that I really appreciate with the community is the fact that the corpers lodge was a bit far from the village square and centre, but importantly was the order that they should not come near the corpers lodge whenever they are performing any traditional rites. We were regarded as government children, it was an experience that some would pay for. Not that it do not have its shortcomings.
Apart from the cultural and travel experience, the National Youth Service Corp scheme is a waste of energy, time and human efforts. One will think that after studying for like four to five years, one will be able to challenge the skills being learnt and also learn for the next one year. Instead the individual is left in a remote village with no computer connections and a times no network, this is not worth it at all. In my own opinion I will like to serve in the Navy, Army, Air force or any other force for a year to learn other skills. Alongside I can do mandatory voluntary work, not live everyday in fear for my life.
It is a shame that we look at our neighbours and fellow human beings in two shades or categories: religion and ethnicity. Until the day we learn to live at peace with all humanity that we will progress further. Mayhem is being caused due to ignorance and based on hearsay, within minutes lives are lost. According to the popular philosopher, Socrates, “The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance”, living with other people irrespective of our background is knowledge and it is good.
This article is dedicated to the Youth Corps members who lost their lives in the after election violence in the Northern part of Nigeria. What is your NYSC experience? Do you mind sharing?