There I was as an astute observer determined to unravel the enigma that presented itself as shades of cultural differences and capricious behaviours of and from people I believe are my countrymen.
Beyond the stressed face was a stretching brain, hardworking, trying to assimilate the different themes of the unscripted drama that staged before me.
“Oh! How wonderful the brain hath? Working so hard even when it knows deep down that all that men will acknowledge at the time is the swollen face caused by tiredness”.
I was standing on the soil of Akwa-Ibom state in a semi-regimented area at Nsit Atai LGA, with people in their hundreds (or thousands), also there, if not for the same purpose, by the reason of the same calling— the NYSC clarion call.
Where I stood, in my mind, I thought I still had a 21-day journey ahead of me.
But really, that was not where the journey started.
My Journey to the NYSC national camp started from the bed of an anxious traveller, who just cannot wait to enjoy what was ahead.
“You Have To Wake Up By 5am”, Uncle Said.
My sweet loving Uncle would take me on his bike to the Ibadan garage and there, I was to meet with a brother to someone he knows, who was also answering that same kind of call that I heard (or is it read?)
I was the anxious traveller and maybe, just as you’ve guessed, I was already up by 3am. In 30 minutes, ” The Seed of Abraham” was good to go.
My Uncle’s wife sumptuous meal made up for the rest of the 1 hour and 30 minutes wait.
By the time we got to garage, Bayo, the boy who will later become a camp friend, was waiting while standing with his sister. There was not so many time for apologies and salutations, a car was already waiting and we knew that Ibadan just can’t wait to have us.
We zoomed off. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumhun.
The bus destination was clearly known. It would be the Akwa-Ibom NYSC Camp. We wasted no time to have the ground running in the ‘flight alternative’ luxurious bus of Akwa Ibom Transport Company (AKTC), as we anticipated a 14-long hour journey.
It took just about five hours before all the 15 Prospective Corps Members (including myself) in the bus, became sudden friends. Who can bear the 14-hour boredom? No not one.
If you were in the bus, you may mistake it for judgement throne of heaven, where 15 bored fellows were truthfully confessing their Kissing Status, Class of Degree amongst other topics (Lol).
The Tale of Iyawo Sooja and My first Lesson as a Stranger
We had just left Benin behind and were now at the outskirt of Delta State before something that got us startled for some seconds happened: From behind, a soldier was angrily beckoning at our bus to stop. (You can easily guess that our heart was already racing and sweating).
He walked towards us with a gun in his hand.
“Bring that phone”, the soldier said as he stretched his hand to Grace, Chief Troublemaker in the Bus. Sympathetically, we all echoed “She’s sorry sir”.
You might think “he is deaf”, as he emotionlessly walked back to the military checkpoint we passed after completing his mission.
Why did he seize the phone? Grace was calling at the military checkpoint.
Someone said she was lucky that the soldier did not throw it down immediately to trample on it.
Now, my first lesson: Utmost compliance is demanded at military checkpoints. I have never had the cause to pass through soldier checkpoints so many times, so how will I know those rules?
Right there, I confirmed that School did not teach me everything I needed to know as a Nigerian, I will have to pass through a school beyond walls where there is no convocation day in sight.
I jokingly told someone that “If I did not get this knowledge now, in the future, if I am asked to stop at a military checkpoint and my phone rings, I would have asked the soldier to please excuse me”… Chai! The beating will be…let’s not about it.
Lest I forget… Grace collected her phone with a sum of #1,000 after ‘mass’ pleading. And, of course, we gave her the name “IYAWO SOOJA”.
Glory to God, I Have a Brother Here.
The 2019 class of the department of Mass Communication of Olabisi Onabanjo University have a population of almost or over three hundred. And over 85% of the class was cleared to be graduate.
I have also come to a rough conclusion that of the 80%, 50% was mobilized for 2020 Batch A Stream I of the NYSC orientation course.
I have a good number of friends in my class but just one of them, Emmanuel, was deployed to Akwa-Ibom.
I have overcome the 14 hours long journey, I knew I had to also overcome a strange feeling of loneliness and make new friends, who, unfortunately, don’t have my own kind of background and may not know my story and vice versa.
My second lesson: Just as a Yoruba popular adage says “20 children can not play for 20 years”. I once again realized that it not only a business environment that is dynamic. There is constant change everywhere, a change we must prepare our mindset for, from now.
To be continued…
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