In the memorable words of Martin Luther king, Jr ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’.
After the civil war, Nigeria suffered greatly from this ailment called ignorance. It manifested in various ways, from fear to distrust and suspicion of one ethnic group by another. The atmosphere was not one where mutual respect and meaningful development could thrive and this was why, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. The unfortunate antecedents in our national history gave impetus to the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps by decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 which stated that the “NYSC is established with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”. Without doubt the psychological aims and objective of the National Youth Service Corps is to make it possible for Nigerian youths to understand their country better and realise that the country can only be fruitful when youths across the country see themselves as brothers and sisters. Without second thought, the scheme to a great extent has removed socio-cultural and political prejudices thereby creating a healthy atmosphere for national growth.
One may wish to ask what the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is. According to Eberly, the NYSC is an organized activity in which young people serve others and the environment in ways that contribute positively to the society. Put simply, the National Youth Service Corps is a scheme modeled for young people which is constructive in its very essence and with the potentiality to investment meaningfully in the future of the active participants and the country at large.
Also Read: We were made to sit in the rain
National Youth Service Corps is a dream of every youth in Nigeria. For me graduating as one of the best in Osun state university is a dream come true and of course my happiest moment in life was getting married even before going on the compulsory NYSC one year programme. With that, the story of my NYSC experience will both be shared by my wife and I which would then be related to our children and grandchildren by the both of us.
As the day to receive call up letters approached, thanks to the National Youth Service Corps website I had already gotten the things I needed for camp, such as; Milk, Chocolate beverage, biscuits and clothing & accessories although one will be given uniforms and materials in camp but this was just a preparatory measure just in case the ones given in the camp don’t fit i.e. Extra tennis shoe, white socks, white shorts, white round necked shirts, I didn’t forget to get a small food flask and cup.
I was posted to Abuja, though that was not where I prayed and hoped for but who am I to determine what God has predetermined and perfected? It was my friend, Olagbemi Bolaji who texted me my posting state. I was dazed and couldn’t believe him as I had to leave for Osogbo to confirm it, I couldn’t believe my friend was serious, Abuja ke? I wondered. I collected my letter and still felt I would have been happier if my posting was to a nearby state. This was because for more than 25 years of my life, I have lived in Osun State which is my state of origin and study. New journey and plans sets in for me, how will I survive Abuja? Was the question I kept asking myself.
On the day I was to travel to the orientation camp, I woke up as early as possible, was I anxious? No. but I had to talk sense to myself as a newly-wedded man and my conclusion was simple; my marriage would be given the necessary consideration during the period of my service year. While making due preparations, my mum came in to pray for me and my brother who was also posted to Kaduna State which is about three hours drive from Abuja.
I was also worried because my brother and I had never been to Abuja or Kaduna before but with the information we both gathered, Kaduna as we learnt is not far from Abuja.
To most people in the Southern part of Nigeria during this period Kaduna is not safe even Abuja to some extent.
We left Ile-Ife for Abuja and not until we got to lokoja did we stop on the road. I kept asking the driver the hours left to reach Abuja, but from lokoja to Abuja it is 3hours drive basically and this means one should just be at rest when he or she is at lokoja. We slept in my father’s friend’s place and departed for orientation camp the next day, KUBWA is the place where I was to be for three weeks while my brother who by this time was sick and weak insisted he will make it to the camp in Kaduna.
While my father’s friend, Mr Thompson Awofisayo was taking me to Kubwa I couldn’t help but let the flow of mixed feelings come through. At first I was dazed, and then slowly the reality of my situation began to creep in. I could feel my heart shredding into several pieces with every beat and this was due to the negative stories and pictures I had heard and seen in the media about bombing and kidnappings in the North Central and North East of Nigeria. Despite the happenings in the North Central of Nigeria, hopes of changing my state of deployment flew out the window; my fate had been sealed.
Also Read: FG committed to security, welfare of corps members - NYSC DG
I was dropped at the entrance of the orientation camp while my brother was driven to Kaduna car park. I and other Corpers were screened thoroughly especially our credentials. None of my belongings was seen as contraband because I had gone online and got sufficient information from my sister-in-law. After hours of registration I was finally allowed into the main camp. After I was shown my hostel, I quickly made friends with a young-looking guy who spoke Yoruba with someone on phone, since I didn’t speak any other local language, I felt it was wise to relate firstly with those who were from the South West.
It is normal to feel excited at the thought of having fun in camp, but most people get there on the first day only to experience some inconveniences. The registrations for that first day stopped late in the night, so I couldn’t finish the registrations due to what was involved like photocopy, filing of forms, joining one long queue to another for registrations and most importantly the kind of segregations by the soldiers and Man O War personnel who were in camp to maintain orderliness. They made use of their uniforms and post to favor those who had parents who serve in the army and those who have one or two things to do with them directly or indirectly. I could not eat dinner because I was so tired and couldn’t even raise a spoon to my mouth. The worst of it all was that I was not able to get a meal ticket and NYSC kits that day, Therefore; I was disappointed in the NYSC Scheme at first. Moreover, that evening while many were still struggling to do registration the captain who is the head of soldiers in camp, came out to address us, he was frank and bold, told us all we needed to know and of course he made us realize we were in camp for serious business and told us the dos and don’ts especially removing hair dress when it was 6pm and to always be in white top, white short with white socks and white snickers. His approaches made me love and respect him. His name is Captain Ijakpa.
I was allocated Room B, platoon 3. My number one happiness set in when I discovered that the person who was my new friend was not even a Yoruba person per say but only spoke and understood Yoruba and that the room I was given was to be shared with 23 other otondos as we were referred to by the soldiers and man O war. I was the only one from the South West, 15 persons were from the South East, 1 person from the North East and the others from North Central.
This picture represents Nigeria as a Country, thanks to NYSC.
Our swearing in ceremony was on the 23rd of August, 2014. All of us in my room woke up early and we were well-dressed (7/7) and that was when I started to value the khaki (uniform). Actually, I really cherished the respect given to the uniform. Many eminent personals came to welcome us, including the FCT minister, though he was represented.
THE SCHEME ELIMINATION IGNORANCE
The National Youth Service Corps scheme has promoted national consciousness of both the Corps member and their associates. When a Corps member departs for service, he leaves with the goodwill of his parents, relations and well wishers. He/she will now be open to the real Nigerian society and of course must learn very fast.
The number one role played by the scheme in shaping my ignorance is that of opening my eyes to the States and localities different from my State. Apart from the recitation of the Nigerian States and capital, many youths like me are not familiar with other States. In the course of my journey from Osun State to the Federal Capital Of Territory, I saw the real ups and downs of the nation, different rural settlements and not until one gets to Abuja would one see the urban side of Nigeria. Also, I was able to see the Lokoja Bridge which I had only seen on National Television Stations and also I saw the different ways in which Nigerians dress and build their houses.
Also Read: Akpabio donates 50m for NYSC construction in Akwa Ibom
At first as a Yoruba person posted to a place like Abuja where the wearing of hijab by the womenfolk is common, my level of ignorance was minimised because prior to the time I was posted to Abuja to serve, I was used to the habit of addressing any lady in hijab as ‘Alhaja’, but to my surprise I saw some of this category of women laugh without giving me the answers I wanted. They were baffled to hear me address them that way. One day, while I was on duty as the head of the kitchen service, I wanted to address a lady in hijab and I called her Alhaja, she calmly said she is not an Alhaja. I was dazed with her response but she did not hesitate to state why she said she was not an Alhaja. She calmly explained that ‘Alhaja’ is a title to address a muslim lady who has travelled for hajj or the Muslim holy pilgrimage in Mecca; and that the males are referred to as ‘Alhaji’. she told me that the next time I see someone in hijab I should simply address the person as ‘hajia’.
It is important also to note that three meals were served at different times of the day. I enjoyed the meals at the beginning but when corpers took over from the staff a week later, my interest in the kitchen meals waned because most of the time, the meals served either had little or no salt/pepper in them or were undercooked which made it tasteless. I wasn’t bothered about food so much due to the other side attractions but the day my platoon was expected to cook, I was selected as the kitchen Head of Department and that day I got to know the level by which corruption had eaten deep into the nation.
The staffs displayed a high level of greed that was beyond comprehension. In an environment where corpers were expected to feed well so as to meet up with the demands of continuous physical training, it was a shame that the sharing of food was seized by some staff who took double portions of foods and still amassed some to send to their respective homes. This left many corp members to sleep without food and with this, many felt the government failed with respect to the provision of food on camp. To many Nigerians, the government is not living up to expectations but they are, in actual sense, unaware that true corruption resides in the people at the grassroots.
To any Nigerian from the Southern part, Northerners are seen as the most dirty and most wicked, but I was actually not moved by this notion because while in camp, I made friends with everybody, it was not late for me to make some from the Northern part of the country. Among these my friends was Salihu Rufa’i Alkali, a young charming young northerner, his identification reads that he hails from Gombe state , but schooled in Maiduguri in Bornu State. Alkali was just the opposite of what I had previously learnt about Northerners. He was simple in explanation, frank to the core and in most cases very plain, he told me Northerners are not really educated like the people in the south west and this is a major setback for the north, he eulogised that if not for the NYSC the country would have been divided into pieces. To him, many southerners relocate to the north due to the NYSC and many northerner relocate to the south due to the help of the scheme and without doubt Alkali was right. On many occasions of which I remember two times, Alkali freely gave out money and told those he gave the money not to write his name. My experience with Alkali, made me fully support what Pastor Femi Aribisala said and I quote:
‘True northerners are the most upright, most accommodating and most humane of Nigerians’.
Was Salihu Rufa’i Alkali the only one I met on camp that changed my view and percepection about the north? No, I met and made friends with Aminu Sanusi , Musa Ilu Ahmad, Abubakar, Kabeeru Bafe, Zubairu and Ali. All these people had one thing in common like Rufai, they are plain and don’t even care about my religion and most importantly they contributed financially on camp to religious societies without murmuring.
Chilling With Kabeeru and Ilu.
With my friend, SAMIR ALI.
Simplicity dwell deep in the attribute associated with Northerners, as those people I met who were from the North showed me that, but it was Aminu Sanusi, who made me understand that simplicity is a backbone of humility and until I left camp I didn’t know he was one of the sons of the newly installed Emir of Kano.
My experiences during the orientation camp were numerous but these are the few that are dear to me. All activities during the orientation camp were fun and also discipline and love was instilled in us all.
My last day in camp, was the worst one ever. At about 1:30 am, soldiers and Man O’ Wars stormed all the hostels and we were asked to go down in other to submit our mattresses and I had to join a very long queue in order to submit my mattress.
We did the final sanitation and dressed in our khaki for the final ceremony. Corpers performed match pass and other activities but all I was just doing was praying and asking God for favour. I collected my Posting Letter at about 2:50 pm and was surprised when I saw INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION HEADQUARTERS. I don’t know the criterion that was used but I know God was at work.
Without second thought I left for the commission from the camp, submitted the letter and after 7days went back to know my fate. I was rejected although I tried all I could to be accepted but wasn’t accepted. As God would finally have it, I was accepted by the NATIONAL UNIVERSITIES COMMISSION after one month.
Serving my Country has opened my eyes to different things and I’m a better person for it. For this I will ever be grateful to God for where I was posted, the friends I made and the experiences I was able to garner.
Dedicated to My parent Elder and Deaconess S.O ODEYELE, my family members and My Wife, Mary Titilayo Odeyele for been more than a wife.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.