The morning of 4th March, 2012 was a Sunday morning and I had to wake up early just like I did on every other Sunday morning since Childhood . . . However, on this one occasion, it was for a different purpose. It was the day I was scheduled to collect my NYSC call up letter . . . sounds weird, right? well na so me sef see am o! Unlike the other Sunday mornings, I woke before my alarm clock and looked at my Rolex wrist watch; it read 5:30am and yes, it was a real Rolex, not an Aba-made one, Lolz. I knew I needed to be at the Faculty office as early as possible to beat the crowd that would most definitely be there because it was also expedient that I travelled home that day. Of course, that was the same thought everyone in my faculty shared.
Camp was to start on Tuesday that same week and for reasons unknown to us, the issuance of our call-up letters was delayed till that Sunday. We were all eager to know our fate and keeping us that long to find out wasn’t funny at all. Most of us had started having nightmares about being sent to bokoharamic states. I could still remember my friend, Peter who would always joke about it. For whatever reason, he was hundred percent sure he’d get posted to Lagos state and as a result, would brag incessantly and wish other ‘less desirable’ states on us. I vividly remember him taunting me, asking; “Mexy, my Lagos don sure na, I know say your own go be Zamfara, abi na Borno you want?. . . (Now, picture a beardless slim fella saying this with an Igbo accent).We’d always laugh over it while secretly wishing this proclamation never came through.
I quickly brushed my teeth, took a bath . . .ok, you got me there, skip the bathing part . . . I hurried down to the faculty because Mr. Eze, our faculty officer had promised to forfeit church that day in order to share the letters to us as early as possible. Imagine, a sole individual distributing call up letters to the entire faculty . . . well, I hope you now see the reason why I had to skip my bath. It was a very cold morning and I walked briskly clutching my jacket. I could hear the chirping of the birds and the very annoying croaking of the frogs. Nevertheless, on this particular morning, they seemed to blend well with the sounds made by the crickets and it all sounded like music to my ears; a good omen, I concluded.
Ah Ah!! did you sleep at all?!! The words startled me, I turned back and saw Moses. I must have been carried away by the lovely morning as I didn’t hear his approaching footsteps. I smiled and asked, “you nko?” He laughed and we begun to walk down towards the faculty. Moses was one of my course mates who would normally arrive for a class just in time or late but like me, was trying to beat the crowd. Moses was and remains a very peculiar character. Irrespective of this, he possesses this unique trait of walking at a speed that would make Olympic athletes jealous. Moses walks as fast as Usain Bolt runs, maybe even faster. This particular morning wasn’t any different as I was literally running just to keep up with his pace, thank God it was a cold morning or I would have been sweating profusely.
We got to the faculty around 5:48am and surprisingly there were other students there already. By then I was already panting, no thanks to Moses. I exchanged pleasantries with a few friends and acquaintances then joined an already considerable queue just outside Mr. Eze’s Office despite the fact that Mr. Eze was not yet around. At about 6:13am, he arrived to meet virtually all the students of the faculty waiting a tad impatiently already. As is the status quo in most Nigerian queues, I realized I was gradually moving down rather than up the line as people in front of me allowed their friends and friends of their friends stand in front of them. I was beginning to get really irked when from behind me, the most pleasant voice asked; “Please, do you mind if I stay here?” As I turned to match a face to this sensuous voice, I beheld the pretty smile of Chidinma waiting expectantly for my permission. I couldn’t say no. Don’t judge me, but she was too beautiful to say no to(Guys, una understand na). So she stood in front of me and we had a little chat as we waited for Mr. Eze to usher us in.
“I wonder what that man is still doing inside” I said to Chidinma as it was almost 6:25am and he was yet to start sharing the call up letters. As though he heard me, he immediately stuck his head through the metallic burglary proof door and asked the first twenty people on the queue to enter his office. I couldn’t get in with the first batch and no, neither could Chidinma who stood rather pensively in front of me. We waited and after about ten minutes, the first twenty began trooping out gradually. Frank was the first to come out from the office and from the look on his face, one could tell he was unhappy. Frank, like most of our course mates, probably paid someone to get posted to a ‘favorable state’. He desperately wanted to serve at Abuja and for some reason, it backfired. Before I could, I heard Chidinma excitedly ask “What state were you posted to?” “Kwara”, he said disappointedly before walking away. By this time, most of the twenty had come out of the office, some beaming with smiles, others less so. I think I even spotted a tear or two on the face of one petite girl as she hurried away. I stood there hoping that mine wouldn’t be bad enough to elicit a negative reaction from me. I wasn’t disappointed.
“The next twenty please” as a loud bass voice brought me back to the present from my wandering thoughts. It was Mr. Eze calling in the next set. This time, there was a little struggle as some people behind me tried to get in ahead of their turns. I was too quick for them and I made it into the office just before Mr. Eze slammed it shut . . . Chidinma also did too. The office was big enough to contain the twenty of us comfortably and had a wider-than-normal window meaning there was sufficient air circulation for the place not to seem stuffy. Mr. Eze was seated behind a long table with what appeared to be the call up letters neatly arranged on them. It seemed they were arranged according to our departments. “Line up according to your departments” he said as we quickly formed queues. I realized you could check the posting of anyone in the faculty while you searched for yours and immediately, my eyes darted down the list searching for Peter’s name. I had not seen him that morning. He was probably planning to come when the crowd had dissipated to collect his letter and head to Lagos the next day. I’m not a wicked person but as I scanned the list searching for Peter’s name, something within me didn’t want to see Lagos on his letter. And there it was, staring me right in the face. My face unconsciously lit up, as a wicked grin spread from my mouth. Katsina State! Not only did he not get posted to Lagos, he got posted to one of the aforementioned dreaded states!! It was a glorious sight. My anticipation doubled as I searched for mine and not because I was yet to see mine, but because I was anxious to be the first to spill the beans to Peter. I envisioned the expression that would form on his face as he would realize that I wasn’t joking and that his well laid plans had failed so catastrophically. I held the thought as I eventually found mine, ‘Rivers State’ it read. I smiled ruefully, collected the letter, signed for it and dashed out of the office.
As I exited the office, my eyes automatically scanned the crowd for the one person I was so desperate to see (I’m sure you can already guess who). I saw him discussing with some of his friends away from the disorderly crowd that had formed in front of Mr. Eze’s door. With a face so straight, a meter ruler would feel crooked and with joy bubbling uncontrollably in my heart, I shouted, ”You were posted to Katsina, Hahahahaha”. It seemed I was not the only one that was as happy at his misfortune, as all who heard the news burst into laughter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay long enough to enjoy the schadenfreude. I had a seven hour journey to Abuja ahead of me and so I had to leave as soon as possible. I’d then travel to the ‘treasure base of the nation the next day’ to begin my service to my nation. As my bus took off en route Abuja, I smiled. ‘This year will be good’, I muttered to myself as much needed sleep overcame me . . .
…..TO BE CONTINUED
By Emeka ‘Mexy’ Madubuko . . . It was a great year
Follow him on Twitter @supermexy
The story continues here → The Experience of a Lifetime, Part Two →