Democracy – The Nigerian Illusion

Hello World, it’s been quite a while. Well, here’s a new story on a theme we’ve never shied away from covering on this blog.  It’s a personal experience of a close friend of ours. It is both enlightening and thought-provoking. Enjoy your read . . .

Gist Editor, Gistoscope

Now I’m scared that my Nigeria . . . Our Nigeria, may never be better.

I had a firsthand experience that has eroded my faith in our government, its policies, and its numerous ‘feedback mechanisms’ to know the people’s plight.

Two weeks ago, I was chosen to represent Zamfara state Corpers in Abuja during the National Corpers Forum aimed at getting feedback from serving Corps members from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT on how the scheme could be improved from the Corps members’ point of view. Four delegates per state were selected and 6 from the FCT. For  three days, we sat and pointed out pertinent issues bothering Corpers security, welfare, community development projects improvement and mobilization issues. On each of these topics, we made observations and resolutions which we typed and submitted to be moved on to management for consideration.

From the welfare communiqué group, we told them blatantly that a transport allowance of 1000 Naira and bicycle allowance of 1500 Naira was unrealistic; as times have changed, that sizes of Corps members should be collated before mobilization; so that we could stop the shameful practice of giving people oversize or undersize kits, that either they pay a certain amount as medical allowance monthly or implement a health insurance scheme for Corpers like most schools are doing now; instead of having me pay my medical bills and then start writing to Abuja for a refund which may never come. We even said they should stop using Corps members during elections as cheap labour since it exposes them to risk of loss of life, as, more often than not, violence erupts. We had a long list from the welfare point – from issues of inadequate camp facilities, to lack of accommodation provision by employees. Other groups made their resolutions too.

To my chagrin, however, these people had come up with a resolution they wanted, and threw away all that we said and put in theirs. They even said we advocated for better taekwondo in camp! Whaat???! Next, he was moving a motion to adopt our resolutions as amended!! Right in our faces!!! Some of us cried out immediately. I jumped to my feet and told him with all due respect that this final resolution had been greatly watered down, and that it did not represent what my people had sent me there to say. A couple of people raised their hands and came out to voice their opinions that a lot was missing from this resolution. The Corpers who produced the final document confirmed that a staff of the NYSC was set on them, and he was the one who literally produced the contentious resolution.

Furthermore, and in a bid to mock democracy even more, the chairman said all those with issues about the resolution should come out. He then gave us the mic to each say what we wanted. Then he sat, locked heads with his colleagues and kept gisting away, barely listening to us, till the last of us ‘riffraffs’ made our point, with him taking no notes or cognizance whatsoever. Then again, he moved for the adoption of our resolution as amended.

By this time, the Director-General had come and gone, the press had taken their pictures and video clips and gone and there we sat, helpless. Next on the news. we’ll hear a Corper say a word, then a couple of short videos here and there and they’ll show a Corper moving the motion for adoption and Nigerians will think – their voices have been heard, the international world will say – ‘Wow!, the people really have a say in matters affecting them.’ I smiled to myself and said ‘this is Nigeria and this is why we are where we are today’.

The chairman told us our welfare demands were frivolous . . . as if he could boldly say the bicycle he bought his son cost him 1000 Naira, or that transportation from Lagos to Abuja costs 1500 Naira. He told us it was ‘impossible’ to make uniforms and boots to size. My question is – ‘If I can fill in my date of birth, gender, course of study, LGA etc before mobilization, why can’t I fill in size 45 as shoe size so they can know how many size 45 shoes to send to each state? Why should a graduate be paid 19,800 Naira . . . when he’s an equivalent of a grade 8 level officer in the civil service, buying from the same market, and in a strange land, all in a bid to heed the clarion call?

Now friends, I’m not just angry because our voices were not heard. No, I’m bitter because they knew they would do this. They knew they didn’t want to listen to us ab initio. So, why make us all come down to Abuja for a forum such as this? Why feed us for days, provide ‘conference materials’, sit me down for hours, pay our transport and give us other financial benefits, wasting taxpayers’ money in the process; just to come there, hear us rant and then do nothing about our most pressing needs. Friends, they knew they would not listen to us, they knew they already had their resolution, they knew our opinion did not matter one bit, so why make us come? What if one of us died in transit? Would it be for this? This sham?

This is what we inherited, friends – a nation that pays a lot of money to NOT listen to its people.

So next time you listen to the news, kindly take it with more than a pinch of salt.

By Anyiam ‘Don-Moj’ Nnaemeka . . .  A guest writer and a true patriot

He’s on Facebook too, so check him out when you can.

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Narrow Escape : An NYSC Experience

The first night I spent in the prison where the Federal Government banished me, it immediately dawned on me  that it was going to be a very lonely year. The prison was a picturesque little village in the backwaters of Osun State with fluctuating mobile network and thick forests that stretched as far as the eye could see. I hadn’t committed any crime, I was just  one of the millions of Nigerian  youths sentenced by the  government to spend a year in the wilderness for committing the grievous offense of graduating from the university.

The remoteness of the location, the horrible network and the dilapidated condition of the school where I was supposed to teach weighed heavily on my mind but these factors weren’t what convinced me that it’d be a lonely year, it was something much different. Earlier in the evening, I’d taken a stroll through the town and while I stayed at the side of the road  to avoid the livestock that walked like the road belonged to them and picked my steps carefully to avoid the pile of faeces that decorated the road, I  took the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the calibre of human resources the village had to offer . . . (Okay, I was checking out the chicks) and I  was very disappointed. A few friends who had completed their own prison sentences had gleefully informed me that babes in the more remote corners of Nigeria couldn’t take their eyes off the ‘Corpers‘ as we were affectionately called. All they needed was to see a man in khaki and you were free to plunder their treasure chests (pun intended). So, I had been understandably eager to view what the town had to offer with the intention of collecting my share of the spoils (don’t judge me) but what I saw made me shake my head in self-pity. Girls wearing wrappers with the classic ‘Simbi’ hairstyle were not what I had seen in my  fantasy. However, those were all I could see. To make matters worse, they spoke the sort of English that would send my sainted primary school English teacher screaming in horror. I decided there and then that I’d rather join a seminary than ‘touch’ any of these girls. Of course, we all know how easy it is to make these sweeping declarations.

Now that’s enough background. Time for the nitty-gritty

For every rule, there is an exception and the exception in this case came in the form of a female named Morounkeji. Keji was a gorgeous, articulate…….. okay, that’s a lie. She was just average and her English was a bullet-ridden mess but at least she made an effort to speak English and she’d spent some time living in Ibadan. In addition, she was a hair-dresser so wasn’t carrying that ‘Simbi’ hairstyle which I hate so much. What I’m trying to say is that, compared to other girls in the village, Keji was a queen. So, I struck up a friendship with her(totally platonic o! I swear!). It wasn’t long before she got comfortable with me and got into the habit of coming to my room to chill and watch movies on my laptop. I read nothing into it until one cold, rainy Friday night when things took a crazy turn.

Ghen  Ghen . . . . *dramatic theme music playing*

I was watching a movie on my laptop with Keji on that fateful Friday evening when heavy rain came out of nowhere. My roommate was hanging out  in my neighbour’s room  so Keji and I were alone in the room. Normally, whenever Keji comes over, I leave the door open because she’s a ‘good girl’ and we lived in a small gossip-infested village. I’d rather not have those villagers use my name to sweeten their gossip chewing gum. But due to the heavy rain that day, I had to close the door. Immediately I closed the door and returned to continue the movie, I got a huge surprise. In those few seconds it took me to close the door and come back to Keji’s side, she had transformed into a totally different person. She literally pounced on me. I’m not going to sit here and lie that I hadn’t thought about getting my hands on Keji (Of course, I’m not gay, folks);  but so far, I’d done nothing to encourage her and I planned to keep my hands to myself no matter how many times I was tempted to make a move (honestly… cross my heart).

But today, that resolution went down the toilet. Immediately she pounced on me, I gave a few half-hearted protests (you know na, I had to *winks*) but she just kept coming so I did what any normal red-blooded male would do. I took control. Before you could say ‘Aragbesola’, hands were moving feverishly, buttons were being popped and zips were being drawn. It suddenly slipped through my foggy mind that my roommate was in the next room and he could walk in at any moment. I mentioned my concerns to Keji and she waved them away with the words “Tony is a ‘soji’ guy na . . . he’s not disturb us” (yes, those were her exact words). Anyway, to my hormone-impaired mind, her words sounded like wisdom from the very lips of Socrates himself and I promptly forgot about my roommate and went back to the infinitely more interesting job at hand.

The groping resumed and the mood was building again but the benevolent one who watches over innocents and stupid youths was not asleep that day because just as ‘the sh*t was about to get real’, the doorknob turned and we both froze. My roommate had come back because he left his phone in the room. As I got up and opened the door, Tony took in the disheveled state of the bed, the half-naked girl under the sheets and put two and two together. He smiled at her, looked at me with a smile  and said in Igbo . . . “okwa e ma na nwa ahu di ime?” which loosely translates as “you know that this girl is pregnant, right?”

I was shell-shocked.

I gathered Keji’s clothes off the floor, handed them to her . . . And walked as far away from the room as my legs could carry me.

Epilogue

Apparently, Keji was pregnant but she wasn’t a hundred percent sure who the father was . . . she kept passing the responsibility between two guys in the area (good girl, abi?). I have no doubt that if I had ‘explored her frontiers’, I would have been a major player rather than a spectator in the drama that ensued when it finally became public knowledge that she was pregnant. I still don’t know how my roommate found out so early about her pregnancy, but I’ll be forever grateful to him for helping me dodge that bullet.

Needless to say, I stayed away from those village girls for the rest of the service year.

By Nonso ‘El Noni’ Udeh . . . Whew! That was close!

Follow him on Twitter @el_noni

The Experience of a Lifetime, Part Two

I awoke with a jolt and immediately glanced at my watch. It read 9:25 am; I must have slept for roughly an hour before being awoken by the bizarre ringtone of the passenger beside me. I had no idea what song it was but it was absurdly loud and more like noise than music. The journey back to Abuja was a rough one and I couldn’t fall asleep again thanks to the poor state of our Nigerian roads. It was an air conditioned bus, yet I woke up sweating profusely  . . . I wondered why. I looked through the window as we drove by towns and villages admiring the scenery. Then, I remembered one of my favorite novels as a kid – “Eze goes to school”. I recalled how he counted the number of palm trees on his way to the city and I decided to give it a try. However, I soon found it to be a tiresome, herculean task. “How was Eze even able to pull that off?” I pondered. The journey was really boring and making conversation was not an option as the people sitting on both sides of me were elderly women.

I resorted to music. I brought out my headset, plugged it into my phone and played ‘Anamachikwanu’ by Ill Bliss and Phyno. The dispirited expression on Peter’s face after he heard the sad news flashed through my mind. I recalled his incessant bragging and confidence and remembered the way the smirk instantly wiped off his face as a look of slight unbelief and sadness overtook him. I began to feel a bit of pity for him. Almost immediately, lighter memories flooded in as I remembered Chidinma. The excitement at Peter’s misfortune must have made me totally forget about her. I paused the music and checked for network coverage; I had full bars. I dialed her number immediately and she picked on the first ring. I apologized for my sudden disappearance and used the urgency of my journey as an excuse. I asked her where she was at the time and she told me she was about leaving school for Onitsha. “Where were you posted to?” I asked. “Rivers” she said casually. My eyes popped as I heard her reply. “Are you serious? I thought you would have been posted to Sokoto”, I teased and we both laughed. She then asked where I was posted, to which I asked her to hazard a guess. She said “Zamfara?”  I laughed and told her I was also posted to Rivers. She seemed pleased to hear it, I wished her well and hung up only to see the elderly lady on my right looking suspiciously at me with a hint of a smile.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and I arrived home around 4pm. I took a bath and had a sumptuous meal  . . . special thanks to my mum. Soon after, I started arranging my stuffs in preparation for my trip to Rivers State the next day. I opened my bag and brought out my call-up letter to take a closer look and to find the exact venue of the NYSC orientation camp. ‘Nonwa Gbam, Tai Local Government Area’, it read. “What kind of a name is that?” I thought to myself. The worst part was that I couldn’t even pronounce it well so I had to call a friend that was at the time, serving in Rivers to send me a voice note on its pronunciation and directions to the camp. I retired for the night once I was through with the conversation since I had to leave early the next day.

I arrived Port Harcourt city around 7:30 pm, it was a long and exhausting trip. I immediately headed to my cousin’s place in Rumuokoro to spend the night. The next morning, I rushed to a nearby market to buy some materials I would need for camp. At about 12:10 pm, I left for Nonwa-Gbam-Tai as it’s popularly called. Tai LGA is mostly made up of Ogoni people who speak the Tee and Baan languages. They have very funny traditional names and most of them sound as inscrutable as Chinese at times. For instance, the traditional ruler of one of their major kingdoms is called Gbenemene Tua-Tua Tai (I am very serious!! That’s his real title!!!)

Tai was less than an hour drive from Port-Harcourt. There was a bus going directly to camp from the bus stop so that made it much easier locating the place. As I alighted from the bus, I dragged my Armani branded Echolac box (you know na) behind me into camp. As I walked in, I remembered my secondary school days as a boarding student. Nevertheless, in stark contrast to the smiling teachers, I was greeted with stern looks from the military and para-military personnel. “Have you been checked?” One of them shouted. “No” was my prompt reply, he then pointed to a very long queue of prospective Corpers waiting to be checked in. I quickly joined the long queue and waited my turn.

As I stood there, I searched for familiar faces and almost immediately, spotted John; one of my friends from secondary school who I hadn’t seen in quite a while. John is a fat guy and as such wasn’t difficult to spot. “John” I called out, but he couldn’t hear me because of the distance between us.  I had no plans of walking that distance to meet him so I let sleeping dogs lie.  “Please are you the last person on the line?” I turned to see an average size guy asking. “Yes” I replied, he stood behind me in the queue and soon introduced himself as Obinna.  We got talking almost immediately. Obinna is a Manchester United fan while I’m a supporter of Chelsea so it was no surprise when we started arguing about our respective clubs’ dominance in the league as we waited patiently for our turns. As we argued, I heard my phone ring . . . it was Chidinma. She had just arrived camp and wanted to know where I was. I looked around and saw her about thirty metres away standing with her luggage like a confused observer. I waved so she could see me, she did and walked over to where I was standing with Obinna.  “Are you planning to stay for three years?” I teased as I saw the number of bags she came along with. “Maybe” She replied and we laughed over it. I introduced her to Obinna and together, we all waited until we were checked in.

The whole process of registration was really strenuous. After photocopies and submission of certain documents, we collected our hostel allocation slips, signed for mattresses and proceeded to the hostels to keep our bags and mattresses. I was allocated to hostel B2 along with Obinna while Chidinma was allocated to hostel C3- a female hostel. The hostels were practically empty with the exception of the bunk beds which were arranged very close to one another. We came out soon after to complete our registration and then collect our khaki wears and other camping gear. We were then arranged into different groups called platoons. I was sent to Platoon 5 . . . so was Chidinma while Obinna was sent to Platoon 2. By 7:30 pm, we had finished all that needed to be done and then walked Chidinma down to her hostel before leaving for ours.

As we entered the hostel, we were shocked to see how rowdy it had become. Almost everyone was trying to arrange and rearrange their bags and bunks in a desperate search for comfort. People discussed in groups while a few had already fallen asleep amidst the near pandemonium. I looked around, there were no ceiling fans, no wall fans, no standing fans and to crown it all, no sockets of any kind on the walls. “How was I going to survive in a place like this for three weeks?!” was the question on my mind as I walked toward my bed. I had chosen the lower bunk while Obinna went for the top one, we sat and discussed what we were going to eat that night and where we could buy it. “They sell food just down that corner” Bayo said pointing towards a place I later discovered to be the Mami market. Bayo was one of the guys that occupied the bunk on the right of ours, the other guy was Arinze. Bayo must have been eavesdropping on our conversation. He offered to accompany myself and Obinna, we agreed and together left for the canteen. After eating, we retired to our hostel, by then it was a few minutes to lights out. I set my alarm to wake me by 4:30am since I had heard stories of how callous soldiers could be in camp and I didn’t want to fall prey.

I woke up and looked around to see some people already awake. Obinna was fast asleep while Bayo was snoring. I wondered if it was his snore or the alarm that actually woke me (I strongly suspect the snore). Arinze was up already but still lying on his bed. I stood up and woke the others so we could all prepare for the morning parade. We went off to brush our teeth then took our buckets to the taps to fetch water. While we did all these, Arinze remained on his bed. When I got back and saw him still lying there, I asked “Won’t you prepare?” He mumbled something about being too weak and continued pressing his phone. I took a quick glance at my watch before heading to the bathroom, it read 4:45am. “I still have fifteen minutes to prepare” I thought to myself. I was so wrong . . .

I stepped into the bathroom, took off my clothes and picked up my bar of soap. The moment the soap touched my body, I heard a loud annoying sound coming from the hostel; it was the sound of the beagle. Fear and anxiety overtook me as I heard shouts of “Move it! Move it!! Move it!!!” coming from all angles. The soldiers were everywhere chasing people from the hostels; it was chaos. With lightning speed, I rubbed the soap all over my body, picked the bucket and just poured the water from my head down, then I grabbed my towel and dashed out. Just as I left the bathroom, I saw one of the soldiers looking menacingly at me. “To the parade  ground” he shouted. I ignored the instruction, ran in the other direction and hid between two abandoned boxes. Whilst crouched there, I saw Arinze being chased by a soldier carrying a bucket of water as he speedily ran out clutching his shorts in one hand and his sneakers on the other.

I hid till I was sure they had all gone before sneaking out of my hiding place and hurrying towards my bunk bed. To my surprise, Obinna and Bayo were already there. They had hidden themselves in the toilet as the soldiers chased all and sundry to the parade ground and had returned when all had calmed down. We hurriedly dressed up and left the hostel for the parade ground. It was still very dark outside, so we expected to get in unnoticed. We were so wrong . . . The moment we left the hostel door, a torchlight was flashed from behind as a loud bass voice said, “Hey, you three, Stop there . . .”

. . . TO BE CONTINUED

By Emeka ‘Mexy’ Madubuko . . . It was a great year

Follow him on Twitter @supermexy

The Sin of Hypocrisy

Well, I’ll be straight with you here. I’m going to talk about the sin of hypocrisy. If, for some reason, you don’t know the meaning of this word, then you owe your parents some change from your school fees. However, if you are not a retard . . . Feel free to keep reading (And no, that wasn’t harsh).

I ran into a fellow ‘Corper’ named Brown a few days after leaving camp and after all the moaning and groaning and cursing our plight with NYSC, we somehow ended up talking about a girl we both knew at camp(No . . No. . . Pastor. . . It’s not what you’re thinking). The conversation went like this;

Corper Brown: Guy, remember Ruth?

Me: Yes, nice girl, you know where she is?

Corper Brown: No, just wondering if you know, I seem to have lost her number.

Me: I don’t have her number sha.

Corper Brown: Ok, I kinda miss her sha. Twas fun hanging out with her.

Me (in my head): err. . . What?
Me (outside): Yea, it was fun.

Corper Brown: Yea, camp was so much fun.

Me (in my head): Wait . . . What?!!!
Me (outside): I’m telling you, man.

And we blabbed on and on till I got tired of talking to his boring ass and killed him (No . . . Seriously, I did)

Anyway, after disposing of his body and cleaning up the crime scene, I got home and started thinking . . . When exactly did this guy have all this ‘fun’ in camp? We were in the same room in camp and we led similarly boring lives. I’m not gonna be one of those guys that will lie to you and tell you I was Don Juan Casanova in camp; Going from one female hostel to the other, Collecting female hearts on my register . . . No, I was more like Steve Urkel in the TV show ‘family matters’ (No, I wasn’t). After those annoying soldiers buggered off around 6pm, I’d usually head back to my room, stick in my earphone and tweet/read blogs/whatsapp/browse/2go (in no particular order) till lights out. Corper Brown and almost all my other roommates spent most of their evenings in the room, though there were a few guys who didn’t (story for another day).

nysc-11What?! This wasn’t the fun we were promised!! Or was it?!

Now, herein lies the problem . . . We all swore while in camp that we’d been deceived, ‘there’s no fun here’, ‘we are in prison’, only a few guys looked like they were actually enjoying the place etc. After 3 weeks of imprisonment, we were released into the world and told to go and sin no more. We went to our respective places of primary assignment and that’s when it started . . .

Me: Bro, what’s up na?

Corper Dele: Ma guy, I’m good.

Me: Thank God we are out of that prison, yeah?

Corper Dele: What are you talking about? Camp was fun, man!!!

Me: WTF!?!?

Later on . . .

Corper Emeka: Ma man, how that your babe for camp na?

Me (in my head): Babe?? What babe??
Me (outside): Which one na? U know say them plenty

Corper Emeka: Badt guy!!! That one for parade ground that day na.

Me (in my head): Wait… He thinks we were….?
Me (outside): Ah! That girl na fire! But all na camp life . . . She don go her way, I don go my own . . . Too many fishes in the ocean.

Corper Emeka: Chairman!!! I believe your government!

And much later . . .

Corper Iyke : Noni, my man!

Me: Hey Iyke, Wetin dey sup? I never see you since camp. How far na? That place was madt fun o.

Corper Iyke: Yea, so much fun. Especially the babes. . .

Me (in my head): See this liar!
Me (outside): Yea, well endowed babes.

nysc funThis was the fun we had with the ‘babes’! Cool, huh?

The more observant among you might have noticed that at this point, I was lying like the rest of them. Of course I felt bad about it (yea, right) but I wasn’t going to be the only guy to admit I was ‘a juu man’ in camp. Everyone seemed to have invented a fantasy life in camp and for some reason, I was in it and they expected me to play along. Now, don’t get me wrong . . . There were guys who were having madt fun in camp but ‘Corpers’ Brown, Dele, Emeka, Iyke and sadly, ‘Corper’ Me were definitely not among them. Still, they wanted to act like they did and I’d rather do frog-jump(and I really hate frog-jump) than disappoint my guys. So, I put away my misgivings and manfully took the punishment for the greater good of the world (yes, the world would have ended if I didn’t play along kinda like travelling back in time and altering something).

So, to cut a long story short, I scrolled my music playlist to Beethoven’s ‘opera in c-minor’ , switched off the lights and sat in a dark room to meditate about the meaning of life. Well, actually, I sat in the dark room to concoct my own fantastic tale of life in camp and if you guys are nice, I’ll write it here one day. I have the sad feeling that in a few years time, this fantasy is all I’ll remember and the real memories of that glorified prison yard will be lost forever in the deep recesses of my mind * now singing sad dirge*

DISCLAIMER: I actually had fun in camp but it wasn’t the 3-week vacation that I was promised by ‘ex-Corpers’. Those soldiers can spoil mood sha . . . Especially when things are heating up (you know na) . . . And waking me up by 4am?!! What’s up with that?!! Wilberforce did not work so hard to abolish slavery just for me to be waking up by 4am everyday!!!

gbenga-awomodu_-nysc-camp-wanune-benue-state1This was rather exciting! . . . and scary as hell!!!

To those ‘ex-Corpers’ that raised our expectations falsely, #Godiswatchingyou

Finally, to my Batch B guys going in; Boys eh! Better carry enough money go camp or reduce your expectations . . . Thank me later

PS: I no kill anybody o!!! I no bury anybody anywhere!!! Before I go wake up tomorrow see rioting crowd outside my door with placards and pitchforks.

By Nonso ‘El Noni’ Udeh . . . Yea, NYSC was fun!

Follow him on Twitter @el_noni

The Experience of a Life Time, Part One

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 →