by Afeni Samson Olayiwola
On a young man’s sojourn in the Niger Delta in service to his country, he meets and falls in love with the woman of his dreams. We present the winning write-up from our ‘From YNaija, With Love’ competition!
I met my wife Nkechi in the year 2003 (I guess it must have been in October). Our batch for the NYSC left the camp sometime towards the end of September that same year. Our paths didn’t cross throughout the three-week orientation camp, though I remember seeing her face around a few times. I spent most of the time with the Peer Educators’ training while she was very active in sports and dancing.
By divine appointment we ended up serving in the same organization, the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE), Asaba, Delta State. There were no offices for corps members at ICE, so most of us usually left home a few minutes to our lecture periods and went straight to the class on arrival. The school PRO, who received us on arrival, also often allowed us to use his office as a waiting room between our lectures. I taught Introductory Technology to the Junior Secondary School classes while she worked with the auditor, thus she had a small office, a desk and visitors’ chairs – a big deal for an ICE corper in those days. I noticed this as I passed the office to and from my lectures and sometimes stopped by to exchange pleasantries with her. My stops became more frequent and I noticed she was almost always with a book (usually small) and/or a newspaper.
Our friendship blossomed as we went to Christian meetings of the NCCF and the NACC, we swept the streets and marketplaces of Asaba during our community development days before we decided – unknown to each other – to get involved with the newly formed NYSC/ Red Cross community development group. Working with the Red Cross helped us to get to know each other in a more meaningful and purposeful way as we visited hospitals, old peoples’ homes and orphanages; giving of our time, love and money (corpers never had enough money). We returned from those visits usually tired and with plenty to talk about.
ICE had two corpers’ lodges, but they were not far from one another. This allowed us to visit each other often. There were about ten of us in the lodge where I lived, and we were all friends – it was a very lively house and a great rallying point for ICE corpers. I remember some of my flatmates jokingly encouraging us to move to the altar to clinch the ‘hundred thousand naira’ (N100, 000) prize money for ‘NYSC couples’.
Gradually, our friendship grew into mutual love and admiration. However, the transition into a romantic relationship happened very slowly and seemed quite unreasonable – even impossible at the time. According to ‘Omopupa’ as most of us fondly called her then because of her fair complexion, ‘NYSC love’ was rumoured not to last; and she wanted none of that. Fortunately, neither did I, and so we resolved in spite of the many mountains looming ahead to forge ahead and see where God would take us.
We completed youth service in August 2004 but it was not until May 2009 that we made it to the altar after a beautiful traditional marriage in February. God indeed has been very faithful.