Oladolapo Bello: My NYSC orientation camp experience in Sokopa (30 Days, 30 Voices)

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From Abuja to Sokoto, there was a sudden change in landscape. The brick-houses began disappearing with scanty mud houses replacing them. The mud houses started disappearing too. Now there were haystacks at intervals, herdsmen every now and then with a handful of cows, and sand.

That fateful Friday, I went to school (University of Lagos) to collect my call-up letter for the compulsory 1-year National Youth Service. I had lived in Lagos all my life and was actually looking forward to the service year as an opportunity to see life in other parts of the country. I anticipated being posted to the East or South-East (I wanted Cross-River) after carefully studying how people in
previous batches were posted. It however came as a rude shock when my call-up letter told me to report at Government Technical College, Farfaru, Sokoto State. I stood for a few minutes, disengaged from my surrounding, still trying to ponder on what the call-up letter was trying to say. I had to be missing something. It couldn’t be.

Suddenly, it hit me-like an oncoming truck. I was going to the North. I was going to a place where I heard Western Education was sin. Oh God! I managed to convey myself somehow out of the faculty office, where I collected the letter to my house. On getting home, I broke the news to my parents who were surprisingly cool about the whole matter. They even joked about how I resembled “Abokis”. I looked everywhere for solidarity telling everyone who could listen my plight. Maybe someone would actually tell my parents I was going to the North, because I didn’t  think they actually heard me. My mother bought my flight ticket the next day and immediately, I knew my fate was sealed. There was no going back. I promptly went shopping for ‘Otondo’ material (white shirts, shorts, tennis shoes, socks, etc).

On Tuesday, I flew to Sokoto from Lagos. There was a 30-minute stop-over at Abuja. From Abuja to Sokoto, there was a sudden change in landscape. The brick-houses began disappearing with scanty mud houses replacing them. The mud houses started disappearing too. Now there were haystacks at intervals, herdsmen every now and then with a handful of cows, and sand. The sand went on for as  far as the eye could see-and I’m pretty longsighted. Finally we arrived at the airport in Sokoto. There were only four planes. The first thing I noticed about Sokoto, after deboarding was the heat. That is the worst thing about Sokoto. The airport reception itself was an open space where chairs were arranged. We had to wait for our baggage to be offloaded and claim it, without really presenting  any form of Identification. Fortunately, I met a fellow farfaru-bound prospective corper who had  booked for a ride so I hitched, with two others. There were security checks almost every ten metres (I may exaggerate a bit). The people of Sokoto are very hospitable  and the cab drivers were no different proudly showing off their heritage in as much English as they could muster.

Finally we arrived at the camp. I was welcomed by the National Association of Christian Corpers  (NACC). Day 1 was the most stressful. We did registration and all and we had to queue for everything from checking bags to stapling documents. I spent the whole day (10.30am-8.45pm) registering and I didn’t even finish on day 1. We were however given ‘Five-star’hostels to sleep in. Around 1am on Wednesday, while still dreaming I was in a train, I awoke to see everyone scrambling out of the hostel rooms at great speed. I promptly followed suit, asking no questions. When i was safe outside, I started inquiring the cause of the scramble. No one really seemed to have any idea what caused the brouhaha. We found out eventually that a guy who was about falling from the top of a dilapidated bunk was the one who screamed “help me Jesus!” severally was the actual reason. I went back to sleep, having no time to waste.

We were shortly awakened by the Bugle (in camp the fear of the Bugle and Soldiers is the beginning of wisdom) which we instructed to always answer. We promptly marched to the parade ground, some of us still in our boxer shorts. We were  taught the NYSC Anthem and introduced to the camp officials. Later in the day, I continued my  registration and finally collected my NYSC kits : jungle Boots, crested vest, white t-shirts and shorts etc and I was placed in platoon 5. On day 3, Thursday, we had our swearing-in/inauguration where we had to repeat an oath after the chief judge of the state. To be honest, there were some parts of the oath i didnt repeat. Everyone billed to come, from the State governor to the Sultan was ‘ably represented’ by someone else . From today, everything else became rote. We had parades twice daily and man-o-war exercises.

I joined the Orientation Broadcasting service in Sokoto in a bid to make my presence as a lagosian felt and I was a presenter. I also became the PRO of my platoon (also trying to make myself useful). We had other event s at camp such as the variety night, cooking night, countless dance and drama nights but they were all boring to me. The Soldiers were very lenient with us though. We were constantly assured about the safety of Sokoto state. It came as a surprise to me however when I got to realize that the gate of the camp was guarded by armed policemen and about ten soldiers with the type of stationary guns that are usually mounted to a stand and loaded with bullet magazines.

The camp experience wasn’t spectacular, but i am really grateful for the friends I made. The three weeks were very long, but it finally ended and we had to part. Overall, the camp experience was okay (except for the heat).

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Oladolapo Bello is a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Batch A, 2013. He was originally posted to Sokoto state, where he had his Orientation, but is currently serving in Oyo state, Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Lagos in 2012 with honours, where he studied Zoology. He enjoys reading, writing, and go-karting and having intellectually stimulating conversations. He describes himself as humorous and fun to be with.

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30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians to share their stories and experiences with other young Nigerians, within our borders and beyond, to inspire and motivate them.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (2)

  1. Well done my Man.. I love this experience, U must have great eyes to make out d transition of houses from bricks to mud, herdsmen and their cattle, and the haystacks form that cruising altitude. Did u use satellite imagery or binoculars?

  2. I loved this! ESpecially the bit with the guy screaming ‘help me Jesus’, nearly fell out of my seat!

    I like the fact that you went and came back safely, and your story about military protection will reassure others. Just hope our government gets it together soon enough to take away our fears completely.

    Well done!

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