Although the purpose of the NYSC scheme is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian Youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background but many Nigerian youths see this period as a waste time but my service year in Lagos State was an experience well learned.
After waiting for so long I received my call up letter, with honor, and had to acknowledge the invitation. Orientation camp for Batch A Stream 1 2016 where I belonged was slated to last for two weeks instead of the usual three weeks. Since I already reside in Lagos I left for camp in the afternoon, which I later regretted because of the crowd while some prospective corps members got to the camp even a day before. Before I was allowed into the orientation camp by the soldiers I was told to bring the colored copy of a document which wasn’t specified. I quickly asked the soldier to keep an eye on my luggage by her side while I would go to reprint the document. On my return to pick my luggage after saying thank you to the female soldier, she wasn’t ready to let me go until I had to part with N200. Even at that, she wasn’t pleased to receive that and wanted more.
I realized later that the document she was asking for wasn’t even necessary, but she used it just as a ploy to extort money from me. Also at the entrance, corps members were deceived by photographers that they would need 24 passport -size photographs for their registration at the camp. Some of them made matters worse by saying that it was only passport photographs with white background that would be accepted while others insisted that only those with red background would be allowed. It was a hell of confusion but as a Lagos babe, I am well experienced with fraudsters already so I didn’t fall for their tricks. The annoying part was that instead of the usual N400 charged, it was hiked up to N1200 for 12 copies of passport.
After the registration, activities started in full force. One was meant to be engaged all through -from morning devotion to Man o’ War and to afternoon lectures. From parade rehearsals to Mammy market visit at night, among others.
Before now I was privileged to have heard of all that go on in the camp and how fun the military camp is. I came fully prepared for the fun and adventure but honestly, I was quite disappointed, it was short of fun as I had earlier anticipated for years. It’s only mingling with fellow corps members that made the experience a worthwhile.
A lot of activities go on during the orientation course. A lot of entrepreneurs and motivational speakers would come around trying to empower corps members in different skills and certification programmes. This could be a difficult decision to make for some people because one could easily get confused on which skill to embark on especially if one had not given it a thought before then. The two weeks spent at the orientation camp passed by so quickly. The female hostels were a little comfortable but jam packed. We were 24 occupants in the room. I enjoyed the constant electricity.
In terms of feeding, NYSC management really tried. The quality of the food was relatively tasty. The only meals I didn’t look up to were beans and garri. Rice, fish, yam and egg were my favorites. At least I saved money, unlike some corps members who didn’t even make use of any of their meal tickets and spent a lot on feeding.
Socializing was quite easy for me. Since I am quite lanky and always at the back I was easily noticed on the parade ground and I used to come late to the parade ground, then sneaking from the back and searching for my platoon’s line was another task.
Sergeant Patako (nick name) was in charge of our platoon. He would crack jokes with us and gave us nick names. He nick named me ‘Longie’ because of my lanky nature. Other fun moment was participating in sport. I was champion at my event 100M (unbeatable by my female counterparts). I also represented my platoon in Miss NYSC though I didn’t win but thank God I got my question correctly unlike some participants that missed their questions. It was a winner takes all sort of contest and no consolation prizes for participation.
I remember clearly the last few hours spent at the camp before the closing parade. Thou a night before we made sure to collect each other’s contact. In my room, we were so close and the room was really fun to be in. We created a whatsApp group chat to keep in touch after camp. That morning most of us were so tensed up about our PPA (Place of Primary Assignment). Most of us had no clue where we would be posted to. After most of us received our letter of PPA, some people were excited, some were sad or confused while some were just emotionless. The reality of life began to dawn on most of us.
Luckily for me I was the only corps member posted to Alimosho local government and I was accepted, but unluckily for me my Local Government Inspector at Ikotun Local Government refused to acknowledge the acceptance since other corps members were rejected, he suspected a foul play. I was so angry even with my active participation in camp ‘hoping to get a good PPA as I was advised by friends that have passed through the NYSC scheme. It didn’t work out. They didn’t consider most of us in terms of our discipline while posting us. The search for a Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) then began, corps members that went through this rigour would concur that it was not an easy search.
After more than a month, I got a place at Random Dynamic Resources Ltd for my Primary Assignment and I am so thankful to the management for such an opportunity. Serving there was quite a good experience which exposed me to learning office etiquette and other parts of my job description.
We were always encouraged to embark on personal projects or group projects which I tried to embark on but failed because they were capital intensive and potential sponsors were not willing to fund them.
Overall, the NYSC scheme is not a bad idea; it created opportunities and exposure for youth like me to meet people and learn different cultures. The Federal Government should do more to empower corps members in terms of making loan available for members who want to go into agriculture after passing out. There’s such an opportunity at the moment but accessing the loan is quite difficult.
I participated at the NYSC Sport and Cultural Festival done this year and luckily for me I was among the winners in the 200m. Winners in such event should be linked up after their service year to develop their skills which would be useful to the country rather than ending it there.