The next morning, I woke up to the humdrum of activities all around me. People were chatting excitedly as I went about preparing for the day like a zombie. Being the lazy guy that I am, the day before had left me feeling so exhausted. In Lagos camp, there was usually running water and multiple bathrooms, so in terms of convenience, it wasn’t bad at all. The only snag about the accommodation was that there was no working fan in my part of my room, so every time I woke up I always found myself drenched in sweat. After taking my shower, I put on my mufti once again and went out to Platoon 7 canopy to collect my NYSC kit. I and four other guys escorted the woman in charge of our platoon to a place where the kits were stored. She rummaged through them and pointed at the ones she wanted us to carry which we did. Because of that, she attended to us first by giving us our kits, which was great because the line wey we for queue no be here (translation: the queue was very long).
The white shirts we were handed were of low quality, the khaki uniform felt like cheap carton, and instead of me wearing it it was wearing me, so big like a parachute. The white shorts were so small and tiny like bum shorts, the jungle boots were too big, my feet were lost in them. The NYSC cap was so small, I could only wear it at an angle of elevation on one side of my big head. The white shoes were undersized, my feet couldn’t fit into them. I tried looking for someone who had something closer to my size but couldn’t anyone so I made my way to the Mami (translation: a place for leisure) market, raining curses on the Nigerian government. I gave my cloth to a tailor there for about N1000 or N1500. I gave my jungle boots and white shoes to a cobbler to fix it for me. The jungle boots had to be reduced in size while the white shoes had to be expanded. Trust me, even if you needed to slim-fit your destiny, the shoemaker would do it – for the right price. At this point, let me talk about the Mami market. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but reading various NYSC stories; I must have been expecting something outside the realm of possibilities. The Mami market was nothing more than a congregation of canopies joined together in commercial unison.
There, anything you needed you were sure to get.
There were the places where they sold strictly
Indomie or strictly Golden Penny noodles. There were Igbo, Yoruba, and Akwa Ibom Connection joints. There were the places they sold bread, tea, fried yams, etc. There were the places you could get really good coffee, or ice cream, or smoothies; rich, creamy, thick smoothies that could make your mouth salivate. There were places where they sold stationeries of any kind, canopies where the photographers hung out, canopies for charging phones at the cost of N50, canopies where the laundry guys congregated, canopies for the hairdressers and barbers, canopies that served as drinking joints. In fact, you had a wide variety of joints to choose from. My favorite spot was the place where they played video games. You could play PES, FIFA, Mortal Kombat, or this weird dancing game that the ladies really loved and that I especially enjoyed watching. The way the game works is that you’d choose a hip hop artiste, say Nikki Minaj for example, then her music starts to play, and then you have to mimic the dance moves of the person on the flat screen hanging high up on the wall while holding a game console in your hand. It was specifically designed to make you want to spend money, and the place really came alive in the night time such that there was nowhere else you’d rather be. That’s pure marketing 101.
There was an announcement over the speakers that those who had completed their registration should report to the parade ground for something, an instruction I ignored as I was still dressed in my mufti. I went back to the hostel and climbed up on my bed, bored out of my mind. I introduced myself to the guy lying right next to me, he said his name was Arinze from Jos. Unlike me with my mago-mago (translation: crooked ways), he’d been posted to Lagos fair and square, and the excitement on his face was palpable. Usually, it’s very easy to tell guys that aren’t from Lagos. The naivete and inexperience on their faces are somewhat obvious like they had just entered Yankee (translation: slang for the United States), or maybe I don’t have the exact words to explain exactly what I mean. The guy on the lower bunk I was sleeping was called Maintenance for some weird reason and the guy lying on the top bunk on my other side was called Oyo man. I heard them gisting with so much seriousness about the food schedules and meal tickets; what time they’d be serving meals and all that.
“These people dey para o (translation: these people really mean business),” I thought to myself. I introduced myself to them and familiarized myself with the way feeding works in the camp. It goes like this: Upon registration, we are all handed a meal ticket. For every time you go to the dining hall to be served food, your meal ticket will be signed, indicating the day and time you enjoyed camp food, whether morning, afternoon or night. I remember I bought enough Flagyl (translation: a drug that prevents constipation) before coming to camp for fear of using the toilet facilities. Turns out, the toilets in the camp weren’t bad at all. They made use of water closet, and cleaners came every day to keep it clean and sparkly. That wasn’t enough to make me change my mind though. No matter what happened, I would never have anything to do with beans, to avoid unnecessary complications with my digestive system. I could make out one or two faces in my room, and everyone seemed to be talking excitedly except for me. I curled up in bed, whipped out my phone and started watching Captain America: Winter Soldier for the umpteenth time before I dozed off again.
My stay in the camp had officially just begun.
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