I stared at my call up letter with a look of shock on my face, shock slowly turning into a huge smile. I had been posted to Lagos – the city of hustlers. The irony of it was that I never chose Lagos as any of my choices. I had chosen Benue, Abia, Kano, and Ogun state, all horrible choices to me. Fortunately, my elder sister had introduced me to this guy who worked (translation: arranged) her posting to Osun state where she wanted years back, so it was with plenty of fear that I transferred the required sum of money into his account to facilitate the process for myself. I had already made peace with the fact that if it was a scam, I would accept my fate after all, and such is life. This is despite assurances from my sister, whom I trust with my life.
In Lagos, if mugu fall guy-man must chop (translation: if you aren’t street smart, you’ll get scammed), and no matter how smart you are you cannot always be a guy-man (translation: street smart), sometimes you must be the mugu (translation: the victim). Alas, it all worked out! I had already bought all the paraphernalia that I would need for service as far back as November 2016 before realizing that I was one of the unfortunate people that had been relegated to stream 2. At the time it was the most painful thing, and I found myself wondering whom I had offended. Thinking back to all my past girlfriends, I was hoping that none of them had stripped naked in the middle of the night to lay a curse on me. I had been through a lot prior to this moment; school issues, clearance wahala (translation: problem), inexplicably being exempted from the Senate list, etc. The thing be like say person swear for me abeg (translation: It seemed like I was under a spell)!
So, you can imagine my happiness – a whole me, a Lagos Corper? My bank account was swelling with cash, money that had accrued after hustling overtime waka-ing (translation: walk) the length and breadth of Lagos. Hell, I almost bought a car. So in the days leading up to when we were supposed to resume at camp, I was literally in cloud nine. As a matter of fact, I was in cloud nine for the full three weeks I spent in camp. Wayward Pikin go show them fire (translation: I was going to make my presence felt).
Loneliness had seriously dealt with me for the period I had spent at home. Not that I couldn’t get a girl to date, it was just that I was yet to find anyone I really liked, and I had also become ensnared in a cat and mouse game with an ex who put herself above everyone else; even her present boyfriend, the poor dude. I kept enduring those periods of loneliness and semi-depression with one thought and one thought only:
“When I get to camp, I’m going to find The One.”
I believed that so much with all my heart, I didn’t know why. I felt like Ted Mosby from the TV series “How I Met Your Mother.”
As a Wayward Pikin (translation: bad child), one of my major concerns was how I was going to cope in camp for three whole weeks without my favorite diva MJ. By MJ, I mean marijuana. The three weeks stretched out in front of me like three years as I contemplated such a horrible possibility. I thought about smuggling some of that good stuff into camp but then I knew that they would search all of us at the gate for contraband, and even though the devil in me was whispering in my ear that I could hide it in my bag where no one would see it, it was not a risk I was willing to take. On the day of resumption, I took with me two white shirts and shorts, two pair of mufti shirts and trousers, my documents, my ATM cards and two pair of glasses in a small bag. I strolled into the camp like a boss, the place where I would be remanded for the next three weeks. There, I met this mammoth crowd! Everybody just dey bone face based on say the sun dey fry all our collective skulls (translation: we all suffered under the glare of the blazing sun). At the gate, a stern-looking Man o’ War personnel searched my bag disinterestedly. After turning over my clothes in the bag, he asked if I had smuggled anything into the camp. Anything like weed or drugs. Even if I was carrying something, was I going to say yes?
I looked at him with my innocent face, saying, “No oh, I don’t do such.”
“Good. Anyone caught with forbidden items will be paraded within the camp and finally decamped. You may go in.”
I went in with tears in my eyes because if I had known the officer was barely going to rifle through my stuff I would have carried in my sweet and wonderful MJ with me. We were surely going to miss each other. I got to the parade ground to see another large crowd, everybody lined up. In short, in camp, you had to line up for everything – even sanitary pads. It was the longest queue I had ever seen in my life. With my heart in my throat, I went to stay behind the last person, afraid that my suffering was about to begin. Two hours later, I found myself on another queue comprising of guys, a queue that was leading nowhere. We must have stood there for hours, the sun trying to show us that it could shine brighter than all of us combined. The officer that instructed us to line up was nowhere to be found as well. Suffering!
Another thing that struck me was the sheer number of pregnant women present in the camp. I had never seen such a large population of pregnant women gathered in one place. Anyone that went to Lagos Camp Batch B, Stream 2 of 2016 would attest to that. Were we here for Orientation camp or did this place also serve as a maternity ward I was yet to know about? Their queue was two times longer than the queue for guys and was also moving at a much faster. I stared at them all in annoyance as if they were owing me nine months salary arrears. Where
were all the fine sexy girls that we were promised? Was this how my three weeks in camp was going to be?
We I wasn’t going to take this.
When I couldn’t take the sun cooking my brain anymore, I quickly went to secure a hostel room space. I was shown to a room where I chose the top bunk and summarily jumped on it and went to sleep.
I was tired and stressed out.
I woke up in the evening energetic and reinvigorated, so I headed out with my documents to complete my registration. In the process, I found out that I had been drafted to Platoon 7. I went to the canopy that had the inscription 7 written boldly on it, where another queue was waiting for me. By this time it was dark, but I was determined to finish my registration that day and the crowd had significantly reduced. As I stood in line thinking about my life like I always do, my phone beeped. I whipped it out to see a message from this girl I’d met in a WhatsApp group for Lagos Camp Stream 2 Corps members. She had come a day before registration since she wasn’t based in Lagos and had already completed her registration. How we met? I joined the group and being the keyboard warrior that I was, I inexplicably found myself fighting every member of the group as they attacked me left, right and center; and I responded to their attacks as it came. She had to message me privately to be the bigger man and let peace reign, to which I reluctantly obliged. Eventually, the arguments were settled as we discovered it was just a problem of miscommunication among us. Anyway, that is how this lady and I became good friends, as we began to chat frequently in the days leading up to camp. We had exchanged pictures a lot, and she seemed to have taken a liking to me. She had this oval face, this demure personality, and a very beautiful ebony skin with a cute pointed nose. Also, she was an Hajia (translation: a female Muslim faithful), that’s what I always called her. In all the pictures she sent me, she was always wearing a Hijab. However, I was yet to meet her in person.
“Where are you?” Her message read.
“Still doing my registration. I’m at Platoon 7 canopy.”
“Okay, I’m coming,” She replied immediately.
In my mind, I wondered, “Coming to do what?”
I have to state it at this point that while I am generally a nice person, I’m the ultimate definition of an asshole. I become an asshole when I’m cranky, tired, stressed, sweaty, hungry, pissed off, etc. This period I was all of the above, so I wasn’t in the mood to have small talk with anyone. The line proceeded so I took a step forward. I felt the slight touch of soft boobs against my sweaty back. A few minutes later my phone beeped and it was Hajia:
“I’m at Platoon 7. I can’t see you. Come outside,” She said.
I was almost at the front of the line, so I couldn’t go back to see her and I told her as such. She said she would wait and I said okay. I took another step further and felt the slight brush of succulent boobs against my back. I turned to see who the perpetrator was and saw this unassuming nice looking girl. She was dressed like an S.U (translation: a virtuous, morally upright, somewhat hypocritical, naive lady). The gown she was wearing was buttoned from the bottom all the way up to her neck. When it got to my turn and I had presented my documents, I found myself in need of a stapler. The S.U babe promptly handed hers over to me. She also showed me the correct way in arranging my documents before submission and was generally very helpful. I asked what her name was, and she looked at me with such an innocent expression on her face.
“My name is Nifemi, from OAU,” She replied.
I introduced myself too and was happy that I had made another friend. In the midst of so many people and all the stress I’d been through, I felt a little alone and less excited. By the time I was done with my registration Hajia had left, she said she couldn’t wait any longer, that we would see tomorrow. In the meantime, we were told to come and collect our NYSC kits tomorrow as the ones in their possession were finished. I went back to the hostel famished and was wondering if I’d really enjoy my stay in camp. With all the stress I’d gone through on the first day, the huge number of pregnant women present in the camp, and the abnormally high number of married women that were serving in this particular set; I was beginning to have my doubts.
The only silver lining was that in a population of over 2000 Prospective Corps Members (PCMs), 1500 were female and 500 were male. Picture the possibilities of such a scenario for a second. The odds were definitely in my favor.