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Posted by on Thursday November 13, 2014 at 16:48:48:

Every Nigerian who went to the university or other higher institution of learning only hopes of the day that he or she will get out of school soon and start making money as a graduate.

However in Nigeria, getting a job almost immediately after graduation is not always a smooth process as government laws have made it mandatory for Nigerian graduates to engage in a one year national service for the country.

The NYSC experience can be exciting if you are the adventurous type but it can also be scary since you might end up living in a state you've never visited since you were born. For many Nigerian graduates, they hope to get posted to big cities where they'd find better opportunities rather than to remote villages where they might be more criminals, witch crafts, sand flies or terrorists like in Northern Nigeria.

I was posted to a different state outside my state but in Southern Nigeria and in the Niger Delta. Like other graduates, we were posted to a central camp where we'd meet with other corpers for the first time and spend our first 3 weeks together in that state. The camp was called an orientation camp and the goal was to train and educate fresh graduates into what the NYSC was all about and also prepare them to survive their life outside the camp. I have to say that the Orientation camp was the easiest and best time I spent during the NYSC.

The NYSC orientation camp was a place mostly run by Soldiers and NYSC staff and some of the facilities available included shared rooms with double bunker beds, mammy market, toilet and bathroom as well as enough bushes and trees in the surrounding.

I never visited the shared toilets and bathroom because the first time I did, it was an ugly experience and just like boarding school or university rest rooms. It was mostly watery and dirty with the toilet being worse. Most corper guys like myself normally went to the bush to excrete and then for bathing, we did that during early morning in the open when it was still dark like 3 a.m. Yes, you have to prepare to take your bathe in the open but while it's dark if you would rather not go to the public bathroom and probably share bacteria. You may take your bathe with or without your shorts if you're bathing in the open but make sure it' dark and people have not woken up else girls and guys may take pictures and start laughing at you.

At the Orientation camp, you are going to see a lot of new faces and you might be attracted to some or you may not. You might also see some faces or friends that you knew in school or you might just see people who went to the same university as you did. I was only able to see on of my friends, a classmate but also about 3 or 4 other people that went to the same university that I went but I didn't even know them until we saw at camp. I only knew we were from the same school since they were holding the same certificate as I was when we were doing our registration. Yes, you have to register yourself once you reach the camp as it will help to quickly settle you down and give you a bed at least.

Waking up early in the morning by 4 a.m. was a daily routine and you have to play along if you don't want to get rough handled or punished by the soldiers. I wouldn't say that the soldiers shouting orders at us were too strict since this wasn't the army and we could very well boycott the early morning. The soldiers were made up of a mixture of about 80% males and 20% females and I din't really know their ranks. They seemed to have fun grilling and punishing us when we don't obey their orders. If you are called to wake up and you don't wake up, you might have cold water poured on you while you're still sleeping or you may be punished by being forced to match under to hot sun while your fellow corpers are at the mammy market enjoying their day so it's just better to follow the rules.

The orientation camp was a bit sweet and painful but it helps get you fit and if you are overweight, it can help you to lose weight as long as you don't bring extra food provisions on your bag. Well, even if you do, it might very well get stolen.

The early morning schedule involved waking up early from bed and doing a series of jogging with your group under the leadership of an army officer. Corpers at the orientation camp are normally divided into several groups and each on is called a Platoon and a Platoon leader is also selected among them to work with the army officer and corpers. The platoon leaders monitors his platoon and does other things like coordinating members and also taking the attendance. During our jogging activities we normally chant songs too and some of these songs normally have lyrics mocking corpers and at times it might also mock soldiers. For example, there is a song we sang that goes like this: "Dem go burn Mumu, Dem go burn Mumu, if Corper marry corper dem go burn Mumu". Thee soldier might want corpers to sing the song but corpers end up changing the lyrics by saying in the end "if Soldier marry Corper Dem go burn Mumu". I still remember our platoon captain, Oga Lawal, he was a cheerful soldier and not too strict.

After the early morning jogging routine around the field, we are then made to file up in line at the field and according to our platoon. We might also do some matching parade and some exercises. There might also be some announcement and afterwards, we'd be dismissed to do whatever we like till the afternoon routine.

In the afternoon and especially when the sun is hot, we were also called to the field to march and get drilled. Some corpers normally hate the idea of standing in the sun for many hours and so at times may boycott it. However, some corpers soon get used to it and so might end up turning up most of the time but attendance is normally taken most of the time.

A good place where corpers normally chill out after the drills and parades is at the mammy market. It is a small temporary market that is located inside the camp where things like food and drinks are sold to corpers. You might also get to listen to music, probably play video games, get your hair plated or cut and be able to chat with your friends. It normally lasts for a short while and not till dawn before you are called again for jogging, marching or lecture.

During the 3 weeks NYSC orientation camp, some people were capturing videos of their experiences and later turned it into a video. You'd also have opportunity to pay photographers to take pictures of you during each of your camping activities. Towards the end of my orientation, we were made to go for an endurance trek that lasted for about 3 hrs. It's really a long road walk that you have to take and during this time, the camp would mostly be abandoned and everyone would use that opportunity to go out and see other places. It's also a great time to take pictures and you should carry something like water and snacks along so you don't get totally exhausted. Some people fainted on the road and others had to carry them along. I guess it's not everyone that is fit for NYSC camp.

After our 3 weeks orientation, we were finally posted to our final place of primary assignment and for some this involved teaching jobs while for others it involved working in small companies or local government. In most cases, it basically involved getting posted to a job where there is little or no pay but rather serving your country. My take home pay from my job at the local government was only ok for feeding but it was ok since it's just NYSC. Some people also took a redeployment to serve in other states where they actually got a good paying job.

The job experience was not too exciting or challenging as the first 3 weeks orientation at the camp as I was mostly inactive but it also provided me an opportunity to get to know the local people and work on personal projects. It also gave me more time to think and plan for the future. One problem I had however was the attack of these insects known as sand flies. It seems to be more common in the villages than in cities since there are more trees there. These sand flies are almost invisible but you'd see the effects on your skin as it gets reddened and irritated. Ways through which I fought sand flies was by wearing long sleeved shirt, using insect repellent creams, staying indoors and occasionally going to the city.

If I was asked to go for NYSC again will I? Well, I would only prefer going for the 3 weeks Orientation camp and not the long months of staying in a remote village where I was almost totally eaten up by sand flies. Besides, our lodge was also robbed but thank God I wasn't around then.

Things I noticed about NYSC. Some people will use this time to just have random sex while some might end up getting married. Some will redeploy themselves and some will do good projects for their host community.

Should married people go for NYSC? Well, I don't support the idea as they should be exempted because there are lot of temptations at camp. I noticed that there were some married people at camp with some being male and others being female. Some of them even had boy friends and girl friends at camp and this is mostly those ones whose partners are in another state from where they were posted. Some people will feel home sick while others will really fall sick. You have to consider what type of water and food you have to eat and whether you should buy food outside or cook for yourself. I think cooking for yourself is most recommended. We were a group of 4 corpers who contributed money and cooked as a group. This helped save money but most of us were not only relying on our monthly or periodic allowances as corpers because it was barely enough. We still had to reach our parents and relations to send us money by bank deposit. Thank God banks are now almost every where in Nigeria but we had to leave the village and go to the city to visit banks.

It's very hard not to lose weight during your NYSC as long as you are doing what your mates are doing and this involves eating less food, trekking for long distances and going to your work.

Are there any benefits of participating in the NYSC? Well, yes they are but it might not include making millions since the allowances are meagre. You will make new friends or contacts and you'd also have some work experience. It would also allow you to keep fit physically and it will enable you to be able to survive anywhere you are in Nigeria without having to feel lonely or far away from home.

The idea of a national service program for one's country is good but I was really expecting something more of a military service but without the need for physical combat. Let the army just teach young Nigerians how to defend themselves in case of war.

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