My service year experience can be related to the processes involved in the making of gold, which we all love – from fire to glitters.
Oh! Pardon my ill manners. My name is Aruleba Damilare Olamide, an ex Kebbi State corp member Batch B, 2016).
Just like every prospective corp member whose call up letter points to the Northern part of Nigeria, I was torn apart. “Kebbi State! Of all the states in Nigeria! How many ancestors did I offend!” I screamed, as I quickly searched out the Nigerian map on my Android smartphone. I had never been so serious reading the Nigerian map before.
Knowing that I would have to travel to the extreme of Nigeria made me wish I was dreaming, but reality was so adamant that it wouldn’t give way for my dream wishes to come true.
Without wasting time, I ransacked the internet, looking for other “ill-fated” protective corp members like myself to be travel partners with. With luck on my side, I found many Whatsapp groups and I was quick to make friends. The mobilization countdown began.
Fast forwarded to the day I had to leave for camp, I woke up as early as 4am (as if I even slept. Lol). I was on an emotional merry-go-round that had happiness and sadness seating on different seats – Yay! I’m going to camp! – at Kebbi state? Oh no!
Funny enough, I never got on the same bus with those friends I made from Whatsapp; I found other PCMs on the bus I was and we all told our sad stories.
The journey to Kebbi was so far that if not that I saw sand everywhere, I’d have asked the driver if he was driving us to heaven. We arrived at Niger State and I checked my map with a smile on my face. “Kebbi is next,” I said loudly. I never knew what the miles ahead looked like.
My parents called me three times (with three hours between each time) and I replied their “where are you?” questions with “Niger State.” At this point, I thought to sleep, but what I saw next put my sleeping faculty on caffeine. I saw a camel! I only saw them in books and on TV – I was so happy to see a live camel that I totally forgot that I couldn’t feel my butts.
If Jackie Chan was on that vehicle, he’d be glad to have met a die-hard fan; I had practised all the styles he used in the drunken master because my butt and legs were numb.
After driving for hours, we arrived at Koko Besse, where we took another car to Dankingari. After about an hour now driving, we got the NYSC camp. Guys, this camp was so beautiful that I didn’t think about all the travel stress I went through.
The three weeks I spent in the camp came and passed quicker than I thought and I had to go to my PPA. I was posted to Jega Local Government Area of Kebbi State.
And the real struggle began…
I had a rough beginning, trying to blend with a totally different culture – the language; dos and don’ts; food ( After eating rice in Kebbi, it was like my anus lost its “hold” button – for three days, I visited the toilet more than I blinked). Did I tell you I drank more than 10 satchets of water everyday without peeing? It was hell.
Soon enough, things changed, gradually. Before I could say “Jack Robinson,” I feel in love with that way of life that once disgusted me. Serving in the North soon became something I was proud to tell people about.
I was able to know that Hausas are hard working people – an average Hausa man has entrepreneurship tattooed on his mind. I enjoyed discussing with them because although most didn’t go to school, they have a sound business mind.
Never judge a Hausa man by his looks, I was jaw-dropped when a 24-looking Hausa guy walked to me to help him check his balance on an ATM. That afternoon, I had just returned from my PPA and I was zombified and so hungry that my economics textbook looked like bread to me, so I had to use the ATM.
After waiting for a period of time that seemed like forever to me, with this guy in his torn clothes and slippers branded with “channel O’s” almost having to read a “How to operate an ATM for Dummies” manual before he could use the machine.
Finally, he gave up, turning to me for help. “Mai gida, balance” was all he said to me, which I clearly understood. Without wasting time, I asked for his pin and I clicked on the “check balance” option. What I saw almost made me exclaim. He had 1,546,000 (not made up) in his account . It was like I received an OTA respect update for him, because I had just 10,000 naira in my account, but I looked like I could buy him.
**back to the story*
I attended RCCF and NCCF and these fellowship put my music life on steroids. Just like myself, I met music thespians in both fellowships and this exposed me to a whole new level of cool, musically.
I soon made a Hausa friend who had the passion to learn the English Language, and since I’d love to learn the Hausa language too, we brought the barter system back to life. This brought me more fun, because to some extent, I could understand it when Hausas communicated.
Things are so cheap that at times, I spent only hundred naira to prepare stew. Oh! About stew, I was taught to cook by some other female Corp members who didn’t want me to end my life as a junkie. I was posted along side 9 ladies to my lodge, and they were wonderful to me. They thought me so many kitchen-related stuff.
Kebbi State was more than I had imagined; aside from the really hot weather that made me and every other corp member sleep outside at times (which we loved because we got to share stories), Kebbi was altogether awesome.
I never regretted serving in the North because it brought me many blessings. I had out-of-the-world experiences.
If you got posted to the North, don’t feel bad. Seize every opportunity when you get there. Also, relate with the people. Some look like they are poor, but they are connected to the people in power. You never know what form that help you need may take.
© Aruleba Olamide Damilare