Sunday, November 30, 2008


“Youth obey the clarion call
Let us lift our nation high….”
And it goes on and on. But this is the best part; the last two lines:
“Nigeria’s ours
Nigeria we serve!”
These are excerpts from the anthem for the National Youth Service Corps. Since its inception in 1973 by former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, the NYSC scheme has reached a level of maturity in its own rights, and is now an important part of the Nigerian society and plays a major role in the lives of every Nigerian youth who dreams of getting a job in this country. Well, almost any job.
Now it seems, it is binding for every graduate to go through this program that includes on its buffet, vigorous physical training which is done by the serving of a complex dish of soldiers (even though I’m not entirely sure what is its purpose, we have been told that this grueling procedure is necessary for attaining physical stability which is necessary if one has to undergo the daily stress and hassles that comes with living and working in our society),and complimented by a dessert of practical knowledge in working in specific fields or environs.
Mankind bear me witness, I’d looked forward to my service year with mixed feelings of some sorts. Outwardly, I didn’t so much interest, but on my inside, I was secretly enthusiastic and excited. I wanted to know what it felt like to wear the khaki uniforms and be called a ‘Corper’. I wanted to go to a whole new place and experience an entirely new culture in our vastly diversified cultural nation. BUT, I didn’t want to teach in a school and risk being insulted and nicknamed by students even as I had seen happen to corpers in the past by other students and my humble self (hehehe). I didn’t want to get dumped in a village with no electricity, clean water, good roads, or GSM network signals!
As my time approached, and as human as I could ever be, wanting the best things in life, I began craving to serve in Lagos, where I was used to the bustling and hassling, or Abuja, where I was recently recuperating from ‘Lasgidi’ stress and getting used to the fact that life could indeed be full of some peace and quiet roads. So, I tried pulling strings to ‘work out’ my posting. That didn’t exactly work out as I’d planned. I got my first wish though – new place, new culture, new language. Electricity? Yes. Clean water? Quite clean. GSM networks? Definitely. Oh! And even less traffic-jammed roads! Not just in the place I’d quite had in mind. Them people in charge of the postings saw it in the natural line of things to send me up north. Way up north. A state just at the border. No, not at the border of Chad, but the Niger republic border. Got a map? Yes, that’s exactly where I am. Jigawa. A whole new place. Its slogan even depicts what I’m talking about – “A NEW WORLD”.
Jigawa is a state of extremities, I like to say. Extremely hot weather; extremely cold weather; extremely dry weather; extremely illiterate folks; extremely no-fun zone; extremely malnourished children; extremely cheap living area; extremely poverty-stricken people (yeah, Jigawa is the poorest state in Nigeria with 95% of its populace living in abject poverty. Fact). I cannot even begin to describe my entire experience on these pages (I would need to have a link from this site to an entirely new dedicated one for that). But take it from one who is currently experiencing it first-hand, living here is no joke. Apologies to those who may think their experiences are graver than mine, but I’ve got to tell it like I see it.
I got together with my sister and friends, and she went on about how ‘dry’ and boring Calabar is, talking about how she could take an okada from one end of the municipal to the other in twenty minutes. I suggested that she take a trip sight-seeing to Obudu Cattle Ranch; turns out Obudu is five hours away from Calabar city, and one would need some serious contemplation before making the journey. Then, they asked me about Jigawa (or Jiggy, as I like to call it).
I sat silent for a while before answering. Experience, they say, is the best teacher. Mine had shut me up and left me at a loss for words. I told them in this case, I’d let my emotions speak louder than any word I could have said (I just stopped short of wailing). Who was I to think of trying to compare Jiggy with Calabar or any other place? If only they knew. This was a feeling that could only be expressed and understood by one’s personal experience.
You could be travelling within Jigawa from one town to another for more than five hours. Nothing really strange there. No big. The only difference between what this would have felt like in some other state and what it felt like here, is the fact that in Jiggy, you keep staring out at the same dusty, deserted, plain out boring, dry and caustic scenery; no interesting landmarks, nothing. The only other time I’d had to travel 5hours within the same state was probably in Lagos, trying to get from Festac town to the Island. Need I explain why? And you have to trust Eko; boring scenery outside? I think not!
Anyways, enough of my feeling like the only shreds of activity I called my social life has been ripped off by these people. It hasn’t been all on the down low. I have met amazing people, made new friends, begun a new phase of my life, and now know that I won’t be spending my life growing old as a lonely sour puss! Truth be told, if you’re looking to escape the rowdiness of Lagos’ sights and sounds, or the peaceful activities and streets of Abuja, or are just looking to serve your country, as part of the anthem says, “under the sun or in the rain” (very hot, scorching, sun – we had to be given meningitis shots at the orientation camp), then this place is for you.
Or better still, dear parents and folks, if you’re pining to get rid of the party-sprit in your child or ward, just ship them off and down here (or is it courier services, rather?)! No payments or vouchers needed. A guaranteed cure in one month…….. Or your offspring back! Ha!