Let’s be clear, I was not exactly excited about being posted to Kogi [I personally wanted Ekiti or any South West state or Cross-River for that matter!] but nonetheless, I found my way to Asaya camp, Kabba on the 5th of August 2014. An experience that will forever remain priceless.
I really want you to feel what it’s like to initially endure and eventually enjoy 3 weeks of physically & mentally stretching drills under the strict supervision of the men in green [Soldiers] which is why I used lots of pictures since ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and to get things started, let me take you to the very beginning of my Kogi experience
LEFT IFE, OSUN STATE FOR OKENE, KOGI STATE
And I met this wonderful Doctor, Tope.

 Found Okene pretty peaceful [even the goat seems to agree!]
ASAYA CAMP, KABBA
3pm
On entering the camp, representatives of NCCF & some other Christian & Moslem denominations [mostly batch A & C corpers] were at the bus stop to welcome us. Some of them helped us carry our bags to the camp entrance [the camp wasn’t fenced, had no gates]. We had to drop our bags under a tree and got cellotape-tags on them for identification, Some few corp members were already registered & kitted…the soldiers had started drilling them. Then things got ugly.

the tagged bags
fresh Otondo’s
HELL
We queued for over one hour to get…wait for it…a tag! A one inch by one inch paper with a number written on it. Then, we spent the next 3hrs on the main queue.
I think the crew here underprepared for the volume of work before them. We had to wait needlessly and almost endlessly after long hours spent on the road, no seats, visible fatigue signed across faces. It was the typical Nigerian factor of poor planning preceding poor performance.
The queue was not a go slow, let’s just call it a massive hold up!
I think corruption is a reaction to an obvious anomaly in the system. If institutions of government and private bodies were less flawed, the public appetite for corruption would wane. I am absolutely convinced the process could have been better organized. For example, inec employs adhoc staff close to elections to boost her efficiency

 7pm or thereabout…










9pm
I was still on that queue and I eventually gained entry.
We couldn’t complete my registration and Tope & I decided to get a bunk to sleep. The hostels were so dirty, so unkempt you’d think a dirt-fest was held just before our arrival. Honestly, the camp management didn’t try in that regard, the hostels should have been swept, fumigated even, before our arrival. It was a tumultuous night, but we endured.
The next morning, we were served bread & tea [each corp member had a card, and you had to queue up, get your card ticked for each meal before accessing the food at the kitchen].
For the first 4 days of camp, I struggled with the words of the NYSC anthem and simply overcame this by snapping the anthem from a booklet, and memorizing it. Light out was by 10pm and all lights had to be out, all mouths shut. 2 days to the end of camp, my hostel made so much noise, we attracted the presence of soldiers & the camp director. Immediately they came in, I ‘fell into a deep sleep’ being fully aware that trouble was going to follow. The next morning, I got reports of massively wet beds, and my bed was untouched of course [why would any soldier pour water on a corp member who was ‘fast asleep’ during the crises?].
 
Pavillion
Hostel
Chimezie stayed just opposite my bunk, quiet, smart guy


PARADE GROUND
By 5:45am, [the soldiers would storm all hostels with whistles and threaten fire & brimstone, we would all rush out to the parade ground. God help you if they met you inside, sometimes, they poured water on corp members found sleeping or issued punishments like frog jump, walk with one leg etc. This meant that I had to wake up as early as 3:30am or 4:00am to take my bath, else I’d forfeit bathing till after the morning parade [like I did twice or so].
Twice daily, by 6am & 6pm, the briggler would blow his trumpet and you had to stand at attention wherever you were.
First, we had praise & worship which was usually ok, then we had meditation [someone from the platoon on duty would ready a script prepared by NYSC, a script espousing one of the virtues of the scheme]
Blessing Ogunpolu graduated from Wesley College of Science in 2006 and here we were in 2014, serving in the same state and in the same platoon [the platoon of life: platoon 10 of course!]

THE DRILLS WERE FUN AT BEST & WICKED AT WORST.
Soldiers, especially Men of the Man-O-War taught us songs, several of them sexually explicit. How can I forget “if corper marry corper, dem go born beta, if soldier marry soldier, dem go born mumu”, “see dem o, they are the monkey, see dem o, they are the chimpanzee”
The soldiers taught us how to match [I can still hear their voices in my head: Parade remove headnet! Matching by number, code 1! I will issue you wickedness!]. I remember a day when the female soldier attached to my platoon allegedly heard someone hiss from the back, She asked us to produce the person but that didn’t happen, so, She asked us to roll on the floor with our white shorts & shirts, we initially thought She was joking, until we saw her serious look, long story short, our white’s turned brown. The funny thing is, no other person seemed to have heard the hiss.
Evening parades usually commenced around 4pm. They usually ended around 6pm. And by the end of the second week, only those who were selected for the Passing out parade were actively matching.

Swearing in ceremony (feeling fly…)
We had lots of social activities on camp, we had cultural dancers, beauty pageants etc
Dr Ada ran for the platoon

Peter: great guy

Tokunbo: funny guy, very down to earth, very cool

MDG/PET
Two organizations came around on separate days to talk about what they do & afterwards recruited some corp members to join their cause. I could have joined Peer Educator Trainers but I nursed the ambition of redeploying [who wasn’t?] and since they specifically forbade such category of corp members, I jumped at the opportunity to become an MDG volunteer, and looking back now, I have absolutely no regrets.
It was a four day training program of two groups [MAC-Mobilization & Awareness Campaign & FACOR– Family & Community life Reorientation], and in my group, two distinguished trainers [Dr Jesse Gwandi & Tijani Abdul] took us through series of practical, interactive classes. We had lots of break-out sessions, and twice, I was nominated by my group to speak.
In the end, I was the valedictorian of my class as I delivered a powerful speech at our graduation ceremony. It was so well received that I became a superstar overnight! We snapped till camera lenses protested.
Class…

This guy must have been high on something…lol!

Friends…

…the speech!

MAN-O-WAR DRILLS
When we saw the 9 foot wall, the barb wire & some really scary stuff, it was all fear at first especially among the ladies, but then, each lady was paired with a guy and the guys did the encouraging.
Titi of life, every turn is a pose!
in tune with nature…

with my Man-O-War partner, Evelyn

Tare is a babe I respect so much, so mature, so caring

Sade was always smiling, she had this natural swag & a special way of making everybody around her happy

Meena….we were posted to the same local government!

…I couldn’t find my gun so I had to improvise!

Da Precious One…super smart babe

Flexing mode ACTIVATED.

Ahhh….


FRIENDS
Made a lot of friends, snapped tons of pictures. Met a lot of beautiful girls but I was not looking for a soul mate so, any relationship I had with any lady on camp could be spelt thus F-R-I-E-N-D-S-H-I-P.

I snapped with some of the finest & most sagacious babes on camp [you wouldn’t blame me, would you?] And I snapped with the coolest, most intelligent guys on camp.

Bolu from OAU, very blunt, very friendly, super smart

Chidinma!!!

Feyi from CU

Titi of life…every turn is a pose!

Mercy….handled make-up for the Verdict.

Nike, Unilag, Mass Comm, was an OBS queen. Did the evening version of Naija top 10 countdown with her in the OBS studio…it was a cracker.

Lauretta, my platoon friend

The funny Titi…3


Last day of camp

That moment when our hearts raced like speed cars…posting letter suspense…

Gladiator…Great MDG friend

Can you believe we met on the last day of camp?

NASMAT was my #1 MDG friend


In the middle: Chidi_Asaya’s fastest man

 David & the very cool Feyi (Both from Covenant University)
David is one of the most intelligent folks I met personally on camp. He was an artistic force in the platoon and together with Tobi, they founded the confluence, a group that met daily during the last week of camp to discuss how to transform Kogi state…fantastic experience. They were great & happy moments

Jane, my assistant platoon leader is this ravishing beauty who’s incredibly smart. We hosted the afternoon version of naija top 10 countdown together in OBS studios. How can I possibly forget the sound of her angelic voice?

David successfully photo-bombed this picture

(Sade, again…)

FACILITIES
I’d rate facilities below average, especially the hostels. They are terribly over-crowded, some hostels [including mine] lacked a proper bathroom & toilet. Some resorted to taking their baths outside the hostel, very early each morning while folks like me disturbed folks in the few hostels with befitting conveniences. Water was epileptic too.
We only had water whenever there was power and the big lister Generator kicked some life into the camp every evening. And…there was no single drainage, no gutter on Asaya camp. Anytime it rained, the camp looked horrible. I think NYSC should fix that ASAP, else the buildings won’t last another decade due to water soaked foundations. The pavilion where we receive lectures is too small, so small that almost half of us stay outside the pavilion, by trees, on pavements, on our feet and under the sun. The pavilion should be extended & more chairs provided.
There is no fence too. In this age of high insecurity in the nation, a very high fence is not only necessary to preserve the lives of corp members, it is mandatory. Indigenes & nomads came into the camp anyhow they liked. Though there was no major incidence of theft in camp, prevention still remains the cheapest & best alternative to cure.
FOOD
Camp food was just there. Initially, I wined for some days until a camp official told us N100 per meal was budgeted for each corp member. So my strategy was simple: I avoided meals like beans [which landed me at the camp clinic the day after I ate it], semo-tuwo [or whatever it is they served in the name of ‘swallow’], pap and ‘Tea’. The tea tasted like Kunu in my mouth and for me, it was a capital NO.
Anytime I avoided camp food, I fell back on my provision: corn flakes, milk, milo, garri. I sometimes bought fried potato, yam & Akara at Mami market. Rice was everyone’s favorite, attested to by the long queues that greeted it. Sometimes, we had to queue for hours for food, and naturally, several corp members jumped queues. Thanks to MDG classes, we had our own queue for four solid days during the second week!

bread? hmmm

NYSC Tea (or k***)
Kitchen duty….hated it, but preferred it to sanitation [Anyone hungry….?]
To keep corpers alive, at least 1-2 cows had to die daily 
[looking back, I now feel sorry for the cows…]


FUN ACTIVITIES
Sports was cool. Ladies played volleyball, guys played football. Both sexes ran. Our platoon produced the fastest man [Chidi!]. Talent hunt was cool. Platoon 8 fielded two guys who ensured some corpers left the pavilion with cracked ribs as they churned out super funny joke after joke. Miss NYSC was great. The platoon 7 contestant came out with only leaves covering her breast & bosom [with some wild fanfare & several controversial remarks from the audience] and was later disqualified for indecency.
Miss Ebony was not without drama as some ‘fine girls’ could not give the full meaning of EFCC or ICPC. So much for packaging without content! Miss big, bold & beautiful was cool.
Our bon-fire was a disaster: rain kept pouring, we ducked for cover.
My platoon was cool. Sumki did his best. I was part of the creativity crew and I specifically handled top 10 naija countdown


SAED LECTURES
I didn’t attend any except the first day when some speakers came around to talk to us about entrepreneurship. [I didn’t attend because SAED is close, very close to what we do at epower]. I got mixed reactions from my friends that attended. I still think it’s a good initiative: allowing corp members learn practical skills like basic computing, bag making, tailoring e.t.c and allowing them to continue their training at their institution of choice during their service year especially in this age & time where white collar jobs are scarce.
MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
When I delivered an inspiring valedictory speech on behalf of MDG [MAC class] to the combined class, the State coordinator, key camp officials & selected members of the camp community. It was well received and that felt really good.
MY MOST EMBARASSING MOMENT
None, really.
LESSONS LEARNT
The success of the Verdict; a show I came up with right there in the camp, with a crew I pitched to in just one day, further reinforced my belief that beautiful things happen when brilliant minds work together. Bunmi & I interviewed the most outstanding corp members in camp, my Jamaican friend shot the videos in HD, Mercy handled make-up & arranged the presence of the super stars. Ayo & later Tare & Chidinma were our location assistants. Watch out for the hilarious videos.


THE VERDICT
THE VERDICT CREW WAS Awesome
Bunmi was a real professional, She gave her all…

Tobi…bookish, very brilliant dude

Bunmi interviewed Asaya’s fastest lady

Pls make way for the very first Batch B corper to be registered, her highness, KG/14B/001


RECOMMENDATIONS
  1. NSYC should create an audio [if possible, video] version of the written language guide to enable corp members hear the accurate pronunciation and perhaps see the context of use of the major local languages of corpers host communities in each state.
  2. Mobile atm’s should be provided in all camps across Nigeria to ease cash withdrawal for all corps members since leaving camp during orientation is frowned at (several corp members went broke for days because they were not allowed to leave camp to withdraw cash, others had to pay extra to mami market operators to help them withdraw).
  3. Stereo speakers should be suspended in each hostel to enable corps members to listen to OBS [Orientation Broadcasting Service] for announcements, updates, news, music & more.
  4. Instead of starting the day with dull, uninspiring lectures & announcements, morning devotions should be followed by an electrifying debate competition where topical Nigerian/international issues are considered. [I proposed the name ‘talk tussle’ and the modalities to the camp director, it did not happen though]
  5. OBS should continue the naija top 10 and possibly introduce the world chart show & other sensational radio shows.
  6. As I have already highlighted, facilities should be upgraded ASAP.

POST-CAMP EXPERIENCE
On the last day of camp, after picking up our posting letter, we drove in two buses, over four long hours to get to Abejukolo [Omala local government], a very low key town. If this was nowhere, where we alighted was in the middle of it. Batch C & A corpers welcomed us well though. They served rice & malt, and we the batch B’s felt sorry for ourselves.
We were alarmed at the remoteness of the area. Infact, Linda couldn’t hold back her tears as she wept uncontrollably for hours and lamented repeatedly on the phone to her dad. Poor girl.
I’ll share my key Abejukolo experiences much later. Friend, keep your fingers crossed.

Arrival…

Inside the lodge…

ON A FINAL NOTE
It’s a thing of pride to adorn the facecap, white crested vest, khaki trouser and jungle boot, to be admired & called ‘Corper’, ‘Ajuwaya’, ‘Otondo’ on every street, at every corner, to meet with fellow young, passionate, intelligent corp members from every nook & cranny of Nigeria, to interact with indigenes, super cool folks you never would have met in your lifetime & eat meals you never knew existed or just remotely heard about,  to walk into a class, seeing hundreds of eyes eager & hungry for knowledge, to take responsibility for the emergence of Nigeria’s next great leaders, to initiate meaningful, sustainable, ground breaking projects in communities in dire need, communities without water, light, classrooms, clinics, libraries, teachers & more, to be a change agent, a reformer, a transformer. NYSC is not some 12 months of wasting away in one forgotten corner of Nigeria, it is Nigeria’s most potent weapon against ignorance, poverty, ethnic & religious bigotry. I AM OGUNBOWALE OLUGBENGA, AND I’M A KOGI CORPER.
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