He was into the last days of his housemanship when the list for the National Youth Service Corp, *NYSC programme was released. It wasn’t the same way it was with other not well known schools with fragile structures, his was one of the first generation universities where the structures around post-schooling activities was built around in the early days.
Unlike many who felt downcast that they were been posted to places they weren’t conversant with (the idea and purpose of the programme in the first place) or that their attempt to “work” their posting to major cities like Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt had failed, he was indifferent. He was infact glad that his name was on the list after he almost didn’t make the deadline for turning his papers in for accreditation at the Nigerian Medical And Dental Council following a minor disagreement with his Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery consultant (and father of his classmate and fellow dentist) who had refused initially to sign him off.
He’d been posted to Jigawa, interestingly his younger sister (who assured him that he won’t regret serving in Jigawa) had served there a year before in the town of Maigatari, and had stayed back afterwards before securing a job in the North-Central region of Nigeria. He had immediate family allover the North, so he wasn’t going to an uncharted region, having been to other parts of the North to see family a few times before, even as part of a student advocacy group he led on some of their programmes to Nigeria’s administrative capital of Abuja severally, as well as part of a dental student group to raise dental awareness amongst secondary school students in Gombe amongst others. He loved traveling by road, and the thought of going to serve for a year in Jigawa appealed so much to him. The only obstacle to surmount was his girlfriend of six months, whom he’d just begun to love and probably begun to think that they may just have a future together. She was very sad when he told her, a few days before his due departure date. She met him on the day he was to make the journey to Jigawa via night bus, and in the confines of a hotel room where he’d paid only for “short-time”, she wanted him to promise her that he would come back for her, he did but not in the exact words, while adding that she was free to see other people if she wanted to. In her characteristic stoic manner she appeared introspective as she was wont to do when she considered something he’d said stupid for which she’d rather not dignify with a response. They parted amicably after a few rounds of sex despite the fact that she was in her “periods”.
Later that evening, he was at the luxury bus park. There was no bus linking Lagos directly to Jigawa, so he paid the fare for Kano intending to spend two days at his uncles’ there, before proceeding to the school in Gumel where the NYSC camp in Jigawa is located. He’d done night journeys before and looked forward to this with much anticipation. He couldn’t contemplate spending twelve hours travelling during the day when via night travel, all he had to do was to wake up at his new destination. Night journeys were fraught with a lot of danger, and though some passengers had died over the years embarking on such nocturnal journeys by reason of the hazards associated with night travel, chief of which is armed robbery attacks, many travellers to the length and breadth of Nigeria who couldn’t afford to fly, continued to throng motorparks at night hoping to catch buses going cross-country, despite attempts by government agencies such as the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC to discourage such.
He was lucky to secure a “window seat” for the journey because he’d come early, but not lucky enough to have a female seat mate. On some other occasions he’d done long journeys by night to far flung regions of Nigeria he’d enjoyed the company of a female sitting beside him, though besides simple conversations with them he’d never moved any to a point where such resulted to something amorous during or after the journey. Once, this huge and busty woman was beside him on a night trip to Gombe, and all she did all night was sleep, much of the time lying practically on him, he couldn’t remember her face now (he had other things on his mind, than bother about what she looked like obviously), but he had bouts of hard-ons as he stayed awake all night, pretending he was shaking and moving the somnolent woman off him.
His nocturnality took roots from his days at the medical school where extra hours besides that invested by day was required to get by academically, interestingly it was difficult to keep his eyelids open most of the nights initially. He’d carry his books to the auditorium to read like others, sit in the front then doze off minutes after, while others read themselves sore. It took quite a while for his body to work out the routine but by that time he was in his final year, but once it kicked in, he found he couldn’t manage more than two hours of sleep at night, except only when he was totally fagged out from work or play. Many times while he was awake during the night journeys, he’d seen what other passengers couldn’t see as they dozed away. On one occasion the driver of a bus he’d been journeying in, drove at break neck speed through a check point he thought was manned by police but discovered on closer scrutiny that the armed men flagging the bus down were armed robbers; who shot at the bus and had fire returned (just a shot actually) by the armed escort travelling with the bus, this aroused the passengers who didn’t see what led to the loud bangs. It was hours after, at dawn when the bus parked for passengers to clean up, that two bullet holes were noticed in the luggage compartment of the bus.
Most passengers travelling by night were either very scared people or indifferent. The scared ones where the ones who would pray, read their chaplets, and still join others to pray when those adhoc pastors loitering around most parks come in to pray for journey mercies, they are infact the ones who shout the the loudest “AMENS”, especially when the prayer point involved the demise of their enemies.
Once, he boarded a night bus to the east of Nigeria at Oyingbo in Lagos just beside the shanties on the railway, with bars and brothels filled with women and girls clad in underwears only (as if that wasn’t skimpy enough, they “sagged” even the pants, revealing all but the cunt), and it was within this sort of environment that a roving pastor emanated from, first to preach then to pray for us travellers and finally to solicit for funds to support his ministry. He wondered what the pastor did, or where he hung around in the park when he wasn’t in the bus praying for intending travelers, the many thoughts that came to him simply put him off what the pastor was saying, but he observed later that though the pastor had proclaimed that the journey would be smooth, no burst tyres and the likes, just a few kilometres out of Lagos, at Shagamu, the loud thud that threw many of the passengers’ innards almost out of their mouths was from the burst tyre of one of the rear wheels.
With that incidence, and the many others he’d witnessed in mind, he simply concentrated his gaze on the happenings outside the luxury bus, while many of the passengers chanted one Christian praise song or the other at the prompting of the roving pastor. When the pastor was done he passed envelopes to passengers, his cold stare to the pastor when he was approached ensured that he was bypassed unto the next passenger behind him.
Minutes later, at half past eight that night, the luxury bus moved out of the park, to the main road, and the journey to Kano commenced.
The *NYSC programme is a mandatory one-year programme in which graduates from one part of Nigeria go to serve in another part with different ways and culture.
It is aimed at engendering the understanding of other cultures as a means to fostering peace and unity amongst Nigerian youths and by extension, the population at large.
It was established by decree after Nigeria’s civil war that lasted from 1967 – 1970 by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon.
Bus Terminus- http://www.punchng.com