He left his uncles’ that morning clad in very warm clothing by reason of the HARMATTAN, for UNGWAR UKU where he boarded a bus for DUTSE the capital of JIGAWA. He still had a day to spare before the opening of camp in GUMEL, and felt it was trite to visit a friend in the capital before proceeding to camp.
Chika was a year his senior in school, and amongst other things, had bequeathed him his clinical coat when he graduated. He had used the same clinical coat in his final year, during his HOUSEMANSHIP and had also had it packed to be used in the one year he will be spending in Jigawa for the compulsory NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE CORP, NYSC Programme.
Dutse took two hours to reach, and apart from the few minutes of traffic hold-ups within Kano metropolis, the road to Dutse was without hitches, with the drivers freestyling with the throttle without let, on the accident-prone road. On arrival, Chika was very pleased to receive him. They spent the rest of the day talking about everything there is to talk about under the sun, and with Chika’s friends they emptied several bottles of liquor till they had become numbed out to go get some more.
It was one of the best times he’d ever had around friends that he felt happy he didn’t attempt to change his posting, like he thought to initially, especially after learning that Jigawa was one of the states that adopted the strictest form of the SHARIA with the consequent banning of alcoholic beverages. Hence he couldn’t hide his shock when he found that alcohol (just like in Kano, where he’d just left) was freely and widely available in certain areas where non-natives reside, and even amongst the elite and government house where the policy that initiated the ban was made.
He felt very bad leaving the next day for Gumel which is to the North of Dutse, where the temporary camp of the NYSC for Jigawa State (Northwestern Nigeria) is situated. It took another two hours to get there from Dutse that he began to wonder if there was nothing out of place with the timing, or that the drivers intentionally go at such speeds between two major towns in such a way that they arrived at about two hours at the next destination.
Activities were already in full swing by the time he arrived. He was lucky to meet a classmate who had also been posted there as well and had gone through the early checks, who took him to the hall of the technical school which served as the temporary site of the NYSC in the state, but by the time the processing was concluded for the mammoth crowd that had come, the allocation to rooms was no longer possible, he like many others who had been undergoing processing in the schools’ expansive hall, had to sleep there.
The officials arrived very early the next morning, seeing that they had to process everyone before 8am, when the camp was to be officially declared open. He and three other males were allocated a small room in one of the dilapidated bungalow hostels, and once they had moved their things in, got a carpenter on standby to fix their door, went on to have their bath and freshen up. The toilet was the worst kept he’d ever seen, the stench coming from there was suffocating, but he managed to contribute his own pound of malodorous excreta while holding his breathe for a few seconds at a time (it will be the only and last time he would heed nature’s call there), before bolting into the adjoining contraption that served as a bathroom, to manage the bucket of water he had fetched from the manual pump, that’s a usual site in many Nigerian schools and Indian villages. He was glad that atleast they had one.
Next stop was to join the queue for food in the freezing weather with his bowl. That mornings’ menu was hot cocoa beverage (heavily laced with sugar) and hardened bread (that could cause the one stoned with it some headache) that was served in exchange for tickets that they had already been given as part of their pack. He slowly devoured the food which he found to fill him considerably, almost leaving no space for anything else, but he put it to anticipation of the day’s activities and events.
He was with his roommates dressing up, when they heard the sound that will define their life in camp for the next twelve months. It came from the BUGLE at the prompting of the CAMP COMMANDANT, and before it could be done a third time, someone had given a lyric to it, as thus:
Me, I no like Jiga-waaaaaaaaa!!”
Soon enough, soldiers raided the hostels and flushed the ready and not-so-ready CORPERS out of their rooms, regardless of their levels of preparations to the cold open field for the INAUGURATION.