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#NYSCDiaries: Camp heartbreak, hunger and ATMs

From my first year in the university, I had always looked forward to the day I would become a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member. I always loved how the cap blended in nicely with the khaki outfit and the boots. For some reason, ‘corpers’ always looked dapper. 

I couldn’t wait to be done with my Law degree and then Law school. Finally, I received my call-up letter, my face was beaming with smiles. I was excited for the “adventure” ahead. Strangely, I was ready for the drills, it would be my chance at working out steadily for three weeks – I needed it. I had also heard stories of how people found love at the orientation camp, and I was curious to see how it would all play out for me.

My outlook towards the service year changed as soon as I arrived at my camp in Lagos. I arrived late. *sigh* From the moment I stepped into the gate, the soldiers who were in charge of supervising the exercise chose to have fun at my expense, instructing me to carry my luggage on my head. I struggled under the weight and fell twice, much to their amusement. By the time I got to the large dormitory designated for accommodation, I was a mess.

Registration took too long, and by the time it got to my turn, it was almost night. I’m not sure I got up to four hours of sleep before the soldiers stormed the dormitory with their nasty bugle, ordering us to run out for the morning drill. 

I tried out the camp food, but after sitting in the restroom for 30 minutes, I decided that the only meals I would be eating would come from the Mammy Market. I also realised that there were many things I didn’t have, like a spare bucket, bathroom slippers, and lavatory items. And to make matters worse, they were twice the price!

By the end of the first week, I was out of cash and relying on my ATM cards. I was still waiting for the appeal of the camp to hit me. Then, one morning, as if the world was conspiring to make sure the experience wouldn’t get any better, the ATM refused to work. And the mobile ATM from the banks had missed their daily visits for two days. To make matters worse, power was erratic, my phone’s battery was out and the ‘charging spots’ where you could pay to have your phones charged were fully booked. (my power bank had died the night before).

I stood at the ATM calculating how I would transfer funds to my ALAT account, and what percentage of the allawee would go towards my savings goal, when I spotted one of the prettiest babes in the camp looking at me. I had seen her in the queue during my first day. 

She walked up to me, smiled (melted everything in my heart) and asked me what the problem was. Apparently, I had been frowning and leering at the ATM for nearly five minutes. After telling her about my woes, she dug into her pouch and brought out the tiniest power bank I had ever seen. 

And that’s how we started gisting as I powered my phone. I swear, I couldn’t see what was happening on the app I was tapping through. I was in autopilot mode. To sound cheesy, I was in heaven.

I don’t know how long we spoke for, I no longer felt hungry. Then she mentioned something about food, she smiled and gave me a quick hug. “You remind me so much of my little brother,” she smiled again and shattered my heart. What?! I was ‘brother zoned?!’ 

I took my L and focused on getting food. But I had learned a few lessons, I never let my phone’s battery die again; I bought two power banks; I forgot about ‘camp love’ and decided to increase my savings goal. I didn’t leave camp with a bae, but I had more money. Money trumps bae!

The orientation camp is still a scam though; 4/10, I don’t recommend it.

  • Akingbehingbolwa Johnson is a Lawyer and writer who uses life experiences and those of friends and family to weave compelling stories

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