Eye-witness account of how married female corpers hide wedding rings, play love games in Tsafe Camp, Zamfara
By TITILAYO OLADIMEJI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The three weeks orientation programme of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) members are often regimented. Participants in the scheme face hectic drills by soldiers and their steps are closely monitored by eagle-eyed soldiers. Sadly, some female corps members still break camp rules, as they turn the camping exercise to a free s_x carnival. Life in the orientation camp is fun, although occasionally ‘marred’ by regular sessions of drills, mind-blowing and strenous activities like the Man O’ War drills, endurance trek, camp fire night and the regular early morning parade. Some girls were so carefree that they actually succeeded in having s_x on a daily basis, frolicking with male corps members, and even some soldiers (don’t ask me how I got to know, lest I start mentioning names with genuine evidence) and a few camp officials who do not want to be left out of the corpers’ rush.To my utmost chagrin, some of the teenage Aboki boys otherwise known as Almajiris that at times helped out with chores especially fetching of water, also ate the free love dishes served by my fellow female comrades. It was difficult to believe that those female graduates actually had it with these muscular teenage boys and, they too, in turn, were willing to service as many females as are willing to pay as low as N500 or more.
If you dare to ask where these dirty habits were carried out, I’ll promptly reply that they regularly took place on the vast expanse of land that doubles as the exercise and parade field. But they took place mostly at night when other sane corps members are sound asleep. Those that slept with soldiers and camp officials were however saved the stress of having to do it in the open but rather in a cozy room and on a mattress, who cares if the foam is flaccid. The corper-to- corper or corper-to-aboki romance has so much risk, hence it is usually done in a hurry.
It was so shameful to discover that majority of the ladies were supposedly married or engaged. While a larger number of them removed their wedding band (though the lines were still very obvious on their fingers) others simply desecrated their sacred vows and frolicked around with their wedding or engagement ring glaringly displayed on their fingers. Shameful is it?
About one week into the orientation exercise, two girls were reportedly decamped having been caught making love with the abokis. This news was confirmed by one of the soldiers as he was literarily advising female corps members to hook up with responsible soldiers who would provide them the luxury of a decent place to be laid as against doing it with the abokis on a dusty grass. He said one of those girls caught and decamped was a married woman as the camp authorities called her husband, thinking it was her father, to inform him of what his daughter did on camp. So infuriated was the husband that the poor man went through the stress of removing all her belongings from his house, all the way from Kaduna where they both lived, to Zamfara State before picking her up from the camp to her parent’s house.
Other offences that could make one liable to be decamped includes: lunacy, which I know by now many people would have screamed God forbid, fighting and injuring fellow corps members (hence sharp objects were seized from our belongings prior to venturing into the premises), stealing, breaking any of the outlined camp rules all of which have escaped my memory and, of course, infidelity (which we all know is done with the wrong person).
Kiss and tell on camp
I had to use Brown’s love as a case study simply because it is not only very funny but it actually stood out of the similar cases that got me amazed that one could still manage to find an Indian lover in a nation like Nigeria. It is believed in Nigeria that love died a natural death on the Lagos/Ibadan and Lagos/Benin expressway a very long time ago. Not to talk of the fact that the young man was actually my kinsman is a story for another day.
Brown was the nickname of this guy that I met in the camp. We were on the queue to collect our identity card one hot afternoon and, no doubt, l was tired and fagged out, as a result of the scorching sun. But, then, I instantly noticed this particular young man talking few steps away from me. He kept talking about subjects that I cannot even remember now because they were just too broad and seemingly irrelevant to be remembered for any reason that I did stare at him irritably and hissed at the fact that he could not seem to hold his two lips together for a minute.
He must have heard me hiss. He simply walked up to me, ignoring the fact that I was totally hostile and jocularly inquired where I hailed from. So persistent was he that I reluctantly answered that I am from Osun State. That was it. He went wild in jubilation that he’d met someone from his state. His excitement must have forced me to smile and I discovered that his town is not too far from mine in Osun State and so we bonded. He went ahead to tell everyone on camp that I was his sister, while I also covered up that claim by calling him egbon mi (my brother) that some people actually thought that we were related.
Three days after that day, he brought a girl to my hostel to introduce to me as his wife and not even his girlfriend. I exchanged pleasantries with the lady just the way a supposed sister-in-law would. I called Brown aside for further explanation as a ‘supposed relation’. I further inquired from him if truly he is married and he answered in the affirmative, but before I could ask any more questions, he called out to his ‘Honey’ on top of his voice and bade me farewell. I stood amazed as they giggled like teenagers on a first date.
I had wanted to ask Brown why he would allow his wife to remove their wedding band from her finger as faint weals were evident on the finger, an indication of someone who had had her ring on for a long time and only got it removed just recently. But since he never really entertained more questions from me, I watched him clutch his sweetheart away happily from my sight.
Few days later, I realized that this lady was one of the ‘most laid females’ on camp, sleeping with whoever cared to smile in her face. I had wanted to warn Brown about this but a friend advised that I should mind my business. I did.
Two weeks in the camp, when most of us could not wait to get the hell out of our stressful confinement, there was an inter-platoon football competition. Brown, being a very good defender as well as a football coach from home (as this was obvious from the way he represented his platoon) was part of the team that played the match for his platoon. Not being a very enthusiastic football spectator myself, I left the field to attend to other pressing chores in my hostel. I was on the queue to fetch water when I heard loud screams coming from the direction of the football field, screams like;
“haaaaa”……….”yeeeeeeee”…….“He don die oooo”. …….. “See bone oooo”…….. “blood is spilling”……………. rented the air that I had no choice than to run with others in the direction of the football pitch. I got there on time to see one of the footballers on the stretcher hurriedly being carried into the ambulance.
Those of us that had not all the while been watching the football inquired from the spectators what happened. We were told that an attacker of an opposing platoon kicked Brown on the ankle and he suffered a serious dislocation. While one version has it that the feet was completely disengaged from the leg as they glaringly saw it fly apart, another version has it that few strands of veins held it together and prevented the feet from completely falling off. Whatever it was, it was clear that Brown needed an urgent bone mend to walk again. We were later told that the ambulance took him to an orthopedic hospital in Kano State for proper medical attention.
Totally dejected at my brother’s predicament, I went back to my hostel wearing a somber look and absolutely moved at his plight. I saw the need to go and console my supposed sister-in-law at her hostel. I wondered if I could be feeling this totally dejected, the wife must be rolling In tears and I would be a very bad sister-in-law not to be there for her at this trying times. I was lucky to meet her in the hostel where she stayed and I must say it was a jaw-dropping scene to see her chatting away happily and laughing with her room mates. Puzzled, I instantly guessed she was yet to know what had befallen her hubby and this I quickly informed her. I had expected a downpour of tears but I was shocked to see a face of a smiling sun.
When she saw the shock on my face, she snapped back at me spontaneously,
“Mind you, he is not my husband.”
“Chineke!!” I deliberately exclaimed in her language. “What are you talking about?”
I guessed she must have sensed my annoyance as she sat me down afterwards and carefully lectured me, saying, “Don’t mind Brown, he is such a love sick fellow that he kept telling everyone that I am his wife. I am a happily married woman in my state with two kids, as you can see from the lines on my ring finger, my wedding ring is carefully kept in my make-up kit. I came to camp to catch fun which I was duly deprived of as a young woman. I married my husband as a teenager as he was the one that deflowered me. He got me a tertiary education as promised and I have never been exposed all my life. Even when I was in the university, I go to school from my matrimonial home while my husband drops me off in school on a daily basis on his way from work. So all my course mates know that I am a married woman. So, I was starved of fun. I only slept with Brown a few times and he became stuck. The man that duly paid my dowry is at home and not Brown. But then you must be a distant relation of his because I wonder why you did not know this fact.”
I heaved a sigh as I swallowed the spit gathered in my mouth. But before I could say a word, she added, “Anyway, sorry about his fracture, I wish him a quick recovery. So have you made a call across to his closer family members to inform them?
“No” I snapped. “We are not born by the same parents, we also met on camp and he started calling me his sister, as a matter of fact I do not even know his real names, let alone his surname.” “Oh!!” she managed to mutter as I hurriedly left her room, I am done with this super story series.
Days after the incidence, Brown returned to camp in the same ambulance that took him away and supported with medical gadgets he needed to ensure his wellbeing. Puzzled at his rather quick recovery and the fact that he was declared fit enough to return to camp, I went to see him at the Camp’s Clinic.
“Oh my God!…” was the first thing that I could mutter as soon as I set my eyes on Brown. “I sincerely do not think I have seen such a POP bandage as long as this on anyone all my life, from his ankle straight down to his buttocks?” I exclaimed, “God have mercy” I concluded while I moved closer to him.
Smiling still like nothing had happened to him, he greeted, “Aburo mi bawo ni? (My younger one, how are you?)”
“I’m fine” I managed to mutter, mouth agape. “But why were you rushed back to Tsafe in just few days, who the hell was the doctor that certified you fit to travel and got you discharged in the process?” I fumed after taking another glance at the long POP bandage before me.
“I was the one that insisted that I should be allowed to come back else I’ll give up the ghost.”
“Haba!, Why now?” “I was already missing my angel,” he said. “Who?” I asked rhetorically feigning ignorance of whom he was talking about. “My wife of course”
I made to rant with all the annoyance in me to tell him to stop daydreaming but Tommy stopped me from doing so, having realized my moves, whispering into my ears that I should save him that heartbreak as it’s obvious that he is purely in love.
“Now Titi, will you please do me a favour?” he requested. “What favour?” I asked. “Help me get my wife from her hostel, I’m sure she isn’t aware of my arrival,” he asked smiling still.
This I did, brought Brown’s supposed angel from her hostel and left as hurriedly as I could.
At my subsequent call to the clinic to see how he is faring, Brown told me that the camp officials asked him to mention a state of his choice where he would be redeployed to so that he would be better taken care of by his relatives. He said he vehemently rejected the offer so as to be closer to his wife. He does not want to leave her in the hands of the vampire guys, he stated.
“Is she really your wife?” I asked again to affirm the truth. “Yes now” he maintained. “Okay o” I accepted, but according to a Yoruba adage that says eeyan meji o ki njebi iro, ti eni ti won ban pa fun ko ba mo, eni to nparo a mo (two people can never be guilty of lies, if the one that is being told a lie does not know that she/he is being lied to, then the person telling the lie will surely know that he or she is lying).
On the 21st day which was automatically the last day on camp, many people that have been penciled down for redeployment which is usually on health reasons or marriage were preparing to return to the state of their choice as against those of us going to our place of primary assignment. Supposed Mrs. Brown being a married woman had actually applied for redeployment which was however granted her totally unknown to Brown, her lover boy. So, the clouds could not withhold the rain when poor Brown discovered this fact. I never knew what became of him afterwards, as I never got to see him anymore after our departure. But one thing I am sure is that he went away as a victim of camp love.
At camp, corps members eat bread of sorrow
Only the staffers involved can best explain why we were fed like Nigerian prisoners (as I was told prisoners in much developed nations were properly fed).
The meals were routine in such a way that there was absolutely no room for favourites. I am sure the worms that existed in the belly of corps members who relied solely on the meal served in our camp’s kitchen would definitely form a cyst to protest such a horrible meal.
But then my friends that served in some other states informed me that the meals served them was not as bad as the ones we ate. But I am not sorry to say that the kind of meals served to corps members in the Batch A , 2010 set in Zamfara State could as well be described as corporal punishment in its entirety. I do not know if that has been improved now but I can only account for what I experienced and those that served in my set can attest to that fact.
The kitchen staffers as well is not different from that of the waste management officials whilst on duty but then I simply would have gone totally pale as result of malnourishment save for the little cash that accompanied me to camp as well as the clash in provision purchase that happened in my household. Wanna know how?
Few days to my embarking on the trip that took me to Zamfara state, my dad had requested that I should make a list of all the provisions that I would need on camp for prompt purchase, and this I did only for mum to request for a copy too just in case dad makes an omission or lost his as he is known for such, and then twenty four hours into camping, dad had gone to work with the aim of making the purchases on his way back home while mum on the other hand decided to do same since dad was not saying a word about still making the purchases or not. When we all assembled at night to get my things packed, lo and behold I had excess and over double of provisions that I would be needing, Unanimously however, it was agreed that I should go along with all as long as I can bear the pain of having to carry the excess luggage and so I was quick to answer in the affirmative. On camp however, I had more than enough as this was the saving grace that gave me the additional nutritional requirement any time the under nutritious meals were served.
Now running a quick check on our meals , they were: either a watery and stone filled beans with garri(which formed a larger percentage of what we were served anyway), or a small bread not enough to fill a six year old kid let alone a full blown youth of usually above sixty kilogram on the average coupled with a tea as watery as the stool of a kwashiorkor patient that I ensured I never tasted a drop all through but instead did justice to it by giving the Northern ground the liquid. Another meal so incessantly served is the concoction rice they termed jollof or how best can you describe the kind of rice that has its groundnut oil sweating profusely on the surface of the rice and the salt and pepper annoyingly staring at you as well as daring you to consume if you would not stool all the days of your life. Spiced with this is the meat we all tagged sim card or better still, memory card. And as if that punishment was not enough, we were at times served a white rice and a watery stew in which fish was sprinkled on it like it were to be served to Obatala the Yoruba deity or Ogun the god of iron. Another strange but true meal that was served us is Yam and in as much as this kind of meal is palatable, it is usually sized so horribly and annoyingly that it could be as big as my head with varying but amusing contours coupled a watery stew to spice it up, who cares if you consume it or throw it away to the very willing almajiris , as long as the aim of having to serve you anything called meal is achieved.
To add salt to injury was one hot afternoon after the soldiers had drilled the living daylight out of us, we all hoped to retire to a cool and decent meal (in our dreams anyway) while the kitchen staffers surprised us with an unusual meal of bread that was left of the breakfast that we had earlier and with a cup of garri each. I could not help but yell,
“Are we animals? A loaf of bread with a cup of garri?”
Well I was quick to retire to a cup of cold beverage and geisha with the bread from the kitchen,
“Abi wetin man go do?” I reasoned. And then as long as what we were served is the acclaimed jollof rice, I either out rightly ignore or make up for the about to be lost nutrient by taking a quick walk to the mammy market to buy plantain and beans and about the only times we ate a fairly decent meal were the inter platoon cooking contest when girls from each platoon take turns to cook at the kitchen.
Its so sad anyway how some states in the Federal Republic treat their Corp Members whilst on Camp and even beyond, they subject them to inhumane treatment like keeping them in filthy hostels fit only for the dogs whilst on camp or giving them meals like they were not there for the Socio Economic growth of their state in the first place. But then on another note, while some states pay good monthly allowees to Corp Members on a monthly basis ( some are even very reasonable and future conscious by giving out such to Corp Members only at the end of the Youth Service, a compulsory saving of sort), other States like Edo do not pay a dime (they probably prayed that the grace of God be sufficient for the pocket of the poor youths all the while the scheme lasted) I heard Lagos pays good while Zamfara state that used to pay three thousand naira during my set was reported to be paying as much as ten thousand naira during the times of Governor Yerima actually had it slashed when Gov. Aliyu Shinkafi held sway as the Governor of the State. A Yoruba adage however has said it all that a king that ruled when the town is at peace would sure have his name in the minds of the people while the one that ruled and there was chaos and hullalooboos would also have his name in the sand if time.
12. MAN ‘O’ WAR ACTIVITIES
As denoted from the word, it’s a group of rather strenuous activities mapped out by men of the Man O War sect. It is however a line up of tasks to be carried out by Corp Members though duly guided by the Man O War men.
Usually, each platoon gets to go for the Man O War task one after the other to ensure that it is not crowded and the number of task carried out largely depends on the availability of land and resources on the camp in question. The morning preceding the D-day was accompanied with enthusiasm from the Corp Members in turn. It’s uncommon to see them dressing up as early as 4am in the morning, grinning from one place to the other as well as being in company of peers from the same platoon. Normally every morning when we assemble for the morning drills which usually takes place as early as 5am, the clothe to be decked in is usually the white t-shirt on a white short but then anyone you see decked in the seven over seven otondo wear (that is the khaki trousers, jacket and the likes) means such was in the platoon billed to go for the Man O War activities. Platoon four which was my platoon was billed to go for the Man O War on a Saturday, the excitement bug I must confess caught me too and in no time I joined other eager platoon four members on the parade ground as early as five a.m, after the daily praise and worship session and the announcement thereafter by the camp authorities notifying us to adhere to one rule or the other, platoon four members who were already on a queue arranged in a group of twos were told to proceed to the permanent site which is however under construction for the Man O War activities while other platoons were told to go on with the drills for the day.
The fun started as we were about leaving when the Man O War men screamed;
“Mooooooooorale”, a word that means that we should be excited as excitement boosts one’s morale for drills and then we usually respond quickly by saying
“mooooooorale” they’ll repeat
“hai” and then songs to really boost our morale.
“na jejejeje we dey go ooo, jejeeeee, we dey go o jeje”, one of the Man O War men sang and we followed suit. We sung along as we jogged, ran and danced along to the venue where the tasks were billed to hold. Sluggish movements were generally not allowed hence the reason why varying songs are usually sung. Other songs includes:
Solo: “obi tererente”
Solo: “do like this”
Solo: “do like that”
Solo: “dance like this, shake your head, stamp your feet, bend down low, close your eyes etc” as we simply answered obi all along while also dramatizing the orders in the song.
When we got to the venue, we were admonished to abide by all the safety rules guiding the tasks. We were then divided into groups of seven where each group performed some tasks in unison until the most heinous of the task where females being the supposed weaker of the two sexes were told to go first before the males were left to their fate of having to perform it unaided. Here are the tasks in no particular order.
• TASK ONE: What we did basically were sit ups. Mats were spread on the floor for us to perform this task as our hands were placed at the back of our head to avoid us using it for support while we laid flat and unanimously raised our body with all the strength we could proffer.
• TASK TWO: We held unto a rope spread across like a clothe line and then moved up and down.
• TASK THREE: Involved Corp Members hanging their hands on two iron poles erected vertically to each other and then asked to swing the whole body like a pendulum, that is to and forth.
• TASK FOUR: We were asked to crawl on our chest underneath a very low barbed wire spread across our heads, any attempt to raise one’s head as a result of exhaustion or otherwise gets to ensure that one’s head/neck is scratched by the barbed wire.
• TASK FIVE: Having to use a rope to pass through a round but used tires with both legs inserted simultaneously and at the same time.
• TASK SIX: Trekking on a very tiny and slim plank, one will have to fling both hands open like a bird to maintain balance else you’ll fall.
• TASK SEVEN: We were dragged up a very long and tall wooded plank erected like a wall that is well over fourteen inches tall. Two hefty guys would stay below to help one climb while the two other grabs you from above to help you from falling back whilst you are left to climb across on your own. This was the juncture at which I appreciated the fact that I am petite as girls my size were lifted easily whilst many over weight had to skip this task.
• TASK EIGHT: We were asked to patiently crawl inside a round shaped but cemented rim.
• TASK NINE: We stood on a thin plank and then held on to a rope above with which we were told to swing ourselves to the next thin plank which is a bit farther.While majority landed on the floor instead of the other plank before us, a very few were able to make it to the top of the plank and I bet I was not among.
• TASK TEN: A plank of about two feet tall was placed in front of us as we were arranged in group of seven and then asked to move up and down in quick succession, a missed calculation as to how it is done lands one on the floor.
Those that served in other states confessed that they did a task that entails them walking on a thin rope spread across the sky but held by firmly rooted trees amongst other very interesting ones, tasks which we never did anyway.
TITILAYO OLADIMEJI (email@example.com)
*Oladimeji recounts her experiences in a yet-to-be published book, TALES OF AN NYSC MEMBER