Camp life is an understated irony…
The Bitter-sweet experience people get from their life in an ‘NYSC orientation camp’ comes from a number of factors: but let me not jump ahead of myself, I wish to make this written orientation about camp life, logical and fluid (to the best of my writing skill). I must also add that all the details I would be giving here; is from my own experience and thought- of which case, you should know may not be applicable to all. Nevertheless there are lots of lessons you could learn from reading this commemoration of ‘NYSC camp life.
From the moment of ‘call up numbers’ to when you get your posting letter to when you finally arrive camp, is usually a period beset with intense anxiety and unnecessary stress. But don’t be fooled, the real stress and problem starts with your being finally admitted into the NYSC camp ground.
General opinion is that one should endeavor to make it early to the camp site (on the first day that camp opens). The reason they give for this is that you would get good bed-space. For me that is all bland-a-dash, but I wouldn’t want you to undergo any form of stress (that should mean not attending camp at all) so I would try to make my opinions considerable. So if possible, attend camp within the first three days of its opening, but remember people can still be admitted days after the official date of admittance is past. Take your time, do not rush unnecessarily, endeavor to pack your bags days before you begin your journey to the camp site..
Now you are at the camp site entrance gates, and it seems the military and Para-military services are expecting invasion from boko-haram. The army is there with armored weapons and machineries, the police also have plenty of representations at the gate (FYI, you can always roger them whenever you need a favor), the civil defense may not seem formidable at that moment, but if you can, befriend any nice one, because every single person you meet may play a significant role in your camp stay even the everyday man-o-war… just read on you will learn more.
Before I continue let me create a more adequate foundation for this.. NYSC camp-life commemoration.
“Camp life is highly regimented”.
First, there are two tiers of administration in a camp ground. The first is the civilian administration headed by the camp-coordinator and also most probable the NYSC state coordinator (so till you finish your service year, this person will be the state grand-patron during your service life). The second and the most prominent figure-head during your camp life will be the Camp-commandant; I should probably say ‘your Camp-commandant’. Because he is going to be a terrifying- nightmare for most of your camp life. For the sake of this…’NYSC commemoration’, let’s call him Captain-X.
Officially Captain-X would most likely be a captain in the Nigerian army, and he controls all the military/Para-military proceedings associated with camp life. Captain-X chooses when everyone goes to bed and when they get up (usually odd times). He also has a final say on who can be de-camped, so my advice is don’t get unnecessarily saucy with Captain-X.
Apart from Captain-X and the camp coordinator (civilian administrator), you would definitely come to meet with many other notable personalities, each one with his or her own prerequisite that you must meet.. The most personalized of these would be your platoon coordinator; it is he/she, who would directly be in charge of all your platoon activities and your first point of contact whenever you have any problem.
After you have been cleared from the gate, you would be registered and given a state-code, which will also serve as your tag number for the entire duration of your camp stay..This number is very crucial for all of your NYSC experience; it’s what differentiates meal tickets, it’s what you crest on your properties for identification purposes, in fact your name ceases’ to exist and this new number becomes everything about you in camp. After you have gotten your tag number, your platoon coordinator procures for you, your NYSC kit; made up of your khaki, jungle boots, crested vest etc. I must clearly warn at this junction, that you properly check if whatever is given to you is of proper size, because after this initial period, it is very difficult to change any of the properties given to you (especially foot wear). You would see people cresting their tag number on their properties, my advice to you- do the same. We done with the boring section, let’s move on to more interesting portions of this write-up ‘NYSC commemoration’.
After registration it seems you can now get a little bit of air, locate your dormitory and just go a little site seeing of the camp ground.
Whether you are a Christian, Moslem, pagan, Hindu or Atheist; mami knows no creed and no denomination. It knows no age, skin color or university attended. The same mami that serves you, serves the camp commandant (Captain-X), so it is important you get a proper orientation about the mami market, what it can do for you and to you.
Whatever items you may need, or services you may require would be definitely found in the mami market. In fact a lot of people do not know about some of the activities in the mami market till they finally leave the camp ground.
“In my NYSC camp ground, one of the services we enjoyed from the mami market included, a bathroom/toilet service; which came in a number of packaging, for example there was the ‘one star’ level- this was just a WC, which you had to squat over when using. Then there was ‘two- star’, which offers you a shower in addition to the WC over which you still had to squat during usage. The third which was VIP and also cost a whooping 200 naira per use, affords you a normal WC (where you sit, when using) in combo with a shower for bathing.”
Looking back now, it all seems funny; but we had to time bathing and toileting periods to coincide, I mean, you just don’t bathe or toilet whenever you feel like, and you also got to watch what you eating, because if you end up with a running stomach, you would not get the sympathy of a discount whether you use the toilet a hundred times or not… and yes mami was that mean, because it was all about the money.
People soon realize the whole of their camp experiences especially the interesting ones emanates from the mami market. You will find all kinds of people there; I knew peeps that will wake up, and first thing in the morning- head straight for the booze joints in the mami market. Another very crucial thing you must know about the mami market is that, only those who are ready to burn cash becomes its super-star. I mean there are guys who hang-out every single night popping things- the Rozzay, Ciroc, Andre, Red-labels etc. They keep their tables continuously flowing with beer. And of course, all the creamy ‘Chics’ stay by their side; you should know the drill by now, because we all saw these in our various schools (The guys with the cash and flash- get all the hot and cream girls).
Do not be dismayed if you are not well-to-do, because you will definitely not be alone, you will see and meet people of all class, if it’s Shekpe (local gin) you can afford, there would definitely be a Shekpe joint with plenty of Shekpe friends for you. Though you may not get the advantage of cream girls sitting by you, but you would find people who are not ‘gold-diggers’ or ‘fake to the core’. The people you find in the Shekpe or Pami (palm-wine) joint would be real and happy, people who don’t really send, and you should probably just be like them (real and happy) because you really don’t have any other option.
Now, now-now, do not get me wrong by thinking I am an advocate for your spending your entire life in camp or in the mami market- partying and drinking. No! I would rather you join a NGO group or become active in red-cross or sanitary units or any of the various voluntary units that would gladly welcome you. Or you could join the OBS community or simply become active in any given fellowship such as NCCF (Nigerian Coppers Christian Fellowship); hope I got that right. By joining and becoming active in one of these bodies, you use your time more constructively, and you also get a sense of responsibility. I don’t think I really need to go into details about this, because the wise ones would know, and they would get all the benefits attached.
But for those who will harden their hearts and go ‘big-stouting’, ‘pepper-souping’, and ‘suya-ing’ every other night in the mami market, let me do what I can, to limit the damage they may incur for themselves. You should be aware that; the mami market offers you untold fun and pleasure as long as you can pay for it. When you run out of finance, you lose your ‘star-boy’ title. The friends that seem to surround you, and laud you with glory, soon lose their interest in you. At this point where people may not be able to further their extravagant opulence(usually the last week of the orientation camp)- they run into debt, and if they continue in their delusive star-boy dilemma, they soon resort to; going to their account to get more cash (which was totally unplanned for); some even borrow against their anticipated first Allowee- usually paid, prior to the weekend before leaving camp (what a way to start their NYSC career); those that came to camp with big phones and gadgets begin to sell off- at very incredulous rates; some people even go so low, as to begin stealing and pilfering- which implies straight decamping when you get caught (what a shame it would be, for your parents and family); I even know some people who used their credentials such as their statement of result, international passports, NYSC id-card, etc, to borrow money from some of the sellers in the mami market. A lot of people on receiving their first Allowee use all of it in paying debts for probably a night of extravaganza in the mami market.
Some people are wise and they totally abstain or moderately limit their flexing in the mami market, some are crafty, dubious and ‘gold-digging’; especially the girls, they intend to flex all of your funds, while barely touching theirs. I may be able to forgive the ladies who are ‘gold-digging’ (it’s usually in their nature): but for those guys who- withhold the bringing of their resources to the table, for the benefit of all, meanwhile they expect you to pay the bills and clear the table, for bottles and flexing they have enjoyed,- be wary of all such guys, they are worse than snitches (please do excuse my language, it’s just that, I truly despise such a one).
Before I leave this section of mami market and its vices, let me also warn; that it is very easy to pick up habits and traits which are not really characteristic of your natural person. Let me iterate this point with some salient examples; it is very common for guys who hardly smoke to pick up the habit of habitual smoking, or for girls to go unnecessary a-flirting (you know what I mean). These may not be the usual character of that person, but depending on the inclination of a person and the kind of friends you hook up with, you find yourself doing things- that make you blend in with the crowd, or outstanding as it may be in some cases. My advice to you is, keep it real, and keep it simple; be yourself and make friends with people who are real and of befitting character (I’m beginning to sound like somebody’s mom...lol).
As an additional guideline, I have tried to list some common services’ one may be able to get from the mami market. Apart from the drinking parlous and VIP toilets, there are some very reasonable products and services you may also procure from the mami market; I have taken the time to list some general ones down below;
- Every conceivable piece of clothing you may be required to wear in camp, (whites, shorts, shoes, socks. Football boots etc)
- Laundry service, for those who are lazy, have no fear, you may never lift your hands to washing your clothes, even your socks and boxers can all be ‘laundrified’.
- I haven’t really mentioned food; the mami market will offer you a wide variety of food and menu choices, it is like one big pot-luck ‘only- you have to pay for it’.
- Arcade and video gaming, for all console lovers, you will definitely find the gaming freaks and play-station enthusiast there.
- Book shop- I mention this because some people may decide to delve into book reading as a means to cope with the camp life (see camp psychology section of this write-up). I recommend at least reading two good books during your orientation camp duration.
- Chemist shop- I do not mean it for those who may want to carry out abortion (though I believe there would definitely be sales of Postinor and Protection- hmmm!). And also for those who love to get slow on the roll.. Codeine syrups cost a lot (you should also know they are not entirely good for one’s heath).
- Tailor-shops- you would surprised how consistent you may have to visit one of the tailors shop in camp and even have to make one of them your customer, especially after you collect your khaki.
- Hair making/Barber shop- for the guys who love to stay fresh and the girls who love to remain fly. You can always make your hair, and stay on top of your game, though the billing rate may come as a surprise.
- Photographers- The photographers you meet in an orientation camp soon makes you second guessing if you are a celebrity (paparazzi things). You can even subscribe to a particular photographer, who tags you, and gives you a shot at anyplace or time all through your camp stay. Make sure you properly budget for it.. I know some girls who end up paying more than their Allowee for their photographs.
- Bead-making, cake baking, shoe-making, equipment hiring, attire hiring (just name it) etc
- General purpose shops- you will definitely find almost anything you are looking for in the mami market, be it fruits, stationeries, traditional medicine, ornaments, phone repair and even phone charging- which is quite an important service.
- Black market- Now I know some people may be wondering, why I mentioned this, but the truth is that, it is a very pivotal part of any business environment. There would surely be demand for some products and ehn… services,-which are not really constitutional, all these would be found in the black market. Please, note that there is no particular shop or person who would be dealing in black market goods and services; but those that know what they are looking, for will always know where to get them,- I guess that’s why they call it black-market in the first place.
Standard Camp Activities
This has turned out to be quite a lengthy write-up, but I intend that it covers a proper experience one may get from an NYSC camp. Talking about experience, let’s take a look at some of the standard camp activities you would definitely go through.
Morning and Evening Drills (Flag hoisting)- Apart from Sundays, there is nothing like a normal day, every other day starts around ‘5:am’; with the beagle blowing you out of your precious sleep, you then have to quickly dress up and make yourself present at the parade ground. You line-up with your platoon members and go through some standard activities which may include; exercising, attendance taking, practice for upcoming events etc. You are then addressed by the camp-coordinator or Captain-X (camp commandant).
During the day- There is usually a lot of boring stuff lined up for your day, which of course you have to be present for, except you choose to be an outlaw like ….. the people who are outlaws. The day’s activity usually includes lectures, training programs, symposiums etc. Please note that, these programs may be informative and inspiring- it’s just that, those who love mami will always love mami.
“No need in beating a dead horse”
I hope those reading this, would not perceive me to be a villain, but I have to be as truthful as possible- I don’t know the NYSC anthem, I never really had the chance to learn it; only about 5% of my time was spent in any of these programs where the anthem was sung before and after each program; don’t ask about the other 95% of my time, because it was spent in extremely non-beneficial activities (which I am not proud of recounting- ‘wasted camp days’).
Evenings- After the evening drills, some head straight for the mami market, while others indulge in really meaningful activities; such as, attending fellowship, reading a good book, positive social interactivity etc. in essence the evenings are usually free for marauding and parading, see that chic, you have been admiring you can stalk her or even decide to take her out, to any one of the mami joints. Any how you decide to spend your evenings- ensure it has positive value on you.
Others- There would also be some other land-mark activities, such as football competitions, beauty pageants, camp fire, fire drills (fire drills will be organized by Captain-X, usually at odd times), Macho man event etc. Try to enjoy these activities as they come by, I usually go with my friends, and we go with our liquor because that’s the only consolation we know. Anyway employ any means necessary, but by all means ensure that you enjoy the show.
The dreary feeling one gets during his period in camp can deteriorate into acute depression. From the moment you enter through the camp gate- what you perceive as freedom ends. You are told when to wake in the morning, told what and when to eat (if you can’t afford your own meals), you are told what to do at almost every given time. In fact you are forcefully introduced into a sort of regimented lifestyle. Like my camp coordinator would say over the public address system every morning in her dry shrilling voice “Camp life is highly regimented”. It wasn’t funny, because, you standing there in the cold of the morning, having been forcibly dragged from your bed by one of the soldiers who take it as fun in ensuring you are distraught at every conceivable time of the day.
What I am trying to say in essence, is that, the sudden change in your life pattern may negatively affect you. A lot of people cope with this in a number of ways; guys especially, resort to drinking and smoking, which may suffice as long as you have enough cash with you. Some girls go through this, by ‘jump-cating’ and flirting with every single guy in the camp ground. However you may be unprepared for this sudden and unavoidable psychological downslide during your stay in camp. I have listed some tips below which may help;
- - Be prepared psychologically; assume you are going for a military recruitment program (which is very applicable).
- - Do not take offence when you are insulted or treated below what you regard as humane by the soldiers (NYSC is not your father’s house).
Hang-out with cool people,
- - Be yourself don’t fake what you aren’t. People, who fake what they are not, soon lose their acts after the hardship of camp life beats against them for a few weeks –Be real.
- - Join a voluntary group, I love it when people faint, and the red-cross comes to the rescue. It gives them a sense of responsibility; you wouldn’t have the time to brood when you are on duty.
- - Eat well and drink lots of water, in fact try and stay Clean/healthy. Just because camp life is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bathe or brush your teeth everyday (a lot of people do ‘rub-and-shine’ for days in a roll).
- - Form healthy relationships especially with the opposite sex.
- - Share- the only way to really get through an NYSC orientation camp is together, ‘esprit de corps’. Give when you can, try making the people around you happy. “Blessed is the man that giveth”.
- - Pray- I don’t really remember go to church any day, but I recall reading the bible from my Android phone most times and talking to God really intimately (especially after hangovers).
“Remember thy creator in the days of thy NYSC camp”….. @Iconickels
Life After Camp
If life in your NYSC orientation camp is like eating ‘cold beans’, then life after camp may be like eating ‘three days old, cold beans’. Though if you are posted to a very nice organization then you are among the lucky few who has microwave to heat up their beans and thereby make their NYSC life-after camp a little bit not so dreary.
Really, it is not funny, especially when your employee or ELI act like leprechauns. Some employees could be very inconsiderate, for example my employee after accepting me to teach in his ‘plank and zinc’ school, told me that- the only available accommodation was in one of the classrooms. Imagine no bathrooms or toilets just one of the classrooms cordoned off as accommodation; we had to bathe outside every morning before students resumed school each day. And worst of all, our ELI was inconsiderate to our plight because he/she had an understanding with the employee. It was as if we were being sold-off to a life of thralldom.
Basically you should know that there is a lot of politicking, black-marketing, favoritism, nepotism, narcissism and whatever anomalies that can arise from putting a system of affairs and people, especially Nigerians together.
Don’t be dismayed already, NYSC life after camp could be really fun, what really matters most is the attitude. After-all, it is better to live in a classroom than to be in Boko-haram territory or posted to a clinic for treating Ebola virus patients (you know what I mean).
Immediately after you leave the camp ground, you would be taken to the local government area you where posted to for registration purposes. You may need to hole-up in the coppers lodge (which usually is not a very comfortable experience when it is overcrowded or with poor infrastructures, like my pit toilet coppers lodge).
You would be doing some registration at the local government, and you would need to have passports and some other things, which would all be specified for you…No big deal, really.
When you eventually settle down to your life of service, make sure you put on a spirit of fortitude and a communal attitude. It’s a service period of one year, serve Nigeria with pride!
follow us on twitter @9jagreenarena