Known to be the next phase of life for every Nigerian graduate, the National Youth Service Corps orientation scheme is a program every youth anticipates and looks forward to. In this exclusive piece, Information Nigeria’s Amaka Odozi narrates her 3-week experience at the Lagos Iyana Ipaja camp, from her call-up letter to her last day in camp.
On the 1st of November, 2019, I received the anticipated National Youth Service Corps call up letter like every other prospective corp member of my set.
I graduated in June, and had been disturbing my university’s secretary because of this letter, which I finally received in November.
I became a ‘batch C’ corps member after the long wait.
Although, I asked a friend of mine to check it so I don’t suffer heartbreak because I had chosen Adamawa, Kano, Oyo and one other I cannot remember now.
It is a known fact that 90% of corpers posted to Lagos influenced their posting.
I was initially scared that being born and brought up in the southwestern part was going to pose as a threat and I would definitely be thrown to the Northern part of Nigeria for my service year.
In my mind, I had already surrendered to the thought of being posted to far away from home but I was low-key, eyeing Kano, since I heard it was the Lagos part of the North.
However, this would only give my parents a heart attack.
While others were checking their dashboard and breaking the news on their Whatsapp status.
I begged my dear friend, Olamide to check the letter after I had given him my username and password.
I joyfully announced that our prayers had been answered.
Before then, I already lied to my friends that I had been posted to Kaduna… to my dismay some congratulated me while others sympathized with me till I told them the truth.
By this time, I knew who my true friends were.
After I had done extensive research and read many reviews about Lagos Iyana Ipaja camp, I quickly rushed down to Yaba market to buy a waist pouch, torchlight, food flask, cutlery, 4 white knickers, 2 packs of white shirts, three pairs of socks and a pair of sneakers.
I had spent over 17, 000 naira purchasing these items.
I also bought provisions and toiletries which cost 5,000 extra.
I made sure all my documents were ready and intact the night before I left for camp.
The documents included,
- My call-up letter,
- Authentic medical report (this will be verified by a medical practitioner to ensure you are fit to stay in camp)
- Green card slip
- Statement of result from school ( certificate)
- School ID card
- At least 10 passport photographs
I made sure I took at least 8 photocopies of each document.
I packed my things together and placed them in front of my bedroom door because I was excited.
Day One: Reporting To Camp
On the 5th of November, 2019, I set out early to camp and I suddenly became nervous as I got closer to the entrance of the camp.
I got to camp around 10:30 am because I had to look for a bank where I could make cash withdrawals because there were no ATM Machines on camp yet.
The soldier who attended to me seemed pretty nice as he cracked some jokes here and there while my luggage was being checked in.
Not to worry, I carried only one box to avoid too much stress and stories that touch.
I came prepared with the necessary documents and photocopies after hearing how the traders at the Mami market could be ridiculously expensive.
I already knew sharp objects, hard drugs, electronic appliances were contraband items which will eventually be seized.
After the search, I was told to walk down to the female hostel.
I noticed photographers had begun making their way towards me like bees to honey, and they asked me if my passport was in red background.
“They think they’ve seen another Johnny just come,” I said to myself.
The devil came and I almost gave in but I summoned up the courage to go with my passports in white background which was accepted.
I managed to get to the hostel where we were told to line up to write down our names, and when we were up to 30 on the list, we were taken to a room where we were going to spend the next three weeks.
Before now, I have never seen a single room fit in more than 10 bunks and 30 bed spaces. Do not blame me because I attended a university where we were either six or four in a room.
Moving on, the registration process was seamless because all the camp officials were situated in one big hall, so it was pretty easy to locate them and finish up on time.
When the time came for the medical clearance, the long queue seemed endless, so I postponed mine till the following day.
Quick tip: Intending corp members should go early for registration to reduce the stress.
I was given my NYSC kits which includes Khaki, crested vest, white tops and shorts (2 pairs), jungle boots and white tennis shoes under my platoon stand.
Thankfully, I had gotten my white shirts and shorts from home because the ones I was given at camp were too small.
We were also told to change into our white shirt and white knicker immediately after getting the kits.
Each Corp member is expected to always don their NYSC cap to avoid unforeseen consequences.
While I was trying to rest, the soldiers unexpectedly blew their beagle around 4:00pm and we, the corps members had to align at the parade ground.
I thought we would be given a day off to rest and mingle.
Sadly, we were taught how to ‘at ease and attention’ and I dreaded every moment. We had already started practicing for the swearing-in ceremony.
This is when all prospective corps members learn the moves soldiers use in welcoming visitors, especially the governor of the state or representative, who are to visit on the day of the swearing-in ceremony.
I stood for over 4 hours because I am obeying the clarion call. After the drills around 6:00pm, I stormed the market to feed my eyes but I ended up buying a bucket for using the restroom.
All ‘Otondos were also told to go to the campground to watch an orientation movie.
I got back to my room around 9:00 pm, I ate and dozed off.
I was soon disturbed from my slumber by the sound of the beagle by 4:00am. Female soldiers came into the hostel blowing their whistles and I quickly got dressed and ran to the parade ground. All corp members were told to line up according to their various platoons. There were 10 platoons in total. Each platoon stands in three’s and a group of soldiers are assigned to them.
Each platoon was also assigned to lead the morning devotion on a day to day basis.
We sang praises, recited our NYSC anthems and then listened to a write-up, known as meditation verse and from the platoon leading that day.
After this, we were addressed by our camp director, who constantly gave us the rules and regulations to abide by in camp and communicated with us to improve our stay.
After this, we had our Man O’ War drills, where most times we jogged round the camp premises.
During the drills, we learnt some hilarious songs that made the situation bearable.
Some of them are:
- Shoe get size, Okirika get quality
- Na u go tire oo, na you go tire, Lazy soldiers (corpers) na you go tire
- U go born mumu, u go born mumu, if soldier marry soldier you go born mumu
After all this, we went our separate ways form 7:25 am till 8:50 to get ready from the day.
Meanwhile, each platoon was also assigned days to clean the environment and cook for all the corp members.
Not to worry, it didn’t involve washing toilets because cleaners were there for that.
At camp, we were given meal tickets for collection of food at the camp kitchen.
The second beagle for lunch blows by 2:00 PM.
The camp food wasn’t bad after all.
I also tried to join Orientation Broadcasting Service (OBS) and I passed the first stage of the interview.
The OBS, a mini studio with sound and electrical gadgets, is manned and operated by the corps members under the supervision of the publicity and protocol committee
Swearing-in/taking of oath by Corps members
On the 7th of November, the swearing-in ceremony was held, which meant I officially became a corp member.
All corps members were expected to be on their crested NYSC shirt and khaki trouser.
That morning, I had gotten to the parade ground only to realize my trouser was torn at the front. I had to quickly run to the market to sew it.
On this day, Emmanuel, the head of the OBS department, had instructed that I and other corp members to write a report on the event as part of our entrance test but I couldn’t because I was trying to fix my trouser.
Getting to the parade ground, I saw a girl complaining about the shoe given to her because it was not her size. Since I had the same problem so I switched with her.
Nigeria goes to bed
Every day by 5:00 am, the beagle will be blown for the Nigerian flag to be raised and by 6:00pm, the flag will be lowered.
When the beagle has been blown, you are expected to stand still wherever you are till it ends.
After resting in the hostel by exactly 8:50, the beagle sound comes up again for all corp members to rally at the parade ground where a series of lectures are passed on from 9am to 2pm.
The Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development, SAED, programme began on the second week in camp and they include,
- . NYSC (Information communication technology [ICT], community development service [CDS], skills acquisitions and entrepreneurship development [SAED], registration department, etc.)
- Environmental sanitation/inspection
- Security lecture by security consultant
- Sensitization on skills acquisition
- HIV/AIDS and SDG sensitization
- Values reorientation lectures by PAIGAS/NDLEA
- Sensitization on financial inclusion by FMYSD
- INEC sensitization
- Professional orientation on teaching
- NEMA sensitization
- Professional orientation: engineering law and medicine
- Funding option by financial institutions (SAED)
- Collaborating partners
During this period, I observe my siesta.
The SAED lecture literally meant Sleep Activated Every Day. This is the period when most corps members sleep, including myself.
After the lectures, we were asked to break into our different classes. I chose a makeup class which was a part of the listed classes.
It is also good to pay attention to some lectures because they can really make a difference in your life.
Sundays: Lazy day
Sundays are no waking up early days. Drilling exercises start by 4:00pm.
My roommates always had stories to tell every single night.
I heard two corpers got decamped after they were caught having sex.
I even heard they saw a female corper giving a male corper oral sex.
There were many social activities, which usually begin from 7:00 PM to 10:00, examples are, Welcome party, Mr Macho, Miss NYSC, Mr and Miss Ankara, Carnival Day and Drama Night.
From 18 and 19 day, the different sports and games final took place.
The first allowance was paid into bank accounts on day 18. Those who did not get their own were paid cash on the last day of camp.
This is a game whereby each platoon celebrates one tribe from Nigeria by dressing in costume as that tribe. Bonfire night was the highlight of all camp activities but my bonfire night was replaced with cooking competition between each platoon. The food is shared between the platoon.
The last day of the camp is a free day for all corpers.
Passing Out Ceremony
I was given my plastic identity card a day to leave camp and we told to return state code tag to the platoon inspector.
On the final day, we were told to resume under the tent by 9:00 am for the last lecture afterwards our Place of Primary Assignment letters were distributed around 11:30am.
PPA is where a corper is expected to render selfless service with dedication for a year of active service to the country.
All PCMs were expected to wear their 7/7 outfit.
Vehicles from different groups from were park around waiting to help CM to their PPA if going their way.