Lagos NYSC Camp Is The Most Fun Camp In Nigeria But I Couldn’t Relate…”Go to Lagos,” they said, it will be great for your career. While this might be what led me into this madness, aside from the fact that I had friends who would take risks such as moving to Lagos broke, I thought I could survive this, I’ve stayed on 2,500 naira a week in Benin city. This is just a little challenge.
On my application at a cyber cafe in a shopping complex at the main gate, Uniben I told the guy to put in Lagos even if the whole of Nigeria was applying for Eko and I had little chance, I had faith and a bit of backhand posting assistance. I am Nigerian after all. While in camp I didn’t know the stream or batch I was in, I was uninterested.
The day of reckoning is here, I boarded a bus at God is good Uselu park to Iyana Ipaja. The journey was smooth and very comfortable I won’t lie, thank heavens I booked for the Jet Mover because it moved like a jet but in a safe way( do you get ?)
From GIGM Uselu to GIGM Iyana Ipaja
I knew I had signed the papers to 21 days of trials and tribulations the moment I arrived at the gate of NYSC orientation camp Lagos. You had to see me struggling with my two pieces of luggage and a bucket I had to purchase at the gate on arrival. My batch was the first set after the covid lockdown and I had to join others who took a covid test although no precautions were taken when you eventually enter this juggle, cause that’s what it was A JUGGLE.
Gates to a long way to life after Uni
Immediately I started my onboarding process and registration, joined a platoon, if I can remember right it was platoon ten and got a bed space on the ground floor. We were 12 in a room of bunk beds, this isn’t something I’m new to, I mean I survived years of Hall 2 and somehow I have managed to live with the traumas of Tinubu hostel and once in a blue moon, I have PTSD from it. 21 days with strangers, I can do this, my awkward self can do this, definitely can. Mind you, they were lovely strangers and roommates. There was one that particularly stood out, her name was Blessings she was on a top bed like me and we were close to each other. I don’t know if it was because she was prayerful because you need God to survive a place like this or because of an aura of peace, nonproblematic, and calmness. I love people like that. We didn’t talk much but when we did it was light and we always laughed, she would play Hillsong’s ocean where feet may fail, she saved my phone battery some bars because I would have played it myself.
Then I had to get into uniform, if you see what these people gave me for khaki shirts and trousers, very sure my entire village would fit into it with me. With every move I made, from resizing at the tailor’s to the dry cleaners, cash at hand was showing red.
The morning after…
It was the first morning in camp and I heard trumpet sounds, “When did the angels arrive? Am I finally going to see my father in heaven?” Oh! It’s a wake-up alarm but who would have the audacity to wake me up this early, when did this one start? Soldiers! Amanda! Soldiers! Mind you, I already woke up at 3 am to bathe, I have heard stories of the horrible bathing experience and I didn’t want to be in any useless queue. I know, maybe I am dramatic as people around me describe me to be, excellent. Why be dramatic to trumpets sound when I woke up that early? Have you ever been forced to attend a church vigil you didn’t wanna go to? Yes, that’s how I felt.
We are off to the parade ground and next thing I’m jogging in all white, why are we jogging, why are we running, why are we chanting (although I enjoyed most of it, it was so razz and I loved it, lol), what is happening here? Is there a war we are preparing for that I wasn’t informed about? It’s just the second day and I already hate it here. Maybe I’m lazy but this wasn’t how I planned to keep fit, maybe a sit-up or 15 seconds squat can do. It was in my batch the director general or one person announced that Corpers will go and fight the war, because of 33,000 naira and a certificate. Please I want to go and meet my mummy.
When is the fun part coming? The part that would interest me? It just wasn’t coming for me or maybe from the onset I just wasn’t interested. But one thing stood out though, it was the spaghetti and turkey at Mami market. Oh, my days! it was heaven, forgotten the chef’s name but the moment we were allowed to go to the Mami market I would start my mini race to ensure I get first place because he was so popular and the queue was always long. There was something magical about the spaghetti and it had to be the sauce or the hands. With the amount of money I spent in camp on this spaghetti, I’d have purchased a mansion in Lekki like one of these Instagram skit boys.
The food served by the kitchen wasn’t all that bad, to be honest, there was a lot of effort from both the women and corp members who were assigned to the kitchen but you see the bread, the bread! Never in my 20-something years on this planet, have I tasted something as horrible as that including bitter leaf. I don’t know if maybe Ogbono soup was translated as Okro soup in Iyana Ipaja but one time, I told this food vendor in the Mami market that I wanted Ogbono soup and she served me Okro soup. In my soup chart, Okro soup is down below. I mostly eat it out of gratitude and that day with red eyes I ate it in my bed, not out of gratitude but something else. Something relating to my money cannot waste.
In this life, come prepared…
My friends came to camp prepared to make friends, network, and build a community but me? Not so much. I needed this hurdle done with so I can get on with my life. And for me, the walls at Iyana Ipaja were like the fences at Oko central. It was a prison just this time I gave my consent. With all my frustrations, you’d think I’d have opted out because you’re given the window to exit camp but I didn’t, NYSC camp is like one of those big achievements to make mama proud and the return home with your Khaki, Oh the pride it would give her. So I thugged the days I had left out. I wasn’t interested in socializing and my greatest sufferings were at the SAED classes and Platoon meetings.
The sun that met us at SAED classes somehow managed to penetrate through the tents at the parade ground, and if you’ve seen that tent you know that tent was very thick. The heat was crazy and the struggle to get chilled water was even exhausting, vendors had limited time to sell their drinks around and I had my eyes targeting every single one on arrival.
The last days at Iyana Ipaja
It’s three days to the end of camp, I knew I didn’t enjoy this and I also made a final note to catch whatever fun I could but I got sick. Wasn’t sure if it was just a cold or covid but I didn’t wait to find out, I went to the pharmacy and got some drugs from some pharmacist serving as corpers. My roommate advised me not to take the drug yet, that the last night was the most fun and crazy but I needed to get better hence I took it. It felt like I was high on this drug because it knocked me off so bad I didn’t know where I was and I slept all through the night like a baby. I missed the most fun night of Lagos camp and till this day I lived with just the stories of others’ excitement and never my experience. All I have left now are Snapchat memories of the days I hated the most at Lagos NYSC camp. Plus they stole my white t-shirt I brought for 3,000 naira. The thief didn’t see the 3-in-1 pack to steal, it had to be one of good quality.