BY ISRAEL USULOR
It was June 12 and all the states in the South West of Nigeria observe that date as a public holiday to honour the sacredness of the 1993 Presidential Election which was won by MKO Abiola, but was quashed by the military junta. We woke up that morning oblivious of the holidays. Not that we lacked the knowledge of history, we just wanted to conclude everything that had to do with our place of primary assignment so that we can find a place and settle down and commence the service year. But when we flocked to the College in Ikere to report our presence to the authorities, there was no one in sight to attend to us.
“Today na public holiday,” said one old security man at the school gate.
“Make una come tomorrow,” he advised. We left in disappointment. We were dejected too because it meant we were going to spend the night at the College Guest House. It also meant that those who wanted to travel to their village won’t be able to do so because it was mandatory to report to your place of primary assignment before leaving.
The next morning, we all flocked to the school again. This time, the officials were on ground but we were not attended to. It took at least three days before we could get audience from the school authorities. Shockingly, they rejected most of the corpers posted to the school. I was one of those that were rejected. According to the school, it lacked the capacity to accommodate all the thirty corps members posted to the facility.
I walked out of the school gate with anger and rage. Why do I have to beg to be accepted to serve my country? I felt very bad.
“Okada!” I called.
“Corper, where you dey go?” he asked.
“NYSC secretariat,” I responded. As a rule, rejected corpers must report to the secretariat for them to be placed at a new place of primary assignment.
“Corper na N200,” he charged. I don’t know how far or near the place was, so I just climbed the high bike and the okada man zoomed off.
Once at the NYSC secretariat, I immediately realized that I was not alone. I was not the only one rejected. The whole office was full of rejected corpers and each had a nasty story of mistreatment to tell.
But what baffled me was what the officials at the secretariat told me when I reported my own case to them.
“I have been rejected by the College of Education. What do I do ma’am?” I asked the plump woman seated on a white chair and looking above a large long table.
“You have to look for a place to attach yourself. It is no longer our responsibility to place you.” She handed me the list of schools in Ikere town and asked me to pick anyone of my choice. I was quiet for a while, wanting to know if she was joking. But she wasn’t. I closed my eyes and did tumbom tumbom with my pen and it landed on Annunciation School, Ikere. It was already evening so I went to the College Guest House to pass the night.
The next day, I reported to Annunciation School to report myself for documentation.
“Good morning sir,” I greeted the Vice Principal, Mr Ajibade, who clearly was a no-nonsense man. The expression on his face told me so.
“Good morning. Mr Israel right?” He asked, lifting his face from what he was writing.
“Yes sir. I have come to report myself for documentation,” I said.
“That’s ok, but first, you have to know that we don’t pay corps members. We don’t have the resources. So it’s your choice to make. Are you ready to work without pay?” He asked as he collected the documents I stretched out to him.
“Yes sir, I will work,” I responded. I already knew there was no additional dime attached to the services you render as a corper other than the small alawi that NYSC dropped into your account each month. So there was no need overlabouring the issue. Besides, I also knew there was no work to do. The school had many teachers and were not looking for one. As a matter of fact, the school just wanted to help me as a place to attach myself because throughout the service year, what I did was go to work, write my name in the attendance register and then sit idle or go back home and watch movies.
Before one could say Jack, it was one year already and all of us flocked to the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium, Ado Ekiti where we were handed our certificates of service and received congratulatory handshakes.
As I lifted my Ghana-Must-Go bag to leave Ikere-Ekiti, I updated my Facebook status: “NYSC done and dusted”.
Read part eight HERE
Note: This story is entirely a work of fiction and a product of the author’s creative imagination. Any resemblance in characters or occurrences is merely a coincidence.
Israel Usulor is a journalist and short story writer. You can reach him via @JonalistIsrael and [email protected]
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