BY ISRAEL USULOR
“If you are not standing you are wrong!” declared Mr Seyi who was the regular MC and anchor at most camp events. He always makes that particular statement anytime we were reciting the NYSC anthem until his voice stuck permanently in my head. Mr Seyi was a damn good MC with a striking voice of a broadcaster. He was a handsome man who had an innocent face.
“If you are not standing, you are wrong” he declared again, calling on soldiers to enforce the rule. When the soldiers entered the arena, most people who were hitherto seated sprang to their feet. I sprang to my feet too. I no wan trouble! I was sitting with Halima at one corner of the arena. We sat on a log of wood. She was holding my left hand. Her palm felt very tender and soft. I felt bad when they forced us to stand up since that meant letting go of her hand.
Many copers don’t even like singing the NYSC anthem not to talk of standing up anytime it is recited. Many see no meaning in it especially the part that says we would serve Nigeria “under the sun and in the rain”. Many wondered if Nigeria was worth that kind of stress. Such people saw no need to join those reciting the anthem at any event. But I liked the anthem, at least for its artistic effect because it was poetic. After the anthem, I sat down. Halima also sat down and took my hand again.
That particular day was a breezy Saturday afternoon and we were at SAED lecture at the Man O’ War Ground. The most boring thing at the Ekiti NYSC camp was SAED Lecture. SAED stands for Skills Acquisition and Empowerment Department. It was a department of the NYSC that inculcated vocational and entrepreneurial skills in corps members. The aim of the initiative was to make entrepreneurs out of corps members. Noble as those intentions were, it was poorly implemented such that many were merely conscripted into it. It was not optional and you must attend all the lectures. Anywhere you hide, soldiers will fish you out and drag you there.
I hated those lectures! They were so boring that you could sleep and snore through them. What made it worse was that corporate organizations paid to use those lectures to advertise their products and services. There were more than two thousand copers on camp, so it was a good place to sell anything. To be fair to NYSC, experts were also brought to teach us skills like ICT, Photography, Hairdressing and more. I joined ICT.
It was in one of such boring lectures that the Camp Director declared that corpers would have the privilege to eat chicken the next day being Sunday. She said the chicken would be shared during lunch. She even said that the authorities had gone “as far as Ondo State to buy chickens to make sure that there would be enough of chicken meat to go round”. There was wild jubilation all over the arena. I jubilated too for it had been long I ate good meat.
“If they went as far as Ondo state to by the chicken, that means we would have enough” I told Halima.
“For your mind!” she responded sarcastically.
“What do you mean?” I enquired.
“Go sharpen your teeth” she said, rolling her catish eyes.
Indeed, I went back to the hostels and started sharpening my teeth preparing them for the chicken. The next day which was a Sunday, I decided to go to the camp chapel and worship. I was happy when I was going, knowing that when I came back, I would be served chicken in the kitchen. It is the kind of happy feeling you have when you remember that your mother is cooking rice and stew at home.
The church service took so long. The preaching was done by a pastor invited by the Nigerian Fellowship of Christian Copers. He kept preaching and preaching. I had to leave before the end of service. “I cannot stay here too long. What if they finish sharing the chicken before I got to the kitchen?” I asked myself. I cannot risk that! I have to eat that chicken. I picked my Bible and hurried back to the hostel. When I got to the hostel, I changed into the normal white short and shirt (they won’t serve you at the kitchen if you wore anything else), and then headed to the kitchen with my food flask.
On my way to the kitchen, I opened the food flask and discovered that it was not washed. I failed to wash it after eating the previous night. “Going to the tap to wash it now might waste my time. And the chicken might finish” I said to myself. I decided to use it like that, but I wiped it clean with my handkerchief anyway. I can’t kill myself.
I went early, so I got served early. It was jollof rice.
“Where is the chicken now” I asked the steward after she scooped two ladles of jollof rice and poured into my flask.
“Corper calm down now. Ah!” She said.
“I no go calm down. Give me big chicken o!” I barked. She opened another pot by her left and brought out the almighty chicken meat. When I saw it I was livid. It was a chicken wing that looked like remnants of sacrifice placed in a shrine. I mean chicken wing. Wing o! It was just like feather! I was very angry. I threw it into my mouth and swallowed it without chewing. “Chicken meat my foot! You people are not serious” I said, leaving in anger. But some corpers were not even lucky to get the chicken, they were served eggs instead.
I was so angry that night so I slept early. At about 10:30 pm, my stomach started making noise. I remembered that I ate agidi the previous day. I mixed it with beans that I bought at Mama Ejima’s place at the Mammy Market.
“Kai this agidi don kill me o” I told coper Jay. I tried to endure the thing but the noise continued and then shit started coming. I stood up and jumped down from my flat mattress. The shit was very close and if I don’t fly to the restroom, there would be a disaster. It was watery shit! I took one step towards the hostel door and the first batch of the shit came out! “Wahala dey o!” I said to myself. I didn’t want anyone to know, that would be too embarrassing. I closed my bombom, tightened my laps, holding my nyash with my cupped left palm. I walked very carefully, lifting one leg after the other so that the shit won’t pour from my white shorts. It had already collected in my shorts.
I made it to the restroom but there was a long queue of copers waiting before me. “Which kind problem be this for God’s sake?” I whispered to myself. At that time, I was already feeling the shit running down my laps down to my ankle. I walked carefully to the back of the restroom. Thankfully, the place was dark. I sat there and did my thing. The shit came out like thunder!
From that day, I never tried agidi again. I didn’t tell anyone what happened, not even Halima.
Read part 4 here
Israel Usulor is a journalist and short stories, writer. You can reach him via @JonalistIsrael, 08104082159 and [email protected]
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.
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