You know that feeling when you get to a place and you just know you don’t want to be there? That was me on my first day at the NYSC camp.
I strolled into camp on the second and last day of registration and was lowkey hoping the government would decide to scrap the program last minute and we could all happily head home(Sadly this didn’t happen).
A few days before this day, call up letters were released and boy the rush of emotions when I saw Abuja. I had my mind, body and soul planned around Lagos so when I saw Abuja, I was excited because I mean it’s Abuja, that, over having to serve in Borno or someplace else, but I was still a little angry with myself for not preparing for the possibilities of another state (TEAM LAGOS OR NO OTHER).
Anyways, I had to get everything prepared for camp in just three days and like I mentioned, I got to the orientation camp on the second day it got opened.
FIRST DAY OF CAMP
From leaving home in Lagos to landing in Abuja, taking a taxi from Abuja airport that had a flat tyre on the way, I ended up getting to the orientation camp at about 10 a.m.
On getting there, I expected that we were going to be few registering considering it was the second day, but boy was I wrong. Apparently there were more people than I thought trying to stall going to camp like I was. We had our bags searched both inside and outside the camp and a number of things got seized in the process because of their harmful potential.
The first thing we did was get a room to drop our bags. Since we were late, most of the rooms were already taken so we got classrooms turned into rooms just behind the Mammy Market. We selected the beds we wanted, dropped our things and headed towards the registration hall.
We were divided into two groups of Foreign and Nigerian graduates. I expected that the registration was going to take me a couple of hours to complete, but it took me two days! I completed the first part of the registration which basically involved verifying my documents, and getting a number assigned to me at about 9pm the night I got there, and continued the rest that involved collection of kits, registering with my platoon and a bank the next day. To say I was frustrated and exhausted would be an understatement.
The Positive part of this was that I got to escape camp activities. I slept in when others headed for the parade ground, and I continued this for a few more days after I was done with my registration because I just could not be bothered.
The swearing-in day is basically the day you get sworn in as corp members. We had to wake up at about 4a.m to get ready, headed out to pray and then to the parade ground for exercise and information from our co-ordinators. This didn’t end till about 8 in the morning, we then had about an hour or less to have breakfast, switch into our full NYSC kit-the khaki and all, and then returned to the parade ground for swearing in.
We were under the sun for almost 4 hours before it ended. When it did, we were told we were going to be given a welcome gift. We were all excited and awaited the gift till the soldiers arrived and the first thing they told us to do was “kneel down”. I personally thought it was a joke till I realised the soldiers were serious. We were on our knees for almost an hour under the scorching sun; thus a number of people started fainting(both fake and real). It was then the soldiers decided to let us go. According to them, that was their way of welcoming us as full corp members (I still get annoyed each time I remember this day).
The positive part of this day was that we got the rest of the day free and the days following were surprisingly better.
I didn’t attend a boarding school growing up, and the only experience I’ve had of living with more than 2-4 people in a room was from the 10 days camp I went for once in a while growing up( I usually had people I knew already in the room with me so it wasn’t bad); therefore, this was quite an experience for me. We were close to 30 in my room.
The first thing I had to deal with was occupancy issue. When we arrived camp, we were made to drop our bags in our rooms so we didn’t have to drag our bags around during the registration process. Following this, we were made to choose beds; they were bunk beds so you either got the top bunk or the one below. I had chosen the bunk below when we arrived but because I didn’t complete my registration till very late, by the time I returned to the room, it was taken and I was stuck with the top bunk.
At first I was pissed that someone would do that, but I was too exhausted from the registration that I just made do with what I had and avoided the altercation I had in mind which turned out to be a good thing because my bunk mate turned out to be really nice. All my roomies actually turned out to be really lively and friendly people. They made my stay on camp worthwhile.
One major issue I had with my hostel though was the lack of a washroom. Like I mentioned we came late, so we got classrooms turned into rooms, so we pretty much had no toilet or bathroom. That meant we had to use the washroom of the hostel closest to us every time we needed to. This was really annoying because it was literally on the way to the parade ground, so you constantly had to hope you didn’t bump into anyone you knew and you had to go fully clothed to the wash room, bucket, towel, soap and all in hand.
Most people had their baths before daylight in front of the hostel in order to avoid all of these, so the only thing they had to worry about was the toilet. There were cleaners who cleaned our rooms and even the washrooms daily but this still didn’t make a lot of difference. All in all, it really wasn’t as bad as I had imagined before I came for camp, and we pretty much got used to it as time went by.
This was the best place on camp. You could literally decide to come with nothing but money or your ATM Card to camp and Mammy market has got you. There was nothing we needed that wasn’t sold at Mammy.
Although the camp food wasn’t so bad according to most, I still got literally all my meals at Mammy because I wasn’t ready to frequent the disgusting camp toilets. There were tailors there, parties held there, we made our hair there, people hid away from camp activities there, we ironed there, pretty much any and everything happened at Mammy market.
These were groups we were divided into based on the numbers we were assigned during registration. We had about 10 platoons at the Abuja camp. I was in Platoon 2. Literally everything one did on camp was on platoon basis. From lining up on the parade ground to observing morning duties, competitions, and so on.
Asides your roomies, your platoon members were the next set of people you’ll be close to because you did pretty much everything together. My platoon members were pretty chilled. I was lucky to have had two of my platoon members in my room so they filled me in on what I had missed before I joined in and even on days when I couldn’t make it to the parade ground I had people to fill me in on what went down.
My solace during camp. It just felt good to have something I could go back to after the camp stress. The MCAN group provided another opportunity to meet people you could relate with religiously. They constantly had events and lectures so this was good.
Although the mosque was quite a distance from my hostel which meant I had to pray in my room sometimes, I was still so frequent there that my bunk mate mentioned at some point how she was suspicious of where I was always going. Lol. I wish. By the way, for christians reading this, there was also a church available on camp that pretty much did the same thing.
I was really hoping not to fall sick on camp, but it was inevitable and the day it happened I headed to the camp clinic with a friend of mine. It took forever before we were attended to, and when we finally were, the nurse in charge who was also a corp member kept mentioning how she needed to head out for a social event and she didn’t have too much time. I was lucky to be amongst the few people she ended up attending to before she left for the event, but I was still angry at her for ignoring the others (who she told to come back ), because I mean what if it was an emergency?
After my experience that day, the other times I had a cold or a headache, I made my way to the pharmacy in Mammy market instead of the clinic.
From the second week on camp, everything on camp started getting better. We all basically started getting accustomed to camp life and this was when social events began. Social events took place every night immediately after dinner. We had talent competitions, Mr and Miss camp, Mr and Miss NYSC, Mr Macho, and so many other fun activities.
My friends and I always sat front row at these events. The social events were optional, but there were days when the soldiers decided that everyone needed to be there so they would go around rooms chasing people out. The stubborn ones still didn’t attend though.
On camp, we also had skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development classes. So you basically chose what group you wanted to join and you participated in the activities. You also got a chance to join the SAED group after camp.
I had wanted to join the fashion design group but there was none available so I ended up with the make-up group. We basically just sat around and watched while someone beat the hell out of another’s face. I got bored after the second class, and used the time for the classes to either walk around or catch up on some sleep.
The last day of camp pretty much involved us getting fully kitted and waiting around to get our posting letters. Those that cried did, and those of us that got good PPAs joyously left camp immediately we got our letters for submission at our Place of Primary Assignment(PPA).
Overall, Camp wasn’t as bad as I anticipated and trust me when I say I expected the worst. There were so many times in the first week of camp I thought of getting an exeat out of camp(it was so easy to get one), my dad stayed in Abuja after all, but I’m really glad I got to experience all that camp had to offer.
Before concluding, I have decided to briefly share Four tips prospective corp members might find useful.
Trust me when I say it really isn’t as bad as it seems. There’s a huge difference between hearing about something and actually experiencing and making your own judgements. Once you take it as a once in a life time experience, you’ll be good. It’s just for 3 weeks not the whole year.
You need them on camp to make your time on camp worthwhile, they will also be useful outside of camp if for instance you’ve been posted to a state where you know no one.
Participate in camp activities
What’s the essence of being on camp and not undergoing the activities? Join camp groups- OBS, Red cross and all were pretty nice. Participate in sports and social activities, join a SAED group, etc. All of these play a role not just on camp but also outside camp. On camp people used these groups as an excuse to skip the stressful camp actuvities. Also, outside camp you get automatic access to the CDS group and avoided getting a CDS group chosen for you.
Also, participate but don’t over do it. Undergo just the ones you’re comfortable with. The Man o-war activities for instance, I wasn’t ready to break my neck while climbing ropes all so I could take a couple of pictures so I didn’t bother undertaking it. And by the way, the soldiers at the Abuja camp were quite lenient(at least as far as i know), so you don’t necessarily get forced to do anything.
Come with enough money and essentials
I know I mentioned in my mammy market summary that you could come with just money or your ATM to camp and you’ll be fine; however you have to also be prepared for the increase in price of almost everything. Most things were a lot more expensive on camp so get as much as you feel will keep you in check for the three weeks; however don’t end up over packing and struggling with a huge box like I did. Just essentials, you can get the rest at Mammy.
You’ll need money for food if you don’t plan on eating the camp food, money for printing/photocopies, for dry cleaning your clothes, etc. Oh and by the way, there weren’t that many theft reports at the Abuja camp, but you’ll still have to be really careful with your things, padlock every bag you bring to camp at all times.
At the end of the day, any experience depends solely on what you make of it. I had gone into camp with the mindset that it was the hardest part of the scheme; however, working now, I can say I actually prefer camp to this phase of NYSC and I completely agree with those that say Camp is the easiest part of NYSC.