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LINES WRITTEN AT NYSC ORIENTATION CAMP, KUBWA, JUNE 2001

By Muhammad Ajah (From his poem collections titled “Man In The Mirror”)

On May 28, it all began
More mediocre exposure to life queers
After a long wait - several postponements
From the indirections of our directors
It all began. The orientation, so-called
At the gate, after a thorough screen of bags
Some intimidating voices were heard
Stern faces, hands equipped with 'kobokos'
“Carry your bags on your heads!
Run, quick, run quick, quick!
Eh run, run 'ituai, ituai, ituai!”
There it began - the composed cynicism of NYSC
Of the motto, “Now Your Struggle Continues”
Nay, “Now Your Sufferings Commence”
A crooked queue stood stark waiting - too long!
A snail could sometimes crawl faster
Luggage scattered to no security
Hunger and scorching sun could madden
And inhumanity could turn the mild wild
The rain soon fell and blessed us later
With cold and in flu and great fatigue
A season for Mammy marketers
The skyrocketing in prices
The evening crawled past unblessed
The following morn worsened with more crowds
More corps arrival, less control and attention
'Why did I come to Abuja?' a voice uttered
With knees crackling, toes wearing out
Yet the hazards of law breaking
As a front-positioned will infix pals one by one
The damned nepotism prevalent in our ruling scheme
But I have none, I knew none them
Again came a means of weighing our meagre purse
And we began to pay at the last process point
What service! Such improper imposition of labour
And uncanny enforcements upon innocent graduates
The future hope of the nation
The first bugle summoned us all at the field
And in groups we were shared to ten-one to zero
Were I left to choose for the paramilitary
In such beautiful jamboree where for the first
I see and hear all sorts indiscriminative
Making to give a twelve-month gift
To this impregnable nation
I would choose not platoon six
Amidst the multitude of such gameless corps
Losing at first trial to weak opponents
Could I not show my wits at sports
For a tree can form no forests
And Maradona had never played alone
Here lay not the start of our failure
But how to over-labour all platoon six corpers
For this and that to gather money
And here emerged the selfish-forward heads
Who will tomorrow strive for directors' chairs
This part gave me no joy or health
I have been told more to my though
Orientation is exposure to deep merriment
Where one only meets other ethnic groups
Makes friends and plains for immediate fortune
Were these not our thoughts at campus?
Now, the first day, gentle Ahile dissects harshly
The great vast gap between campus and camp
In that tune of military weakness
No choice but to say, “I hear, sir”
A non-phlegmatic attitude that crumbles fast
The enthusiastic morale of timid corpers
The JJCs of horrid city life
I began to refine my old concept
And indeed grew wiser that above all I had
Time consciousness, selflessness we must maintain
So to build a new Nigeria
The bugle made disagreeable sounds to our ears
And the instructors flew about enforcing response
Like child under the gentle guide of parents
Ten thirty to bed, five to parade ground
Where strenuous trainings were enforced
Or we were taken out for long-road-walk
Seven to sanitation, then to have a piece
A piece of baked wheat and tasteless coloured water

And as the last drop sinks down
The fearful intimidating bugle sounds at nine
Without break, we were rushed for another parade
Tedious jumps, monkey exercises, all sorts
Of Man O'War, scorpion soldiers, police and so many

And Daga was a monstrous proud instructor
Not in my group but I was a corps
Till twelve or broken for some groups
When careful lectures or receptions of personnel
Intervene until only three, the bugle again beckons

Then to the dark in the parade ground
We keep busy like the honeybees
Time and tide wait for no corps
Be late and frog- jump or row on wet mud
They had barked on us first day, scaring
And like lions began to fear our eyes
As we kept them low and acted not fierce
For a lion assails only hunters with guns
A tedious drill, a deliberates scheme
And now I hold, were I too lax and low
Few but all will bear no brawn
To give in its true sense wherever, however
This great gift to our sick nation
For we are yet to uplift our dear home
Under luxury and so must sacrifice
Under the hot sun and in the windy rain
To many like me, the few days equaled months
But as a man, what means manhood?
The bug preaches since long ago
That what is hot eventually must turn cool
The parade spot, a bunch of potholes
Ignored to the corrosive eruption of erosion
Where without a push, one attempts several falls
And the weak bones are auto-victims and preys
Such are the many prides of FCT camp
Where city-lover corpers happily come to suffer
Do I attain that inner divine elevation?
Or perpetual mirth from jugging and marching
But that I, not a worshipper, but ardent lover
Of God's Nature, sit just a while daily
Out of the red eyes of Daga and his likes
Before the rise and fall of shadows, with the azure sky

O God! Thou loveth all creatures of Thy art
To take an inspiring glimpse of the white clouds
Meeting peacefully at the pinnacle of the mountains

The moving trees seeming to climb and dance
Round the chains of mountains as if kissing the sky

Or offering a special invitation for lovely embrace

With holy queen of the sky in her maturity
The toils of jugging and parade are soon forgone
While throwing my eyes and heart open
To these captivating scenery or to those little birds

Who are, I swear, the masters of Marley and Whitney

The sun and rain may bit me, I had pledged
The thunder may threaten this fleshy fabric
The lightning may strike me blind awhile
It is their time and God, Thou knowest well
I stage no challenge to Nature
And loving Thy great works more than this thin self

I spur no fear that I am protected
And to be stopped by Mighty Nature - By Thy Leave
By these great components of created Nature, Lord
I will smile than by the art of Man or Jinn
Say no to them amongst us corpers
Selling themselves is midnight in fields or bushes
Rendering the unfortunate ones penniless
Men that drink pure waters and coke
And buy Stouts and Maltina for cunning babes
The shameless absorbers of all sorts of weight
What hope should we have for a dirty gift?
Danger, beware of red lips, nails and tumid foams
The dirty mob of hogs in Mammy Markets
And streets and hotels in our sick nation
This home is too much with us all
And bemoaning the death of the living liars
They that pour fuel to the already burning fire
Will my heart be soothed, eve n in my grave
One afternoon, the senate rep came to investigate
Our scattered door gave no hindrance
Three elephantine-men with others pulled in
A quick introduction by Ahile - smart grammarian
Wry faces at the dirty hostel were observed
'Were you not provided with all sanitation items?'
Hostel leader feared the fear, his tongue said, 'Yes'

Ah, a single broom - one full bunch!
By turn, the three men spoke fluently - grammar!
Blaming us for long broken floor, windows, fans, lights

But wherefore? They were fatter than Ahile
What more could they say - identical birds!
Fifteenth announced the Major Expedition
A long walk of nearly thirty kilometers
When toes were drilled to swell
Endurance-walk from them who would not endure
For our world and youthful posterity to thrive
The following was Camp Fire Day
When sleep was denied many
Burning a hill of firewood till dawn
And giving indirectly a flickering green light
To evil ewes to parade and display
Tarry, this tongue, so not to clutch!
AMAC and many visitors gave fat boons
But it may be corpers were not meant
But we saw well and heard well
Eighteenth brought the long awaited end
The day of gnashing, the day of regret
The day as like the Day of Account
When each receives and reads his Book
Some posted to schools in remote villages
Dragged themselves there, praying for rejection
Sighing, abusing, making rebellious troubles
Why man? For this you bargained and lobbied
You have come to serve in the whole FCT
Bank and Ministries were loved by corpers
But how many would likely accept?
Rushes to be among first in better places
Where are those girls? Hiring taxis, private cars!
Where are those mugu boys? Struggling for 911
Where hiding their pale faces with shame
And the reverse of their expectation for service
They could then dissect reality and falsity
And to lament after judgment is truly late
Lest I be marked an unthankful slave
God be praised for our survival in camp
And kudos to our leader and heads
For deciding at last for the service long awaited
Not left are Ahile and Ani - the chief inspector
So are Kpaakpa and Kok as platoon commandants
And a marvelous year of fruitful service
To my corps mates, the hopes of our nation

By Muhammad Ajah (mobahawwah@yahoo.co.uk)
(From his poem collections titled “Man In The Mirror”)

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Muhammad Ajah.