This may be my favourite part of the blog so far.
I expect you’d like to know what you would be doing for the 3weeks in camp. I will try as much as possible to give you details of daily activities and possibly something like “A day in the life of a Corper at camp”.
The first week is usually very different from the second and third weeks. It’s usually the most stressful, for the following reasons:
- You are just starting the camp and you’re not yet used to it. So, this is the week in which you try to get used to waking times and baking your skin in the hot sun.
- On the 4th or 5th day of the first week, you will be sworn in officially as a Corp member. This is a thoroughly military event with Government dignitaries in attendance, so for about 3 days you will be trained hard on how to do parades. You would be on the parade ground in the sun for at least 3- 4hours at a stretch twice a day. Even on the swearing in day, the dignitaries will take their sweet time and come fashionably late, resulting in you standing for like 1 extra hour in the sun sweating and frowning. In my camp, the General Camp Commandant was kind enough to let us sit on the grass while we awaited the arrival of our ‘beloved’ government officials.
Monday and Tuesday – Registration
- 4.30am – you are woken up around 4.30am. There is something about camp life which I haven’t mentioned so far. It’s military life, so everything is regimented. So, for example, you are woken up by the sound of a bugle, something like a war cry tune, played by a soldier. A bugle is an instrument that looks like a hybrid of a trumpet and a horn. See picture below. On hearing this you are expected to jump from bed and put on your whites and tennis, and run to the parade ground for morning drills. 10 minutes after the bugle has sounded, the man-o-war peeps (about 15 of them) come singing with their konga drums and gongs to wake you up with songs such as:
Ole o le gbelu wa,
Aago merin lawa ji,
Aago Mefa loleji
(Translation: a lazy person cannot live in our town; we wake up at 4am, a lazy person wakes up at 6am).
Few minutes after that, soldiers come screaming, blowing deafening whistles and banging doors, “If you’re sleeping you are wrrrrroooooong”... “Get Ouuuutttt”....“If you’re inside you’re wrrrrooooooong”, etc. The female soldiers enter the female rooms and male ones go into the male rooms. They chase you out screaming on the top of their lungs. At this point you want to make sure you are running out. If you are late to the parade ground (even if just for 5mins), you would be punished by the soldiers (e.g.do a frog jump to the field to join your mates). It’s horrible. But they do develop your butt, gluts and leg muscles. I came back from camp toned. ;)
Actually you probably wouldn’t be waking up at 4.30am. Many people wake up as early as 3am to fetch water and have their bath, and they get very noisy as they bathe by your window. So their noise wakes you up early anyway. I personally preferred sleeping till I heard the bugle, after which I brushed my teeth (with Eva bottled water or pure water!), rinsed my face, then changed into the whites and ran off to the field (all in about 10mins). Bathing can always be done after exercise.
- 5am-6am – By now you are on the field. You will line up according to your platoons (see 2nd post for the meaning of platoon). Basically this period of the morning is to give you details of the day’s activities. You start by praying (platoons do it in turns). So on first day, No 1 Platoon sends 3 representatives to lead the whole camp in short prayer – 1 Muslim, 1 Christian, and 1 more person to recite a meditation (could be an inspiring poem or something). The next day, it would be No 2 Platoon’s turn, and it’s rotated like that till you leave. I remember when it was my Platoon’s turn, the girl that did the Christian prayer went on and on until she was tapped by officials to stop. Some serious fire-fall-down-on-enemies prayer. Serious early morning comedy.
Anyways, after that, you sing the National Anthem and the NYSC Anthem (they teach you this). They read out announcements, such as “It has been observed that those in the female hostels are bathing outside...if you are caught, blah blah blah; it has been observed that, people are poo-ing on the grasses...etc”.
Then they read out the schedule for the day. By 6am everyday, everyone is called to attention and all stand still for the bugle man to play some tune, which signifies that Nigeria is about to wake up. The flag is lifted up gradually on a pole as they play the tune. This same bugle tune is played at 6pm every evening, apparently for Nigeria to sleep. This time the flag is gradually brought down. At 6pm, wherever you are, you stop anything you are doing, standing still until soldier bugle man is done with his blasting (which lasts about 60 seconds or so). Even hawkers all stop. If the soldiers catch you not standing still, ah, it’s trouble. It’s supposed to be a time when you remember those that laid down their lives for Nigeria in wars etc.
- 6am to 7.30am-ish – You do morning exercises such as “I do like this, I do like this, I balance well”. LOL. You will enjoy it. I loved the way the soldiers turned everything into music: “Small belle, nothing dey inside, big belle, something dey inside”. We used to chant/sing that when doing this exercise where we have to bend slightly, hold the belly and do quick jumps at intervals. Each platoon will have about 3 platoon commanders (soldiers). Each platoon does different exercises. How interesting your exercises will be will depend on how interesting your platoon commanders are. In my camp, we were all allowed to jog out of the camp premises a few times. We went out in troops by platoon basis, guarded by soldiers and man-o-war and stormed the little village. You see the little village kids running out, just to see you. LOL. They think Corpers are like the best things ever. Even the adults abandon their work and come out to look at ‘Corpers’ jogging. Imagine 2,000 of you on the streets of a village/small town. We caused mad hold up. The jogs were great and interesting because you’re not just jogging; you’re also singing as you jog. The soldiers and man-o-wars led the songs, while we responded:
See how den dey look us,
See how den dey look us like Otondo.
Eeeeee Corpers go fight, Eeeee Corpers go fight,
If allowee no dey Corpers go fight,
If allowee no dey Corpers go fight.
Chop Akara dey go, moinmoin no dey,
Chop Akara dey go, moinmoin no dey
Soldier: We keep on movin’
Soldier: We keep on movin’
Soldier: Are you tired
All: Noooooooo, No!
Dem go born wor-wor,
Dem go born mumu,
If corper marry soldier
Dem go born wor-wor
This is the way I wanted to be oooo
This is the way I wanted to be
Eeeeee I want to be a corper
Eeeeee I want to be a corper
Eeeeee I want to be a corper
This is the way I wanted to be
TIP: try stay with people you get on well with in your platoon. You will laugh together, gist, etc while jogging and this will make it more interesting for you. Some of the guys in my platoon were simply awesome- they helped and tucked my arms in theirs, left and right, when I got too tired and out of breath. We all tried to help each other. There was also an ambulance around, with Red Cross people, just in case of any emergencies.
- 7.30am - 8.55am – What you do during this time in the first week differs from the final 2weeks.
First Week - During the given time, you are to have your bath and breakfast. You don’t have the time to queue for water, so if you’ve made adequate arrangements with your hostel attendant, she would have brought your bucket of water by 7.30ish so you can bathe yourself. Alternatively you could bathe before they wake you....like 3am.
Breakfast-wise, best thing to do is to go straight to mammy market after exercises, eat there or get your breakfast to take away, then head to your room to get ready. For those that prefer to eat camp food, the bugle sounds when food is ready (usually around 8ish or earlier) and you go join the queue.
By 8.55am, the bugle sounds again repeatedly and this time it’s for you to get on the field for parade. Few minutes after the bugle sounds, soldiers are back with screaming and whistles, asking you to getttttt out. One particular soldier used to curse with a fake American accent using the f word, s, mf, etc. LOL. So again, try avoid all that stress by leaving your room immediately you hear the bugle. Even if you are sick you are expected to go to the camp clinic, not stay in the room. They want absolutely no one in the rooms, to avoid theft. See a video below I filmed from my phone one day when I was getting chased by a soldier to the parade ground!
Still on the first week: you spend most of your days on the parade ground, learning how to understand and obey military commands, how you salute the governor and dignitaries when they come for your swearing in, how to remove ‘head dress’ and give 3 hearty cheers, etc. You rehearse and rehearse in the sun for those days - morning, afternoon, evening. This is the part where you get so black beyond recognition, you sweat like mad, you see people faint in the sun, either faked or real. Please DO NOT skip breakfast.
Me I just went to the back, told a soldier I wanted to faint and sat on the grass jejely. He screamed and screamed but I lied on my back and faked a serious exhaustion. Actually I was very exhausted! But maybe I exaggerated it. I can’t come and kill myself.
Later after the whole parade I complained to the soldier that it’s not fair to be spread in the sun like this now ...Ah-an! He was kind enough to explain to me that it’s always like that in the first week. And he was right. Things got lighter from the 2nd week.
2nd & 3rd Weeks
By now your body is getting used to the regimen. The soldiers are nicer. Your early mornings are freer. Exercises now end by around 7am, and you are left till 9 or 9.30am before you are called out again. Basically these last two weeks are mainly for social activities, such as football, volleyball, drama, music, cultural dance, cooking, quiz and beauty pageant competitions. Platoons compete against one another. So, the mornings immediately after exercises are the times you have for rehearsals. Actually, your platoon commanders will exempt you from the exercises if you have to go rehearse for your drama, dance or anything you need rehearsals for. After you’ve had your bath and breakfast, you get ready for lectures. Lectures typically start in the last 2 weeks from around 10ish (am) till 1ish (pm). As usual when it’s time for lectures, Mr Bugle man blows his stuff and soldiers hustle you to the field for lectures. Same as morning routine, the same way they scream.
My camp had no halls so we had lectures while sat in white plastic chairs under huge trees which served as shades.
The lectures are not that bad to be honest, especially if you sit with your new friends or camp booboo wannabe. I don’t want to give any advice that will be anti-NYSC lectures... but in order to avoid sleeping or boredom, take playing cards with you, or even paper ludo. There are over 2,000 of you; they can’t keep an eye on all of you. I was at the lectures most times when I wasn’t running to the toilet but I don’t remember a thing. All I know is that some EFCC guys came over to tell us about their work, the King of the town came with dancers, charity groups came to give presentations, etc. There were also Yoruba lectures for those that didn’t understand Yoruba, because a lot of non-Yoruba Corpers were posted to the Yoruba town where I camped. If I had camped in an Igbo land for example, we would have Igbo lectures.
Some of the lectures are very, very important though. NYSC officials will address you and explain the steps you need to take after camp when you receive your posting letter to your Place of Primary Assignment (PPA). They will explain all the secretariat journeys you need to make, etc. I forgot to mention that you are addressed by a Public Address System right from the morning assembly– in case you were wondering how 2,000+ Corpers would hear whatever they were talking about. They speak into microphones, you have speakers around you so you hear everything clearly. This could differ from camp to camp though.
In the 2nd and 3rd weeks, after lectures, you go for lunch and chillax till about 4. You don’t even have to come out at 4, it’s your choice. From 4, sports competitions begin, so you come out to support your platoon if you wish. Girls do volleyball, guys do football. Then in the evening around 7ish /8ish, you have the drama and dance competitions by platoon. You need a lot of time for rehearsal so most of your afternoons would also be spent rehearsing. It’s good to get involved in these things if you can be bothered. You meet new people and make friends this way.
If you’re chosen as one of the Corpers that would march or bear the flag at the final parade on the last day of camp (with dignitaries in attendance again), most of your free time will be spent rehearsing with the soldiers.
Also from 6.30ish till 8ish (pm) everyday, they have NCCF (Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship), in case you prefer that. That’s where most people go for Sunday service. On Fridays Muslims have times set aside for mosque. Saturday evenings were mostly for parties sponsored by companies like MTN. You are still required to wear your otondo whites, not mufti.
On Sundays you are allowed to wear mufti but only until 6pm, after which you will be harassed to change back into your prisoner whites.
So as you can see, 2nd and 3rd weeks are the most relaxed. In summary, here’s a schedule for a typical 2nd and 3rd week day at camp:
4.30ish : Wake up
4.45ish – 6am : Devotion and Announcements
6am-7.30amish : Exercises / Drama or Dance Rehearsals / March Rehearsals for those chosen to
march on final day
7.30am-9amish : Breakfast, Bath, etc
10am-1.30pm : Lectures
1.30pm till 4ish : Lunch, Rehearsals, etc
4pm-6.30pm : Sports competitions
6.30pm : Dinner
8pm-10ish : Social activities such as drama and dance competitions
10.30pm : Lights-out!! (Uncle Bugle blows for you to go to bed and soldiers make sure you are all in bed by screaming as usual. By this time most of them are drunk, high and extra crazy. Lights are switched off and you MUST sleep or lie in your bed or else they keep blowing whistles until you do so. Then you sleep with headaches)
Most people stay in Mammy market socialising from around 6pm till lights out time. It all depends on your preference. Social activities are not compulsory, but they are very interesting and a good base for room gists.
This is what a BUGLE looks like
Lectures under the tree. See people concentrating - NOT!
Video below: afternoon parade call. Listen to the soldiers screaming "Go go go!". See how you must run.
COMING UP NEXT: CAMP ‘BEEF’ FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS (you think all fellow Corpers are happy that you studied abroad?)