I’m going to blame the late posts on NEPA or PHCN or whatever they’re called these days. When there’s no electricity there’s a limit to what you can do on your laptop. So thanks for accepting my apologies.
Ok. On to our business.
In the last post I said we would discuss some of the issues you would face as a foreign graduate serving in Nigeria. I use the words ‘foreign graduates’ because that is how NYSC refers to graduates from overseas universities. I also think this issue is very sensitive but paramount, and I wish I gave it much thought before heading to camp or even stepping back into Nigeria at all.
This blog is majorly for foreign graduates, although other Nigerian-trained graduates may also find it useful. That said, in my opinion there are three kinds of foreign graduates:
- There are those that studied in Africa or other developing countries, e.g. Ghana, Benin Republic, etc. For these people it’s not really a big deal adjusting to Nigerian life, because, luckily for them, their universities are closer home, geographically and culturally.
The next two kinds are those I want to focus on.
- There are those that travel abroad to the Western countries for undergraduate and in some cases, postgraduate studies. Usually they tend to spend an average of 4 years abroad and once they are done, they’re back to Nigeria. Most visit Nigeria fairly often during holidays like Christmas.
- The final kind are those that are also in Western countries but not primarily because they had to go do university education there. They are probably there because they moved there with family. In this category you find those that moved when they were probably 8 or 13 yrs old. Majority of them probably don’t visit Nigeria often. Most also usually have plans to go back to where they are based after the service year.
Very soon you will understand why I have made this distinction between the different kinds.
Basically when you get to camp, some fellow corpers will ‘beef’ (hate on) you because you are a foreign graduate. Not all, but some. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Because you didn’t study in Nigeria, there are preconceived notions about you even before they’ve met you. Your father has ‘chopped’ his share of Nigerian money / national cake, and used the money to send you abroad to study. Whereas they’ve been through thick and thin hustling through lectures in uncompleted buildings called classrooms. And here you are with your foreign degree, with no understanding of what suffering means. Blah blah. No I’m not making this up. I actually overheard someone say that at camp about foreign students. So there is that resentment that you need to be prepared for. People have inferiority complex issue, and their bestest way of dealing with it is to hate on you. Simple.
Apart from maybe your appearance, the first thing that will give you away as foreign is your accent, especially if you belong to category 3. A lot of people will advise you to tone down the accent once you are in camp, so you can fit in nicely with no troubles. It’s your call. If you can do the Nigerian accent, why not? If you can’t, don’t allow anyone to steam out their jealousy on you. One major issue with most Nigerians is that they don’t understand that there is a distinction between types 2 and 3. One Corper (who eventually became my good friend) in camp said to me angrily one day, “ I no understand how person go study for oyinbo man land for 4years then come back dey form as if no be Nigeria im grow up”. Pardon my pidgin, the way he originally said it was very funny and conc pidgin. By the way, I get dissed for not being good at pidgin, and I’ve also been accused of ‘forming’. Anyhoo. Back to story.
I had to explain to the guy that the person he was talking about had left Nigeria for 8 years, and you don’t expect him to come back and suddenly start flowing in your slangs. Don’t get me wrong – the fact that somebody schooled in New York, for example, does not mean they don’t have razzomola tendencies and naija slangs. In fact London for example can make you so ‘razz’, depending on the people you hang with. So my point is, not everyone travelled and stayed around mama kafaya’s kitchen in Chicago or Peckham. Not everyone travelled abroad straight to university. Some moved there when they were younger. Therefore you can meet a type 3 in camp who doesn’t have much clue on the processes of razzmatisation. If you are such, prepare, because, thou shall be beefed continuously.
The saddest thing though is, when you are in another man’s land, you are not totally accepted. Then you go to your so-called fatherland and some of your fellow citizens don’t accept you either. Makes you think. So where exactly is home?
Ooooook I think it got too deep there. Let’s keep this jovial.
Anyways, my advice for you is to go to camp with a humble spirit, and relate with your fellow Nigerians, regardless of what you go through. Personally I tried my best to have this spirit in camp, and when I was being hated upon, I reported it to the camp authorities. They took necessary action by announcing it at one of the morning drills, imploring Nigerian students to welcome foreign ones with open arms , etc.
I should point out that the beefing ones are those with pea-sized brains. Not all Nigerian Corpers are like that. In fact, anytime I discussed my unpleasant foreign student issue sagas with my Nigerian corpers they were very surprised. Many liked overseas accents and appreciated them. Many would asked me and a friend to say a word and they would try repeat it after us.
So on the accents issue, I beg, if you have a posh accent as your normal accent, keep it, it’s not your fault that someone else doesn’t . Or maybe they do but don't feel the need to use it. It's their issue, not yours. Let them beef you until they’re red in the eye. On the other hand, if you can do the naija accent, you may want to use that too. It’s your call. I do know some friends who are considering NYSC that do not even know how to do Naija accent well. Some people will think they are fronting. But is it their fault that they left Naij when they were young and just didn’t take interest in the accent even while abroad? Anyways, in my opinion, best thing is to bring both your posh and Naija accent, so you can switch as occasion demands. Actually times will come when your ‘abroad’ accent (lol) will just come out without you knowing it. Don’t worry, just switch immediately as you notice. If you want.
TOP TIP: try go a few weeks or months in advance, before the NYSC camp start date. This will help you acclimatise / familiarise yourself with the Nigerian people and the culture. It will reduce the whole shock element, especially if you have been away for years. Don’t be like me. I went to camp just a few days after arriving from ‘abroad’. So adjusting the accent was harder. Or you think the abroad naija accent you speak with your fellow naija college mates abroad is the real naija accent? LOOOL. Nahhhh. Wait till you get here. Real life Nollywood sturves. (OMG, I have started saying 'sturves'!)
I prefer to stop here. Feel free to ask any questions. I thought I would be able to say more but I don’t want to air too much dirty laundry. I want to know your take on this. Feel free to disagree with any point I raised. Let’s learn from one another.
IN THE NEXT POST we should talk about what happens towards the end of camp, at the end of camp and after camp. One day the overall ARMY Camp Commandant made a comment about making sure we enjoyed camp life because that was the only enjoyable part of NYSC, and that after camp our woes would start. We all murmured and quickly rejected him in Jesus name, in Allah’s name, in every name we could. Little did we know that his warnings had an iota of truth.