My Service Year in Kaduna: The Flashback, Progression and Afterwards, By Damilola Olufemi
NEWS DIGEST – Before my National Youth Service year in Kaduna, as a graduate of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo state, and like every other Nigerian student who attends a government tertiary institution, there were days when the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) strikes dealt with me.
I could remember gaining admission a week before Christmas in 2015. I’d chosen to study Mass Communication but had to change course to History Education, despite meeting up with the exact cut-off mark of Mass Communication.
Eventually, I was offered Public Administration, in 2015.
In early 2016, after barely four months as an undergraduate, protest rocked the school over the death of a student, Afolabi Ojo, who died on the 8th of April, 2016.
This happened when our first-semester exam was on and at the spark of the protest, students were ordered to go home and in the end, we spent months at home. While this was on, the reparation fee for the damage to properties following the protest came up. Each student had to pay N25,000 but after a plea to the then Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, he reduced it to N15,000 and school activities came back.
We eventually resumed after the April 8th protest, payment of reparation fee started and school resumed on the 16th of May, 2016.
Shortly after this, another indefinite vacation came – an internal ASUU strike that hit the school and we were all sent home again for 97 days. The strike was called off on the 17th of August, 2016.
The increment of tuition fees by over 500 per cent by present Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and many more were some of the experiences I had in the institution.
Upon writing my final paper as an undergraduate on October 31st, 2019, completion of my degree project continued till February 3rd, 2020 – the date we all defended our project in my department (Department of Political Science and Public Administration).
While we were expecting quick processing of our results, the world Covid-19 pandemic came, with the thought that within a space of three months, it would be gone. Only to surprise us that we had spent a year at home due to the lockdown.
In February 2021, I proceeded with my tertiary institution clearance and on the 18th of April, I was deployed to Kaduna state for my one-year compulsory National Youth Service.
THE JOURNEY FROM THE SOUTHWEST REGION TO THE NORTHWEST.
Before I was posted on the above date, while registering for the NYSC posting, I had picked Kaduna, Anambra, Kwara, and Edo states as my preferred states.
Upon seeing my deployment letter, I was happy and at the same time, I was a bit dejected.
I was happy because I see it as an opportunity to explore a new place, meet a new set of people, and vacate the South-West I am familiar with for a bit. I was dejected because of the insecurity rocking the state. It was however not much then compared to when I had spent some months in the state.
Same as me, my parents had the same feeling but we all had faith in God’s perfection.
As I was loading my bags, getting ready to begin the journey from Ondo state to Kaduna state, nothing else was on my mind than to camp at the Black Gold Orientation Camp along Abuja-Kaduna express road and after three weeks of completing the camping, I will redeploy back to South-West, Oyo state precisely.
But guess what?…
CAMP LIFE AND THE EXPERIENCE.
As usual, the three weeks spent in the Black Gold Orientation camp were not a child’s play – it was stressful.
Despite the stress, I would say it was fun and lively. I was able to meet, interact and relate with some friends very fast and my hostel roommates.
I was unable to join the Orientation Broadcasting Service (OBS) but I found my way to join the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which Aunt Jam Jam oversees on campus
It was an interesting moment in camp but I never partake in the marching parade. I was only able to cheer my platoon members and other platoons up.
The meeting/training on SDGs exposed me to more knowledge about SDGs. Eventually, I was elected as the Vice Governor of the SDGs Batch A Stream II.
Life in the camp was fun. I enjoyed the Black Gold Orientation meal and the soldiers were so friendly and jovial with us. It was fun.
LEAVING CAMP TO SERVE FATHERLAND
Leaving the camp after spending three weeks at the Black Gold Orientation camp was the start of another phase of the service year.
I had been posted to a public secondary school Sardauna Memorial College in Igabi Local Government Area of the State but I was rejected since they could not provide accommodation. I was posted to another government secondary school but I left myself when I met the Vice Principal Administration. None of my documents could be signed. She told me the school could not provide me with either accommodation or monthly payment for upkeep.
It was after I was posted to a private school I mentioned below in Kaduna South Local Government Area.
My Local Government Inspector (LGI) then Mrs Bukola Okunbajo was such an amazing woman, hardworking, patient, and friendly.
One of my engagements as a Corps member was participating in and reporting the Walk N Snap for clean water which took place at Barnawa axis of Kaduna South, where I and some fellow Corps members sensitized young and old on the health benefits of taking clean water often and also stop pouring water in drainage not to attract mosquitoes.
Unfortunately, due to insecurity, we could not have weekly Community Development Service (CDS) for my Batch. I never attended any. The next day I was posted to the secondary school, hoping to attend my first CDS meeting before it was cancelled.
Between June and September 2021, we could not resume PPA due to the government’s decision to curb insecurity. Due to this, there was no Community Development Service (CDS) in Kaduna. I could not enjoy such a moment.
Earlier, there had been no academic activities for primary and secondary school since the December 2020 break.
We finally resumed PPA in September. It was hectic and stressful but a good part of it could not be forgotten.
I was able to take a tour as much as I can while being security conscious. I know places like Kabala West, Gornin Gora, Ugwan Rimi, Sambo Road, Kano Road, Abeokuta and Calabar streets, Abuja streets, Lagos Road, Ogbomoso Road, and many more.
One thing you can’t take from Kaduna is the accommodating spirit. Although the sun was too scorching. Also, almost every State in Nigeria is the name of a street in Kaduna.
Fast forward to when it’s getting closer to passing out, I’ll always remember the 28th of March, 2021 for two reasons.
That day made it exactly a month to my Passing Out Parade (POP) the countdown would begin.
Unfortunately, that same day, bandits attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train at exactly 7:35 pm, killing people and also abducted several others while the identity of many could not be traced.
In December 2021, coming back from SouthWest, I alighted in Abuja to book a train to Kaduna. I was on that particular train from Abuja to Kaduna not around 7 am, 10 am, 12 pm, 4 pm. At 9 pm, I was still on the train.
I was in Kaduna as a corps member when bandits attacked the National Defence Academy (NDA), when the train was first attacked with a bomb in October 2021, when the Kaduna International Airport was attacked, and several attacks.
Nothing shocked me more than the train I was at 9:30 pm was the same train that was attacked a few minutes past 7 pm. I was startled. Shock could not describe how terrified I was. Fear gripped my heart – the same train I was at 9:30 pm. The same train I boarded 3 times within a couple of hours.
I find that moment unforgettable but…nothing came out of my mouth than thanks and prayer that God continues to guide us day and night.
LIFE AFTER SERVICE YEAR
One of the things I will miss after the service year is the inability to meet some individuals after camp and those I will (might) not see again once I leave Kaduna – Church members of The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Cathedral, PPA colleagues, and co-workers of Sydney International School, Kurmin Mashi, friends, and fellow SDGs members.
There are those I would never in life meet again. It’s painful, right? Yes, that is it. It can’t be hidden from – the same way after undergraduate days that I never have seen some of my course and level mates. I really love those moments. I really hope I could meet everyone once again but how is that possible? I doubt it. I have missed seeing a lot of people. Just as school brought us together and ‘separated’, the same way NYSC had. But I believe and pray everyone is doing well in their chosen paths.
Yes, I have decided to bid Kaduna State goodbye. It’s so uneasy but I just have to do it. This would be one of the most difficult decisions I would ever make in over 20 years since I was born but I have no alternative to turn this down (sighs).
My journey to Kaduna was so fun and memorable. Thanks to everyone who made it blissful.
Hopefully, one day, somehow, we will see each other again. Anywhere I see you, I’m definitely going to hug everyone. Spending the whole month mentioning everyone’s name wouldn’t be enough. I miss everyone.
Thanks to everyone who made my NYSC moment remarkable. Today marks my passing out as a corps member.
I hope I once again be back in Kaduna but before then, it is time to move on.
This piece belongs to and remains the diary, intellectual property of Damilola Olufemi, a former Corps member with state code KD/21A/1568 who served in Kaduna State between the 18th of May 2021 and the 28th of April, 2022.
Editor’s note: This piece has been published on News Digest with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.