Nna mehn!!! Remain smaaaaaall….I for be Ms. NYSC!! loooooool. *sobs* (if I hear!!)

 I had this thrilling experience back in my NYSC camp. During my school clearance, I went to school to get my call up letter; on the queue behind me was my good friend. He snatched the letter as soon as it was given to me, and screamed I was posted to Calabar. I was like, NO WAY!!!!

I was born and brought up in Calabar, Nursery, Primary and Secondary school there too, so the thought of NYSC from home made me cry. I cried literally…but I was laughing too. I just couldn’t believe it!! That means no waka for me oo…no extra allowance. chineke!!!

Anyway, I took it in good faith *sniffs*, got back home, my sisters laughed at me until I almost cried blood. I packed my kaya and headed to camp on the day of resumption. From Calabar to the camp location is a 3-hour journey…and my oh my…my pastor volunteered to drop me off since that was his usual route to work in the next local government. My pastor is James Bond personified, but I knew we were covered!! * winks* We got to camp, I was quite early…in fact I was the 100th person during registration. I got allocated to the first room.

From day one, I hated camp. The hatred I had from the moment I got the call up letter intensified when I saw the bunk bed, the red soil and the toilets. I complained endlessly to my mom and she told me to manage since it was just a 3 weeks’ experience.

I hated the camp, parade, wake up calls by 4am, jogging, and most importantly the food!!!! They would kill cow and you see fish in your food, is that not evuls?? It was frustrating!! They could serve akara for breakfast, beans for lunch and moi moi for dinner. 3-square beans meal. What happened to Uncle Bens rice?? Or Ijebu garri huh??

Somebody say “thank God for mammy market”…say it one more time!! Hallelujah!!

Camp became a bit enjoyable when the soldiers were friendlier, and we had mastered parade, plus social activities began fully. Oh!! I was a platoon 10 member. We were constantly last in basically everything!! Quiz, traditional dance, drama (heaven knows we were cheated there) …but the last two events changed our luck – Cooking competition and Mr./Miss NYSC.

Platoon 10 had a lot of girls and guys from Akwa-Ibom and Cross River states. When it came to cooking, we showed them the real deal!!! Mbok was it afang?? Edikanikong?? Edesi isip (coconut rice), ekpangkukwo…iyammmi!! We ruled the kitchen…and for once!!! Platoon 10 came first. A round of applause…well deserved.

Now, back to the most anticipated show in camp – Mr. and Miss NYSC, I am an extremely shy person. My close friends will attest to the fact that I hate to be in the spotlight. If you want to fall my hand, just put me in front of a crowd. So, the thought of contesting never crossed my mind!! Never ever!!!

The time for beauty contest was fast approaching and platoons began to pick their candidates. Our platoon leader met me and asked me to volunteer ….a mighty no accompanied his request followed by vigorously shaking my head!! I mean, they wanted me to catwalk on a stage??!! Heck no!! He pleaded and pleaded and I strongly refused!!!!!

He went to inform the soldier in charge of our platoon and I disappeared from the parade ground instantly. I dodged parade, missed lectures and skipped skill acquisition training. All to no avail…I was still hunted.

Then finally, the soldier caught me on parade ground. I thought the matter had died o but for where?? He begged me, and said he would kneel down. Before I could say peem!! His left knee touched the ground…. quick quick…my two knees reach ground…. who born you?? Soldier knee dey ground, bloody civilian like you dey stand??I said I would do it. ghen ghen!!

We had to start loosening my braids, they fixed pony tail, shaved my freaking eyebrow!!! Imagine the disrespect!!!…and started prepping me. By this time, I complained to the platoon leaders that I had no idea about pageantry, and they should bring me up to speed. My camp bestie drilled me academically. From the way our quiz went, I knew they had really tough questions waiting for the contestants.

 Throughout the day, she had a piece of paper, from which she asked me questions. Current affairs, health talks, politics…name it!! mehn!! I read ehh.

Our platoon paid a guy!!!!!!! To teach me how to catwalk!! Oh my goodness!! If you saw his steps as a girl, you will hide your face in shame. He brushed me up a bit, taught me how to carry my head, how to arrange my shoulders, turn around…and the one I enjoyed most, how to wave like the Queen of England…oh yeaaaa!!! (Believe me, I have forgotten how to catwalk, this isn’t peakmilk, it’s not in me!!!)

Then my dress!!! Due to my late response to the whole Miss NYSC thing, all the nice dresses had been rented by the other platoons. I was stuck!! No shoes, no clothes. I called my sister, the white winch at home, told her to package a dinner gown I had and my shoes and send it through a photographer that was coming to the camp. The show was to start by 7:00pm, and my clothes arrived at 6:50pm, when I was almost sick with worry. We had 3 dress-up sessions.

Round 1: you wear your white and white, with your socks and canvas, and perform one exercise you learnt in camp. I was the last to perform because of my platoon number…by the time it got to my turn; all the better and easy exercises had been done. I wan die!!!. I just compose myself come dey do imaginary skipping…*smh*

Round 2: you wear the complete NYSC regalia, apart from the jacket. Cap, crested vest, trouser, boots and belt. You do small parade on stage and salute and catwalk to your position. They asked us to talk about our high points in the whole camp experience.

Round 3: This is where you put on your beautiful dress. Oh my lawd!! The girls who made me up were terrific boss ladies!! Goodness me! I had no control over my own face!! Colors I never knew existed were added to my face and my lips painted blood red… I love light pink by the way. I had no strength to argue…couldn’t wait to end the day.

When I was called, there was plenty cheering, and I strutted and waved like a queen. It felt good!!!!!! A tray was passed round and we picked our questions each, it had been folded, so you don’t know what to expect.

Platoon one!! The MC shouted. We all listened. The deal was, you open your paper, read the question in your heart, and answer it out loud. This was done so that the crowd won’t give you answers. The next thing we heard as her answer was cow and snake. I didn’t know what to make of her question, so we waited for the MC to read it out.

You know, at first I thought she was asked the two animals we had seen in camp. Guys had killed a snake in their hostel, and a cow pursued some people in camp. So we waited. The MC said, platoon one, is that your final answer?? She said yes!! He now proceeded to read out her question.

“What are the two animals on the Nigerian Coat of Arms?” The whole camp erupted in laughter. If you join in the laughter…you are not a supportive Nigerian. It took the grace of God for me not to laugh on the stage!! What???!!!

It went on and on…and nobody could answer their question, except one girl who answered a part of her question.

Now it got to the turn of platoon 10, I didn’t know what to expect because all the other ones had tough questions. I opened my paper and saw the question. “Give the full name of any two fellowships allowed in camp”. I almost shouted!! This was like the simplest question and I knew it totally!!! With all the joy in me, I answered my question, and the crowd cheered!! I was really proud. I turned and saw my platoon giving me a standing ovation.

Here you have it…loool…you thought I won?? nah!! I came second!! I wasn’t tall enough was the excuse…loool…but well, I won a generator…and a whole lot of admirers!! My “almost miss nysc experience” added to the liberation of platoon 10 from constant last position.

Moral lesson

v  To think that this was common “Miss NYSC” competition…. I did a lot of reading. I actually studied for it and it paid.

v  Never stop learning. It may save you national embarrassment someday, not necessarily during a competition but maybe random discussion with people.

v  Have basic knowledge about everything. Know a bit about football, current affairs, politics home and abroad, natural disasters happening.

Hope you enjoyed your NYSC experience?
Andikan Inyang
As a Chemical Engineering graduate, former Immigration Officer and present day banker.....and most importantly, a foodie, I hide behind my pen.......therein lies my strength. I hope to pursue a career in writing and explore the world of poetry. So help me God.