It was the last day of camp and I was a little more than relieved. I was ecstatic. All that shenanigans about camp being interesting, bah, it wasn’t true. At least for me. I just couldn’t wait to get out of Awgu camp to get my first decent shower and meal in 3 weeks. I wiped the sweat from standing in parade all morning from my face and watched as my platoon commandant approached.
“Platoon 9 members, move to that tree for your posting letter.” He boomed, pointing to one of the trees on the camp ground that served as makeshift canopy
We trooped to the designated tree. Members of other platoons too moved to the spot their platoon commandant had indicated. Apprehension and anxiety was in the air. The parade ground was almost as silent as a grave yard, save for the occasional muttering of prayers to God asking for help, no one was chattering.
“I want you all to take wherever it is you are posted to in good faith.” The platoon inspector, a woman in her fifties who had given us hell each time we weren’t in the top 3 in any of the camp competition, addressed us. “There is a reason why you were posted there.” she continued.
I tuned her out and said a quick prayer, never mind that the posting letters where already printed out. There’s nothing God cannot change after all.
“009” The platoon inspector called out.
“I’m here ma” she answered eagerly.
Everyone waited with bated breath for her reaction as she read her letter.
“Thank you God! She exclaimed. “Enugu North.”
Enugu North, Enugu South and Enugu East were the choice area everyone wanted. And if worse became worst, Nsukka would do.
“019, 029, 039, 049, 059……..” The numbers were called out continuously and within 10minutes, the air was rent with excited screams.
“Finally.” I sighed. “Here ma.”
Someone closer to her collected the letter and passed it to me. I stared at the first line of the letter in disbelief, scanning through speedily to ensure it was my name written on it and sure enough, it was.
There it was written in block letters on the third line. ADEWUNMI WILLIAMS
Nausea gripped me despite that I had had nothing for breakfast. I stared into nothingness for what seemed like hours, lost and shocked.
“Where the fuck was Ude-whatever?”
I dragged my eyes away from the bushes zooming past and glanced around me. Every corps member in the bus, it seemed were deep in thoughts. The atmosphere was melancholic. I was still appropriately shocked. How could this be happening to me? How was it that out of two thousand people, I got grouped into the people sent to the jungle? Who made the decision? How was the decision made? Was it random, or was there something about my name, or maybe it was my passport?
Twenty minutes before, when the bus started to head out of town, we had held on to some hope, spurred on by talk that the state’s governor was from the local government we were headed to. And like that meant anything, we clung on to hope that it wouldn’t be too bad.
“After all I did. How could this have happened?” A girl behind me lamented.
She probably was one of those people who had bribed officials in camp to get a favorable place. I almost pulled strings too, but then I changed my mind and decided to let fate decide.
“I’m not going to stay there o. I’ll do all it takes to get reposted.” Her voice was laced with unshed tears.
“Don’t worry all of you. Let’s get there first and see how it is.” A guy sitting in the front seat beside the driver said. “It’s going to be a blessing in disguise by God’s grace.”
“Amen!” Everyone chorused.
“I truly hope you are right o” I murmured.
“I welcome you all to Udenu LG. My name is Daniel Obasi, the CLO of this LG.”
I looked up at the guy introducing himself and scoffed. This guy was the Corpers’ Liaison Officer? Mhen. The other corps members must suck to have elected him as the CLO, I thought. Dude looked anything but smart, and in fact a new corps member had shouted him down at the camp ground just before we boarded the bus that brought us to the local government.
“I was once like you, scared to have been posted to a rural area.” He continued, “But I can tell you with all certainty that you are going to enjoy your service year in this local government. You’ll even enjoy it better than those in Enugu town.”
Anyone with half a brain could see that he was just buttering us up and we very likely were about to be thrust into a nightmare. A look at the local government’s compound was enough to solidify that fact for anyone who still held on to hope that it could be any good. The local government looked abandoned, with overgrown bushes scattered everywhere, and the football field and tennis court looked like they hadn’t seen any action in years.
“Without wasting much time, I’ll start by calling the different PPA and the CLOs in charge. If you hear yours being called, kindly go meet with the CLO.”
“Ehm. Aguaba and Ikpeaba, you don’t have a CLO at the moment. Please go back to the bus, the driver will take you there.”
“Aguaba, Omo that place no be here o.”
“Asin ehn. That place is far o inside inside…..”
I overheard 2 batch A corps members whispering to each other as I stood up to join the others making their way to the bus.
Despite overhearing the batch A corps members at the LG secretariat at Obollo-Afor, I hadn’t thought it could get any worse, but I was sorely mistaken. If I had thought Obollo-Afor was a village, then Aguaba was the village’s forest. God!
The bus had travelled on a highway for about 15 minutes, when it took a turn into an untarred road. I had thought we were almost at our destination, 5 minutes at most, only for the driver to keep on driving for another 20 minutes, through thick forestation and really bad roads. If someone had told me, there were people living that far from civilization, I wouldn’t have believed for a minute. Ah! No way was I going to join them, I thought to myself. I tapped my phone and made to text my contact about reposting from the hell hole, only to discover there was no cell reception.
“This is just great.” I muttered to myself.
My insistence on leaving things to fate is what landed me there. I had had several opportunities to influence my posting, but no, I wanted to serve the Fatherland in truth and with core passion. Well, I was done with all that fate nonsense. There was no way I was going to stay in such a backward place for a whole year.
We arrived first at Ikpeaba, and 5 of 12 of us in the bus alighted. Their principal, a typical Igbo madam with a robust body dressed in a George blouse and wrapper, was super excited they had come and had met them with a huge grin. Her disposition did not however cheer the corps members and I don’t blame them. I wasn’t in a cheerful mood myself. The bus pulled out of the school and headed deeper into the forest.
“Omo, if this place is like this, I don’t want to imagine our own that’s still inside inside o.” the guy sitting behind me said, his voice laced heavily with an Igbo accent.
No one replied as he was stating the obvious, and probably because we were all tense. 5 minutes or so later, the driver parked the bus in front of a shop cum bar and asked us all to come down. A group of men were seated in front of the shop having drinks and chatting in Igbo. On sighting us, one of them rose to his feet and approached us.
“Eh. Corpers shun! Welcome o.” He grinned.
“Thank you sir.” He and the bus driver exchanged greetings in Igbo, then he turned back to us.
“The principal just left o. He has been waiting since morning.” He continued. “Your Lodge is just at the back here.” he pointed to the upstairs building a distance behind the shop, and started to walk towards it.
“Tomorrow, the principal will come and see you people.”
We muttered our thanks and followed his lead. The lodge was not all that bad, considering I was expecting a really ancient house with thatch roof. On the contrary, it was a story building that must have been built in the late 90s and it seemed to be in good condition. The house had four wings. The man led us to the upstairs right wing, a sizable 3 bedroom flat without a toilet. The toilet and bathroom was downstairs at the back of the building if we needed to use it, he informed us, and urged us to get comfortable. He and his family lived just downstairs below us, if we needed anything we could come ask him.