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I woke up to the sound of bleating goats and sheep. I had slept like a log of wood and my body ached as a result of the rigor it had undergone the previous day. I glanced at Zahra, sleeping at the other end of the room. Zahra was my roommate for the night. Since there were 3 rooms in all, it was decided that the girls would take the two small rooms while the guys would occupy the large one. She was unmistakably Fulani, with her slim figure, narrow nose, fair skin, and was slightly taller than my 5’7 height.
We had talked a bit before sleeping off. She was from Kebbi state but resided at Kaduna. She had not applied for relocation because she wanted to experience life in another region of the country. It was quite a surprise to me, as most of the Northerners I met in camp had applied for relocation, because they felt they wouldn’t be able to fit in. They felt being a Muslim and a northerner at that time in Enugu were some Fulani herdsmen where on a massacring spree was bound not to be safe.
I stood up and went downstairs to use the bathroom, which wasn’t so bad, considering I had half expected a zinc or thatch bathroom. I relieved the pressure on my bladder quickly and went back upstairs to find 3 more Corpers awake.
“Good morning everyone.” I greeted.
“Good morning.” they all chorused.
“How was your night?”
“Eh. As fine as can be.” I answered.
Then we started to talk about our camp experiences, what we felt about this jungle we were thrown in and whether or not we were going to stay. In no time, the remaining 3 who were still sleeping joined us and we introduced ourselves.
“I’m Dewunmi” I introduced myself. “I studied Political Science at Babcock University.”
There was Bankole, – ‘Bankz’ for short – an apparent member of the beard gang, who studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Ibadan; Dennis, the shortest of the guys, he studied Mechanical Engineering at Yaba College of Technology; Jeff, Igbo accent dude, Building Technology at Unizik. Temitope, who looked more like an Igbo girl, studied Agricultural science at ABU; Amaka, whose light skin was more likely bought than inherited, studied English Education at OAU; then, Zahra, who studied Physiology at BUK.
We found the well at the back of the house and borrowed buckets from the family downstairs to take our bath. By 9a.m. we were dressed in our khakis and waiting for the principal to show up.
“Me I’m hungry o.” Jeff complained. It’s like I’ll go and look for something to eat.”
“You’re not alone.” Temi replied. “Maybe we’ll find snacks at that shop in front.”
Just then, a voice called from downstairs. “Hello Corpers. Good morning.”
Dennis and I stepped out to the balcony to see who it was. A short man, dressed in a suit was making his way upstairs already.
“Good morning Sir.” We chorused when he stepped into the sitting room.
“My Corpers.” A wide grin was spread on his face.
“How many are you?” He asked, counting us already.
“Eh. We are lucky this time o” he said. “Last batch, we didn’t even get one person.” He raised a finger.
“You’re all welcome ehn. I’m Mr. C.N. Ugwu, the principal of Community Secondary School, Aguaba.” he introduced himself.
He asked if that was the school written on our call up letter, then apologized for being absent the previous night. Then we introduced ourselves to him one after the other.
After I introduced myself, he asked which state Babcock was in.
“Ogun State.” I answered.
“Ah. Ogun state. That was where I served in the early 90’s.” he said, launching into the story of his experience.
We headed downstairs to the school bus that was parked in front of the shop and the principal drove us to a canteen at Ikpeaba for breakfast. Being a picky eater, I opted for gala and Fanta. Zahra joined me, when it was mentioned that the meat they were serving was horse meat. It’s cheaper and easy to come by, the woman at the canteen explained.
“That’s weird. Horses are more expensive than cattle in the North.” Zahra commented.
The rest didn’t mind, so they had rice and stew with horse meat. We headed to the school around 10a.m. and it seemed like another journey from Ikpeaba.
The school compound was quite big, with two football fields lined by mango and cashew trees. Students dressed in blue shirt and black skirt/trousers stood in front of their classes, staring at us as we followed the principal into his office.
“I’m sorry, it’s not my policy to reject Corpers.” The principal said. He moved to the edge of his seat and looked up at us with an expression that read ‘I expected this’.
“We need you in our school that’s why we requested for you.” He tried cajoling.
Bankz, Zahra and I insisted we couldn’t stay and would like a rejection later. Dennis, Temi, Amaka and Jeff just sat quietly watching us give reasons why we absolutely needed to serve elsewhere. We pleaded and begged, but the man just wouldn’t budge. Then he got angry and started to threaten us.
“Submit your posting letter now or I’ll call the state coordinator and report you.”
I stormed out of his office in anger. How could he expect anyone to want to stay in a hell hole like this? Zahra and Banks joined me almost immediately. Zahra’s eyes held unshed tears while Bankz jaw tightened in frustration. I made a call to my contact to relay what the principal had said.
“You have to beg him o. There’s nothing I can do if he doesn’t reject you.”
I relayed the info to Bankz and Zahra. We stood there, at a loss for what to do. We decided to call the principal’s bluff and sat down on the bench in front of his office, refusing to submit our posting letters to him. The other 4 had caved and submitted their letters and he was writing their acceptance letter.
“You guys should just submit the letter.” Dennis joined us, acceptance letter in hand. “I’m sure people have been serving here and nothing happened to them. We’ll survive.”
“Guy. I just can’t stay in this back of beyond.” Bankz insisted.
“Okay. Submit the letter for now. You can always apply for redeployment when we resume.” Dennis persuaded.
“Hey. Are you people ready to submit or not. I have other things to attend to.” The principal called from inside.
We grudgingly gave our letters to Dennis to submit it. I would come prepared next year, I thought. Whatever it will take, I will get, including a fake medical report. There’s no way I was going to spend 10 months in this place.