1 week before leaving –
Babe! Why do you want to go and serve in Nigeria? Do you know how long you have been away from that place and now you want to go there for a whole year? You know you can just go to camp for 3 weeks and come right back right? But noooo, you want to go for the whole thing! Smh! You have completely lost your mind!
I had one variation of this conversation or the other at least 10 times before I finally left the US for Nigeria. Even before my freshman year in college, I had decided that when I finished undergrad, I would go back and do my NYSC. I think my first year in college was the first time I mentioned it to my mom. Then I was only 4 years out of Nigeria and she laughed it off saying probably by the time I finish college, I would have forgotten that, but I didn’t and so by year 3, I started preparing their minds I wasn’t going to grad school straight as planned but taking a year off to go do NYSC. I didn’t realize how much it shocked my mom until the day I was finally leaving when she came into my room and just stared at me as I made some final adjustments to my luggage and said, “you this girl, so u actually made this happen and are leaving.”
I considered everything I was leaving behind but I knew that I needed to do this because I needed to get back home. I truly needed a break and I wanted to do something for naija that wasn’t just talk. I felt like there was only so much I could do just sitting there so this was the first step for me. So off I went, back to the motherland, filled with excitement and nerves i couldn’t have fathomed.
Nigeria – Week 1
Oga abeg, stay in line, cos if u no stay, I go kick you out of this line and you no go fit comot for hear ooo!
My annoyance started right inside the airport! They were so disorganized and communication between the people was almost nonexistent! The same man someone had just yelled at for going out of line had been told by one of the customs agents to come out of the line he had stayed in and come over, but an agent walking around was the one yelling at him to return to line, and wouldn’t hear the explanation the poor man had to give. I just got out of there as fast as possible. Now I am in Abuja and so the traffic situation isn’t as bad as it tends to be in Lagos. But honestly, if they actually considered and punished traffic violations, Abuja government would make so much money! People were driving like maniacs and the most important part of the car to them is the horn, which was used when necessary and when not! Also obedience of traffic light is relative, and basically non-existent at night (because as my cousin says, why the h*** will I stop for a light at night, when someone could come mug me while waiting)
I also noticed a whole lot of aggression in everyone around. From the gateman who is in charge of a little lot who yelled at my uncle for trying to park in a specific spot when we went to the NYSC office (who later had to suck up to the same person for a tip), to the NYSC people who thanks to their lack of order, made the process way harder than it should have been. Yet they kept yelling at us who came to register as if we were little children. It’s like everyone is power hungry, no matter how little their power is and so they try to make sure that you know they have some sort of hold over you getting what you need to get from them.
The officers at NYSC being a pain in the ass also showed me another thing, which I kept noticing as I stayed longer here, “It is all about who you know!” After waiting for about 2 hours in lines, my uncle got impatient and finally made a call to someone he knew in the office. The lady turned out to be a high level officer who came down from her office, took my paper in hand and got all the necessary marks and signatures on it. The process that had taken us 2 hours beforehand with little to show for it took her about 30 minutes and we were done and ready to be out. As the lady was sorting my papers out, I could hear people who were still in line grumbling about the unfairness of my not having to. I felt for them because I knew if I was in their position, I would be saying the same thing, but at that moment, I just wanted to get out of that place.