Dorcas Iliya Itse
© Copyright 2018 by Dorcas Iliya Itse
Living in a country and hearing on a daily basis the kidnapping and killings of commuters on the road and the road crash accidents that claims so many lives is enough reason for one not to have any interest in travelling. Consequently, denying one the opportunity to explore, learn and create new things in his or her environment.
When I received my posting letter to serve my country for a period of one year in a place I have never been too, to a people with different way of life, different culture, different weather and different food, my heart bleeds. knowing that travelling that far means endangering my life to the bad roads in the country and falling into the hands of armed robbers who might even take my life but what can I do? When there is a clarion call as this, Nigerian graduates must obey.
When it comes to being afraid of travelling I think I took after my paternal grandmother whom since I was a kid and now that I am all grown up, I have never seen her visit us in the city because she feels nausea whenever she entered a car. For so many reasons I hate travelling, especially long journey. The roads in the country are in bad shape and on a daily basis, many people lost their lives due to road crash accident. The bad smell of fuel makes me hate sitting in bus for long. Sometimes the cars have bad odor and there is no good ventilation or AC. On so many occasions when travelling to Bauchi, North eastern Nigeria where I school I have to buy bubble gum to chew, bitter kola or coke to get rid of the nauseous feelings.
I have to pay #1,000 to sit comfortably when boarding a small vehicle. Three people at the back and one at the front instead of paying #700 for four people at the back and two at the front. The farthest place I have been to, is Gombe state, North eastern Nigeria which is about 3hrs or more from Jos, Plateau State. North central Nigeria.
I remember the sweet turn sour experience I had when I went to Gombe for a friend’s wedding, on the day the Bride is to be taken to the pastor’s house before the solemnization, as it is the Nigerian orthodox Christians practice, a pick-up van was brought to conveyed us we mumbled and grumble. We are in the 21st century, and we are from the city, travelling in a pick-up van was embarrassing but we had no choice than to hop in. it was amazing that after the wedding I had to pay transport fare to entered the once rejected pick-up van which has now become the chief car to convey me to the main road where I will get a vehicle. That was the last time I travel to a far place.
I have been praying to God that I will do my one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in the north since I am a northerner and I am familiar to the Northern way of life despite our diverse ethnic and religious affiliation and despite the series of attacks rocking the North East and North Central. I don’t like the south south region because of kidnapping activities by militants and it is a riverine are. I like the south west a bit probably because my first love and some friends are from that part of the country.
The NYSC which is a scheme for all Nigeria’s graduates to undergo after graduating except for those who had pass the age limit or those with health challenges post graduates to different parts of the country to enable them serve them country. It is the dream of most Nigerian graduate to participate in the scheme.
Finally, the posting letters are out. I went to the Cyber café to check where I have been posted to. John the café man told me I was posted to Maiduguri Borno state. My heart jumped, yes, I want to served in the North but not Borno where Boko haram are consistently rendering havoc, killing innocent people and destroying their houses. He laughed after seeing how scared I look.
“Here is your letter” he said.
I took the letter and go through it. My fears have become reality, one of the places I pray to God not to go to is where I have been posted to. I wish like in the case of Jonah in the Bible I can change direction but, in my case, I just have to answered the clarion call by my Nation to served my fatherland. I was posted to Delta State, South south Nigeria. My heart skipped. I took the letter and left.
I was in the tricycle thinking about how my journey will be when my friend Lydia called me to inform me she has been posted to Kaduna state. Jumoke also called to let me know she was posted to Adamawa state all northern state. My eyes were clouded with tears. I felt as if God hate me why would all my friends be posted to the North and only I was posted to the South south? I couldn’t answer nor understand.
On reaching home I broke the news to my younger brother and when my father was back home I gave him the letter. He removed his medicated glasses and put it to read the letter he sat on our “natural chair” (a small hill created during tin mining activities).
“Hmmm! Delta.” He said.
I understand he was worried about transportation, well it is an inevitable journey. I begin to make plans for my Journey. I went to Terminus market or Main market as we called it and do some shopping. Then a day before the journey I went to the Booking clerk and bought my ticket. I chose the window side in other to have a clearer view of where I was going. I wish I have money for flight it could have save me the stress of long Journey by road and the fear of being robbed by armed robbers. We often heard of cases of armed robbers who sometimes even killed commuters.
The day finally come for me to leave home and answer the clarion call to serve my fatherland for a period of one year. Knowing that I am going to a long journey and I might not have enough money to come back home just the way I use to do in Bauchi when I was in school, I packed enough clothes to last me. My father like any African Parents, advise me as if I was baby. I appreciated his advice though and prayers were offered to God to protect me and help me in all my endeavors. That evening I went to my Reverend’s house to informed him and for prayers but he was not around.
My departure time was 4pm. Being a punctual man my dad ensures I don’t go with “African time” so I finished everything at around 3pm. My brother Agwom my sister Blessing, and her friend Olotu help me pack my loads to his car and we drove off. close to the park I received a text from my father, I still remember what he wrote;
“Be careful with your box.” He wrote.
We all laughed after I read the message aloud. I told you African parents even if you are married, you will still remain a baby in their eyes.
At the park I met my cousin who was posted to Imo but he said he will be redeployed after the three weeks orientation camp. My travelling partner Emma, we graduated from the same school and he stayed in the same compound with my friend Lydia. I was relieved a bit when I heard he was posted to Delta, at least I have someone whom I know.
I was almost in tears when my sisters bade me farewell. The luxurious bus took off at around 5pm. It was the first time I entered a luxurious bus. How will my life be in Delta state?
The preacher that join us in the bus after preaching, singing praying and collecting offering dropped at Mararaban Jama’a and another preacher join the vehicle. I looked at the houses, trees and people as we passed different local governments and state. After Sanga local government of Kaduna state, we entered Nasarawa state. I was already exhausted I bought “Suya” meat since I haven’t eaten but I was unable to eat more than three. It doesn’t taste good. It was already dark and we continue our journey I don’t even know how many more hours I have before I reach my destination. Many people were already asleep. I couldn’t sleep. I could hardly see signpost to tell me the location of where I was.
I heard someone said “we are in Benue” that was when I knew where we are.
I look at my sit mate he was already asleep and many other people. Then I notice a strange movement with the vehicle and since I can’t see my front, I don’t know what was happening but I became scared. We were on the river Benue bridge and the Bus was about to fall. The shouts of “Jesus! Jesus!” filled the whole Bus. Deep in my heart I begin to asked God for forgiveness as I watch the luxurious bus about to fall into River Benue. I hold firm my chair afraid of falling. Then the vehicle became stable. The Bus was filled with “Holy Ghost fire!”, “God forbid!” “Devil is a liar!” speaking in tongues and noise. Since we could not have a front view to know what actually happened we were all left with the question of what happen and some where suggesting reasons for the incidence. I said “God, so you want me to die in another mans land probably my corpse will not be taken home to my family.”
The Bus pull over after crossing the bridge and that was when we find out that the Driver was not familiar with the road and he was sleeping while driving. We however continue our journey without any hitches.
my dad sent me a message. “I hope you are far from the North.” Caring dad indeed he is not asleep.
“Yes, we are in Enugu state.” I replied. Enugu is in south eastern Nigeria. I heard that after Enugu state we will pass Anambra state before Delta state. I was so exhausted and hungry. I was able to close my eyes and sleep perhaps that makes the journey faster because by the time I woke up, we were in Anambra and is dawn.
Passing the horrible untarred road that links Awka, the state capital to one of the biggest markets in the country Onitsha and that is the final bus stop we all alighted with the other corps members who like me are from the North, we decide to board a small bus that will conveyed us to Issele-uku where our orientation camp is directly after agreeing on a price we hop in. I was shock and scared when some terrified looking young men stopped our vehicle. The driver was asking us if we have lower denomination of our currency before we could answer him he received two hots slapped on his cheek. He pleaded with them and gave them some amount before they let him go. I was surprise because the driver is an elderly man. This cannot happen in the North.
Answering the clarion call has offer me the opportunity to pass the River Benue bridge and now I am on the Niger bridge. The two rivers that forms the Y shape in the Nigerians Map. I hope to one day see the confluence town in Lokoja, Kogi state where the two rivers met. I was excited to see the River Niger where Chike in our Junior Secondary school text “Chike and the River” we read crossed from Asaba to Onisha. I was overwhelmed when I saw the name “Ibuzu” a place where Nnu Ego in the “Joys of Motherhood” by Buchi Emechata one of my favourite novel in secondary school is from and “Dizzy Angel” by Gracy Osifo.
Immediately we finished crossing the Niger bridge I saw a signpost “Welcome to Asaba, Delta state.”
After the rigorous activities; frog jump, press up, early morning jogging, parade, lectures and other activities in camp like “Miss NYSC pageant, Miss Pretty face pageant, where men dressed like females with make up and high heel shoes, drama competition and lots more the three weeks orientation camp came to an end and our posting letters were out. I was posted to “Delta Broadcasting Service Asaba.” Many counts me lucky I was not posted to a riverine area where I will have to use boat to get to the community.
My stay in Delta was fun Afterall I had a wonderful family, Nigeria Christians Corpers Fellowship” (NCCF) family house was full of fun especially during praise and worship when we sing and dance to different cultural songs. I learnt how to eat “Kpo kpo garri” with roasted groundnut, Begerri soup, I enjoyed their cooked beans with bole as they called roasted plantain. In NCCF, I learnt the dance steps of people who are not from the North. The Yoruba, Igbos and the Niger Delta people. I realized the mass media sometimes overexaggerate happenings in the south and likewise the south was receiving overexaggerated news about the North. However, I witnessed some strange traditions like when we went for a funeral, the corpse was kidnapped just they were about committing it to mother earth until certain amounts was paid. And as NCCF we went for evangelism and to my surprise what I watched in Nollywood movies are real some are still into idol worshipping.
I miss home though and during Christmas I decided to travelled home. A friend invited me to Lokoja, Kogi state and I pass through there before reaching Jos. On my way to Jos from Lokoja I was able to see the confluence town where River Niger and Benue met.
One good thing that happened to me in Asaba is that I was able to start a relationship. Yes, I found love. Though he is from the North but as of then, he works there as a policeman our relationship blossoms. Hopefully you all will be invited for the wedding. I was also able to overcome my phobia for long journey. If only like a snail in its shell I confine myself to the North, I wouldn’t have met the beautiful people I met, I wouldn’t have learned about their culture and I would continue to have a negative impression about them. Thanks to the clarion call by NYSC.
Born on the 28th of October 1990 in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria. A Journalist, Writer, Peace Advocate and Children Sunday school teacher.