My NYSC travel experience in Cross River State, Nigeria

by Sanjo

In my 21 years of being in this world, I have not travelled to so many places. I am more of a stay-at-home kind of girl, but for some reason, one thing or another has made me leave places I am very familiar with, to another part of my country and another part of the world I have never been to. I will be narrating my travel experience in Cross River State, Nigeria.

The Reason I went to Cross River

I should let you know, first of all, that I travelled to Cross River state for a reason. I didn’t just travel there because I felt like leaving my dear house and family in Lagos. I travelled to Cross River state for the NYSC (National Youth Service Corps). To a typical Nigerian, the term NYSC is not new. But for those who don’t know what the NYSC is, I’ll tell you.

The NYSC is a period when citizens of Nigeria who are graduates of tertiary institutions, whether in Nigeria or abroad, serve Nigeria (in Nigeria, because, during the service, you are not supposed to leave your place of service). During the service, the Nigerian government assigns you to a Place of Primary assignment (POP) where you will serve for one year. This place could be a school, a hospital, a government or state parastatal, etc. It is compulsory as a Nigerian Youth to serve the country, especially if you plan on getting a job in Nigeria or working for the Nigerian government.

Travelling to Cross River State

That being said, I will go on to tell my experience. I travelled by road from Abia state through Akwa-Ibom state to Cross River state. The journey took four hours. I saw the Itu River, which separates Akwa-Ibom from Cross River. From there, I went straight to the capital city, which is Calabar. I had a cousin who lived there; he accommodated me for the period I was there. The first things I noticed in Cross River were that the roads were good and clean, there was no traffic, there were many trees along the road, there were big metal rectangle-shaped trash bins for residence to empty their trashes into, the drainages by the roadside were deep and clean, and the air was fresh. For some reason, the first things I notice about a place are not the people in the place. I notice the surroundings first. Maybe because I like to see what Lagos can do better about its surroundings.

I stayed at my cousin’s house for the night. He was very welcoming and happy to see me. He was living in the staff quarters of where he worked. The accommodation was some rooms arranged in U shape. There were about ten rooms there. The ten rooms had a kitchen, two bathrooms and two toilets to share.

That evening, he took me to a nice restaurant not too far from the house. There we bought a plate of wheat and Afang soup with lots of meat. Afang soup is a very popular soup in Cross River state. It is made with a particular vegetable called ‘Afang’ in Efik (or called Okazi for the Igbo tribe). A plate of that cost about NGN1500. I was so excited to eat the food because I was very hungry. It was tasty and filling. We went home and just slept.

Travelling to the NYSC Orientation Camp

The following morning, I set out for Obubra. Obubra is a local government in Cross River. It is the place where the NYSC Orientation camp for Cross River State is located. I was to stay in the Orientation camp at Obubra for three weeks. My cousin accompanied me to the bus park, where I took a bus. The trip cost me NGN2500. I was so excited when I saw one of my friends from my university getting into the same bus as me. His name is Evey, and he too was going to the orientation camp. It made me feel more comfortable knowing that someone I knew was going to be around me during the whole trip.

On the way, by the sides of the road, I saw very low lands that were erosion stricken, many rubber plantations, palm oil plantations, universities, churches, and so many other things I cannot remember. We passed through local governments like Odupani, Akamkpa (where I saw the Akamkpa College of Education), Ugeb, Yakurr, Boki, Ogoja, before we finally got to Obubra. To get to the NYSC orientation camp, my friend and I had to get on a motorcycle. It was the motorcycle that took us to the camp. The journey took us six hours without traffic and with a good vehicle. That was when I realised how large Cross River was.

My experience in the Orientation Camp

On getting to the camp gate, the soldiers at the gate started shouting with their deep voices, ‘Are you walking down here? Come on, double up! double up! ‘ Evey and I looked at each other’s tired faces, and I was like, ‘What’s double up? ‘. Before Evey could give any response, the soldiers started shouting, ‘You better start running down here! ‘. It was in that instant that I knew that “double up” means to run or make haste. Immediately, Evey and I carried our boxes and started running towards the gate. When we got to the gate, we greeted the soldiers and joined the queue we saw there. The queue was for the soldiers to search our boxes and make sure people coming in were not going in with sharp objects. We were not allowed to enter with hangers, forks, and irons. Those items were seized from the gate. The soldiers asked us to come and collect it after the orientation was over (well, I didn’t go back to collect my fork that was seized).

After the gate, the next step was getting a hostel, where we would stay during the three weeks. First, we had to go and get a mattress from a different room then go to the hostel and get a bunk space. The room where the mattresses were kept was very stuffy. These mattresses were very dusty and flat. These mattresses can be literally compared to a mat. It seemed like there were no foams inside the mattress. I was not disappointed because I was not hoping to get much comfort. I came with the mindset of expecting the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario would have been not having a mattress but I had a flat mattress so I was satisfied with that.

After getting the mattress, I had to join the long queue of ladies with their mattresses that wanted to get a bunk space in the hostel. It took me about an hour to finally get a hostel. The hostel was packed with a lot of people. In my hostel, we were about 90 people. The hostel was about 72 to 80m2. Yeah, it was really tight. It was very noisy too. There was only one bulb in my hostel and the windows were a bit small. No sockets in the hostel(so I had to charge my phone at the mami market) The space between a bunk and the next was so tight that we had to use our sides to pass through (I was grateful that I was not fat). The bathrooms and toilets were outside the hostel, very scary bathrooms. There were toilets which I never used. I usually defecated in my plastic for pooing then I threw the feces inside the toilet when I was done. After that, I washed my plastic and flushed the toilet. I could not risk getting a toilet infection. The tap was mechanical (the one you move up and down for the water to come out). The water looked clean when it first came out from the tap, but when left for like an hour, you began to see oil on top of the water (well, I used the water like that). The whole hostel just got me exhausted. I preferred to be outside than inside my room. I only wanted to be inside when I was sleeping.

After getting the hostel, we had to go and get our tags—everyone who came for the NYSC orientation needed to get a tag. One could get the tag only after all necessary documents had been verified. This part was survival of the fittest. Everyone, both guys and ladies, wanted to get a tag. Over 1000 of us in a small hall struggling to reach the stage where the NYSC officials were so that we could get our documents verified and get a tag. Now the noise was deafening. Rows of chairs were arranged from the beginning to the end of the hall. Some people were sitting, while some were standing behind. If you were sitting then it means you are already in the queue. If you were standing, then you had not begun the journey yet. The way the queue moved is like this: we were jumping from row to row. If someone moved forward in the row in front of you, you had to just cross over from your chair to the chair in front of you. It was really hilarious and was a struggle for who had better stamina. I actually didn’t go far with this method. Someone was there to overtake me every time. The soldiers later came to organise the queue and I was able to get to the front to verify my documents. I verified my document at 11:30 pm that faithful day and got the tag around the same time. The tag is for you to have a platoon or a group. I was in Platoon/group 7.

Everyday activities I did while on Camp

The soldiers woke us up every day with trumpets by 5 am. We gathered for morning devotions where the Christians and Muslims faithful prayed at their designated places together for an hour. After the prayer, we would jog and do man-o-war drills for another hour. Between 7 am and 7:30 am, you are allowed to take your bath and clean your surroundings. Between 7:30 am and 8 am, breakfast is served. For everything, there were usually very long queues which I later got used to.

Activities I enjoyed while on camp

I participated in various activities such as the swearing-in ceremony where we were inducted as Corps members. After the ceremony, I took some pictures with friends and colleagues.

Altogether, it was a memorable experience because I got to meet new people from other parts of Nigeria. I made friends that have remained friends even till this moment. When it was time to go, I was very excited but also scared because I didn’t know which local government in Cross River I would be posted to serve. But all the same, I was happy to leave and go back to meet my cousin.

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