Ever since the iconic Fela Kuti used the phrase ‘suffering and smiling to describe a people so used to difficult living that they joke and smile about it Nigerians continue to show that the late Afrobeat star was on point.
The mediocrity pervading the land did not leave out the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) which many still argue has little or no benefits to the country in its continued form.
Since the new Batch of Youth Service corp members were to come to town starting July 2 the monthly ritual of clearance for the stipend allowance paid to corpers by the federal government was shifted forward and so once again we were to stand in long queues reminiscent of the fuel station lines to show our ID cards, present the clearance letter from employers and finally sign the almighty register that will ensure we get paid for the month of July.
We all expected to wait for at least 2 hours before completing the clearance procedures but this week’s clearance certainly became more of a drill.
As early as 9am some of us were already at the Secretariat building which was almost surrounded by bushes and nondescript buildings. One and half hours later the screening began and to our dismay we were told that only one of the staff would be on ground to handle the clearance (as the rest were going to a meeting at the state secretariat).
Groans of despair arose as the dark skinned guy (notorious for his slow procedure and unnecessarily strict grand standings) took his position at the desk.
Then began over two hours of struggle and pushing under the increasingly hot sun as guys and babes alike threw caution to the wind and pushed to stay in front of the winding line.
The Female Power
As over 300 of us struggled to get on the line several smart girls kept finding their way into the line ahead of me. Despite the shouting and protests by those of us behind the line kept stretching and almost one hour later I found myself still not having moved an inch.
One girl three persons behind me got so aggrieved at the way the guys higher up in the line allowed several girls to slip in and bellowed in a loud voice,” you guys are simply cowards, you allow them enter the line simply cos they smiled at you. Tomorrow they will behave as if they didn’t see you’
One particular seductive damsel was trying all her best to get in between two holier than thou male corpers some three spaces ahead of me. I knew these two having stayed a day or two with them at the Christian corpers lodge before running for dear life. Their attitude bordered on the ridiculous as they had this air of rebuffing and being unfriendly all in the name of religion.
The girl meanwhile was leaning on one of them pressing her soft spots against his arm and saying all manner of things to him to allow her slip in.
I told the guy behind me to watch them both. I told him I was ready to bet that the girl’s charm will work on the ‘holy’ corper. Three or four minutes later the girl was in the line before the christian corper. My colleague behind me shook his head.
Who Says Corruption is Not deep rooted
When people describe corruption as only the giving and taking of money in form of bribes I laugh. Corruption has many forms; sexual, financial, nepotism etc. On that day under the sun we witnessed the Corps Liaison officer (CLO) a dark muscular guy committing discreet acts of corruption ranging from collecting money from some corpers to let them in discreetly ahead of the line to allowing some finer and hotter looking ladies to take their place ahead of the line. The entire group of corpers soon descended verbally on him and he had to take the back seat and allow another lady (I think of the just passed out batch) to do the line coordination.
I still wonder though what the hell these ex-corpers were doing hanging around. I know that once I drop these khaki I would never have anything to do near the secretariat so I never could stop wondering what kept these ones from getting on with their live after service instead of hanging around.
Finally it got to me after I had almost exhausted the last ounce of strength I had (to make things worse I took no breakfast that morning). I quickly handed over my clearance letter and proceeded to fill in the register. Unknowingly I made a mistake and the next thing I knew the NYSC staff asked me to go back and rejoin the line.
“You come back later and complete your clearance since you cannot write within your own column.”
All pleas fell on deaf ears and I had to go back to the line fuming. Luckily I still had a few persons who either knew me or were sympathetic to my new problem and allowed me into the line five persons down the mine.
Soon it got to me again and this time as carefully as anyone can be I made sure I wrote my details within my column and got away weak and dirty from the pushings and shirt pulling. My white top showed numerous spots where greasy hands had held me during the over four hours of struggle.
“All for nineteen thousand,” i sighed aloud.
“I tell you. Why this yeye government no go just pay person im money at the end of the month!” an equally exasperated female corper echoed near me.
With lots of head shaking and sighing we walked away praying that even after all the suffering the powers that be do not hold onto the stipend past the time it should be paid. Even Corpers are not sure of their monthly payment in this country. Such is the state we are in!