One day we were done.
The long road that led us to Lafiaji left us tired and dry from the 3-hour journey. Everyone scampered about trying to get a bottle of water at whatever price it came. I stepped out out the vehicle, stretched myself and heard all the twisted bolts fit into place. Two children whizzed past me on a bicycle but i couldn’t help catching, ‘kopa no dey taya!’ as they sped along.
After some hours of waiting in the sun that baked our frames until creases lines made-up faces and every bottle water had been exhausted from the only kiosk around, we were called to assemble within the NYSC secretariat and queued according to our LOcal governments.
My LI started with Abe
I almost fainted. The fate i had feared was staring at me in the face. My discharge certificate was ‘absent’.
After crying my eyes out, i was led out by my NYSC boyfriend who thought it wise not to allow enemies get a glimpse of my already-obvious tears, i bemoaned my fate, causing everyone on the journey back to Shao to console me. My tears stopped when we got to a junction that marked the beginning of civilisation-a tarred road- and the end of, well, evidence that ‘primitive’ man still existed despite efforts of European colonists to stop it. They were everywhere. Those hawkers who decorated highways.
Unlike Lagos hawkers, they were honest and, with joy, i bought my favourite snack; wara and kulikuli. If i ever go back to Kwara, my first port of call would be Lafiaji. The wara there is heavenly.
Everyone except me and the guy who collected Bank of Industry (BOI) loan got their certificates.
I was told to go to the secretariat the next day.
After hours of waiting, the pot-bellied Zonal Inspector with brownhair sticking out of his nostrils said to me;
‘Young woman, you will have to come back tomorrow. I presume this is your brother.’
He motioned towards my NYSC boyfriend who was in mufti.
‘Ye-yes sir, he is. He actually…’
With a swift turn to the young man, he continued, ‘ we don’t usually do like this. But, when corpers think because of some unpaid allowance, they can write letters, well, this is what happens to them. If not for you sir, she would be here for a week. But, come here on Monday. Her certificate would be ready.’
We left. On Monday, after hours of waiting in sickening jungle boots, slapping flies that hovered around in the burning heat and singing the NYSC anthem to relieve myself of boredom (some corpers thought i was crazy), i was given my certificate and, unlike my mates, there was no crowd behind me when i took pictures.
There was just me, between two statues, with my oily black face, smiling sadly into the camera.
We bade sad farewells, crying and all the mushy stuff. I knew it was all part of it and readied myself for the reality i was going to meet in Lagos. I was scared, no doubt. Leaving a guy who i had grown to fancy was one thing. Another was hoping he would not attach to much meaning to it. He was going far into the north and i was headed into the coastal south.