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NYSC members say North East zone full of fun and nice folks during service year, though fears of Boko Haram insurgency persisted
by Romanus Okoye
Until recently, the fear of Boko Haram was the beginning of wisdom. It was particularly so for parents and members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) posted to serve in some parts of the North, especially, the North East.
Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States were, in those years, the most hit by the Boko Haram insurgents.
“It was like a death sentence,” a parent once told Daily Sun. “I will go to any length to effect transfer of my children to any other part of the country apart from the North.”
Such fears were not unfounded. In the heat of the insurgency, Boko Haram had swept from the mountains and sacked residents of Mubi and some other towns, inflicting pain and anguish on the residents. The terrorists even threatened Yola, the state capital.
Also, during a general election, a number of corps members were brutally murdered in the post-election violence across the North East region.
Even Jalingo, capital of the neighbouring Taraba State had its own fair share of banditry. In 2012, for instance, some NYSC members at the Family House of the Redeemed Christian Corps Fellowship (RCCF) were attacked by gunmen. The bandits stole their laptops, mobile phones and meagre monthly allowances.
One of the corps members said the armed robbers asked them for their states of origin and religion and threatened to behead them if they refused to cooperate. He said the rogues also threatened to rape the female corps members.
Since then, there has been public outcry against the posting of corps members to some volatile states in the North. Parents, graduates and some organisations kicked against the mobilisation of corps members to such states for safety reasons.
But some corps members, who concluded their service recently in Adamawa shared a picture of peace with Daily Sun. They acknowledged their fears, but were glad that they defied the odds to serve in Adamawa State.
Asuelime Blessing, from Edo State, who studied Business Administration and Management at Delta State Polytechnic, said it was a very eventful experience.
“I was going to have a change of environment and learn from other people’s culture,” she said.
But despite Blessing’s enthusiasm, her parents felt differently. “They felt bad because of the distance and what they had been hearing about Boko Haram activities in the North East.”
Blessing, who served at Imam Malik Islamic Education Centre, in Jimeta, said: “l got to Adamawa late at night on June 29, 2016. The place was beautiful because of the streetlights, but the main problem l had was with commercial tricycle operators, otherwise known as keke riders. They didn’t understand any word in English language. At first, it was not easy for me, but later, things began to ease.
“There were ups and downs,” she said. “My best experience was the day l reported at my place of primary assignment. A man met me and told me things l could do to succeed. But I detest the hot weather. As a matter of fact everything about their weather is extreme. When it is going to rain, it is always preceded by a dust storm. One would not be able to sleep even inside the room. It takes the grace of God to survive there.”
She said even when the service year was over, her host didn’t let her leave. “They felt bad that the lady teaching Business Studies was leaving,” she recalled.
“In Adamawa, there are varieties of foods, but l like masa. The people there are very friendly.”
Egwu Nneka, an Enugu State indigene, graduated from Abia State Polytechnic. She said the news of serving in Adamawa was not fantastic.
“l was not happy at first. l couldn’t believe it. My parents, especially my mother, were not happy either. She wanted me to redeploy after the orientation programme.
“When we got to Adamawa State, I was first confronted by an army of houseflies. If you were not careful, they could fly into your mouth in their numbers. However, I still had a wonderful experience.”
She too admitted that the weather in the area was in the extremes. “The heat is unbearable, very hot. Their food is majorly tuwo, masa, and others. But the people are friendly,” she affirmed.
“I served in Demsa Local Government Area. My first days at work were boring. Imagine being alone in the staff room with nobody to talk to. But as days went by, things changed.
“When the service year ended, they didn’t want to let me go. They really wanted me to spend the third term with them.”
It was the same experience for Awolesi Michael Babatunde, who studied at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye.
“I felt bad at first,” he said. “But I strongly believed that no man can change his destiny. My parents did not feel going to Adamawa was anything odd because we trusted it was all God’s plan for my life. If ever we had any fear, it was the long distance I had to cover to reach Adamawa. That was actually my first time of travelling that far.
“My stay was memorable because I believed l was in good hands. I recall a day l was seriously hungry and l decided to buy bread and egg. But unfortunately, the man I was relating with spoke no English while l couldn’t speak the Hausa language. But we related as if we had been together for long.
“I like the people because they have different kinds of food like tuwo masara, tuwo shinkafa, and wake.
“They are just too friendly; they always want to teach you their language and how to eat their food. I served at Government Day Secondary School, Army Barracks, Yola.”
The same shock greeted Vincent Okoye, a graduate of Computer Electronics from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, when he was posted to Adamawa State. He later served at Federal Polytechnic, Mubi.
He said: “It was a rude shock when I learnt I was to go to Adamawa State. I had concluded that I was going to redeploy because Adamawa was not part of my options. It was instructive to do so because of what we had been hearing about that part of the country.
“For my parents and siblings, the news was not amusing at all. Nobody was happy about my going to that part of the country because of what was happening there. But l was later encouraged by some relatives and brethren in the church, reminding me that it is only God who protects.
“But I have been through that experience. It was wonderful. Things were not as bad as we thought they were. The state has good road networks and streetlights. I was delighted to lecture in a higher institution where I blended well with the students.
“There was a day l bought an article for N480 from a malam selling groceries and gave him N500. Rather than give me my balance, he told me to go away, that he had none to give.
But it was a wonderful experience, working with the people. Adamawa is like a country of its own. But they are good people. Sometimes, we used to make fun of what was happening in their state and they would tell us that they were the Boko Haram.