The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has always been a scalpel of some sort, severing young people from the comfort of familiar surroundings and pushing them towards the unknown.
In 2005, I graduated from the Nigerian Law School in Bwari and was posted to Lagos state to do the mandatory one-year programme. I was scared and happy at the same time; always accepting of a new adventure, but wondering how I would survive in this enclave of which I had heard various tales, many exaggerated, all nonetheless scary. NYSC, in “safe” Lagos, as it were, did live up to the hype of a new experience. So, Tunmise’s memories bring a smile to my face - running around for those early morning drills with waist pouches or “mobile central banks” as she calls them, with the cold stinging their backs; chanting those hilarious made-up-on the-spot Man O' War songs that were the hallmark of spontaneity and raw ingenuity; evading soldiers and scampering away as they flung their whips with reckless abandon, happy to unleash them after seasons of little or no activity; the unbelievably low sanitary conditions of the Camp;
The ubiquitous photographers and petty traders with more stamina than any Corper could boast of; of fresh love and love unrequited – as they remind me of similar experiences in my case. And then the people - the shock of people from across the country, forced to live together. It made for interesting perspectives of life. Tunmise will agree. She was posted to Kano where she initially knew no one and had to adapt to a series of culture shocks and countercultures.
In writing her memoirs, this young lady has documented her struggles and successes, as well as the highs and lows of the Service year. This book delves wholeheartedly into the world of a young woman who got a break she never even knew she needed; an introduction into the real world and to another side of Nigeria.
I haven't yet seen anyone document this literally-once-in-a-lifetime experience with humour, wit and simplicity as perfectly as she has done. In keeping a journal at the time and not waiting till she left Camp to pen down the sum total of happenings during her stay, she has done a generation's narrative an important favour.
Her story is a refreshing one and will appeal to any new Corper about to enter into Camp as well as rake up nostalgic feelings for those who are done with it.This generation doesn't document enough of its stories. For doing so, and doing it so well, I say thank you, Tunmise.
Chude Jideonwo, Chief Executive Officer at Joy, Inc. and Author of Are We The Turning Point Generation?