“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson” – Tom Bodett
genuine insight into the meaning of “random”. If, like me, you could never spare that much time, this post might just suffice!
Please bear in mind that asides the obvious mission of successfully finishing this post, I intend to use phrases like “just my luck ….”, “by sheer chance ….” and “it just so happened that…” so many times that you’d think twice before ever using them again! Phew! That being said, ….
Question 19,999 for as many Nigerian coins as you can carry without external help:
a) Yourself b) An image of yourself c) Your past mistakes d) An embodiment of all your previous decisions
PS – be reminded you have no lifeline left!
It just so happened that I had to be the second child of my family! Why couldn’t I just be the first? I would have got into secondary school first; I would have been able to offer candid advice to my siblings. And, it so had to happen that my bro found out about my dream school and was going to get in a year before me! Couldn’t he just find his own school? I mean, I was the one who wanted to be a pilot; so why should he decide to attend Air-force too? “Bloody dream-stealer!” Three more terms in before I could join him. When he passed both exam and interview but still didn’t get admitted, I felt some pity for the lad. “Well, I’ll still be the first to attend that school”, I thought to myself.
Pure luck that my parents had gotten acquainted with the procedures from my bro’s experience! It wasn’t much of a challenge to obtain the form and get me to the school for the exam. Delightful luck almost made me come second from my state; but it must have been old, wrinkly luck that made dad sleep off and forget the date of my interview! As you’d expect, I didn’t find out the whole truth till over a decade later – knowing how shattered I would have been! “Daddy, what is happening? I did very well in my exam. Shayo has been offered admission – and we scored about the same!”. “Son, my friend in the school hasn’t called me yet. Let’s continue to hope
for good news”. What kind of crappy good news does one expect after missing an interview? There was only one other school my parents were familiar with: the one my brother was in! But, damn! I almost didn’t recognize him after just one term in there. From the accounts he gave, he was schooling in a concentration camp whose sign post had been swapped with one for a Federal Government College. It took a lot of convincing for me to agree. “All our friends have kids there. You will be fine!” As far as I was concerned, nothing could be worse than missing out on Air-force! How wrong I was!
Let’s pause that story and fast-forward a few years.
When the NYSC Batch-B call-up lists came out, I was just as expectant as the next bloke. Still, it must have been by sheer chance that my usually tardy faculty got a tiny share of the keenly contested slots. Everyone was trading side-comments; “so, where are you going?” “do you have anyone there?” “I hear they pay well in your place“. “Rivers, Las-Gidi and ABJ” were the popular names flying about. “If there was anything lucky about my posting” I said to myself, “it must have had “foul” as an adjective!” Borno of all places? A place once described as the last Nigerian outpost en route to hell. Maiduguri in the hea(r)t of the North-East!
By random luck, every attempt to get me an early ticket failed – though the money had been released about two weeks prior. “If you want anything done right, do it yourself”. No hassles! By July 5, I was skedaddling between the IRS and ARIK outposts trying to get my hands on one of those in-hot-demand tickets. Of course, IRS was my preferred option; their schedule was such that we could enter Maiduguri in daytime. Just my luck they had to be sold out for another 3 days! Oh ARIK and its long queues! Well, after a lot of sweating and misery-induced friendships, I was able to get a ticket for July, the 6th. It wasn’t until boarding time I realized I had been served the tail of the chicken – or eagle? (I really don’t know the difference anymore after our poor showing at the World Cup). “27F?” That’s the very last row; the place where it’s impossible to recline your seat – and directly opposite the restroom. But, maybe with all those negative clouds was this silver lining: I was within arms-length of the hostess’ “hideout”. Segun – the only male member of the hostess gang – walked up to me and said “You’re going to camp, right? If you wanna have fun in camp and after, join their OBS.” How was it that I got singled out for that life-changing tip? Happenstance? You just never know!
The plane finally touched down after 10:30pm. Thankfully, the camp wasn’t too far off. The question of why there were so many old women was the second on my mind! The first was why the three most popular languages in a mixed crowd of Nigerian graduates were: Pidgin, Broken and Bastardized English! Maybe my decision to spend 11 weeks at the epicenter of Pidgin English was mere coincidence – maybe it wasn’t. All I know is: by the time I returned from Port Harcourt, I was more than prepared. I had even invented past participles like “has been commoted”! Let’s leave the story of grammatical decadence for another day.
My engineering discipline is a fairly common one – I must admit. Still, it just so happened that I was the only guy in that field posted to the Ministry of Works. How do I begin to explain all the non-financial benefits that derive from that? Of course, I heeded Segun’s advice and was as active as I could on the OBS team. Now, I hear on good account that I was posted to the metropolitan council for being in that unit. Did I mention I had a lovely aburo in the metropolitan council who made my settling in feel like a trifle? It’s a terrible idea to get ahead of the story. Let’s jump back in time to that Federal Government College.
The sun was receding into its lofty abode as parents and children shared hugs and tears (in some cases) in a
sub-final show of affection and apprehension. Visiting days were to be once a month – and if the experiences of the last few hours were anything to go by, we kids were in for more than a casual jaunt. My family was never really the mushy type, so my farewell was brisk – military style. I returned to my new dorm to form new alliances and relax – the more pressing needed of the moment. It wasn’t long before the excitement and sweat of moving into a new environment wore off. After just a few blinks, it was morning – time for a bath. So, in company of the naïve cluster of friends I had just formed, I roamed about in search of a proper bathroom. What we found, instead of bearing some semblance with what we left at home, reminded me of static gutters. Of course, we didn’t subscribe to the package. First day: no bath; second: rub-and-shine! It took more of stench than prayers to reveal the way out: take a full bath in the open long before it is bright enough to see who’s who!
The “conveniences” toilets were a nightmare; even a passing encounter left you with a sour tale to tell. The laziest attempts to enter got you in direct confrontation with a pungent hug – one from a decaying entity. The stench was so gross it upset the soul more than the body! Seriously, using those pit latrines was enough to drive anyone to a house of worship; you’d just begin to feel unclean from within! It wasn’t long before “shot-put” meant more than an Olympic sport. An area view of that fetid circus would probably connote an abstract collage; one in which the artist spared no colour or space! But after 3 years, you begin to …. erm …. soften up to it.
A few years later, on a mission of utmost importance, I passed a sign that read “Camp Clinic, NYSC Orientation Camp, Borno”. On reaching my destination, I experienced a nauseac déjà vu; one that sent a whirlwind through my stomach. I was staring at one of those federal institutions were “filthy” could pursue a second degree. They called them toilets. Pardon my cynicism but I’m yet to be convinced. Still, the voice of reason reminded me that I had seen worse many years before. Well, just my luck! I briefly forgot the crippling stench, replaced my prophylactic scowl with a risky look of indifference and then got into action. It must have been that same voice that forced a smirk onto my face every time someone complained about those outdoor pre-dawn baths!
Funny how life works; just my luck that it had to take 3 years to prepare me for 3 weeks! Maybe it’s also just luck that sometime in the future, all my plans will begin to take shape! Get the point yet? No? Quit worrying; I tire of the chase too! Here’s the thing: THERE IS NOTHING LIKE “CHANCE” OR “RANDOM HAPPENSTANCE”. Everything happens for a particular reason. Every single experience you’ve had is leading you somewhere. Be patient and observant; someday, it would all fall into place!