I know, daddy, how worried you would have been by now for not receiving my letter since the time I departed Kano for Delta State to answer the call to serve my nation through the National Youth Service Corps scheme. Don’t ever think those terrible, nightmarish, unwholesome stories we were fed by unscrupulous elements about this part of the country befell me. I am indeed hale and hearty and even overheard my colleagues saying that I’m adding more weight. Well daddy, it has never been bad living among these humble people of Delta. I can remember vividly your emotion the day you were seeing me off at the motor-park, as if I was a newly recruited soldier about to be sent to the battlefield. I remember Hajia’s (mummy) eyes filled with tears that I was deserting her to a place she was told the people only eat dogs and pork, a place where Northerners and Southerners don’t coexist, a place where there is no single mosque for Muslims, a place where you must perform some rituals to some kind of deities before the people receive you.
Oh! Daddy how I wish you were here with Hajia to see that all those gory stories about this part of the country we were made to believe, were fabricated tales conceived by enemies of unity and progress. The people and life here are a direct opposite of what they were portrayed to us. How I wish Nigerians would be visiting states other than theirs to correct the erroneous impressions they might have about other tribes or people. I had heard and been told that Ibos do not assist people other than their kit and kin. But to my utter bewilderment, in the luxury bus where they were many, apart from being impressed with my graduating at a tender age and coming to serve in their community, they bought me drinks and food. The reception I received in the bus among those amiable Ibos was just as if I was a typical explorer who was being welcomed back home after an exploration. At the end of the journey, they directed me to where I would get a vehicle to the orientation camp in Asaba. I could not thank those passengers enough for what they had done for me. I asked God to reward them abundantly.
Asaba is the capital of the newly created Delta State and it is developing rapidly with the cooperation of the indigenes and visitors. Schools, hotels, banks, factories and multinational organizations are located in major towns of the state.
Daddy, I would have starved and probably become skinny like a kwashiorkor victim because of the poor quality food we were first served. Fortunately enough, with the intervention of the State Governor, Felix Ibru, who increased our feeding allowance, there was great improvement in the quality of the meal. I hope other State Executives would emulate this philanthropic governor.
As corruption and indiscipline are rife in the country, so were in the camp. For instance, there were those beautiful damsels who caught the fancy of some officials. I didn’t know the game they were playing until most of them got posted to oil companies and finance houses. I learnt that the managements of such organizations give corpers good living accommodation with fat monthly allowance. There was this Yoruba girl who studied Theatre Arts and was posted to an oil company, another Hausa girl who read Hausa language was posted to a Merchant Bank and one Ibo girl who studied Bible Knowledge was posted to a flourishing factory. On the other hand, some corps members who had “short legs” but are graduates of Accountancy, Banking and Finance, Medicine and Engineering, whose professions qualified them to serve in the urban areas, were posted to rural areas to farm and teach. I wonder why this is common in most of the NYSC secretariats. The sooner they rectify this, the better for the disenchanted youth corps members.
As you know daddy, transportation is a national problem. Its fangs welcome most youth corpers whose places of primary assignment are far away from their residences. Most of the time, someone has to ride on a motorcycle which fare is between two Naira (N2) and Five Naira (N5). The same goes for the taxis. How I wish the state governments would subsidise transportation fares for youth corpers in their respective states by half, at least in the mass transit systems. It will be another demonstration of service to the nation on the part of the governments. And it will surely ease the pressure on corpers meagre allowances.
Daddy, here is the good news. The hardship I experienced in buying food from restaurants every day has enabled me to learn how to cook. Thanks to my colleague who has been teaching me the secrets of preparing a delicious meal.
I did enjoy my Xmas and New Year break. Most of my neighbours invited me to feast with them, some to parties. Everywhere, it was celebration galore.
Daddy there is something else which bothers me. I’m in love with one charming young lady from this place. Remember that Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the Head of State, set a good example when he tied the nuptial knot with Maryam, who comes from this state. It won’t be bad if I end up having another Delta lady as my first lady for life! Please, do not view this negatively. Daddy, mummy, I love you all. Please, give my regards to all and tell them that my place of service is also a place of love, peace and harmony.
This article was first published New Nigerian January 18, and Sunray January 20, 1993* among others
* Please see a response here: A Rejoinder to Open Letter by Yushau A. Shuaib by NYSC Officer