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Monday, 6 October 2008

Nigeria Diary

Should the UK bring back National Service?
I will give you a peek into the life of a Youth Corper.

Having lived in the London all my life, I found that until recently I had very rarely questioned my safety. Slowly but surely the media found their way into my mind and instilled a fear factor, one I couldn't shake when walking home at night, or whilst seated in a nearly empty carriage on a train or simply taking the 142 when schools were ending for the day. Nothing felt sacred any more as paper after paper where covered in images of yet another violent attack, usually carried out by 'youth'. Many called for tougher penalties, metal detectors where installed in schools and at events, others cried out 'Bring back National Service'!

This brings me to my predicament. In a bid to start a fresh I decided to move away from the madness I called home, to Nigeria, where my parent originate from. As a matter of duty all graduates who wish to work in the country must have first completed a year of National Service. Three weeks are spent in a boot camp of sorts followed by 11 months of work experience.

Having never lived in Nigeria I romanticised the idea of attending the programme, believing it would make me 'more Nigerian' or 'more in touch with my roots', Ha! It was the longest three weeks of my life as I did all I could to break out (think Prison Break). The bedrooms were enough to make a grown man cry, with up to 30 people all competing for bed space (I have friends who had to stay outside due to not enough rooms during their orientation). The bathrooms almost had me going insane as I proceed to damage my bladder in a bid to never have to enter them (food and drink intake was kept to a minimum). A friend told me she had stopped telling people to 'go to hell' and instead started saying 'go to camp', I had to second that!

Now the daily tasks consisted of:
4:30am wake up
5:30am meditation and exercise
7:30am Breakfast and Shower
9am Parading (marching)
1pm Lunch and siesta 3pm lecture
5pm Parading
7:30pm dinner and socialising
10:30pm lights out

I'd like to say I took part in most of these activities but my body just was not built for this kind of strain. Firstly I don't really believe people should be up before 8am, a fact I am slowly dispelling, secondly most of the activities take place in temperatures of around 30oC, now that cant be safe! Plus I fell ill- Gastroenteritis.

Now it would be wrong for me to say it was all doom and gloom, cause it really wasn't. I spent many an afternoon, having a few drinks with my new camp friends, who I had met due to our common desire to get out. We laughed, danced and almost forgot we were trapped.

All in all this experience changed my life, for the better I don't know, I'm just happy to be out!

End Note:
I will be reporting on Nigerian culture and all things pertaining to art soon but here is a little snippet of my month in Art:
September 6th -Launch of 'Journeys with Kongi' by Gerd MeuyerWole Soyinka himself was in attendance!
September 13th -Book club which is currently focusing on African literature starting with Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adiche, moving on to Everything Good Will Come by Seffi Atta.
September 17th -Started working at CCA,Lagos a contemporary art centre run by Curator Bisi Silva.
October 1st – A visit to the Awo House Museum, where I will be programming the public and educational events.


sam said...

Wow thats so weird and exciting. I cant quite imagine how camp must be?

Your diary looks pretty packed but it would be great to see some images from the events you are going to and let us know what they were like!

have fun

Oyinda said...

Hi Sam, I defo intend to get some pictures up asap!
Thanks for your comment

Giles said...

It's really interesting what you said about not feeling completely safe in London. I had a strange experience yesterday when a school boy dropped some fast food packaging on the floor in front of me, if this had happened in my home town in the west-midlands I wouldn't have thought twice about about saying something like "excuse me I think you dropped something" or the other one "have you left something behind?" and handing the detritus back to the boy, yet there seems to be this strange nagging paranoia that something might happen to you - a feeling I never experienced until I moved to London.

Oyinda said...

Hey Giles,

But is this a man made (media-made) fear or is there really something to fear?

UndGretel? said...

i think Lottie Child's Camberwell project is a good example of this
She asked lots of boys in Camberwell how to stay safe and how to have fun in Camberwell, she then took their advice and stayed out in the street for 24 hours.

Oyinda said...

I like Lottie's work I will try and check that out! Thanks