Collateral Damage

I was jolted back to reality from the fragments of my misty-thoughts by the growl in my stomach. I fished out my phone from my bag to check what time it was. Dang! I’d been waiting for four hours. At that moment, the secretary looked at me and smiled; a smile I know so well already because I’d seen it more than 15 times just that day. I leaned in closer to her desk and asked if she was certain madam was still coming around that day. I had waited all through the day before and she didn’t show up. I so much did not want the same story to repeat itself. She smiled again and nodded in affirmation for the umpteenth time.

I shifted uncomfortably in my chair trying to figure out how I’d make it to the NYSC zonal secretariat office to finish off my registration, all in that same day. I said a quick prayer in my mind, praying to further fortify the early arrival of the Director of Administration and Training and that she sign my acceptance letter in affirmation. Janet had informed me that there wasn’t much to do at the secretariat. All I need do was to submit the acceptance letter, two passport photographs, thumbprint, and get assigned to a CDS (Community Development Service) group.

The whole of my being was no longer in Benin, well, that’s asides my body. I wanted nothing more than to travel back to Ibadan the next day, unfailingly. My body bears the tales of the Orientation camp hazards. There’s a large ringworm right underneath my left eye, evidences of struggle for the ownership of my skin with mosquitoes and bugs were present as well. Not to mention the ugly blisters on my feet. It’s amazing I survived those gully three weeks. There are good sides to it though – the connects, the SAED (Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development) programme, and the fun sides of the Military/Man-O-War drills. Perhaps, the most interesting part is the little stunts pulled at Maami market, and watching those camp lovers play their ‘love in Tokyo’.

My phone buzzed, and I quickly checked if it was a message from Feranmi. I’d been trying to reach him for days but I had not been able to get a hold of him.
I checked my phone’s screen, only to discover that it was a comment on my daily –‘God bless Nigeria post’ on my WhatsApp status; It was Stephen saying ‘Wishful thinking’. 

Stephen had once told me while in camp that if he had the opportunity to govern Nigeria at the presidency, he’d arrange visa for everyone to migrate from Nigeria to Canada! I smiled at the message and engaged him in a discourse. He gave me a lecture about how terrible the situation of the country is, and how she has failed in so many ways. He cited the horrible state of our camp site, especially the disgusting toilet facilities and dorms. At last he gave me a chance to respond:

“Steph’’, I said, “There’s no pretence here. This is Nigeria, where an erected street light is ornamental not functional. I know exactly how this country is; even the blind can see ugliness wrapped around us. We’re both serving Corps members, and yes we had very unpleasant amenities at camp. Of course, the part of the government cannot be ruled out. However, we both know people who are supposed to see to these things share the blame as well. Nigeria is not just the President or Governors or Ministers; Nigeria is you and I. Your migration to Canada today wouldn’t erase the fact that you’re Nigerian. To steer the nation forward, our joint corporation is something that needs to be earnest…..”

‘Who are you and how may I help you?’ said a not-so-pleasant voice that automatically placed an abrupt stop to my move Nigeria forward speech.

I stood up immediately smiling at the woman, who is, no doubt, the Director of Administration and Training I’d been waiting to see. I introduced myself and told her I had been posted to the establishment for my service year. Then, the ordeal began. It was a case of ‘world war III’ or should I say ‘scream war I’ – She screamed at me, and for a moment, I thought she was Drogon whose Daenarys just dropped dead. She called me so many names which I’m sure have no relation to Yeunthy – my name, which means good surprise by the way. ‘Drogona’ finally ordered me out of her office in a very high class inhumane manner. Tears welled up in my eyes but I strongly fought them back. I just couldn’t give her the satisfaction to see that she had successfully dealt a sharp knife in my feelings.

I left the building and went to a nearby provision store in sight. There, I saw a sausage roll that the sales girl insisted is called meat jacket and not sausage roll. I bought it and while eating, I crushed a huge stone in the ‘jacket’ mix. How bad can a day get? I thought to myself. Just then, a message popped on my phone’s screen from Bashir, Feranmi’s best pal. The text was two pages long. Super weird, Bash and I rarely chat; we don’t even like each other, what could be the reason for this epistle of his?

JESUS! OMG! OH NO!

I screamed after reading the content of the message, and the reservoir burst open. I started sobbing all shades of telemundo, gesturing and shouting defibrillator… common defibrillator… I turned to the ‘jacket girl’ and explained inaudibly.
‘How could they not have common defibrillator in a Federal Medical Centre (FMC)? They don’t have a functional defibrillator! Something that is usually present in cinemas, stores, train stations et al in other countries. They don’t have a machine that you know…shhhockss….eerrrmm stimulates the heart. Come defibrillator…defibrillator o!’

The above drama was my ticket to unwanted stardom. In just a few hours, I was all over social media with the caption ‘Corps Member serving in Edo state cries for a Vibrator’. Another one reads, ‘Konji is a bastard….Corper dey find plastic thing o’
———————————————————————————————————

Two days later

‘Yeunthy! Yeunthy! Are you still alive?’ Jomiloju shouted over the phone. We’ve been on the phone for over ten minutes now. But, I was not listening to whatever it is she was saying. What I was trying to figure out is the amount of airtime she must have loaded. Knowing Jomiloju, she must have recharged some uneven amount like N379 or N483 or any other unusual amount; which would definitely not be a rounded figure that anyone would have guessed. I met Jomiloju fourteen years back at the Erinjesa waterfall resort in Osun State (though some people say it’s on the boundary between Osun and Ekiti State); during an excursion both our schools had independently planned. She was that typical mouthy troublesome girl but we got along quite well, mainly because I wasn’t the definition of a gentle and quiet child either. Ours is a kind of friendship you can call ‘sistership’ which has built a relationship between our parents. That, of course has made me sure that the pep talk currently on going has traces of my mum’s contribution in it.

Hmmmm! Feranmi! Feranmi would have known the right words to say at this moment. The memory of how we met came flooding over me. It was on a Sunday morning, the kind of day your wardrobe falls in harmony with the word ‘slay’. I dressed myself in a form fitting grey gown and four inch wine sandals. The use of my makeup colour palette was just enough to highlight my beauty which I’m sure instigated one of the ushers to direct me to sit next to a mixture of charm, class, and charisma all packaged together in a piece of jean, sneakers and green shirt. I almost screamed out when an announcement was made for everyone to interact with the person seated next to each of them for at least two minutes after the service. That did the magic; we exchanged smiles and got talking.

Apparently, he is a patriot like I am. He is one of the national ambassadors for PAIGAS (PAN AFRICAN INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND STRATEGY), an organization fighting against illegal migration and rescuing people from the shackles of slavery and prostitution. Asides that, he is involved in many campaigns that stand for a better Nigeria and some charity organizations. He went on to talk about the things they do and how they are done. Then, it was my turn to talk; I started laughing and told him I do a daily update of ‘GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA’ on my WhatsApp status update. He laughed so hard. Then he said ‘how about we schedule a meeting and join hands to pray for Nigeria? After the spiritual warfare, we could then go to the cinema or arcade…’

“Babe!” Jomiloju’s shout brought me out of my reverie back to the line. “Have you even been listening to me at all?” she asked angrily.

Hmmm, that’s my bestie for you. She’s probably the only person who will call to console you and still get mad at you.

“Babe! I’m with you. It’s just really ridiculous how I went from lowkey to being the character of the hottest memes on social media. I never imagined I’d be a topic for those rumour spewing tatafoblog and associate.”

“Yeunthy, come on babe! It’s not that deep. I’m sure social media will find something else to obsess themselves with…” Jomiloju launches into another bout of ‘motivational’ talk. Sweet talks have never been her forte. Talk of sarcasms and savagery – Joms is your girl.

Apparently, Feranmi had gone to Bliss Haven Home (an orphanage) with his team to donate food, clothes and some other materials to the kids. He had been working on that for so long. It was his maiden outing to Bliss Haven Home, so he wanted it to be perfect. It was going as he had planned until he had a cardiac arrest while playing with the kids. He was rushed to the FMC nearby but they didn’t have a functional defibrillator. The one in a private hospital was suggested but they were reluctant to release it. By the time the private owned hospital agreed to lend theirs, he had already entered a vegetative state. His parents are rich, so he has been flown to France to receive treatment. That was the content of the message that sent me into the weeping saga. I was wearing my khaki, and that attracted a crowd of people, and ‘CAMERAS’. Consequently, my face became an inspiration for preposterous memes all over social media.

“I’m coming over, get dressed, I can’t have you over think the situation. Thankfully, Feranmi is responding to treatment. He will be back in few weeks time like nothing has happened! Those bonjour ça va ça va people will work their magic. They have functional everything unlike your objects of daily prayer” Joms said.
“Nah babe, I’m good”, I replied. “I just want to relax. Wait sef, how much airtime did you recharge?”
“That would be N457, but your mum topped it with a N1, 000.”

That explains it all. I said something about how I’m really okay and promised to drop by her house the next day, so she hung up and left me to my thoughts. I took a deep breathe, picked up my phone and updated my WhatsApp status – WE LOVE NIGERIA NOT BECAUSE IT IS GREAT, BUT BECAUSE IT IS OURS. GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

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What do you think?

  1. The plots switch and twist! All vibrating memories of a Copa shun! How non-fiction this story is that you still post, ‘God bless Nigeria’, daily on your Whatsapp status. What an agape display of love ❤. God bless your heart

  2. Oh my God. Tabs Yu nailed. What a Wow! Well articulated and intertwined with realities. The defibrillator, FMC Yenago and the God bless Nigeria post aren’t illusion. More of it please. Yu are going places babe!💪

  3. Wao! What an interesting/captivating narrative……looking forward to the next one. God bless you and God bless Nigerian!

  4. Awestruck! But what about the hanty that shouted at you at your PPA?

    Can’t seem to find words but this is sooo good

  5. Awesome content!!! When will the next chapter be released??!?!?…well, I just assumed there will be a next chapter. By the way, God bless the Federal republic of Nigeria. Nigeria will surely flourish again!…

  6. The narration is wholly awesome, the humour is fantastic and the characters are so major. Thumbs up @Taphabs the world awaits your magical pen, God bless u and God bless Nigeria!

  7. Lady Tabs!!! I am awed not only cause you did great justice bringing some memories of those critical but funny argument which I observed and participated in at the orientation camp, this write up touched a nerve because of those giving responsibility and yet misusing it even without no consideration of others. God bless Nigeria. The change begins with us.

  8. Oh my! This story can be described as a combination of fluidity, elegance and humour,all the while operating on a deeper level. A very VERY beautiful piece I must say,and the unexpected twists???! Go girl!

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