Monday, 18 February 2013

‘Not Every Northerner Is A Trouble Maker’: A Youth Corper’s Diary, By Elekwa Ochie.

A Youth Corper’s Diary, By Elekwa Ochie.

My name is Elekwa O. Elekwa. The “O” in my name stands for Ochie and Okechukwu. I hail from Bende Local Government Area of Abia State. I was born with my twin brother at General Hospital (now Abia State University Teaching Hospital) Aba, Abia State. My Nursery, Primary and Secondary Education were all in Aba Abia State; furthermore, I attended Abia State University, Uturu, where I studied Architecture.
This actually is not my autobiography. The little you just read about me above was intended to highlight how I have lived almost all my life in Abia State and the Eastern part of Nigeria. This article is a summary of some of the many things I observed and experienced during my mandatory service year.
For some of us, everyone from the North is a Hausa man or woman. I used to think that the Fulanis were a group of Hausas who rear cattle. Little did I know that they were a tribe. Most of the people from Niger State are either Nupe or Gwari and other minor tribes. I once went to somewhere in this State (Maraba Guni) where I met people who neither spoke nor understood Hausa but only Gbagi (Gwari people’s dialect). Even my friend Ogiri Joel from Nasarawa State who would be tagged a ‘Hausa man’ in the East will always tell me he is not Hause but Alago.
I later researched, heard and read about more ethnic groups in the north that I never knew. They include; Kadara, Zuru, Koro, Baruba, Gana, Dibo, Kambari, Kamuka, Pangu, Dukkkawa, Gaada, Ingwal, Amo, Langtang, Mangu and many others. Also, northerners are not trouble makers as we often think they are. There will always be trouble makers everywhere in the world. Trouble making is not an exclusive preserve of one part of the country.
All through my life in Abia State, I only saw three (3) Mosques; one at Azikiwe by Asa road, another at Mosque Road (all in Aba) and the third one at Eket Road in Umuahia (Abia State Capital). But as I got to Minna, there were Mosques everywhere; very big ones (as big as cathedrals), small ones and very small ones. On the street where I lived, there were more than ten (10) Mosques. One is less than 15 metres from my window. I later figured out that the big mosques are used for Friday prayers and other special prayers while the small ones are used for everyday prayers. Apart from these block/built mosques, Moslems also pray anywhere with their mats if the place is not filthy. Mosques were also synonymous with plastic kettles and water.
During my stay in Minna, I discovered that Moslems pray 5 times daily (though from my research, there’s a sixth one by 7am-Shurooq, which is not obligatory). The prayer hours are 5am –Fajr, 12noon- Dhuhr, 4pm – Asr, 6pm –Maghrib then 7pm – Ishaa. If you can remember, I said earlier that there is a mosque less than 15m from my window; the mosque has a horn speaker, so the Fajr prayer served as my 5am alarm.
I noticed something about the Taxi drivers: 90% of these drivers are Yorubas. Did you notice that too?
I actually thought vigils were only for Christians until the last ten days of the Ramadan fast. On the day, when the horn beside my window came on, I thought it was 5am only for my clock to say otherwise! I had to run to twitter to ask my twend @trueNija (he tweets Islamic stuff on twitter) if the time for prayers has been changed from 5am to 1am. He then told me that Moslems observe vigils everyday during the last days of the Ramadan fast. Those ten days were something else for me. I cannot forget them easily.
The first time I heard of “purchasing power” during my service year was from The Chief Servant, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, CON. (Talban Minna), the Executive Governor of Niger State. He used it during his interactive session with the Corps Members at the Orientation Camp. Corps Members were comparing the State Allowance in Niger State to those of other States, and the Chief Servant told us that the purchasing power in Niger State is not in tandem those of other States. I found out he was right much later….
Seventh-day Adventist Church Minna was like family during my service year. There I met wonderful, loving and lovely people. At the church, I met and made friends with so many people including my fellow Corps Members – Obiuto, Micah, Chinyere, Loveday, Ocheze, Otobong and David. The Church organized a ‘Corpers Day’ for us on the 13th of October 2012. I will really miss that family.
I was not a part of NCCF during the Orientation Camp… after Passing Out from Orientation Camp, NCCF officers came and safe guarded our luggage and took them to the Family House. That was how I ended up with NCCF. I was a loner during the Orientation Camp; apart from my roommates, I made no new friends. But the NCCF Family House provided for me an avenue to make more friends. I met wonderful people there – Mfon, Ayor, Mekus Moredays, Peter, Ogiri, Kaycee, Moses, Solomon, Alex, Mike, Bro. Moses (Mama), Abodunrin Dayo (Uncle) Godson, Ibrahim Ismaila (Papa), Oliver, Jackson, Justice, Ndubuisi, Paul, Sunny and so many other wonderful people. I also had a good time with the NCCF Choir and attended some Rural Rugged sessions too.
I was privileged to stay in the same lodge with wonderful people from all over Nigeria .We had good times; exchanged banters, had political arguments as well as watched football games together. The arguments and screams that followed were all part of the fun too. We always stayed awake after every UEFA Champions league games to analyze and debate. Of course, the Ronaldo/Messi argument came up most of the time as well.
The Night after the Euro 2012 finals, was the quietest night in the lodge because we supported different teams during the event. But that night, we supported Italy and Pirlo to defeat Spain.
My lodge mates included Ogochukwu Aduba (Delta), Michael Amalu (Enugu) and Abiodun Animashaun (Lagos) Chelsea fans, Samson Egbefa (Delta) Man Utd., Ejireme Onos (Delta) Arsenal, Obinna Nwaroh (Enugu) Liverpool, Oghenero Ishieke (Delta) Real Madrid, Chinenye Nwegbo (Enugu) and Ikokpu Nsini Udo (Akwa Ibom) were not football fans.
Another significant feature of this lodge was that out of the ten (10) Corps Members that resided there, four (4) were CDS Presidents : Ogochukwu – ICPC, Michael – Environmental, Ikokpu (Lala) – Red Cross and Elekwa – NYSC Band. Obinna and Chinenye were Treasurers in Sports CDS and NEMA . We were later joined in the lodge by another lovely set of Corps Members mostly from the Batch C – Henry, Ben, Nonso, Ify, Happy, Dabbie, Churchhill and others. I will miss all these wonderful people.
I attended MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) lectures during the Orientation Camp and Graduated from the program. I have been involved with Parade Drums since 1999. But during the Orientation Camp, I did not join the Band because I was still acclimatizing. After the Orientation Camp, I joined the Band to various outings; one of which was the Inauguration of the SURE-P in Niger State by theFinance Minister Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
During my time with the band, I met wonderful people, among whom were; Ifeanyi Oliver, Mike Uddin, Christy Kolo, Mfon, Jackson, Kayode, Otobong, Ijeoma, Lilian, Abigail, Innocent, Ngozi, Michaels, Nnaemeka, Wale, Ojukwu and so many others too numerous to mention. I couldn’t join the MDGs CDS Group since I was already with the Band, but I still worked as a DKF for MDGs with Day Junior Secondary School Limawa where I met wonderful kids.
My phone contact list can now boast of names from all over Nigeria, thanks to NYSC. I also experienced how other tribes in Nigeria pronounce my name. Most times, it can be lovely, funny and annoying too. I was once called Elekwuu O. Elekwuu.
My service year was filled with loads of memories. It was a wonderful experience I will cherish for the rest of my life and I will miss so many people too. God will continue to bless my parents, siblings and friends who never relented in prayers and support all through this time. To God be the Glory for seeing us through this journey.
You can follow me on twitter @Elexharry.
Elekwa O. Elekwa

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