It seems like yesterday when I heeded the clarion call and joined the league of the nation’s graduates who pledged to serve their fatherland under the sun and in the rain. I remember taking the solemn pledge with reckless disregard for any eventuality and I actually signed the commitment clause in the boldest ink. What other eventuality could come other than the fact that Ifeoma has left me? Ifeoma had fallen for one of our college lecturers, a divorcee with a lot of money, his own house and roving hands. He was nearly twice my age; there is nothing a twenty-year-old can do against such opposition.
The call-up letter had arrived when I was contemplating what to do with my life.
“I am happy to inform you that by the provisions of Decree No. 51 of 16th June, 1993, arrangement have been completed for you to participate in the national youth service scheme for one calendar year and you should report as follows:…”
That was it, courteous and simple, as if it were another invitation to a marriage ceremony, where we would wine and dine. And who cares when the centre piece of the world had come crashing on the earth. I reported as scheduled.
Every activity at the Isseleuku camp swirled at an alarming rate through some-hell-designed maze. I can hardly recall the specifics but hell-no, will I ever forget my experience immediately after I left the camp.
At the end of the 21 days orientation course, we were congratulated and dispatched into the various communities of Delta State. Few lucky ones found themselves posted to major cities and corporate organisations while many where ordered to report to remote villages—i naturally fell into the category of the unfortunates.
The difference and prospect of the service year for every individual was seen at the departure park of the camp, some organisation chauffeured their corps members on executive rides to the Place of Primary Assignments; others had to struggle with the elements to locate their PPA. Again, I was among the latter group. But, I still had a good laugh at the chic that was taken on a bicycle to her PPA. The whole camp had a hearty laughter at the expense of the sobbing lady but the goodwill representative of the village was at a loss on the situation around the camp. In his words, that was the highest honour to bestow on a visitor in their village. The council of chiefs had deemed it fit to send a mode of transportation—a bicycle, to the new teacher coming to the only community school in the village. My fate was all the while lurking around the corner for me.
The few acquaintances that I managed to mash-up with waved goodbyes pitifully as though they were on a flight to paradise but, am on a visit to the hades. Soon, the crowd of spectators thinned off and the guards at the camp took positions for the night watch.
I have only managed to know the Local government area of my PPA. I was walking down the street outside the camp at 1900hours having waited for a promised bus that never came. I heard a bus humming nearer; I turned and waved it down. I had wanted only a ride to the bus station but it turned out we are heading to Ughelli North Local Government Area. What a sheer luck! They chattered away, through the drive as though they all met from Adam, but I could tell some of the folks didn’t belong to us. They knew much of the terrain and were counselling the dejected and celebrating the lucky one—all in one breathe. Though, I wished for some sanity to process the maze of actions of the last 21days, some of the people tried to draw me in. Their chatter ran out when one asked of my PPA. I showed him the posting letter and he couldn’t tell if he has heard of the school I was posted to. A calm gloom claimed the bus as the veterans tried to process my information and tag me as appropriate either with those to be comforted or cheered. I was however thankful for the reduced noise. Suddenly, from the blues, someone asked me if I was a practising Christian. I asked what he meant and regretted hitching a ride with a bunch of hypocrites—I can see a debate coming. For to me, anyone who is trying to win a soul for Christ is a classic fool. Aristotle admonish us ‘Man know thy self’ yet a lot of them are yet to save their own damned soul. He snapped with, ‘are you saved by the abiding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
‘I know Jesus, if that’s what you mean’ to cut short his interrogations but, not this one. For, there is something about my appearance that points me out as a potential antichrist to these religious people.
‘Is he your lord and personal saviour?’ he asked exposing my lame curtness.
‘And how is that your business?’ I asked a final time to shut him off. A silence fell upon the bus and we rode in peace until Ughelli. No further questions save for some surreptitious stares cast at me for such audacity.
This story has been late in coming and if I don’t do this now I may as well forget about the story. Here is what I set out to achieve with my participation in this year’s A-Z April Writing Challenge.
Mission: To write the first draft of The Clarion Call
Objective: To produce a 13,000-word short story at the end of the challenge
Request: kindly, suggest ways to make this story come out better as you deem fit.
Contributed: A-Z April Writing Challenge