“Thank you, very much, right now we will call on the team from HIV prevention, for a sex education. But before they come up stage, let us welcome the state coordinator of FCT Abuja with the Atama clap.”
The host for the compulsory lecture, said into the microphone that was too loud for the hall. Maybe because it was meant to cover the over flow of corpers under the canopy outside.
“Atama!” one clap “Atama” another single clap “Atama” a third clap “Labako” four claps “Labako” another four claps. “Labarinaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…” clap… clap…clap.
As the state coordinator walked up the stage, there was a standing ovation for him. Well, only those in the front stood up as majority of corpers at the back were still seated. Unfortunately for Adanna, Bukky had secured a seat for her on the third roll to the front, so she had to stand up to. Standing she could do but she couldn’t do what they did next.
“Welcome Daddy…” The corpers echoed. Daddy? Adanna thought, the man knew nothing about her. Did he know that the okro soup served for dinner yesterday didn’t draw? How can okro soup not draw? Adanna wondered. Did he also know that all the bulbs in the hotels were not working? Well… maybe it wasn’t his fault. He’s just one man after all but… she couldn’t just call him Daddy. That title was reserved for the man she was certain could do anything for her.
The corpers were given the signal to sit down and their ‘daddy’ gave a nice speech. He seemed like a nice person… Adanna squeezed her face and studied the man. Maybe he was cool or maybe not. As he finished his speech he ended with “I love you all” and the corpers replied “love you too daddy” Lovers club! Which love? It was all politics. However, that was the least of her concern. Top on that list was money, her family, a new short which brought her back to money. She wondered about the bicycle allowance she heard they shared, and it brought her back to the issue of money.
Adanna shook her head and tried to focus on the class.
“We! We we!
“Wa! Wa! Wa!
The first speaker from the HIV prevention team came up and started singing a song about HIV and how one should zip up. After the song was over and the excitement of the corpers had died down, the speaker went on to talk about how ‘abstinence is the best prevention’. As the speaker concluded, OBS thought it would be nice to display their ‘skills’ with a very loud interlude.
Adanna blocked her ears with irritation and Bukky noticed. “What is wrong with you? You are so cranky today?”
“Me? Aren’t you feeling the heat? I live in Lokoja but the weather in Abuja is just something else. First of all, I almost froze to death this morning on the parade ground, now I feel like I can fry eggs on my skin. Besides, these boots are uncomfortable.” She looked down at her jungle boot.
“Why are you wearing your jungle boot?”
“Because my Nysc Sneakers ripped as I was washing it yesterday. It just ripped open.”
Bukky laughed “It’s not only you, several other people too experienced that. Just buy a rubber sneakers from Mami. It’s easier to clean and comfortable.”
“I don’t know o. I guess I will just keep wearing my Jungle boots.”
Bukky laughed and nudged her in the ribs “Look Harry has been looking at you.”
“Harry?” Adanna looked at the direction Bukky was looking at until she found Harry. “Ow! Harry In our platoon.” She waved at him and turned back to the lecture.
“I think he likes you.” Bukky cooed excitedly.
“Please! I doubt that.”
“Honestly, he is always asking of you. Besides think about it. Hanging out with him will get you out of the hostel in the night and we could go on a double date ish.”
Adanna rolled her eyes. She did not like that Owen, the guy Bukky hung out with. He smoked and drank and had this generally rough look about him. She wondered what attracted Bukky to him or even so many other girl. Maybe it was his money. She learnt he was one of those guys that could buy drinks for a lot of people, including those they didn’t know. Or maybe it was his fast spreading popularity with that friend of his ‘daddy yo!’ or something like that.
Bukky nudged her again and Adanna looked up at her “I will be right back.”
“Where are you goin…” speak of the devil and he shows up. Adanna sighted Owen at the window of the hall, looking at them.
“Do you want me to buy you anything?” Bukky asked.
“No thank you.”
“Don’t worry it is on Owen, he can spend on useless things I swear! I guess he can spare you a drink and egg roll.”
Adanna thought about it briefly “No thank you.”
Adanna tried to focus on the program that was now getting interesting, because they were illustrating how to use a condom and everyone was laughing and talking.
Corpers wee o!”
Adanna worried about what she would do about the new white short and after much worrying, decided to damn it all and forget about her ID card. She would make excuses if she was confronted by a staff. With that new conclusion, she could focus on the program. She even started enjoying the talk and laughing along until the speaker said “Let us welcome the camp commandant with a locomotive clap.”
The speaker then proceeded to take a step and a single clap resounded. Another step and yet another clap. The more steps she took, the more claps resounded.
“Thank you sir for honoring us with your presence.” The speaker said and Adanna begged to differ. His presence was haunting her. Captain Jude took a seat on the stage and balanced his elbow on the hand rest, in such a way that his fingers touched his chin. Adanna swallowed! He was sitting right in front of her. She tired her best to look at anywhere but where he was seated. She busied herself with the book on her lap but each time she raised her head, he was looking at her with that unwavering gaze.
The program eventually ended after a lot of ‘Corpers wees’ in between and the NYSC anthem was called for. As soon as the last sentence of the song was over, Adanna rushed out and mingled with the crowd all the way to Mami Market to purchase a white short. It cost her 1000 naira after much pricing and Adanna was left with barely 2000naira. She bought 200naira MTN credit and loaded it immediately she got to the hostel. She wanted to pick up her cooler before heading to the kitchen to get lunch but decided to call home first. She dialed Oge and waited for the phone to ring until she heard her little sister’s voice.
“Oge how are you?”
“I am fine sister. How are you? and how is camp?” her sister asked.
How was she? Was she fine? Her body ached her, she had no money and generally she thought the NYSC orientation camp made no sense.
People were always dropping on the parade ground like files. She hoped one day she wouldn’t faint too. “I am fine.” She replied and tried to inject enthusiasm in her statement.
“Really?” her sister sounded excited “Gist me.”
Adanna laughed “well, we had a welcome party, and street dance competition, two nights ago…”
Adanna gisted her sister about the interesting part of NYSC without telling her that she was having the worst of experience and that she didn’t even go for the welcome party and street dance competition.
“Enough about me. How are you and Dad?”
Oge sighed. “Dad is never at home Ada. He goes out in the morning and comes back very late. He doesn’t even eat the food I prepare for him.”
“Why? Do you know what is going on?”
“I think Daddy is owing money. Uncle Obinna came to the house to tell him to start paying back the money he is owning to a rich man. Ada I think the money is very plenty from the way they were talking. I wonder what dad used such money for because now he doesn’t even sleep and eat.”
It dawned on Adanna that it could be the money for her final year school fees and that broke her heart. Her father wasn’t eating and sleeping because he borrowed money for her fees and couldn’t pay back. She was already crying without even realizing. She was a graduate but couldn’t afford to assist her family. Then what good was her education in this country? What good was her outstanding result? She had hoped that an organization will recruit her on her convocation but none did.
“Don’t worry. Chukwu ga n’eye anyi efe nine anyi cho.” Meaning ‘God will provide all our needs ’
Adanna cut the call and threw her phone on the bed before she buried her face in her palm and cried. Her shoulders shook visibly, as one sob after the other crashed over her. Eventually she lay still on her bed, with her face buried in her pillow and all thoughts of lunch long forgotten. Though she was no longer sobbing, her tears had formed a trail on her cheek. It was in that position that the sweet clutches of sleep embraced her.
To be continued…