By that time, I had completely adjusted to the once rigorous camp routines, and looked reluctantly to the impending end. There was a pervading sense of relief, mingled with urgent haste, pleasure and a sprinkling of regret. In the better part of three weeks, I had been through many novel and intense experiences: some pleasant, some not. But it was not the camp itself I would miss, it was the people, the friends I’d met and the memories we’d made.
I went into panic mode those last days, frantically collecting contact details on my phone, on paper and some I just plain memorized. Once I left a place of worship to literally chase down a friend when I realized that I didn’t have a number/email and we could have just parted for the last time.
As for the report I made? The one I lodged at the Director’s office? Well, The room treasurer informed me that part of the money paid was refunded to him, along with a pathetic excuse, claiming they had intended to return the money all along. Yeah, right. We used the money to take a room group photograph and do photocopies of a list of our names that Fiyi and I started.
Tanya was so sad and hurt when our platoon came runner up in all of the events she’d actively represented us in, but she brightened up considerably on the epic evening when we brilliantly won the football cup to come second overall. I consoled her by adamantly, repeatedly and quite baselessly affirming that we’d definitely have been number one if the athletic team had competed, if the relay races had held.
We had the man-o-war things earlier that same day, I focused and almost got across a long branch when arms pulled me from beneath mumbling something about the need to not be a hero, just be gentle and simply pose for pictures. Flashy pictures. While dangling from trees in the jungle-monkey spirit, peeking out of barbed trenches and making humorous efforts to appear hardy, bad-guyish and tough.
Before it was all over, my plan to not engage in any public arguments (in my room) unceremoniously crumbled. One thing to led to another and soon I was booked to debate at the worst kind of debate possible: an inter-faith discourse. Now I don’t have anything against religion but people can get very, very agitated and dangerously tense when religion is involved. My corner of the room almost divided into opposing parts as the debate neared; people were offering support, others leaning to hostility and yet more were nervously trying to stay neutral. But we were all young comrades, all educated, presumably enlightened and as someone pointed out, if we (with many of the states and all of the zones represented) could not discuss religions peacefully and openly in camp, where could we do so? What hope did our country have? The date was deliberately set to be not so near but especially not too far from the passing out date just in case things didn’t work out too well. But sadly, the debate coincided with the camp fire night and it didn’t hold, (we postponed it till outside of camp, on telephone). I went out for arguably the most memorable night of camp.
It was dark but the night was alive, it was cold too but not for long. The seven by six feet stack of wood at the center of the evening’s activities was soon bathed in vigorous flames , full of splendor and hot passion. I was concurrently allured and repelled; my eyes were entranced but my sweating skin compelled me to not stay close for long. Lastborn saw me, somehow in the crowd and I took leave from my charming date for a one-time, imposing photo with him and later, other friends too. We ate and laughed, we danced, I sang ”you can chop my money! I don’t care! ; I just dey wonder, Can I buy you a Honda;…”. Nothing was too crazy or embarrassing if it was also, fun. When it came to an end, I lazily strolled back to my room, grinning from ear to ear, glad that I was there, that I had come, that I had suffered and I had ‘won’.
I cannot tell you of the highly demonstrative and unabashed drama queen that I met one afternoon in Mammy, how we cheerfully celebrated a friend’s birthday another time with delicious ofada rice, the day my platoon went out to jog and I mischievously insisted on joining a couple other guys to form an ‘elite unit’ of playful show-offs that intentionally moved way faster than the rest of the platoon just because we could and how after doing the ‘over sabi’, I was too exhausted to return to the morning parade and instead ran off like a mad man to the hall, not knowing that a soldier was chasing me!
I would tell you also of the picturesque night I went out past curfew to the clinic, the afternoon when I and my bunkmate narrowly escaped being busted for skipping parade by fleeing through the back of the hall, the day a soldier frankly explained to me that intimidation was their primary tool while commenting that I would not survive a day in army boot camp. I would that I could tell you all of that and more, but we do not have the time. I can not spend three months writing of three weeks…wait I already did, okay I will not spend more. I will hope that you enjoyed the adventures I did share almost as as much as I , and stay, captivated, with me as I write of the last day, the day I left my home of three weeks.
Passing-out Ceremony! The day I had prayed for when I came, and mourned about as it neared. Clad in my neatly pressed khaki uniform, with my black backpack firmly hanging from my shoulders, I surveyed the crowd of my erstwhile colleagues for the final time, casually walking around the field in the minutes before the formal start of the ceremony, taking a few last pictures and thinking deeply.
All I’d wanted, I had gotten…or had I? No. The magic that mysteriously surrounded me was yet to die and it would grant me one more wish before it was all over. Cracking the odds, the statistical probabilities like a paltry broomstick of no consequence, in the wee moments of camp, it brought her, again. Shiny girl, Denying Girl (said no) or just Winking Girl, whichever you prefer. There she was, in front of me, alone, aloof.
“How has camp been overall? “ I inquired with a beaming smile.
“Stressful” She crooned in her sing-song voice.
And we went on, my suspicions rising each second we talked till I blatantly interrupted her to state “You graduated with a first-class, didn’t you? “
“How did you know? “ She demanded with wide but mild eyes.
“It’s obvious” I teased and then I proceeded to briefly elaborate on her personality. I was on a roll that morning, probably the magic because all of my guesses were right.
“My name is Tolu O, what is your name? “
“Emmanuella? Do you have a surname, Emmanuella? “
“So you will not tell me your surname, but you will give me your number?”
“Yes” she said, talking to the floor again.
“Sounds interesting Emmanuela, I like mysteries! We’ll see…are you some famous person’s daughter? Now you see if you had told me, I might have thought it was a coincidence but now? I won’t stop till I know”
With a swelling heart, and floating feet I bid her farewell (till I called her number) and continued my slow march around the field.
Governor came a bit late…sun was quite hot but who cared? I sang a tweaked but improved version this time. Not the original still, but a better one, I thought. If you really wanna read the original, please do a google search 🙂 .
“Youths obey the Clarion Call;
Let us lift our nation Tall;
Under the sun or in the rain;
My dedication is still the same!
Nigeria we serve!”
Okay, not really.
Just for you alone, I’ll add that it took me till October, the NEXT year to find out Emmanuella’s surname and, it was totally worth the patience.
This is the last episode of the Clarion Call series, there will be no more but even as I pen this down minutes to midnight, and tens of months after these events transpired, I must admit that it is not truly over. What started has simply not stopped and I cannot yet foresee just where it will lead.
When danger and fear lurk on your path,
Hold on to your dreams, don’t let them depart.
Through fire or storm,
Acclaim or scorn,
Whatever may come?
Stay True to your Heart!
Tolu O, 24/05/2013 11.53PM.
P.S : I’m not going to quit writing after this, lol. Might take a while before I decide what I wanna do next, but follow my blog (there’s a box for that) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (if you don’t already get emails from me) and…I’ll let you know.
Thank you! Did you enjoy this? All of it? None? Tell me all you think, I’ll gladly listen.