So you bloody otondos have finally made it to camp. All the tension while you waited for “mobilisation“; all the anxiety when you heard horror stories of people that were sent to bush camps in far-flung corners of the country. Maybe your worst fears were confirmed- you queued up, pushed, snarled at people, lied for your friends; and then you got your letter saying you were posted to some part of the country you’ve never been. Maybe you were “lucky” to have “someone” at the top that “worked” your posting to a more lucrative state.
But you have to get over it. I’m sure you have all the things you need for camp by now. And if you fall among the ridiculously lazy few that haven’t bought their stuff, you’ll need the following:
- white t-shirts. Pure white, no designs or logos.
- white shorts. Same standards as the tees.
- white socks.
- White shoes. Sneakers, tennis shoes, high-tops- as long as they’re pure white
- Toiletteries- soap, sponge, vaseline, perfumes,
- beverages- milk, crackers and light snacks.
- beddings- pillow, pillowcases, bedsheets
- utilities- flashlights, keyrings, padlocks, mosquito nets
You may have noticed that I omitted some items. That’s because you can always buy them in camp. The trouble is, many of the “mammy” markets sell things as high as 45% more than the actual price outside camp. On the other hand, for the sake of your survival, you need to pack effectively.
I know you don’t have time and you’re in a hurry so I’ll just tell you what you NEED to know to survive camp.
- PACK EFFECTIVELY
That’s because you’ll have to carry your luggage everywhere until you get a secure place to keep them. Depending on when you arrive, it could take almost 4 hours for you to find a temporary place to store your belongings. Another reason is that you’ll probably have to carry your stuff on your head. It’s a trick the soldiers love to pull- you carry EVERYTHING on your head and jog around until their schadenfreude is satisfied. I usually advise people to carry only ONE bag- fit everything into one bag/suitcase
- DRESS TO FIGHT
Lol I know that’s dramatic, but that’s the reality. Wear jeans on the first day. Because you’re going to do a lot of walking and running; you’re going to join at least 7 queues; queues with highly unreasonable people who think that they need to be somewhere else (and you don’t). There’ll be a lot of pushing, shoving, groping, pick-pocketing (REALLY) and downright fighting. Just be prepared to move. Ladies, please leave those killer heels, sandals, gladiators, peeoptoes, pumps and platforms. You’ll want to wear sneakers or at least comfortable flats that won’t rip apart in the struggle.
- ARRIVE EARLY. OR VERY LATE
If you hope to get a wardrobe, a good bunk space and a socket to charge your phone, I suggest that you arrive camp a day before it’s supposed to commence. Usually camp resumes on a Tuesday- I suggest you arrive on a Monday evening. Why do I say so? Many people are travelling from far places- from Kano to Calabar might take a whole day or even two to arrive. So they set out as early as 2 days ahead of time. Now imagine if 30 people from 30 far-flung states travel and arrive on Monday night. That’s 900 people already waiting in camp. How would you survive if there are 900 people waiting to register before you? You’ll probably not get registered until the 3rd day! Some people will arrive the same day with you- at 5am. There’ll be a lot of pushing, slapping, kicking, pinching, BITING and all of that. So you can avoid all that by getting there early.
Or you can get there really late. Allow all the serious people to suffer, and when the queues die down you show up and get processed within 3 hours like a boss. After all, there’s no prize for being number one is there?
- BLEND WITH THE CROWD
This is one of the very few exceptions to the rule “STAND OUT”. Blend with the crowd. Be where everyone is. Because the loner gets killed. Just as lions attack the weakest member of the herd, the stragglers and the distracted- that’s how the soldiers, NSCDC and Camp officials treat Corpers. If you hear the bugle, follow everyone to where they’re going. Even if you’re not going to eat the camp food, in your best interests you should follow your colleagues. Because you’ll be responsible for anything that goes wrong if you’re found at the wrong place. And the wrong place is where everyone else is NOT.
Do not single yourself out for any reason; people will beef you unnecessarily, officials will punish you for the slightest things- like laughing at something you found funny during parade; like being late to an assembly or lecture, like staying outside the hostel beyond lights-out. You get the point.
- KEEP ALL YOUR DOCUMENTS SAFE
You need to keep all your documents safe. Don’t assume there’ll be someone to help you find them if they get lost. Imagine If you’ve spent 8 hours on a queue only for you to discover you’ve lost your call-up letter. Nobody will listen to you. You will leave that queue and join at the end if you eventually find it. Keep your documents in a secure clear bag or clipboard; make sure you keep it safe. If you finish for the day, lock your clear bag/clipboard in your bag! You hear me?!
- KEEP ALL YOUR VALUABLES SAFE
keep your phone(s), wallet, wristwatch, jewellery, money, digital cameras, keys and all of that IN YOUR WAIST POUCH. Guard that waist pouch with your life, because (believe it or not), the university did not cure everyone of their tendency to steal. They will attempt to steal even your used underwear and shoes. So keep everything you can’t afford to lose in that pouch; take it everywhere with you; take it to the bathroom, wear it even when you’re sleeping. NEVER LET IT OUT OF YOUR SIGHT.
Write your name on your bucket, sneakers, vests, junge boots, khaki, and all of that. If your name is long like mine, you could mark it with your registration number.
- MAKE FRIENDS
In every “how-to-survive” series I’ve done, I always emphasize the importance of making friends. Truth is, In camp I learned that lesson far better than anywhere else. The friends I made in camp (shout out to the Owerri #OBS crew) are still more fondly remembered than the ones I made during actual service. Your camp friends will help you hold your spot in line if you have to go somewhere else. Your friends will wake you up if you happen to oversleep. Your friends will walk with you in dark places (and there’ll be lots of that). When I was in camp, we came up with this feeding strategy: to NEVER eat the camp food. We negotiated with one of the food vendors that sold the best (cleanest) food and paid about 5k each upfront. We were then entitled to one meal per day at 50 naira cheaper than what they charged others. And i NEVER ate the camp food till I left.
My friends sometimes helped me hold my pouch if i needed to take a bath. My friends and I arranged to rent a 3-bedroom apartment in Owerri city and then split the bill. That way, we would be able to get good rooms en-suite for almost 50k cheaper.
- MAINTAIN PROPER HYGIENE
True. Many people go to camp and just lose their heads in the mad rush for registration- so they become animals almost overnight. People see a perfectly clean toilet and within minutes they soil it in the most barbaric manner, thereby forcing others to “shot-putt”. Instead of that, why don’t you organise yourselves? and pay a cleaner to keep the toilets sparkling?
With the Ebola outbreaks I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to avoid hugging and shaking sweaty people. Don’t share soaps and sponges (trust me, people do that). Don’t share hairbrushes and towels. Again, it would shock you to know that people share even toothbrushes. Don’t Do it!
- OBEY CAMP RULES
This is really a no-brainer. Obey the rules if you want to survive. The soldiers are in camp to guard you, but things could turn ugly if you want to “prove” you’re tough; Obey all orders- even if you’re asked to frogjump, hop like a rabbit; #justdoit! if you’re asked to sing songs you don’t exactly agree with, this is a time to conform, I tell you.
This goes with my principle of BLENDING IN. Don’t get noticed for anything wrong. Just blend in.
People are coming to camp with all sorts of mental problems; people pick fights with others for no reason; people STEAL; people poison other people; people spike other peoples’ drinks. Pray to God that you come out alive and well. Pray to God that you stay out of trouble. Pray to God that you make the right connections. Prayer really changes things!