“This a boarding call for passengers of Aero Contractor flight AJ2011 to Abuja” the announcer beaconed with a not so Nigerian accent. I wonder if they are thought to speak like that or they do it off their own volition. The first time I heard a flight announcement I thought the person was speaking French and I wondered why an announcer would be speaking French to an English speaking audience. The waiting lounge is full and everyone on the Aero Contractors flight is on their feet and walking towards the tarmac to board the plane. I don’t like the rush so I sit down for a few minutes and watch as the masses hurry to board the plane. As I watch the masses, I see an old friend from school, Ifeanyi. He likes women a little more than normal, he is tall and fair. I was tempted to go say hi but I decide not to, since we are on the same plane there is no need to stress myself. The Aero Contractors passengers have finally vacated the waiting lounge. I anticipate a long line in front of the plane so I decide to wait a little longer, at least until the final boarding call.
“This is the final boarding call for Aero Contractors flight AJ2011 to Abuja” the announcer beaconed again.
“Finally” I hiss. I make my way to the tarmac for boarding. I walk out of the waiting room and unto the passage way. The sun is out and the blue skies look magnificent with very little clouds. The sound of the Boeing737 twin engines is loud and overwhelming like it’s about to take off. I walk briskly as I marvel at the beauty of nature. The airline attendant signals to me to move faster but moving faster than I currently am would mean I’d have to start running. VIP’s don’t run!
I continue my power walk towards the plane, everyone is on board and I breeze through the security check and to my left the baggage handlers are standing there gisting. My bag is the only one left on the tarmac.
I signal to them that I’m the owner of the bag and they load it up in the airplane. I hand the attendant my ticket and he takes a part of the ticket and I climb the white staircase to the entrance of the plane. I hand the air hostess my ticket stub.
“Welcome sir, seat 20A. Window seat by your right.” she said with a polite tone, looking straight into my eyes and with a smile on her face. This has to be the first airhostess that I’ve seen that smiles. Looking immaculate in her orange skirt, white shirt, an orange jacket and black flats. It’s her eyes that gets my attention, the big brown eyes are enchanting and the fair complexion does not hurt at all. I return her smile and walk into the cabin; everyone looking up at me, the VIP status would have been perfect if I had a business class ticket but the window seat at the back of the plane would do for now. On my way to my seat I see Ifeanyi and I hail him and continue to my seat. I reach my seat and there is a man in a blue suit sitting in the isle but there is no one in the middle seat. An expensive suit, I can tell. A white shirt and a black tie. He is probably a business man going to Abuja for a business meeting. I signal to him that my seat is the window seat. He gets up and I gravitate towards my window seat. I look outside my window and see the very nice Port Harcourt vegetation. Sometimes it makes the city look good, other times the city looks like a village. I guess that’s its charm. The cabin crew begins to do their safety procedure, I’ve seen it so many times that it’s now boring. I close my eyes in attempt to continue the sleep that has been secretly looming in the background since I arrived at the airport. The hunger pains not letting me drift into dreamland completely.
The cabin crew is done with their safety procedure and it’s time to take off, which is for me the most exciting part of flying. There is no way I’m gonna go to sleep whilst the plane is taking off.
“Cabin Crew take you position for takeoff” The pilot announces. The plane starts to accelerate and in my excitement I forget about the little men that are kicking the walls of my stomach.
The plane leaves the ground and the thought of the plane’s engine going off and the plane dropping to the ground pops into my head.
Strangely I’m comfortable with the idea, it’ll be a dramatic way of checking out- with a big bang. Then again I might walk out of the fire like a phoenix. As the thought fades away I close my eyes and go to sleep. Thirty thousand feet above sea level, the hunger pains feel just as bad as it does on the ground.
I wake up just in time for the midair snack, missing it would have been suicide. The air hostess that welcomed into the cabin is serving the snack with some other dude, they are two rows away from me.
I couldn’t help but stare at her, she catches me starting and I smile. She mirrors my smile and continues serving the passengers. If I had slept a little longer they would have passed me and there is no way I would have had the energy to stand up when it’s time to disembark.
I look out the window pretending not to be interested in the snack, more like one eye outside the window and the other eye on the food cart.
“Sir Meat pie or chicken pie?” he said with a British accent which threw me off, but I am too hungry to care.
“Meat pie” I said in a haste.
“Soft drink or juice?” he asks. This time I was able to see his name tag and it says, ‘Kelvin’
“Juice please” I said, still not able to code this hunger. He passes the juice and the meat pie to me, I collect them with deep gratitude in my heart but I don’t show it. I start to devour them immediately, the businessman-type sitting beside me is fast asleep.
He seems to not want anything, I wish he could collect his and give to me but VIPs don’t ask for other people’s food so I forget about it. I finish devouring the snack and I relax deeply in my chair and fall asleep for real this time.
“Ladies and gentlemen this is the captain speaking the fasten seat belt sign is back on, please fasten your seat belt we are ten minutes away from Nnamdi Azikiwe airport Abuja and we have been cleared for landing. Thank you for flying Aero Contractors have a nice day.”
I wake up midway through his announcement. Looking outside my window I see houses and cars as small as ants. The landscape at this height looks awesome the blue skies, the sun in the horizon and the hills, all a stunning sight except for the sound of the engine that’s making my ear hurt.
“Cabin crew prepare for landing.” I brace myself for landing like I’m part of the cabin crew. The landing is always bumpy and without finesse so I don’t like it very much. The plane slowly approaches ground level and touches down on the tarmac.
“Jesus, Thank you Jesus” erupts from different parts of the cabin. I smile, people were tense. People are so afraid to die! I’m glad we are on ground safely though. The plane comes to a complete stop and I see the hostess that welcomed me into the cabin.
‘I need to make a move’ I think to myself. I search for my ticket stub in my bag, I find it and remove the baggage claim tag from it and write down my name and number on it.
A voice in my head pops up and says, ‘She is going to throw your ticket stub in your face’ and reality sets in, she could very well throw it in my face and embarrass me in front of everyone.
“No that’s not gonna happen, she is gonna smile and collect it.” I whisper to myself. The cabin door opens and people start to disembark.
“It’s time” I tell myself, my heart beating so fast I can feel my pulse in my ear. Doubt feels my mind, worst case scenarios so vivid I feel myself starting to sweat. Passengers start to disembark the cabin, the businessman-type stands up and starts to disembark. I follow closely behind. With every step closer to her I feel my heart rate increase.
“Get a hold on yourself James. Be Calm!” I say to myself while I take a deep breath. I feel like running away in the other direction, sadly there is no other direction to run to. “There is a time when a man has to show that he has a pair, James this is one of them.” I say to myself under my breath.
I take another deep breath and I’m as calm as I can possibly be, before I know what’s going on she’s right in front of me. It’s time, I tell myself. My ticket stub in hand, I am ready.
“Bye” she said to me with a smile on her face, the smile was definitely bigger than the ones she gave the other passengers. At least I thought it was, or maybe I’m seeing what I want to see. This gave me the courage to make my move. I step aside allowing the few people behind me some room to pass.
“Hi I’m James, your attractive, call me!” I say in a very slow and in a low tone not allowing the rest of the cabin crew to hear my flow. I show her the ticket stub with my name and number on it and I put it in her side jacket pocket. I maintain eye contact for a second or two then I turn around and walk away slowly. In that brief encounter I drink up her appearance, how come I didn’t notice her short hair before. I love girls on short hair, they are very time efficient. Her face, her eyes… lovely. She had a smile on her face throughout, so I think I handled the situation well considering I was a nervous wreck, then again if she calls me than I know I did well. I walk towards the arrival hall, thoughts of her fill my mind.
And I remember I have to find Ifeanyi and collect his number before he leaves the airport. I enter the arrival hall the cool breeze from the AC hits me in the face, the contrast in temperature is definitely significant. I scan the room searching for Ifeanyi, I see him at the recharge card stand talking to a girl. As expected. I allow him to finish work.
“Your money or your life” I said to him in a relatively deeper voice than my normal speaking voice. He laughs.
“James what’s up, how you dey?”
“I’m cool, it’s been a while. I didn’t know you were in Port Harcourt, we would have organized something, a meet at Genesis Cinema or something.”
“You are right, I lost my phone. So I lost your contact.”
“One of those your babes picked you pocket right? After you chop finish you just open mouth sleep!” I said trying hard not to laugh out loud.
“James, you dey mad oh. You need cane.” he said with a smile on his face
“Mehn Ifeanyi when you reach a certain age, it becomes harder to change.” I reply. The sound of the baggage conveyor fills the hall as it comes on and the first set of bags starts to come out. We move towards it to keep an eye out for our bags.
“This NYSC registration is such a long thing, everyone has to come to Abuja to get it done!”
“Why else would I be in this place? It’s really hot here!” I replied.
“There is no freaking cloud in the sky, I’ll be black by the time I leave this place.” My bag approaches first and we continue talking whilst we wait for his bag.
“So you are going to their office right now, immediately you leave the airport?” I ask.
“I’ll go to my hotel room and relax for a while before I head out to their office.” Ifeanyi replied.
“Too much money, too much enjoyment. My mum actually has a house here in Abuja so that’s where I’m going to chill.” His bag finally arrives and we start walking towards the exit of the luggage claim hall. The airline attendants asks us for our baggage claim tag.
“Are you serious? That mean’s I’ve wasted money on hotel!”
“Sir your boarding pass” The attendant said to us. Ifeanyi hands him his ticket stub with the baggage claim tag on it. I hurriedly look for my ticket stub, then I remember I gave it to the air hostess with my number at the back. There is no way I gave the hostess my baggage claim tag with the ticket stub, I wouldn’t have been able to write my number at the back if I did. I search my pocket and to my surprise it’s there, I can’t believe I forgot that I put it in my pocket.
I hand the baggage claim dude the tag. And I walk through the exit. Ifeanyi was waiting for me by the door frame trying not to obstruct the exit. I signal to him and we start walking toward the airport exit.
“Where was your boarding pass?” Ifeanyi asked.
“What?” I asked with a confused face on.
“Your boarding pass where is it you didn’t give it to the official, you gave him only the tag.” He replied.
“Oh that, I gave the ticket to the hot hostess on the plane.” I replied.
“You gave your ticket stub to the waitress? I don’t understand…wait don’t tell me you wrote your number down on the ticket?” he asked.
“What do you think? I don’t play. I have a house to myself I need to put some girls in it.” I said with a smirk on my face.
“You bastard! Why didn’t I think of that! And her bum is so nice” he said with his eyes closed trying to envision the sight.
“I know it was awesome.” We both laugh. “She kept smiling at me so decided to give it to her”
“Yeah I hope you do!” Ifeanyi retorted, we both laughed almost causing a scene as we walked to the exit.
“That’s if she calls.” I returned.
“I think we need to pray and fast on the matter, she must call it’s by force!” Ifeanyi said, barely able to contain his laughter.
“It’s definitely by force.” I returned. A security guard is sitting at the exit as we leave the arrival hall. A large group of people is in front of the exit. Finally everyone has realized that I’m a VIP and they have come to welcome me to the strange land called Abuja, I thought in silent delight. I was wrong they were just taxi drivers waiting to hound the arrivals.
“Taxi Sir” said a middle-aged man, tall and dark, in a blue kaftan with a hat and slippers on. The normal Hausa attire.
“No” I growl at him, in silent disappointment. Ifeanyi is answering a call so I stand silently taking in the new environment. It sounds like he is talking to his mum, which reminds me I have to call mum to tell her I have arrived safely. I remove my BlackBerry from my pocket and pess the on button.
I had forgotten to put it on the plane with the life and death situation I had on my hands, the airhostess situation. The BlackBerry start to boot, “Urggh it takes years to boot” I whisper to myself.
“James I’m off, give me your number.”
“Yeah we should definitely meet up before we go back to Port Harcourt.” I replied whilst exchanging numbers. “Good luck with your airhostess” he said.
“Thanks mehn” I retorted. We part ways.
I check the time on my watch, it’s 10:45am. Goddamn how time flies! I call one of the taxi drivers that are hanging around the exit of the arrival hall.
“Maitama, how much?”
“Oga na seven thousand naira.” replied the taxi driver.
“How much be your last price?” I countered.
“Oga that na the standard price na wetin everybody dey charge.”
“You get A/C for your car?” I asked.
“Yes sir, I get A/C for car.” he replied.
“Your car get seat belt? Your car get paint? Your car get chair? Your car get engine.” if I’m going to pay that much I might as well entertain myself.
“My oga my car dey fly sef!” the driver replied taking my bag from my hand.
“Ok make we dey go.” We walked quite some distance to the airport car park. The car is a white Peugeot 406, I’m impressed it looks classy. We start the journey from the airport to NYSC directorate headquarters at Maitama. The radio is on and there is a talk show going on. I don’t really care to listen to the radio so I put my ear piece on, allowing the sound waves from my ear piece to fill my mind as I take in this new terrain.
The hilly terrain, the blue skies and the AC on full blast. I feel like I am where I was meant to be, in a new environment. We arrive at a police check point and we are waved down and asked to park the car. Soldiers in their full body kit, a helmet, bullet proof vest and boots. Most of them dark from standing too long in the scorching sun. And of course to crown it all they have an AK47 with two full clips tapped together to shorten reload time.
“Park well, where are your particulars?” One of the mean looking soldiers asked.
“Good morning sir” the driver replied whilst winding down the window and handing the soldier his driver’s license, car registration and insurance. The soldier inspects it carefully and gives the documents back to the driver. We were back on the road so far it has been a very quiet journey. The roads is what fascinates me the most, they were huge and look like they go on forever. You could get a Benz and push it to the limit and enjoy your money’s worth. Listening to the sounds from my earpiece as I drift back into dreamland... Every so often I would open my eyes to make sure I’m not being kidnapped or taken to a shrine somewhere to be sacrifice for money.
“Oga we don reach Maitama wetin be the address of the place?” the driver said interrupting my slumber. I scuffle into my bag looking for my phone where I had saved the address.
“Plot 416 Tigris Crescent Off Aguiyi Ironsi Street.” I returned. Opening the GPS software on my BlackBerry in order to aid the location of the building.
“Ok sir, I know the place.” relieved by his response I put my phone back into my bag.
We arrive at the Tigris crescent and there are a lot of cars parked beside the road. It must be a business district with all the buildings in the area. There is a police officer up ahead directing traffic, on getting to his position I wind down the window.
“Please we are looking for the NYSC office” I asked.
“Yes it’s here, you should move forward and park well” he replied hastily as other cars were behind us. I look at my watch and it’s 12:04pm, how time flies when you are crashing. The driver finds a place to park, being unable to carry my bag into the building complex I contemplate what to do.
“Abeg I dey come now give me one hour, then we go reach my house.” I told the driver. God please let him not run away with my bag, I prayed as I walked towards the gate of the NYSC building. I would think it would have a big green ‘NYSC’ written on the building, but instead it’s ALHAJI GOWON HOUSE that’s written on the building.
On getting to the gate there is a petite woman in some kind of security uniform, personally I don’t want to know which one she belongs to I just want to get in and get out as soon as possible. She notices me and stands to her feet.
“Yes, why are you here?” she said, looking directly at me. If she wasn’t looking at me I would have assumed she was talking to someone else. ‘Is this how they attend to niggas here?’I think to myself. “I’m here to register for the NYSC” I replied, masking my disdain for her rudeness.
“Where is your form? If you don’t have it you’ll have to go to the NYSC website fill the form, print it and come back.” she asked.
“I have the form.” I returned.
“Bring it out let me see” she demanded. I open my bag to get the form. I feel her eyes on me like a hawk, in the event I bring out a gun shaped object she is going to kick the shit out of me. I bring out the form and hand it to her, she inspects it and directs me to go through the red gate. “You can’t go in with your bag” she returned. Mehn I don’t have a concealed weapon, I thought to myself. I remove the black leather bag with my documents in it.
She hands me a tag number and collects my bag. I walk through the red gate and towards the building, to my right there is another security post. There are some men sitting under a green canopy. I think they are the army, a table is in front of them with a register. I walk past them pretending not to have noticed them, several steps past them I hear a voice behind me, “Hey, you, hey!” I turn around and see the whole band of soldier looking at me. I calmly walk towards the table.
“Come, you no see us for here?” one of the soldiers retorted, I have a feeling he is the least ranking well he seems like he is trying to exercise power he doesn’t have to look bigger.
“No sir” I replied politely. I’m definitely not in the mood to get beaten!
“How you go talk sey you no see us for here” the same soldier returned.
“Oga I haven’t eaten since morning, that’s why” I replied with a smile on my face. I pick up the pen and write my name and number. I continue walking towards the building. I go up a couple of stairs and I get to a twin glass door entrance, I walk through the entrance and there is another security point with a metal detector. Obviously the metal detector isn’t working, na naija we dey, but still they would make you go through it. There are two men in the front entrance I approach and see another register I fill my name and number slowly getting irritated by the filling of numerous registers. I’m handed a ‘Visitor’ tag.
“NYSC registration, where do I get it done?” I asked.
“Go upstairs, on the next floor and ask” he replied, pointing over his right shoulder to the staircase. I go through the broken metal detector and toward the staircase. On getting to the first floor the energy is overwhelming, the floor is packed with people that want to also register for the NYSC. Guys, Girls, staff all running from one point to the next.
I love the energy, with this much people there is a possibility that I might see someone I know from school, I’m excited unable to wait I start walking toward the source of all the commotion. That must be where the registration is happening. As I walk toward the source of the energy I’m called back by yet another security personnel, this time a female sitting behind a desk with yet another register. With all the register to get into the building you would think there is a large sum of money in the building. I walk towards the desk and fill my name. “Go to room 207” the security personnel urged, as she pointed towards a hallway.
I proceed to the source of the energy and as I enter the hallway I see a crowd of people, some sitting down, some standing in a line and the others coming out of an office and some are walking across the hallway. I begin locating room 207 whilst simultaneously checking out the girls. I somehow locate room 207, a white walled room with cheap brown curtains.
Two desk sitting by my left hand side, a door to the right side of the room. That probably the office of some oga at the top. A lady sitting behind the desk farthest from me with a desktop computer in front of her.
“Good afternoon I’m her to register for NYSC” I said. She raises her head from behind the monitor screen and studies me from head to toe. She definitely looks like she is having a not so good day.
“Pick a number tag from the table and wait let me find someone to attend to you.” she replied. She definitely isn’t having a good day, I think to myself. I pick up the tag number from a pile on the table, it says 106 on it. I wasn’t in the least bit worried since apparently I’m the only one in the office and I’m going to get attended to and leave this place as soon as possible. The lady leaves the room and I stand there for a while, other people come in, pick a number and leave. I’m still standing in the office and the lady is no were to be found.
A familiar face walks into the room, Georgina! 5’6” tall, skinny and light skinned. Adorned in a flowery maxi gown, black hair with highlights of brown in them and an ungodly amount of cleavage out in the open. To my surprise I walk up to her and give her a hug, back in school we were not that close. I guess I’m just excited to see a familiar face.
“Georgina how are you? It’s been a while! How have you been?” I blurt out in rapid succession, she I quite receptive to the hug I’m surprised.
“I’m fine it’s nice to see you” she replies with a smile on her face. I get the feeling she can’t remember my name, well I don’t blame her we weren’t that cozy in school. “What are you doing here?” she continued.
“I heard they were sharing money and I decided to come visit the NYSC office.” I returned with a smile on my face.
“That’s funny” she replied, “I was told we were supposed to come get a number tag from this office and go line up in front of room 202.”
“Are you serious? Some lady told me to wait here for her. That she is going to find someone to register me.”
“Are you sure? Because there is a line in front of room 202 for West African foreign students.”
“Wow this is wonderful” I replied. Georgina picked up a number tag, 109, and we walked towards room 202 to see a long line. We proceed to the back of the line and hope that the line starts moving.
“So where would you like to serve.” I asked.
“Abuja is really cool, I wouldn’t mind serving here.”
“Yeah me too, I urgently need to run away from home and Abuja would be a fine escape.” I replied.
“My house is so boring too. I guess the transition from having complete freedom in school to having your every move being watched is very uncomfortable.” she said with a smile on her face. There is a long silence. The line starts moving as people leave room 202 and others enter. We are in front of the line now, I can’t wait to get this over with. The taxi driver is still waiting for me outside, hopefully he will be there when I’m done.
“Are you going back to Port Harcourt today” she asked.
“I have a house in Gwarinpa, I’ll be staying there for a while before I go back. Flex a little bit.” More like my mum has a house but ‘I have a house’ sounds better.
“That’s cool, you should enjoy yourself. I actually plan on staying the night then go back to Warri tomorrow or next I haven’t made up my mind yet.” She replied. A girl without an itinerary that’s golden! Someone comes out of the office and its Georgina’s turn to go in.
“It’s your turn” I urged.
“It is, isn’t it? Wish me luck.”
“Your fine you don’t need luck.” I replied. I have no idea where that came from. She smiles and walks into the office. My mind running a million miles per hour. There is no freaking way I’m going to stay at the boys quarters now. I check the time and its 1:07pm. Georgina comes out of the office with a smile on her face.
“Are you done registering?” I ask as I stand up to go into the office.
“Yeah I’m done, it isn’t a big deal as long as you have all your documents.”
“Ok wish me luck, you’ll be here when I come out right?”
“Your fine you don’t need luck” I smile as she repeats my words back to me, “Yeah I’ll be here when you come out.” I walk into the office and as I expected the same cheap curtain and an old AC is by the window opposite the door.
There is a desk to my right with an NYSC staff registering a fat dude, there is another desk directly opposite the entrance door. There is an empty chair in front of the desk opposite the door. I walk in and sit on the chair.
“Good afternoon sir” I greet. He raises his eyes from his dell laptop monitor, a year 2000 model maybe. It has Property of The NYSC boldly written on the lid of the laptop. Like someone is going to steal that thing?
“Good afternoon, give me you international passport, your Bsc. certificate and your transcript.” I scuffle through my black leather bag. I hand him my International Passport first then my certificate, then my transcript last.
“Yes that’s me.” I replied with a smile. He seemed satisfied with the documents authenticity.
“Pearse! Where are you from that sounds like a Rivers name. Are you from Rivers State?”
“Yes sir I am.” I replied. He continues to study the transcript. Then drops all the documents in front of him.
“Your WAEC and NECO certificate.” I go back into my black leather bag. I hand him the certificates.
“Where are your WAEC and NECO certificates?”
“I just gave them to you.” I replied in a confused state with the look on my face to match.
“No these are your statement of result not your certificates go back to your secondary school and request for your original certificates without them I can’t register you.”
“That’s what I just gave you, the certificates. That’s what it says on there.” I said pointing at the heading on the piece of paper in his hand, “It says Statement of Result Certificate. That has to be the certificate.”
“I’m saying these are not you certificates but statement of result.” the NYSC official said starting to get irritated.
“But on the website didn’t specify that there is a difference. Isn’t this good enough?”
“No it’s not.” he said in a loud voice dropping the documents on the table. The NYSC official sitting on the other table and the fat dude turn to my direction to see what is going on.
“But sir I’m coming all the way from Port Harcourt and my secondary school is in Lagos, can’t the statement of result suffice?” I pleaded.
“I just said NO didn’t you hear me? You can’t register without your original WAEC and NECO certificates.” he replied indifferent to my apparent dilemma. He throws my documents at me, caught off guard I’m unable to catch them they all crash to the dusty floor. I pause and look back at him in utter surprise at his reaction, how rude! Are these NYSC officials always this rude?
I make a fist willing and able to put a hard one through his face, it would bring me immense pleasure but probably hurt me in the long run. It’s better to leave him to his demons, let them continue to eat at him that would be his punishment. I bend down and pick up my documents.
Throwing my documents at me was definitely uncalled for, if they don’t like their job they should freaking quit! I arrange my documents back into my bag and make my way toward the door. Filled with rage I would love to act on, but I decide not to.
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