By this time, I had completely adjusted and the once rigorous camp routines bothered me no more. I was encompassed by a slight sense of relief mingled with urgent haste and pleasure that was overshadowed with regret.
In the better part of three weeks, I had been through many new and intense experiences: some pleasant, some not. But it was not the camp itself I would miss -not the stadium, not the hostels or even the bubbling Mammy market – but the people. The friends I’d met and the beautiful memories we’d made.
I panicked as the end loomed, frantically collecting some contact details on my phone, or paper and committing others directly to my memory.
I went as far as running out of 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 disparaging report I made? The one I tentatively lodged at the Director’s office ? Later, the room treasurer informed me that part of the money paid was refunded to him, along with a (pathetic) excuse that they had intended to return the money all along. But, Of course!
We used the money to take a room group photograph and do photocopies of a list of our names that Fiyi and I started. I still have that list somewhere in a corner of my room and it brings smiles to my face, each time I see it.
Tanya was sad and hurt when our platoon came just short of winning in all of the events she’d actively represented us in, but she brightened up considerably on the delightful evening when we brilliantly won the football cup to come second overall. I consoled her by adamantly, repeatedly and quite baselessly insisting that we’d definitely have been number one if the athletic team had competed, if the relay races had been held.
We had the man-o-war exercise earlier that same day. I focused intensely and almost got across a long branch when arms pulled me from beneath mumbling something about the need to not try too hard, take it easy 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. Freeze for a moment, and picture me.
Before it was 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, irrational 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, it didn’t hold, (we postponed it till outside of camp, on telephone) and 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;…” My date was stunning in the moon’s pale light. Nothing was too crazy or embarrassing if it was also, fun. When we were done, 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 deeply certain, 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 more than that, 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, single broomstick of no consequence, in the dying 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 Lelouch, what is your name? “
“Emmanuella? Do you perchance 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.
“This is fascinating. Emmanuela, I like mysteries! Tell me…are you some famous person’s daughter? Now you see if you had told me, I might have thought it was a coincidence –when I eventually hear your surname- but now? I won’t stop till I know”
With bursting heart, and floating feet I bid her farewell and continued my slow and solemn march across the field.
The 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!
Lelouch, 24/05/2013 11.53PM.
As you might have noticed, the date above goes back five months. I wrote most of this by then, but I made some edits and tweaks for hopefully a better reading experience.
Our Nigeria lies weak, broken and battered. She will need help to recover from her great maladies. Yours, and mine. Over and over again, we will have to give selflessly, fight fearlessly, strive relentlessly, to make her well.
And when she calls, when she bleeds – and she is bleeding – ,wherever you go, I plead, heed the Clarion Call.
In truth, I should have published this over a month ago, but I had challenges. Primarily, some irritating bug with naijastories.com that wouldn’t let me post however much I tried, and then I got seriously sidetracked by other things. I am sorry. I sincerely apologize. It might be a splendid idea to re-read the previous episode.
I will add, that as of today, it is now almost two years since the events I have written of, transpired. One more time, I reach into my memories to continue my tale.