*Shrill whistle sound*
“Otondo! If you are sleeping, you are wrong!!!” These were the sounds and words that greeted my ears and made me jump off my bed some minutes before 5 am that morning. I had woken up around 3:30 am to allow me enough time to get ready before heading out for the 5 am parade, so I was already fully dressed. I walked out of the dormitory and as I was about passing the man ‘o’ war shouting, he stopped me and
shouted asked “otondo! where is your helmet?!”
I hadn’t realized I was supposed to wear my NYSC cap to the parade ground, I quickly rushed back into the dorm to get it and then ran back out, the whistles were still going off and I kept hearing “double up! double up!…if you are walking you are wrong!!!” from the soldiers and man ‘o’ war.
‘This is pretty exciting’, I thought to myself as I giggled and jogged to the parade ground with my fellow “white fowls”, but I tell you, this was the first and last time I was ever going to associate the word “exciting” to morning parades…
As I jogged to the parade ground, a sound crackled from the Orientation Broadcasting Service speakers and I heard “It’s 5’o’ clock in the morning…” you know, that song by T-pain ft Wiz Khalifa and Lilly Allen…at this point it was exactly 5am (this happened everyday for the remaining 19 days btw), this increased my excitement, I was pleasantly surprised and I had a wide grin on my face as I located the spot where my platoon was standing and joined the line.
‘This is the news reaching you live from the Orientation Broadcasting Service, on the hills of Umunna Bende local government area in Abia state’…Newscasters (2014 batch C corp members) from the Orientation Broadcasting Service stood in front of the parade ground and delivered the news. I was really impressed with the news delivery, I clapped loudly when they were done and I looked forward to the news everyday from that day.
After the news from the OBS that morning, the camp director and a couple of other camp officials welcomed and addressed all the “prospective gentlemen corp member” (apparently women are not recognized in the army, so everybody is referred to as a “gentleman”).
Then we heard “pray shun” and some of the “prospective” corp members responded with “punch!!!” and stamped their left foot on the ground, seemed those that arrived the camp site early were taught how to respond to some commands. I never quite understood why we had to shout “punch“, it made me laugh everytime…but I followed suite anyways.
“Pray shun“…followed by a resounding “PUNCH!!!” accompanied with stamping feet around the parade ground.
“STAND STIIILLLL!!!” All the military instructors shouted simultaneously. Animatedly, everyone stood rooted to the ground while the trumpet like sound of a beagle played for two full minutes, this was at 6 am, Nigeria was waking up from sleep.
Did you know that Nigeria wakes up by 6 am and goes to “bed” at 6 pm? I learnt that in camp. So everyday at exactly 6, no matter what activity is going on, we all have to stand at attention while the beagle is being played and the Nigerian flag is being erected (when she wakes) or taken down (when she’s turning in for the day).
After Nigeria had “woken up” and we had been addressed by the camp officials, we were introduced to our man ‘o’ war and army instructors. We did some man ‘o’ war drills that morning and sang some silly and funny songs along with the drills, feel free to reminisce on some of the songs in the comment section if you remember any.
After the drills, the army men taught each platoon how to salute and remove “head-dress”, I enjoyed the first rehearsal only, the remaining rehearsals were not quite as interesting thanks to fatigue. The rehearsal was for our salute to the governor or his representative which was to be displayed during the swearing in ceremony where we were to become gentlemen corp members and no longer “prospective” gentlemen corp members.
We were to report to the parade ground twice a day; before dawn and in the afternoons. Parades became one of the most dreaded activity of camp for me…why? Because I always woke up very tired in the mornings, and the sun was always scorching hot in the afternoons. Some mornings were so cold that I could have sworn we were in the north pole, our white short shorts and not thick enough khaki jackets did nothing to help our miserable situation. We all stood shivering with teeth chattering in the parade ground, huddling together to try and gather as much body heat as possible. Yes, parades stopped being even remotely interesting after the first morning.
avoided escaped missed parades sometimes though, on days when I hid stayed back in the OBS studio to do some err….work.
Do you have any parade ground experiences you would like to share, please tell me in the comments section, let’s gist and have good laughs.
21 Days on the Hills; Parade Ground