My NYSC journey started 3rd July, 2011. It originally was not my intention to start a memoir of my bid to serve a country that has no atom of interest in my welfare, but on the bus it struck me that I could, for two reasons. First was that since I left the four walls of the university last November, I had not as much as put pen to paper – unless you were to describe the occasional filling of forms (SIM registration for instance) as such. Second was that I felt I now had the opportunity to fulfil my promise to my dear friend and compadre, Chiedozie Okafor, Editor-in-Chief, I promised him I will soon rejuvenate my writing career. I only hope I have not been too long off the radar to make this any less of a fulfilment of that promise.

I hurried off to Upper Iweka park in Onitsha after service to make travel arrangements for Wukari, Taraba state. I was not too surprised at being heckled by motor park touts who shouted various destinations. I eventually settled for the offer of a ‘window seat' by a middle aged man. After supposedly pressing the right buttons, he handed me a ticket with seat number 1. Before accepting the ticket, I quickly did the permutations on my mind and arrived to the conclusion that ticket number 1 had to be a window seat, irrespective of which side of the bus the numbering was started. So, fair enough, the tout deserved a reward which meant I set myself back by N100. Sure enough too, ticket number 1 turned out to be a ‘window seat, in form only'. Before I go on to explain the last sentence, I'd like to call your attention to the popular cliché bandied about by one of my lecturers who jumped at every opportunity to tell us that Naija's government policies were all ‘good and well-intended in theory, but not in practice'. Alas, ticket number 1 was a ‘window seat in form, but not in substance' since I do not see much use of a window being called a window if you cannot open it. I was hugely disturbed by the frightening thought of sitting beside a glued-shut window for a 10-hour journey on a hot afternoon. It spoiled my mood and in a bid at aggression transfer, I made up my mind to spoil the conductor's mood by vehemently refusing to move my luggage from the gangway to allow passengers traveling on ‘attachment' extra standing space. The quarrel grew almost to the point of both parties putting their fists to good use on each other's face, yet my usually mouse-spirited bravado did not budge. It is a miracle that the conductor happened to possess a fair dose of self-control as yours truly would be in the hospital had the reverse been the case.

Later though, as I pondered on the journey, it occurred to me that the whole NYSC scheme bore much semblance to the ‘window seat without a functional window theory' (yes, I coined that). The NYSC was supposed to offer a platform for much needed national integration much like the promise of free fresh air a window seat gives, plus other little pleasures like getting to poke out your head for a better view of the scenery and getting a better bargain from haggling with the countless roadside hawkers that besiege travellers on the highway. The sad story of the NYSC actually starts from the posting stage as the posting is only truly random (after correcting for state of origin) to those without enough money to ‘runs' it, as many of my friends did. How else do you explain the point-blank accuracy for foretelling the state they will be posted which were predictably places like Lagos, Abuja, Rivers and their ilk that have a proven track record of leniency to Corp Members.. That though is not the real problem. The real problem is that the motive for serving the forced one-year sentence is far from the intended national integration. If there was ever a computer that could read human motive and it is put to use on the current crop of Corp members, be assured that it will generate the same sad result of something like: go over there, do my time whilst staying out of trouble, then come back and continue the rat race that is survival in Naija. Assuming some murdering fanatics don't do you first, I'll quickly add (Corp Members in the North take note).alt

I later found out that it was the driver of the bus who deliberately glued the window as he saw it as an easier solution to fixing the window latch. In NYSC's case, I honestly do not think the current driver did the gluing, but the lingering question is if he has the patriotism to face the arduous task of ungluing and then fixing the polity? I watched an Indian movie* recently that demonstrated how the perfect solution is more often than not both time consuming and enormously expensive. In the movie, an inquisitive student put-off his lecturer by asking why scientists spent obscene amounts of dollars in developing an astronaut pen when they could have simply produced a pencil at no extra cost at all. On the surface, the simply-produce-a-pencil solution looks both practical and tempting. But then the professor rallied (much later) to explain to the student that a single piece of broken pencil lead floating at zero gravity can single-handedly destroy the whole space expedition. But of course, this is Naija where the Occam's razor rule is taken quite literally. We spend so much time and resources assiduously treating the symptom whilst the disease is cancerously getting rooted and grounded. That's why I'm not the least surprised at the incessant calls for the scraping of the NYSC scheme or at least to have each person posted to his/her geographical area. Yes, it will save lives, but only in the short term as the festering wound of disunity in the country will provide new reasons for the heads to start rolling once again, faster than we can say N-Y-S-C.

Chidozie Nnachor

*3 Idiots