TARABA MEMORIES: LESSONS THAT SHAPED ME FROM A YEAR IN THE VILLAGE

Today makes it exactly three years that I finished a stage of my life, that stage in which I learnt a lot of lessons that prepared me for the phase in which I presently am. I was so cocksure my posting would land me in the oil rich Rivers state. I had my industrial training at the Federal Livestock Department and my boss had assured me that she would gladly welcome me for my one year national service. My Dad was very open to that Rivers state idea and set machinery in motion.

I had forgotten that some states existed in the entity that my beloved Nigeria is. I did not even think I will find myself in any other place apart from the south. Lo and behold, my posting came in August of 2008 and I heard Taraba. “Tara-what”, I screamed to my friend who broke the ‘sad’ news to me on phone. “You possibly did not see it well jare. It would be Rivers or Plateau”, I boasted banking on my ‘sure runs’. Truth be told however, I spared the news some thought. “What if it is actually Taraba?”

My eventful Taraba life started with a mixed three weeks in the school which served as our camp. I had by then come to settle for just one thing – “make it as much fun as you can”. I started by meeting different people; some great company, some others sucked real bad. The first of the lessons in camp was to add to what I already knew about level-headedness and being good natured as much as possible. It got me many friends, even against my wish as I had wanted to be with me, alone with myself.

I had wanted a place directly related to my animal science field or a tertiary institution but I was handed my posting letter to Sikas Model Academy, Takum, a five hour bumpy ride from Jalingo. Little did I know that my own Takum was in the interior. A village called Kwambai which back in those days had one high school, one primary school, two nursery and primary schools, one church, no electricity, one borehole, and no telephone mast. We however received from town, the remnants of the trio of Globacom, MTN and the then Celtel which when combined was not equal to one.

I was posted to teach in one of the two nursery and primary schools in Kwambai. I remember on sighting the school, I sighed and told myself very audibly “tani mo se?” easily translated as “who have I offended?” What I saw were round mud huts which I later knew were called “Channel O”. “Me go fit live for this place so?”, I asked myself repeatedly. It was a village setting through and through, one I had never really experienced. I had the chance to relocate but I decided against the option, choosing to stay.

Deciding to stay was however a very hard one. What would I be doing in this village when I had my FLD job waiting in the Garden City? While reflecting whether to stay or relocate, I remembered meeting someone just after I collected my call-up letter. I was complaining bitterly to a friend in a commercial bus when this woman joined our conversation. She was calming me down with all sorts of soothing words, asking if it was Jalingo or Takum. Lo and behold, I was posted to Takum. Remembering the short episode with her, I did not see it as coincidental. I just told God to let me fulfill the reason He sent me there.

That formed the first lesson I learnt. We might choose to run from some things but once the Almighty chooses us for something, it is better to look out for the signs and flow with his plans for our lives. Who says there is not a special reason for him sending you there. I remember telling myself that if I would gladly leave civilization for one year if I was told to do so to avoid death.

I learnt to be thankful to God for making me come from a part where schooling was considered a right, not a privilege. It was time to be humble. Much as they asked me supposed ‘foolish questions’, I maintained my calm and told myself I was just lucky to know what they did not. With time, we forged a relationship. I was making some people happy, it gave me great joy. I brought myself down low, tried to be humble and level-headed as much as possible.

Pupils came to school with tattered uniforms, no pencils or one 2A exercise book for all subjects sometimes. I talked one-on-one with some parents and they yielded. I was starting to find joy in teaching the innocent little ones. Right in Kwambai, I met students who would have rivaled our own brilliant students but for their environment.  Took them under my wings and they improved very well. I saw myself as just lucky, not better than them. A few more lessons in humility and thankfulness.

A lot of funny things happened in my life while there. It was in Kwambai that I learnt the value of having company around me. I was so bored I picked up a novel of close to 500 pages and finished it in less than 48 hours. I read a lot of stories, wrote a lot of poetry but it did not help my loneliness. I then turned to the Bible and discovered quite some hidden stuff. I understood hidden treasures and the value of being able to enjoy my ‘alone time’, one I so much long for but is not readily available again.

I met a set of Corpers whose ways of living were not quite like mine. Many had one bush allowance or the other, as the students in the secondary school and village beauties were called, a decision I had decided against because of my commitment to my then partner. I faced serious temptations, the beauties and ‘African Queens’ of Kwambai making their ways to my lodge at very unholy hours. I stood firm because I had learnt the value of loyalty.

Whatever we do while we are in a place has this way of speaking for us. I had a few reasons not to dedicate myself to the school where I taught. I however chose to do my bit. Three, four years down the road, they still call me from a better developed Kwambai. My students, the ones I gave free lessons after school, my colleagues, the teachers I met in that school, folks in town (as I later moved to town to be closer to civilization) all still call me to enquire about how well I am faring, chipping in words of prayer.

I learnt what dedication can achieve for you. I earned the respect of people in the village and in town because of the commitment I showed to things I did. I remember how I taught my pupils the multiplication table. Very explanatory that I felt good after the dullest student scored all marks in their class work. It was hard at first but I soaked myself in and came out happy and fulfilled. I was the tisha oko, village teacher.

I learnt how to make profit in Kwambai. I told to God to let me eat the good of that land, Takum and Kwambai. I learnt to buy and sell honey while there in Takum and Kwambai. A few years down the road, I still do that. I had folks who did not want to get stressed but I readied myself, got dirty carrying the load and sold to make profit. I still sell honey to augment my income. Honey, sweetness it has added to me, swellness it has added to my purse.

Whatever I am today, that I talk less, listen more; that I behave odd some times, that I crave to be alone occasionally, that I just act in a way some folks see as weird, can all be traced down to my one year away from full civilization. Taraba has added to me; Kwambai I can never forget. For a year in the village has simmered me down, has taken away the major exuberance and delinquencies in me and opened my eye to see the world, and life, in the right light.

This writer is @oscarpoems on twitter

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About oscarpoems

Finds great pleasure in reading and writing my thoughts. Chartered Animal Scientist, writes poems and articles for leisure and fulfillment. Lover of God, country and humanity.
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27 Responses to TARABA MEMORIES: LESSONS THAT SHAPED ME FROM A YEAR IN THE VILLAGE

  1. Akin says:

    Nice one bro…. Good job!!! Memory things and nothing seems intresting like thinking of those events and making merry of it… U’ve got massive stories to tell ur kids bro. Good idea!

  2. Paul says:

    Hmmm……. Am actually short of words but am so proud of u. U actually sow a seed $ it is compulsory 4 U 2 harvest. U r going places bro! CHEERS.

  3. Oluwakemi says:

    Wat a nice piece u’ve got here bro! going down the memory lane of my service year at Ikom ( cross river state) It was at first “why me” but the end story was “Kemi, u are fulfilled” with series of awards, I took my final bow wit tears of “I’ll miss this community” it was a year never to be forgotten. Many tnxs to God n NYSC. New potentials added to my credit. Bros, I feel u.

    • oscarpoems says:

      Its always” why me” when you are posted to a place you never imagined. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. Something was added to you nah. Thanks for reading sis.

  4. abimbolaola says:

    Guy, u try well well, taraba/takum/kwambai memoirs can’t be exhausted just like this, the reminiscences keeps coming after you’ve concluded and posted only to recollect one or more events and on and on like that, but will try to remind you of some of the unforgetable happenings. The nccf experience, ‘daddy rechez’ and that first house we lived adventure, coal tar four pronounced by the Jukuns as ‘quarter four’ memories, mbonkeme exploits, barrack adventures (clearance, parade, nccf meetings, personal visitations etc), nice peeps in the neighbourhood that won’t mind dashing out the accrued interest on her mums provisions which she sells, give you calls when you least expect ‘kesunga’ even till now- so generous, humble and always cheerful, we prefer her to her sister who is proud and somewhat arrogant, mama raliyah n baba ntailor nko? What of the market square, various traders with their unique identity. Taraba escapades- too much to forget, full of lessons. I suggest we put our heads together and write a book on all these exciting experiences, with that not so much will be left unmentioned!
    Good work pal, i throway salute.

    • oscarpoems says:

      We were in it together every step of the way. The family bond we built then still subsists, and is as strong as ever. The memories you brushed through left me very lonely when y’all left. ‘Obama’ became my closest confidant, hearing her give me BBC and VOA, that became the surest way to know if I was in the house or had gone to Executive Inn or other places. With the new batch A came new guys who helped me enjoy my last 3-4 months.I remember everything as though it was yesterday. What about the strolls we took to the only bank in town then? You could go to the ATM anytime and be sure no one’s gonna harrass you. Great memories bro, very beautiful ones. Thanks for being a blessing while it lasted, and till now

  5. agunbiade olusegun Caleb.... says:

    Oscar j…..you too much thank God for grace I tap into that

  6. nykelodeon says:

    The experiences most garner during service year are mostl seen in a bad wy, as if there is notin go 2it. Yur case is just like sumtin good coming out of babylon…wish I culd say same about mine in terms of teaching…love xperience u had sir.

    • oscarpoems says:

      I decided to bring something good out of it my bro. I would have been very unfair to myself, and maybe the community because I would never be 100 percent myself (I never was though). What drove me was the desire to leave something little behind, a sort of memory that will be good. Today, my then primary 5 are now in JSS 3, preparing for SS1. The bad side is that loneliness nearly destroyed my life. I can’t say how much loneliness almost turned me into an introvert, I almost became a recluse. Thank God for everything sha o, we’re more than conquerors.

  7. AyoBola Raji says:

    This is a very inspiring post. Wateva we do, we should give it our all. We shouldn’t give half measures. It always returns to hunt us. I can say boldly too that students I taught during my Nysc days too, stil call me and are doing very well in higher institutions now. In all things, thank God.

    • oscarpoems says:

      Making sacrifices for these folks is a great deal of good. The reaward has a way of locating one years after. Yours will find you. Thanks for reading sis

  8. oyeyemi says:

    Wow..dis is a great piece.it was jes God’s will..I await my own testimony and free myself from fears or doubt..thumbs up bro!!!

  9. Adeola ojeniyi says:

    Dat was great.i served in taraba state.jen in karim lamido local govt.

  10. Esther says:

    Uncle Seye,I must say that this Ȋ̝̊̅ڪ really inspiring.really,God had a reason  taking U̶̲̥̅̊ there,and believe M̶̲̅ε̲̣̣̣̥,; U̶̲̥̅̊ aint seen nothing yet,because as momma would say,there’s always a reward  being Gõõd;and every Gõõd deed has a prize. U̶̲̥̅̊ didn’t go there as a corper,but as an angel sent tº°˚˚˚°º open up and enlighten dull brains.and seeing U̶̲̥̅̊ gave it ur best, U̶̲̥̅̊’re gonna be rewarded.Gõõd write-up here,so proud of U̶̲̥̅̊,egbon mii.

  11. oscarpoems says:

    I’m proud of you too Elsie. God bless u

  12. oyetunde ogundiwin says:

    Good heritage, that’s lovely, emotional and factual.
    U have a calling and don’t depart from it.

  13. omilana peter says:

    Hmmm. Wot a piece. Seye, I’l encourage u to write a book titled THE DIARY OF A CORPER. Emphasizing on the positives of d scheme and benefits prospects stand to gain serving outside their geo-political zones. Especially in d areas of exposure, personal development and learning of oda pple’s culture, environment etc.
    it was d best time I had alone and I long 4 it… Kp it up man

  14. Hmmm……. wished i could write mine too but i guess it wouldn’t move most because it was all fun and risk embedded. Good piece and its very comprehensive. Are we still on the signs? Keep it Coming Bro

  15. Chinenye says:

    Dat’s a nice piece. But u didn’t mention d lodge dat gave u joy weneva u visited d town. All d same, it’s a gud advice & encouragement for doz dat are yet to serve.
    Do u knw dat u can make us proud by becoming a writer ?

  16. oluwagbemiga caleb says:

    Good one bro, grabbed one or two things dat will help me when I serve my country

  17. ollyman says:

    Youth obey the clarion call

  18. sulaiman maqsud says:

    touching story that happens to me also. U got a bros here cos i also served @ GDSSS kwambai(june 2013-june 2014) n perticepated in helping the student of sikas model private school kwambai which also have d senior secondary section now. Just praying 2 visit d gud kuteb people of kwambai one day. 08065130802

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