My one-year mandatory NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) service ended on the 3rd October, 2019. It was whole experience and although I hate that I eventually relocated, I am happy with the memories that filled my soul. Now that I am back to my regular location, I’ve had to deal with a ton of unending questions (you would think I went to Mars!) especially about the insurgency and northern culture. Well, this is no surprise as most people who were previously in my life (both far and near) haven’t been to the northeast before, because of the fear of insurgency. It’s funnier that most even asserted that they wouldn’t dream of going anyways because of distance, insurgency and other reasons.
So, I made a compilation of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) I mostly had to answer based on my experience. I tried to exhaust all the questions I’ve answered before, covering every possible thematic area from food, lifestyle, culture, insurgency, and the list goes on; just to create a picture of what my experience looked like. Who knows, maybe your appetite to visit the state or the region might just get wetter as you read this post!
- What motivated you to continue staying in Yobe?
To be honest, nothing really motivated me to stay back seeing that all the great friends I made during the orientation camp (a three weeks camp where fresh corps members are oriented about the service scheme) all redeployed to other states. I simply decided to settle and check the state out.
- What was the NYSC experience like?
I really had a great time. I had the opportunity to work with great people through the Yobe State Primary Health Care Management Board (though it was just 3 months, was previously attached to TVC news). Also, I had the chance to get involved in building my writing and editorial skills amongst others. NYSC literally opened doors I ordinarily wouldn’t have access to like attending events and having to be around influential people. So, I am glad and grateful for the experience, it was an amazing one.
- How about the insurgency?
All through my stay in the northeast, I had no experience where I had to be scared or terrified because of an attack or a state of emergency. However, the state is going through rehabilitation from previous attacks. Security is still very tight in the state. For example, there is curfew time at 11 pm and soldiers are always patrolling every area of the state aside from the various checkpoints in the state. I used to get a ton of calls from home whenever an attack was announced on news (some I didn’t even know about) and people would think the region was empty but it isn’t, the region is filled with people living their normal everyday lives like I did until I finished service. Let me just say things are not as bad as they appear on the media.
- How is the northern culture like?
Hum, on a general note, I’ll say peaceful, silent and organized. Asides the dressing, food, and language, little things like the idea of keeping to time are very much respected, short events and their accommodating nature adds to the beauty of the culture. However, I wouldn’t say I love all aspects of the culture; issues like early child marriage, the “almajiri”, low interest in education amongst others are still trending. Although there are efforts to address these issues, there’s still a lot to be done as present conditions in the state needs a lot of attention and restructuring.
- Comments on the standard of living?
The standard of living in the state was VERYYYYYYYY (I’m not exaggerating) cheap. My NYSC allowance was #19,800 naira which was paid at the end of every month and I lived on this allowance comfortably, I was even able to save from my small allowance each month. No doubt, I really had to be disciplined with my expenses but then I was able to cover my bills without feeling the need to borrow or put myself in unnecessary debt. It was really easy to live in the state as a corper.
- What about the food?
I must admit that I cannot give a detailed response on northern food because I didn’t get to try many local dishes. However, the few I tried didn’t have a strong flavor, mostly sweet and less salty. Did you know that northerners eat grasshoppers?! Yes, the regular grasshoppers that jump everywhere. It’s called “Faara” and it’s usually eaten with “Yaaji” - dry pepper with spices; it tastes like fried fish actually, so if you love fried fishes chances are higher that you would enjoy “Faara”. My favorites are “Masa” - processed rice that looks like pancake balls, “black tea”, and the ever-popular “suya”. FYI, the one from the north tastes way better!
- Comments on job opportunities?
There are lots of opportunities for entrepreneurial minds and there isn’t much business competition as well, there are a handful of ex-corps members who started something and are doing quite well in the state. However, the major jobs that are available for job seekers are teaching, military, NGOs, civil service, banking, and a few others. In case you were wondering, there aren’t a lot of industries or companies in the state hence, the reason why opportunities for job seekers are quite limited. If you'll love to work in the NGO sector, you should probably consider moving up because there are lots of NGO activities going on in the northeast region.
- What about working conditions?
It depends on the sector you find yourself in. Some sectors don’t demand a high level of energy and workload. For example, teachers have a more relaxed work schedule than bankers or NGO workers. I happened to experience two working areas, the first which was more of a private single-man team was more relaxing and less demanding until I was moved to a more active and busy organization where I had to brace up and get actively involved in the never-ending circle of activities which I am grateful for because of the improvement and application of my skill set.
- What did you dislike about the place?
I basically disliked the weather and the distance. The weather was very harsh – the cold season was too cold, the hot season was too hot and the rainy season caused a lot of flooding! During the cold season, I literally had to double my sweaters, my nose was so dry that it bled and I had to apply thick petroleum jelly on my skin every time to prevent it from cracking. I couldn’t even step out at night because the cold was too much. Fast forward to the hot season, it felt like hell, especially during March and April. My skin became darker and I had to sleep with my door open (Yes, it’s normal to sleep with your doors open there). The distance was another problem for me too because I was away from friends and family and I couldn’t easily travel to visit. It is a two-day journey by road from home which costs around #10 to #15 thousand naira, so after the December holidays I never even went home for once until I finished service because of distance.
- Any regrets?
My major regret is that I didn’t explore neighboring states - Jigawa, Bauchi, Adamawa and Borno I only limited myself to Yobe state. I should have utilized the opportunity to visit these areas and not just pass through them. Which is why I would love to go back in the future if any opportunity comes up, and better still iin one of the aforementioned states.
So far, these are my honest answers I’ve had to dish out to people who asked about my experience in the North East. If you loved what you just read and you have more questions, please leave a comment below and I will be sure to answer.