JEWEL IN THE SAVANNAH (An NYSC Experience)

JEWEL IN THE SAVANNAH (An NYSC Experience)

A beep on my phone momentarily distracted me from the movie I was watching with my aunt in the living room. I picked up the phone and read the message that Lilian had just sent.

Check where you have been posted, Delle. Call-up letter just came out.

I checked and felt my world come to a stop.

Gombe State!

A state I never knew existed – Well, okay, I did know it existed, and not just because I say it when reciting the states and capitals of Nigeria. I do have an uncle who lives there. But even that fact, this very negligible fact, wasn’t enough to get me feeling positive about my NYSC posting.

Two days after.

Amada town, Gombe state.

Imagine not liking watermelon and being given a spoilt one as appetizer. It seemed like a horrid joke, as I stepped down from the vehicle that dropped me just in front of the gate that was the entrance of the camp. It was all bare land, and then, just like the odd corn seed in a tray full of beans, the camp venue.

A place far away from civilization. The network was unpleasant, as were the house flies that wouldn’t stop invading my personal space. You couldn’t put a call through to anyone if there was an urgent need for you to flee this game reserve the government craftily called an orientation camp, except you were good at being a Tarzan – you know, swinging from tree branch to tree branch, while evading the attention of the enemy, in this case the uniformed men.

And then there was the other matter about how the camp seemed to be teeming with prospective corpers who were Hausa, a situation that brought me face to face with the possible issue of communication.

Or yet another matter of the harsh sun that seemed intent on proving that it can roast the human skin the way fire roasts corn or a barbecue.

There really was nothing to be enthusiastic about this place. But I had come to terms with this new reality. I was here and I was determined to not leave at the end of 21 days worse off than I was when I arrived here. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, they say. Well, this bitch just got a truck-load delivery of lemons and I was about to get busy.

I pushed myself into the fold of the camp events, into the heart of activities. I joined the OBS team, the radio house of the camp.

“Oh, you’re the one with the voice of a woman? E too fine.”

“Don’t tell me it was you who anchored last night’s program? I thought it was a girl!”

“I like your voice o.”

“Effizy too much for the thing wey you dey speak. Nawa o. Abeg continue.”

“Lobely bois! I wantyu speak like you. Yowa!”

All these love and accolades, you might get to thinking that I was some much-loved celebrity. But it wasn’t so. You see, in every gathering, there must always be the idiots – those stupid by birth, conditioning or induction.

Amongst these were Igwe and Kelechi. While Igwe was attractive physically, Kelechi looked like a “suffer-head” version of Rick Ross. And they were both bigots.

“Igwe and Kelechi said if you were in Lagos, they would have cornered you and beaten you until you start acting more manly,” Jessica, one of the girls I had come to be friends with and who also happened to be friends with these boys, said to me over lunch at Mami market a week after we got into camp.

I was more amused than threatened. I had come to notice those two boys before she passed on this piece of unnecessary information. The first time I set my eyes on Igwe, he had this intent look in his eyes. I recognised the curiosity and lust in that look. I know when a guy is interested. I’m a sexually active gay man. I know when a guy is interested!

Oh, but I paid him no attention, at the time most likely because the sun beating down on us would not accommodate any flirtation, and we were in the middle of yet another tiresome parade.

Igwe’s look followed me everywhere I ran into him, and yet, he was the one with the intention of cornering someplace me in Lagos and beating manliness into my homosexual body? Yeah right! Because that is really what he wants to do to me in a corner.

However, that day Jessica passed along that bit of gossip was the day I came out to all four of my female friends that were at the table. There were shocked gasps. But there was no antagonism, no prejudice, no vitriolic condemnation, no protestations. There was also a lot of curiosity that came in the form of questions I tried my best to answer.

And this was what I learned from that day at Mami market: People will be willing to accept you when they perceive from you that you have already accepted yourself.

And so it happened that my friends on camp, the ones that mattered, knew about me, and since I had nothing left to hide, I soared.

Up next? Team pepper-dem-gang!

Igwe and Kelechi, it seemed, were the only guys in the whole of Mallam Sidi camp that seemed to have a problem with my existence. Guys with more active testosterone wanted to identify with me. I was practically friends with almost everyone in camp – which, to me, isn’t much of a surprise. You see, rejection is not something I’m used to. Growing up, I was always able to put myself out there and attract the warmth of the people around me. I have always been good with people.

And I was putting myself out there in camp. I was very much actively involved in most camp activities. I was the director of my platoon’s Dance and Drama troupe. I was nominated to represent my platoon in the Dance Carnival, during which we came second. I won the karaoke/dance night in the second week; it felt good twerking and grinding on the floor to the oohs and aahs of over a thousand people. And I won. It had a nice ring to it in my head: that the Best Karaoke singer and Dancer, 2018 Batch A, Gombe State was a homosexual guy.

And as I conquered, my fan base increased. And so did the controversies.

Now there were girls brazenly asking me out! I have only ever been asked out by girls on the social media, those who don’t know I love dicks probably more than they do. However, here I was, steady getting startled by the romantic interests of all these ladies – because, well, whatever happened to stereotypes? I mean, woman, I don’t bounce when I walk.

And it wasn’t just the girls. Apparently, Hausa guys favour men who are slender and soft spoken, and because I fit that type, I attracted attention from some of them as well. It was weird how these guys saw me as feminine enough to want to get with me and the girls saw me as, well, masculine enough to want to get with me.

I was enjoying myself, and at no time was I bothered by the intense stares of the two boys whose sole agenda in life is to beat up Delle in a corner of a street in Lagos.

You see, I’m done trying to convince people to look past my physical disposition and learn to appreciate the person within. You want to hate? I will help you hate. I refuse to regret who I am, but I will help you along with you regretting who you are around me.

All in all, Camp was as stressful as the word. But it was as eventful for me as I determined it to be. I didn’t only make an effort to enjoy my stay; I tried to leave behind a legacy. Something new, something different. Something that may at first cause some discomfort, but when allowed to settle, might just draw forth some warmth.

With every passing day that drew to a close my stay here, I was proud of myself. I didn’t have sex with anyone nor did I feel the need to. I knew there were all these expectations among gay corpers of hooking up in camp. I wasn’t interested. I simply had fun, but most importantly, I touched lives with my rainbow-glittered hands.

On the last day, amidst tears (some people were crying. Sigh) and relief (on my part especially), Igwe approached me and asked for my number. I wasn’t even surprised by that. As I keyed my digits into his phone, I gave a slight shake of my head and smiled a little. I realized what had finally happened.

However he had chosen to be with his truth, he had ceased to see me as the person who threatened his existence and his handling of that truth. Perhaps he had come to appreciate the fact in unapologetically living my truth, I might be instrumental in helping me make peace with his.

Or maybe, this was the first step in his master plan of cornering me in a street in Lagos and beating the shit out of me.

Either way, I am not holding my breath over him.

I’m just here to tell you that Gombe wasn’t bad after all.

Nope. It wasn’t.

Written by Delle

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Previous “Dear Son, I love you more than life itself.” Linda Ikeji is pregnant and cannot wait to be a mother
Next “Linda Ikeji is Celibately Pregnant.” Nigerian Twitter reacts to the news of the blogger’s pregnancy

About author

You might also like

Our Stories 20 Comments

INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA

At some point here on Kito Diaries, KDians began throwing about comments that implied that they believed the term ‘internalized homophobia’ was manufactured right here as a weapon to strike

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Our Stories 11 Comments

No Strings With Mike Daemon: Kito Special

On Friday the 7th of August 2015, certain members of the Nigerian LGBTIQ community moved from their different homes to attend a birthday party hosted by a friend in a

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Our Stories 6 Comments

When Straight Men Won’t Love Us Back

In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in that he can’t stop falling for straight men

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

17 Comments

  1. Mitch
    May 21, 05:51 Reply

    I don’t blame you.

    After all the screams of ‘God punish NYSC’ in my ears, you now come to say it wasn’t a bad experience.
    It must be a bad experience oh! In short, you were gang raped in that camp.
    What nonsense! After disturbing my ears with how it will not be better for NYSC, now you’re coming to tell me you had fun.
    After you have even redeployed!

    A is for Ewu Dothraki!
    😡😡😡😡😡

    • Pink Panther
      May 21, 06:42 Reply

      🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 Good Lord! Mitch, have mercy na.

      • Rapum
        May 21, 07:17 Reply

        NYSC camp is like that big dick you say your can’t take, lai-Lai, but a few minutes later you’re bouncing and grinding on the thing and moaning the names of your ancestors, known and unknown. That was my experience as well: Hated it the first day and then couldn’t get enough of it.

        • Pink Panther
          May 21, 07:48 Reply

          LOL! You’re actually right. Camp can easily be the best part of a service year.

    • Delle
      May 21, 07:48 Reply

      Lol Mitch, you know I’m not doing this here with you. I am so not. 😂😂😂

      Rapum apt analogy just that in my case, that 21 days was just fine. I got just as much as was enough for me. I didn’t want more biko. The weather was something else 🙇

  2. Bain
    May 21, 06:02 Reply

    As much as I hate to say this… Delle, this just made me love you more. And I’ve seen you in your element always Graceful.

    *spits and goes off to wash mouth*

    • Delle
      May 21, 07:52 Reply

      Hahahahaha. I love you too, idiot!

      I would have shed a tear if it wasn’t you. 😘😘😘

    • Delle
      May 21, 07:56 Reply

      Lol you did. Now don’t you dare gloat!😂

  3. Doe Eyed Monster
    May 21, 07:46 Reply

    lol… I swear it feels like I was the one who wrote this… I could relate with every single thing… Camp was in Abia though and everyone used the fact that I looked like a celeb to want to get close. Camp was fun fun fun.

    I love this line :”You see, in every gathering, there must always be the idiots – those stupid by birth, conditioning or induction.”

    • Delle
      May 21, 07:58 Reply

      At least, I didn’t lie. Hehe😊

  4. AduResa
    May 21, 09:36 Reply

    “You see, I’m done trying to convince people to look past my physical disposition and learn to appreciate the person within. You want to hate? I will help you hate. I refuse to regret who I am, but I will help you along with you regretting who you are around me.” (this is gold)
    Delle, I want to be like you, I couldn’t help the tears. To think some of us haven’t been doing well in the self acceptance journey after the numerous articles that has been read here. Sighs. Thanks Delle, thanks..

    • Delle
      May 21, 15:11 Reply

      You’re welcome, Adu. Anytime

  5. Ria
    May 21, 11:13 Reply

    For a brief moment there, I wished I could go back to my service year and let the universe do its thing and post me where it willed. But then I remembered, I do not have Delle’s strength or grace, and whichever god was listening jejely put me in Lagos camp. Biko, I cannot come and roast. More power to you though. And welcome back. Hopefully, Igwe’s dealing with his IH, and giving up on his shithead ways.

    • Jide
      May 21, 11:51 Reply

      Lool. I’m with you on this, Ria.

Leave a Reply