I remember when I first saw my name on the white paper pasted on the dirty wall at the back of the lecture room that was right across the kitchen. I managed to squeeze through the sticky bodies that were covered in sweat from the rush to see whose names were there and whose weren’t. I gasped in relief at sighting my name, spread across the then almost thinned-out paper that bore details of my next step in life; but right beside it was “OYO” typed in bold letters. My heart skipped as I thought, “Oyo? My state of re-deployment??” My mind screeched “YEKPA!” in uppercase and in unbelief, even though my mouth couldn’t mutter it.
Rooted in shock, I dialed my mother’s number immediately as I forced my way out of that sea of sweat. But even more shockingly, I couldn’t understand why she was excited for me after hearing the news, when I clearly wasn’t. It pleased her that Oyo State was close to home, Lagos. Still, I begged her to arrange for my re-deployment again to Abuja, but she refused.
I dreaded the thought of going to serve there. I mused, “That Yoruba Land?? I would just be lost!” It took me days before I finally agreed to get on a bus to Oyo State, but as I alighted from the white and green cab that took me to the place called “Iwo Road”, I started to think differently as I looked out across the road in awe.
This clearly was not what I expected.
All the way from there to the NYSC Secretariat, I had imagined the roads to be a lot worse than what I saw, but they weren’t, even while they were obviously under construction for expansion, as the cab-man intoned too. Also, the people I met were far friendlier than I could ever have thought they would be. They praised me, gleefully yelling “kopa kopa fine kopa!!ò! [fine corper], almost at every turn. Right there in the cab, an elderly man even offered to pay my fare.
I was short for words.
What then further seized my attention as I sought my way to where I would lay my head for the rest of the service year, was that Ologuneru road. I had loved the smooth drive on the roads that led to this one, but unlike these other roads, my white was bathed with dust from Ologuneru road. I remembered laughing at the bike men I saw parked at Eleyele roundabout, who were donned in red dust from head to toe, not knowing my portion was waiting patiently to welcome me with its broad, open arms.
But, I didn’t get mad, rather, I got surprised, and really impressed that the road in this very far place away from the city center was being taken care of, with laborers seen working tirelessly to build that kind of inner road that no one would bother really touching in some other cities I have lived in. I was impressed by the desire I saw, ethics of cityhood, written on the faces of these laborers and the government that aids them.
Now, as I dress up and bake my face daily in preparation for my registration and service, nobody need warn me to take a scarf to cover myself; else, the dust would give me another makeover that can almost change my hair color.
All these and a lot more have changed my mindset completely about Oyo State, for I saw firsthand, the commitment the government and the people show to make the state stand out and have a lasting impression on a visitor or non-indigent Corps member like myself.
It’s been over 4 weeks and a half, and I still look forward to going out more, not because of the dust’s embrace and makeover, but so I could see more variants of this beautiful state.
Ibadan is a place I’m growing to love, I’m sure I have the government and the people to thank for it; like Sayo Aluko, the savvy young man who edited this piece for me.