Local Government Inspector: Gogo, how are you?
Me: I’m fine sir.
Local Government Inspector: Your name is all over the secretariat.” The girl who wants to teach them their job.”
Me: Sorry sir, I don’t know about that. I only stated facts.
Local Government Inspector: You will survive. These things happen.
This was sometime in July, in the beautiful State of Osun where having perfect braids goes for less than a thousand naira, transport fare to some destinations costs as low as thirty naira. I would write about the handful of insane persons loitering on a better day.
This is how the ‘right thing’ landed me in hot pepper soup. I ate undiluted peppersoup for two months. That is not why I have picked up my pen today. I write on behalf of over six NYSC corps members who are currently eating their share and would do that for the next five months which elapses in March 2016.
I and about six corps members made an application to the NYSC as directed to formally request a leave since we had to be unavoidably absent in my case, a month and two weeks. A right thinking man would expect that what follows an application is either a notification of acceptance or rejection. Instead we were all summoned to the state secretariat Omo-west, Osogbo.
Thursday morning, the staffers were having a customary morning devotion after which a lengthy meeting which was concluded at 1pm. First corps member went into the conference room and proceeded with the news that the Disciplinary Committee of the NYSC had granted her application for leave. The second corps member proceeded with the same news and nothing different for the third. Then it was my turn. I entered the large conference room with old photo frames of past state coordinators and about six staffers of the NYSC facing me. I was also granted leave and was asked to write the NYSC on my return just like the others.
This is where the trouble began. On my return, I wrote as directed, notifying the NYSC and made an application for lifting the embargo placed on my allowance as the committee had directed. Nothing was done, instead I was summoned again.
I arrived the secretariat on the scheduled day and I realized I was the only corps member summoned this time because the rest were of a different batch. when I was called in, I stood before them with the photocopied documents showing that I had never missed my clearance espescially as a result of the ongoing election in the country which compelled the organization to suspend monthly clearance for one month and I had sought the permission of the NYSC before I embarked on the journey.
Series of questioning began and I stated precisely the exact dates and contents of my application even when they vainly attempted to play on my intelligence. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when the lady in charge of the disciplinary committee said, “You made an application to travel. How many months were you away?”
“A month and two weeks madam,” I voiced politely yet firmly.
“Okay, you owe the NYSC some days of service.”
I stood there, speechless. My service year was to be extended by the same panel members who had granted me leave.
“Are you listening to me?” she asked.
“Yes madam,” I responded.
“sorry madam but I made an application, I do not understand why my service year is being extended.”I said, after she exhausted the procedures I had to undergo.
“That is the problem with lawyers, they are never humble. Have you ever seen a humble lawyer?” she rhetorically asked her committee members. Long story short, my service year was extended and when I received my extension letter I realized my penalty had been doubled because I had questioned the basis for my extension.
I headed out, landed at a popular restaurant at Okefia, Osogbo and I ordered an anger quelling meal before heading back to my primitive place of primary assignment.
One morning, an old friend who had served in Osun and was abreast of the whole situation rang me up and insisted I find the contact of the head of the disciplinary committee and apologize to her.
I flew out of my bed walking the length and breadth of my room because Tope had said,
“Merit, just apologize you know Yoruba people like respect.”
“Tope, respect! Someone will have to shoot me first before I give an undeserving apology for a simple question I raised and even after shooting me I am not going anywhere, I yelled. I will serve my extension. I’m being penalized for doing the right thing, fine!”
This is the kind of honesty that lands one in hot pepper soup in a country where there are ghost corps members who would only show up on the POP day when discharge certificates are to be given.
Everything that has a beginning surely has an end. Sixty-six days elapsed and I was handed my discharge certificate. I had added some flesh, learnt fashion designing and infact did a lot of writing.
While I am awaiting the pleasant surprises of life 'after eating my very hot peppe soup' the other corps members are presently undergoing extension for five months which would elapse in March 2016. In my opinion this is totally unfair and
all I see is victimization of those who used the ‘front door’ when there are a good number of persons who would do the reverse and get away with it. What is the import? Where is the rational in claiming efficiency and relaxing undeserving penalties on a ridiculous justification of instilling discipline on a law abiding citizen? I am sure some would go through this with a resolve not to do anything right, avoid the ‘front door’ and that is how corruption eats in mypeople.