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HIS NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE CORPS WONDER

This is just one of the several amazing things connected with this man who has unarguably been described as the most wonderful and mysterious man on earth. There is no record of any other person who has done what he has done. Below are the details of how it all started:  

Some events in life project themselves so irrepressibly in memories of this undulating ocean of human existence that it becomes difficult to find anything to compare or compete with them in wonder, rarity and near ecstatic dimension. And because they are the Lord’s doing, the mind is suffused with thoughts about this God of ours: How great, how wonderful and loving He really is. A spontaneous out-burst of praises and thanksgiving to Him following this thought reminds one that this mysterious man’s NYSC experience should be shared with others.

 This very man  had gone to see a friend in his office at the Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria.

 Sitting dejectedly in front of his friend was this young graduate of the Institution. There was this problem of a burning desire to join others who were on their way to commence their National Youth Service Corps programme which remained unsolved and some words of consolation were being meted out to her by the Students Affairs Officer.

As his own contribution to the plethora of consolations from all those present in this office, he found himself recounting his experience during his National Youth Service at Port Harcourt, Rivers State of Nigeria. Their response ignited in me an urge to share this experience with more people.

He spent nine long years at the University before qualifying as a doctor. He had started with a course different from the one that made him a doctor, and had to switch over after his first graduation.

As the nine years of studying was coming to an end, the thought of another one year of suffering under the NYSC programme filled him with fear and gloom, as he was very anxious to see the other side of life as an employee earning money somewhere.

At one’s final year in the University, dreams were then filled with the pleasures and comforts of life; with more money in one’s pocket after graduation, as against the drab and deprivations of a student who could not be said to have come from a wealthy family or anything near it, from what I know of him.

A thought like this came to him in the heat of his confusion and depression: “Write for exemption! What reason was I to advance? Nothing! Simply tell them the truth: Tell
them you have been studying at the University of Nigeria Nsukka for nine years and you were anxious to come out and rest. You would not want to spend another year in continued suffering in some remote town in Nigeria. Just try it out;’’ he convinced himself.

 So, out went this tone of letter which he addressed to the  President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, requesting for exemption from the service.

His friends to whom I intimated his plan, laughed him to scorn. At that time , there was nothing like exemption from this service except on very serious grounds like ill-health or disability. Even the son of the President could not hope for any exemption.

Although he had done something which was considered foolish or childish, he had hoped that prayer could do the magic, since as the saying goes, “with God all things are possible”.     

He resorted to, and embraced the three most powerful prayers on earth which many Catholics are aware of and believe strongly in:

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1….The holy mass

2   The Holy Rosary

3.     The Stations of the Cross of Jesus

Meanwhile, he continued to wait for response to his letter of exemption, but none came. As his graduation approached and no response came, he became very worried, and wondered if his sins had prevented God from answering his prayer in spite of its high quality and dosage.

Soon, the call up letters arrived, and he was posted to Rivers State. He had failed; God had rejected his prayers, he concluded, and ‘the President must have laughed at, or might have been infuriated by his request for exemption, he mused.

The Youth Corpers spent six weeks at the orientation camp at Port Harcourt. At the end of camping, a list was expected on the notice board, posting them to their various places of primary assignment.

The next day was to be the last day in the camp for everyone. The previous day, before the list was out on the notice board, they were all busy packing their items of belonging. Many did so with fear and apprehension, as stories were told of life in the creeks and riverine areas, many of which were only accessible by canoes. Those of them who had never travelled by boat before, nor knew how to swim were frightened to the marrow by such stories.

The next morning saw the entire orientation camp filled with vehicles that had come to collect youth corpers posted to various places of Primary Assignment. The posting list was now out. There was a rush. Everyone wanted to know his or her fate.

While many rejoiced and hugged each other, others who did not like what they saw on the board, simply gum-shoed out of the place with steps that told the whole story. Others simply sat on the grass with heads buried between the shoulders, as they thought their unpleasant fate through.

When the throng at the notice board had abated enough, our man of mystery simply walked up to search for his own posting, in his usual way of taking things easy, instead of rushing.

He searched and searched until his  knees started trembling. He was worried that people might begin to wonder whether he had sight problem as he had stayed longer than every other person who had come to do the same thing. “Had my fear of being posted to the creeks where I would be travelling by canoe be clouded my senses?” he wondered. ”Why can I not find my name as easily as others did? What is happening to me? Boy, be a man, and brave up”. These were thoughts that ran through him as he stood there in front of that notice board, puffing out air from his lungs like a blacksmith’s bellows. His heart was now beating faster and sweat came over him.

Having spent almost an hour in an exercise that took others less than ten minutes, it became clear that his name had been omitted. He was confused. He sank into despair, sandwiched between fear and melancholy.

With a face still scowled with wonder, a thought crept in. He lighted up. His lips parted. His eyes popped out with glee as he still remained buried in this new thought. ”Exemption at last? Wow! Have I been granted the exemption I applied for and fervently prayed for?’’ But why did they not exempt me from the six weeks orientation as well during  which there was too much suffering? I must see the Camp Director at once”; he concluded .

He scuttled to his office with a heart throbbing with hope and some excitement.

Good day Sir,” he greeted as he showed up. “Yes, any problem?”.” Queried the Director.. “Well, I don’t know whether to call it a problem or something, I could not find my name on that list at the notice board, Sir”.

“Are you sure you have searched properly?” He queried again.

His heart sank. “So, it is not a case of exemption. Why did he not talk about someone he was asked to exempt or something like that. I must be a fool to rake up this exemption thought again.” he mused along. He brought out a similar list from his table and asked him to join him and search again.

 They searched through thoroughly until he was convinced that his name was actually omitted. He apologized to him for the omission and asked for his discipline. “Veterinary Medicine.” he replied. Then he issued him with a letter posting him to the Ministry of Agriculture, Port Harcourt.

The next morning, he arrived the office of the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources and presented his letter which was addressed to him.

“Another corper again?” exclaimed the Commissioner. He called in one of his staff and asked him whether he still had accommodation left for this new corper they had sent in again. He replied .that there was no other space left in the common hall where they had accommodated other corpers. Here the corpers bought mats which they spread on the floor and which served as their sleeping beds at nights. There was some moment of silence as the Commissioner remained buried in thought. “Well, you have to check him into a hotel. We have no other choice, “he ordered.

Moments later, he was handed over a letter authorizing him to check into any hotel of his choice in Port Harcourt at government expense.

In the entire history of National Youth Service in Nigeria, it has never been heard of that any Youth Corper was ever given a letter similar to his which authorized him or her to go to any hotel of choice to spend the whole one year of the service at government’s expense. When God gives an order from above in favour of any person, all mortals, (no matter how highly placed) simply capitulate and obey without knowing the spiritual force behind what they are doing.

In his response to the phrase in the letter stating-‘’any hotel of your choice’’,

he jokingly asked whether he could go to Hotel Presidential (the biggest and most expensive hotel in the city). To his surprise, the response was that he could go there if he wished. His eyes popped out with surprise and disbelief at this unexpected response.

He actually did go to Hotel Presidential, but quickly left there for another hotel for he was not comfortable with the crowd of dignitaries milling around the place. He preferred to stay in a very comfortable but quiet place. He soon found one, and was checked in as soon as he presented the letter he was given.

He entered the room and dropped his luggage on the floor and stood still for a while as the cold breeze of the air conditioner caressed his body, still warm with the heat of the sun from the taxi that dropped him at the hotel.

With both arms folded across his chest, he looked round the exquisitely neat and beautiful room. The bed, was large enough to accommodate three people, and looked like it was prepared for the president of a country .

On one corner of the room was a refrigerator. Directly opposite the bed was a television set. There was also a writing desk with a beautiful cushioned chair for relaxation near the table.

He  knelt down, raised both hands up and tears of joy collected in his eyes, as he wondered why this ‘Paradise’ should be given to him- a common Youth Corper.

And so for the next one year of his N.Y.S.C. programme, he found himself living in an air- conditioned chalet in a good hotel in Port Harcourt, eating whatever meal he ordered for, with servants to serve at his beck and call. It was like a dream.

As if this was not enough, at the end of each month, the cost of all the meals he missed due to his absence on week-ends were all added and the cash (which always ran into thousands of naira) handed back to him to replace the money he was expected to have spent eating outside during those private trips.

 At the Veterinary Clinic where he worked, a car was assigned to him. The driver came to his hotel to pick him up every morning for work. Both at the office and in his hotel room, he felt like a king. At the end of each month he collected his normal N.Y.S.C. allowance as well as thousands of naira from his hotel and he had so much money to spend that his N.Y.S.C. turned into Paradise for him. He had so much money that he travelled by air whenever he had to visit Lagos or Kaduna to see friends.

As the service year was ending, he wished that it was prolonged as he never imaged that his NYSC could be filled with such comfort and pleasure. . While others desired a speedy end of the service year, he wished for its prolongation.

 God is great!

He prayed for exemption from service, but God knew what he was afraid of` and what he wanted. And so He answered his prayers by giving him by far greater wealth, pleasure, comfort and happiness than that childish exemption request could ever have given him if it had been granted by the President.   

This wonderful God of ours is a God who saves, who loves, who answers prayers. May all praise, All Thanksgiving, All Adoration, All Glory be to Him now and forever. And to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our mother, who always takes our requests to our big brother and Lord Jesus Christ for action, we say a big THANK YOU MUM.

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