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© J.O Adesiyan 2017.
First published, 2017.
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This book is dedicated to my mother, Mrs. Bolatito Adesiyan and to the younger generation of our dear country, Nigeria.
The Camp of the Wise chronicles the experience of a young man during the orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps. Though it does not mention specifically the date of the camp, it is a contemporary story which most graduates of Nigerian universities can relate to. The book is a doubly quasi-autobiographical narrative because two sets of stories run in it: one done by the young boy and the second is the story told by his friend’s uncle. Obviously the kernel of the text, “Uncle’s” story covers the twenty-one days of orientation and details every activity of the Camp. The para-military training, exposure to entrepreneurial opportunities, debates, competitions and other forms of entertainment are some of the foci of the book.
However, a more important aspect of the text is the dense moral and academic lessons woven with the story of “Uncle”. In a society riddled with different forms of vices, socio-economic and political challenges, the two-man audience of “Uncle” is given a manual for survival through the various experiences he narrated. Acting as a life-coach, “Uncle” gives them lengthy pieces of advice on how to remain focused in life, the benefits of keeping to time, the relevance of moral/religious training to success, the need to develop good character traits, helping others, shunning ethnic discriminations and it provides other salient tools needful for a well-rounded upbringing.
I recommend The Camp of the Wise for everyone who desires to survive, be successful and impact their society. Written in the tradition of D.O. Fagunwa’s didactic work and the Yoruba oral literature, this novel is necessary equipment for building lives. It is of immense benefit to students of secondary and tertiary institutions and provides an alternative to the indiscriminate use of and dependence on the Smartphone and internet by the twenty-first century youth.
The Camp for the Wise should be on the shelf of every Nigerian irrespective of age, sex or religious affiliate because it contains life lessons that are useful for all and sundry and promotes the unity of this great country.
Folasade Hunsu, PhD
Obafemi Awolowo University
In profound reverence, and adoration, I thank the Almighty God, for giving me the ideas, wisdom, and continual sound health to write this book.
I want to appreciate the efforts of past presidents, Heads of State, and the incumbent president of Federal Republic of Nigeria for their novel ideas in ensuring peace and tranquility in nooks and crannies of our dear country and in projecting this nation to greater height among the committee of nations in Africa and beyond. In like manner, I want appreciate the contributions of movers and shakers of National Youth Service Corps programme in maintaining the smooth running of the programme in spite of various challenges combating the scheme.
The successful publication of this book was a function of the helps directly or indirectly rendered by many people. I am grateful and indebted to a lot of people. I have had the good fortune to have amiable and dynamic Pastor R.Oye Taiwo, the founder and General Overseer of UCEM International Church (Inc.) (a.k.a Unity Christ Evangelical Ministry) as my mentor in writing skills. My unalloyed gratitude and appreciation go to him for his prayers, counseling, and scholarly suggestions, which were invaluable as they helped me in no small measure to bring this work to a successful end.
It is like killing the goose that lay the golden egg if I fail to thank Dr. Folasade Hunsu, English Department of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and Dr. J.O Babalola, English Department of Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, for their creative suggestions, and helps they rendered in proofreading the manuscript professionally.
Special appreciation goes to my caring mother Mrs. Adesiyan Adebare Bolatito for her total support during the period of writing this book.
More so, I credibly appreciate my brothers and sisters, the Adesiyans, for their contributions towards the success of this book. I ever remain grateful to all my friends in UCEM Churches and in these states; Taraba, Plateau, Enugu, Maduguri, Adamawa, Akwa, and in South-West for their motivations and encouragement in the course of writing this book.
I am grateful to various people quoted in this book and those whose their ideas reflect in this book. Finally, I am kindly grateful to God for His mercy, guidance, protection, provision for me from cradle till date.
This book was written for all and sundry on the face of the earth, especially the citizens of Nigeria that value and cherish the culture and entity of our dear country. It preaches hard work and other universal laws of success. Students across the board will find it as a good motivator for their academic successes and attainment of the great heights they may desire in life.
It will serve as chilled water on the thirsty tongue for those who enjoy and love beautiful words woven in idiomatic expressions, proverbs and aphorism. The stories related in it teach the principles that govern our world and determine peaceful co-existence among people. The fact remains that the words used in this book are educating, entertaining and enlightening.
I The Origin of the Whole Idea.
II The Seemingly Mad Man and His Ordeals.
III Otondo in a New Environment.
IV Meeting an Unusual Friend.
V The Two Hydra-headed Monsters.
VI Man O’ War activities: Crossing the Hurdles of Life.
VII The Night of Drama.
VIII A Football Pitch without Goalposts.
IX The Open-secret of a Successful Student.
X A 419 Corps Member.
XI A Raging Debate.
XII An Encounter with the Ajuwayas.
XIII The Hours of Festival and Cultural Display.
XIV Camp Fire Night: A Night of Fun and Merrymaking.
XV Fools among the Wise.
The Origin of the Whole Idea
If you refuse to think you will surely sink and stink. Change the way you think, you have automatically changed your life. Your life begins to experience changes when you start to think positively and productively which will lead to a drastic change in the way you live, learn and love.
I was in Junior Secondary School (JSS), class three to be precise, when the way I look at things began to change. I did not know it this was a part of puberty. But all I knew was that my thinking faculty began to take a new course. Could one say it was inquisitiveness that sparked these experiences in me? Yes it was. The first and simple emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity. I could now clearly remember that my teacher told me that at puberty stage, a number of dramatic physical changes occur, accompanied by important emotional changes and social development. The changes include self-consciousness, sexual behavior, mood swings, the wish to have more privacy and inquisitiveness, among others. Inquisitiveness is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
I developed interest in knowing almost everything that came my ways or crossed my mind. I asked a lot of questions in class purposely for better understanding and to clear any shadow of doubt in my mind. Any question or assignment given to us in class that I was not able to answer, I approached my friend’s uncle who helped me to solve such questions. Excellent! The man was a genius- a walking encyclopedia indeed! He did teach us a lot of grammatical expressions that helped greatly in the use of English.
One day, my friend, Julius and I went to his Uncle’s house as usual for English Language class. On that day, he was not around. So, we gave him a call to know his whereabouts. His voice on the other end told us to wait for him. He described where we could get the key to the house. We got the key and entered his room. As we settled down on the well-padded armed chair, my eyes scanned the whole sitting room, unlike before, not for food, though, my friend was busy ransacking the house for food. But my concern this time was to get something that could keep me busy productively. Thank God, I found one. I saw a photo album on the central table. I opened it. The first picture I saw that triggered my curiosity was that of Uncle who dressed in khaki. On his head was a fez cap. He wore a jungle boot to match. The logo on the cap was tunnel of fire, stripes of green white green, Nigerian Map and Flag.
‘Has uncle been a military officer before?’ I asked myself. ‘But… he is a lecturer in the University now? Why this military uniform?’ All kinds of questions ran through my mind. We had waited for thirty minutes before we heard somebody rapping on the door. My friend quickly rose up and made for the door. I followed suit and opened the door.
‘Sorry for keeping you waiting, my boys,’ uncle said. Tiredness and weakness were written boldly on his face. ‘We held principals’ official meeting today in the school. It was a marathon meeting indeed,’ he added.
‘Welcome sir,’ I said, stretching out my hand to take his briefcase. ‘You look tired’. My friend brought a cold sachet of water for him. He settled in a chair, took the sachet of water and said, ‘thank you’. Then he nodded at me. ‘Your observation is right. Apart from the hectic meeting I told you of, the task I undertook today in our office is what I can call a herculean task really.” He started to loosen his tie and put off his suit. As he placed his hand on his ankle to untie his shoe’s lace I asked, ‘what is the meaning of herculean task?’ He smiled ‘I know you will be another Socrates of this age. Socrates was a great philosopher, who asked a lot of questions and through his philosophy of life, he propounded laws and principles that are of great benefits to teaching and learning today. The important thing is not to stop asking questions. God has His own reason for creating the insight of curiosity in man. Children have natural curiosity about the world around them.
‘It is shallow-minded people who say curiosity kills the cat. This saying does not apply to learning. Curiosity boosts and enhances acquisition of knowledge in educational perspectives. My boy, keep it up. Back to your question. It was from Greek myth in which, Hercules proved his courage and strength by completing twelve very difficult and dangerous tasks known as the Labours of Hercules. People sometimes use the name “Hercules” to describe a man who is very strong physically. In ancient Greek stories, his name was Herakles. So people call any great task “Herculean task”.’
I produced a pen from my pocket and jotted what he explained. He asked Julius to go to the kitchen to bring food for us. We ate to our satisfaction. He asked for the assignment about which we told him on the cell phone. Julius opened his bag, brought out a notebook which he handed over to Uncle.
Uncle read: Correct the following expressions and give the meaning of the idiomatic expressions as applicable.
- Alaseju Ojulorowa did bite more than she could chew.
- I use boiling ring when I need hot water.
- All political thugs are dead from neck up.
He asked if we had attempted the questions.
‘Yes sir,’ I answered unhesitantly and gave him the answers that I had written on a small piece of paper. He turned to my friend and collected his own sheet too. He flipped through them and nodded ‘I like your enthusiasm and passion for learning. Both of you got the second question right – I use water heater when I need hot water. The correct form of the first question, “Alaseju Ojulorowa did bite off more than she could chew,” is an idiomatic expression, which simply means to try to do what you do not have power to do. The third question is also an idiomatic expression “Dead from neck up” means: they are stupid.
‘Yes, they are stupid.’ His face wore a serious expression. He looked into our eyes and said ‘please, my boys do not join political thugs when you become men. It is devastating, demeaning and dehumanizing. I mean it can destroy your life and render it useless. Some of the employers of these political thugs sent their children to standard schools, even overseas to study. They use the poor youths as tools to campaign and get to political office by crook or hook. Later they dump them as torn cloth on a dunghill. Is that clear?’ He asked loudly and then the serious expression on his face creased into a gentle smile.
‘Yes sir,’ we replied.
I turned to my friend, ‘Uncle really took the answer personal, as if some unscrupulous politicians had stepped on his toes in the past.’ I was about to step out of the house when I remembered that there was a question I wanted to ask him. So, I quickly turned back. ‘I want to know something about you sir,’ I said politely.
‘Hope it is the one I can answer,’ he replied jokingly. I felt reluctant. Noticing my reluctance, he said, ‘Come on. Ask me. I’m all ears.’
‘Sorry sir, have you attended a military school before?’
‘No. Julius must have told you that I studied Mathematics at the Obafemi Awolowo University (O.A.U) and later I went to the School of Writing. That is the reason why I’m trying to assist you with your expression.’
‘Don’t be offended sir. Did you undergo any Military training or drill in the past, especially when you were young?’ My friend clapped amicably on my shoulder and said, let us go, O’ boy.
‘No,’ uncle answered. ‘Why are you asking these questions? Have you observed or seen anything?’
‘Before you came in I was busy looking at your photo album. What I saw made me to conclude that you had undergone a bit of military drills. You were marching on parade ground, dressed in khaki and jungle boot to march. You climbed rope, crawled through a big ring and jumped different heights of hurdles. What really convinced me that you had undergone military training was the picture you took with a man in an army uniform.’
‘Yes, you are right on the mark’ he confirmed nostalgically. ‘That was when I went for National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp a couple of years ago.’
‘How I wish you narrate your experiences there for us,’ I requested. “One day, we want to be like you, sir.’
‘Let me tell you,’ he said with a serious expression on his face. ‘It was a milestone experience indeed and one that remained ever green in my memory and had indelible impact on my life. Experience is the mother of wisdom. Wisdom is the principal thing. What is the benefit of a fool to his community? Absolutely none. It is a fool that behaves wrongly, he is uncoordinated and perpetrates heinous crimes in the society. It is because his knowledge is so shallow that he has forgotten what goes round comes around. A fool fails to acknowledge that when you do bad things you indirectly harm yourself. Someday, the evil, as a seed planted, will germinate and grow up and bear fruits. Its fruits will be given to him and his children as a meal. Fool bites one another but wise men agree. What the fool does in the end, the wise man does at the beginning. Look at me, my boys. Don’t ever be fools.
‘Anything you come across whether good or bad try to learn from it. Do not play a fool with it. That is the secret of wisdom. Wisdom is neither inheritance nor legacy. Trouble brings experiences and experiences bring wisdom. The wise seeks wisdom, a fool thinks he has all wisdom. Without wisdom wealth is worthless.
‘But take note of this, there is a difference between intelligence and knowledge. Intelligence comes through innate ability which depends on your level of intelligent quotient. That is why; they say the aptest horse needs breaking while the aptest child needs teaching. But knowledge comes through interaction with people, environment and most importantly the school you attend and books you read. It is a good thing to possess intelligence and knowledge that add up to wisdom. When you get them, it is then you can be addressed as a wise person, an agent of change in the society. We want to travel on the voyage of milestone experiences to the Camp of the Wise, you need to note one pertinent fact: the dwellers of the camp are all wise. What made them wise, you queried?
‘The inhabitants of the camp had been found worthy in character, conduct, moral, and knowledge before they could be given a certificate that would qualify them to have the privilege of staying on the camp. They were well-rounded persons. They had been well groomed in knowledge and character. They had crossed many hurdles, passed many tests and examinations: they have successfully completed practical projects and even many had undergone a lot of trainings in their respective Schools of Wisdom.
‘They did not only pass through the school but the school really passed through them leaving indelible marks on their conduct, character and conversation among people in the society. What a man studies normally passes into his character. It will be of interest to you to know that not all of them spent the same number of years in the School of Wisdom. Some spent four years, some five years, and even some of them spend a good seven years depending on the knowledge they want to acquire. But, do not forget that what you learn is what you earn. That is the bottom line! It is my heartfelt prayer that after your secondary school education you will make it to School of Wisdom.’
‘Amen, sir,’ we said, a radiant look on our faces. ‘What do you mean by School of Wisdom?’ I asked, looking up from my jotter.
‘It simply means different higher institution one may attend to bag first degree or Higher National Diploma (HND) in any field of your choice. It could be a university, a polytechnic, a mono-technique and what have you. Get it?’
I nodded my head satisfactorily. It was a nod’s as good as wink. Indubitably, it was crystal clear to me.
‘After you have graduated from these schools,’ he continued, ‘then you are qualified to go to the camp that I want to tell you about. The camp was the place where Orientation Course, one of the cardinal programme of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), took place. No root, no fruit and everything has his seed. One can trace the idea of National Service to education in Athens. Education in Athens was an all-encompassing one, affecting every aspect of life. It affected positively the social, Philosophical, mental and intellectual aspects and centered on producing a well-rounded man (versatile person) who would be physically fit in body and mentally sound in mind. Great philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato from their ingenuity and wealth of experiences nurtured the idea, that at the age of eighteen years, a boy would be obliged to take part military national service in the interest of the State to prepare him to face the challenges of life.
‘Oh yes! That is what we’re experiencing today in my dear country. After the Civil War in 1969, Nigeria was torn apart. This led to a life of cat and rat among Nigerians tribes. Things really fell apart and the centre refused to hold. The sweetness of the nation turned sour. Reasons govern the wise man and cudgel the fool. Let me say this, my boys, the resolved mind has no cares. And do not forget the thing that must be, it is good to be resolute. The then, Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, fondly called Go On With One Nigeria, with other Nigerian nationalists in 1973 introduced National Youth Service programme.
‘The National service is a one-year mandatory exercise required for every Nigerian youth to serve the nation and help to improve the community and the economy of the nation by offering various forms of services to the community. This was done to wipe out the adverse effect and the aftermath of the Civil War from the nation.’
His gaze travelled round the sitting room and perched on a Nigerian map calendar hung on the wall. ‘May good Lord never allow the oneness and indivisibility of this nation to know division and war again,’ he prayed and shifted his face to us.
‘Amen,’ we responded.
‘These visionary leaders, as I was saying divided the National Service into four key programmes: Community Development Service-CDS (secondary assignment) and Primary Assignment. The other two are; Orientation Course and Passing-out Parade (P.O.P).
‘Do you still take courses over there, sir? My friend asked inquisitively. ‘After you have taken several courses in the university. Eh! I heard a person saying to pass courses in University or Polytechnic was a tug of war.’
‘How do you mean?’ he asked
‘Sir,’ I chipped in. ‘He was referring to Orientation Course you mentioned’
‘Oh my God,’ a ghost of smile touched his mouth. ‘It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive, goes a wise saying. To do justice to your question, Orientation course is the gateway to the NYSC Scheme. It lasts for twenty one days. During these days I found it difficult to identify each day, they were blended into one another. You Only Serve Once (Y.O.S.O) were the words imprinted on my mind. Indeed, it was time to change into someone who had been dreaming of. Swearing-in Ceremony, general orientation course, professional orientation and terminal parade are the components of the Orientation Programme.
‘Truly, each component leaves indelible marks on the minds of the corps members. Its main objectives are: to acquaint corps members with their environment as regards political, cultural, social and economic setting, to equip them with practical social and leadership skills that will enable them to meet the challenges of the service year ahead, to give them adequate physical and mental training. Others are: to give them a better understanding of the objectives of the National Service scheme, to inculcate in every corps member the spirit of national consciousness as a basic ingredient in nation building. The last two objectives on which all other depend are: imbibing in them the spirit of collective responsibility and instilling discipline in the youth.
‘Do not worry; you will enjoy every bit of the Orientation course, because my narration is based on it. Just pay attention to me, so that, you can learn different lessons you need to learn from the Camp of the Wise. Surely, I believe you are wise. Beyond a shadow of doubt, I want you to be wiser as you grow older. Can a fool contribute anything to his community? No. He is a shipwreck to his family and clog in the wheel of progress of his country. The first degree of folly is to hold one’s self wise, the second to profess it, and third to despise counsel. A wise man changes his mind, a fool never. Riches serve the wise man but command the fool. Wise man learns by other men’s harms, fools, by their own. It is a terrible thing to be a fool.
‘Tell yourself,’ he looked into our faces. ‘I’m not a fool. I will not be a fool.’ My friend and I said it repeatedly. He glanced at his wrist watch and said, ‘how time flies. Sorry, time has run out. If you want me to give you chronological order of the whole programme, you have to come back at the weekend. I believe by then, I should be less busy.’
My friend and I exchanged a happy look. ‘Okay sir,’ we answered satisfactorily. ‘We will come on Saturday.’
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