Home / Literature  / Non Fiction: What’s the Point?

Non Fiction: What’s the Point?


On the day you turned 22, your father invited someone to your wedding. You were single, broke, unemployed, confused and not in love with anybody. This happened at the wedding of an acquaintance. You sat across the table from them in the reception hall having just informed the man, your former lecturer in school, where you were posted to, when your father said, ‘You will come when it’s time for her own.’


You found this funny because you did not think your father should be planning or imagining your wedding yet. You, with no boyfriend, introvert, who hardly goes out, who has never introduced anyone at home, how could your father even put you and marriage in the same sentence?


At the wedding, you meet friends and schoolmates to catch up. ‘Where were you posted to?’ A question you have grown accustomed to for about a month now.


At first, you answer with ‘I’m in stream two.’ Much later, after many frustration-laden days, you would answer with ‘Edo state’, and to ‘Where is your PPA,’ you would answer with ‘Auchi’.


You have thought yourself depressed since you heard the word in a medical drama TV series – you don’t remember if it was House or Grey’s Anatomy. You googled it and found it suitable to describe yourself. Over the years you would do more searches about this depression:


How to cure depression

How do I know if I have depression

Drugs to use for depression

What causes depression

Is suicide painful


You have blamed Nigeria every time you have an episode – each time ASUU went on strike, when your school was shut down because courses were not accredited, when NYSC postponed your service indefinitely. In all these moments, you feel stagnant and uncertain.




You leave home, full of uncertainties. Your life is full of uncertainties, the research life you had been so pumped about having a few months ago had waned. Your depression does that. One time you are excited about your prospects, you read and work and dream and believe your possibilities are limitless, then after a few months of stagnancy, frustration and depression creep in. 


They say NYSC is necessary because of national integration. This makes sense to you, you’ve seen tribalism on public transport when the driver wanted to carry Fulani passengers and other passengers reacted, you’ve heard people talk about Igbos like they themselves don’t like money…


Although if you had a choice, you would have chosen not to go for NYSC. You did not see the point. Did it really cure people of ethnocentrism? You could have spent the one year of service and the wasted seven months you had to wait for a call-up letter to pursue your Masters. You would have been more productive. But here you are to serve your nation.


The journey to Okada camp is a tedious one. More so, because you are fasting, and you hate travelling while fasting. From being told you cannot sit in the front because you are a woman to SARS at police checkpoint stopping your vehicle, handpicking three boys to check their phones, you had plenty to keep you angry.


You get to camp at sunset – time to break your fast. At the entrance, a police officer asks if you have any drugs or sharp objects. You say no and hand her the razor blade in your bag. You would later learn that razor blades are sold at the Mami market. What, then, is the point? You would ask yourself this question ‘what is the point?’ throughout your stay in camp and throughout your service year.


As you walk up to the registration point, you see a guy with MCAN printed on his shirt, you say ‘Salam Alaikum’, he responds, and your mind is at ease. There is something in that greeting that feels like succour, which makes you feel that you can make it through this. 


Everyone says NYSC is fun. Camp is fun. Even with harassment from soldiers, terrible toilets, bad sleeping space, they still say it is fun. They say you will make friends. They give you tips – wake up early to bath, carry provisions, go with drugs, careful with the toilets, lock your bags, don’t leave cash in your room, carry mosquito net, don’t worry, it’s not going to be tough, the soldiers will just do initial gra-gra, don’t be scared, camp is fun, you’ll make friends.  


Camp is torture for you, you are sleep deprived, a constant meal for mosquitoes, and the toilets and food are terrible. The SAED lectures are the worst part of your day, although involving no physical activity, you just have to sit down and listen. You are given security tips, told about the history of NYSC, rules and regulations, taught some words of Benin language, you forget all of these as soon as you hear them. You are to choose a skill to learn; the first day you choose baking, the second day you choose knitting, on the third day – you are just a spectator at the exhibition.

It does not make sense to you that you are expected to learn a skill in three days, and have an exhibition. As you watch the NYSC officials stroll around looking at what corps members have supposedly learnt and made, you think of them as hypocrites, nodding and asking questions, acting impressed, acting as if the introduction of the skill acquisition and entrepreneurial development is the best thing they had thought of, like this exhibition is the proof of the significance of NYSC.


You have looked forward to the end of camp since your first night there. You sleep in a hot overcrowded room, get clothes that are too small for you, despite providing your size, you complain and get told to go and fix it at the Mami market. Slimmer people get bigger clothes. The Mami market tailoring market thrives on this – the big clothes would be slim fitted, the small clothes would be made bigger from pieces cut off the big clothes. You get food after waiting long queues, you wake up at 4 a.m., to line up at the parade ground to be taught French from an incoherent voice from the microphone. What is the point?


You spend your first night out of camp at a Muslim Corpers’ lodge. Being there makes you want to be a better Muslim. How people selflessly inconvenience themselves so you would not be stranded, how they make sure you would have food to break your fast and food to fast with, and even after the institution you are posted to does not give you an acceptance letter or accommodation after a month, they still let you stay.


The first day you meet the HOD of the department you are posted to, he asks where you are from. Kwara, you say. How about asking me what my name is, you think.


You would end up hating the job, because it isn’t really a job. You would go to work, sit down in the lab for hours and then go home. In between, you would play solitaire, watch movies, read, all on your laptop. One day, a staff of the department asks you if you are doing yahoo-yahoo because you are always on your laptop. On some days, you get test scripts to mark.


One of the lab technologists you share the space with is pro-Trump. He resonates with him, 

‘How can you leave your country and come to another country to take their jobs, is that good? If they do it to you, will you like it?‘ – his resonance


He predicts that Trump would win. You think about this and conclude that Nigerians feel the same way towards other Nigerians from different tribes. This is why the most qualified person who is a non-indigene may not get a job, this is why you would never get a job here. 


Pro-Trump once called Buhari, the president, your brother. This is during one of his bouts of criticism. This annoyed you. You, from Kwara state, are now related to Buhari from Katsina. You, Yoruba; Buhari, Hausa. You, Muslim; Buhari, Muslim. Like Nigeria, your PPA is divided along tribal and religious lines.




Everyone thinks you are a good Muslim, except for the fact that you spend most of your time with a boy. You are still okay, you pray and you cover your hair, you wear hijab, and you have even started taking Quran lessons from one of the guys. This would change after he made you cry. The type  you cried to God the day you decided to stop attending religious lectures.


You are strolling home from work with some of the guys you live with when you encounter a girl with a baby on her back few metres from the lodge. She says she is looking for a Corper Aisha, she is from Akure, she does not have a phone or her phone number, she does not have money. Curious and concerned, you take her to the lodge, to be handed over to one of the porters. After the story is told, Quran class guy explodes: it is dangerous to bring a girl you don’t know home, what if she is armed. A lot of people have been killed in the North for trying to help strangers. The girl is chastised, Quran teacher believes that a girl like her must be irresponsible, she burst into tears, tells him it’s unfair for him to judge her, says God will judge him. He says with a child born out of wedlock, she’s not following God’s way and is unfit to say stuff like that. She leaves in tears. You are accused of only trying to help because the girl is Yoruba like you. You are tired of religious people and their judgements. You would talk to Kola, another housemate about this and he would get it.


In the lodge, conversations like these thrive:

If your husband sleeps with your younger sister, what would you do?

Christianity vs Islam

A Masters or PhD degree reduces the marriageability of a woman

Which tribe is into more fetish?

Will you forgive your wife if she gets raped?

Most women who get raped want it

Why should a woman not change her last name

How can you be dating a woman and not be giving her money

Muslims are extremist

Why I left Islam

I can’t marry an Igbo guy

I can only marry a Yoruba guy

What’s so special about a university – universities are not better than polytechnics.


You found the house sometimes toxic and you often refuse to be an active participant in many conversations. A housemate has nicknamed you English, because you speak more English than Yoruba. You do not feel like you fit in. The house is divided along tribal and religious lines and you do not want to trail these lines. You do not want to engage in conversations that stereotype other tribes, you do not want to argue about religion and it annoys you when the male Corpers would sit down and talk about being a man and how a woman should be.


The guest house is one of your favourite places. You often go there to buy suya and watch football with your housemate, Kola. With Kola, you feel at home. Kola does not entertain stereotypes, he does not find it weird that a girl is interested in football, he does not find your afro weird, he does not tell you it is best not to do a Masters because it would reduce your marriageability, he does not care where you are from or how you worship God. With Kola, you are at home.




End of months are spent anticipating alerts, a week after which penury set in. CDS cards could be signed for a fee. You could travel if you could pay off the right NYSC official. 


On some days, you would engage your wanna-be sugar daddy, and listen to him tell you stories, stories you would go back home to gist Kola about.


You learn that Kola would leave a month before you, because he’s a stream one corps member. This shatters you. Kola is your pillar. Whose arms would you run to when depression visits? Who would sit by you and run his hands through your hair and tell you to cheer up? Who would ask you if you have eaten? Who would you spend your weekends with at the guest house?


As you say goodbye, you wonder when next you will meet, under what circumstances. You wonder if this flame would go out, the burning desire to call out his name so you can tell him something silly, and he can hiss and roll his eyes, or listen to his footsteps in front of your door as you say come in before he even knocks. You think about the first time he showed you a card trick … and you cry. 


An acquaintance once told you that NYSC was the last resort to find a husband. He told you this as you were about to wind up your undergraduate program. He said the university was a good place to find a partner, that’s where you have a chance to meet a lot of people. But your chances are really really low once you finish NYSC and start working, because men have big egos and working women are intimidating. You thought this was bullshit, but you hoped you would find someone. 


In the end, NYSC did not prove to be a spouse-finding endeavour for you. It did not cure ethnocentrism, it seemed to also fail at national integration. So what is the point?


Maybe the point is finding yourself, learning to deal with frustration on foreign soil; maybe the point is meeting Kola; maybe the point is learning to write your way out of depression, failing, and trying again. 



Mojisola Salaudeen is a writer and editor who loves food. She also loves stories and believes in the ability of stories to shape narratives, inform and connect us.

  • Olamide Olalekan September 15, 2020

    This was a beautiful read.

  • Adekunle Smith September 15, 2020

    This is really good! I have always asked myself the same question about NYSC; what’s the point? But I realized in school, I had the opportunity to choose my crowd early and shield myself from other people but NYSC throws me out there among the wolves, sheep and goats.
    Thank you Mojisola for this piece!

  • Nomnso September 16, 2020

    Sounds familiar, the lines of conversation. Same experience with living in hostels, especially school owned hostels divided into girls/boys section. Seems as though people aren’t growing.

  • Joel September 16, 2020

    I could relate with every line written here. I would also say I learnt quite a few things already as well.

  • Hannibal Lecter September 16, 2020

    Thank you for summarising our NYSC experiences so eloquently

  • Ken September 16, 2020

    Interesting read. Thank you much

  • Ken September 16, 2020

    This would make sense as a series analyzing various pointless things in this country. Would be very nice

  • Kola September 16, 2020

    A simply amazing read. We know what we went through????????
    I’m grateful to have met a gem like you.

    • Dee September 16, 2020

      Kola made a cameo, wooooow. We are truly honoured— faints*

  • Kola September 16, 2020

    A simply amazing read. We know what we went through????????
    I’m grateful to have met a gem like you.

  • Hamdie September 17, 2020

    Wow.. nice piece, it brought memories. I remember we had a man that trained us on karate ????, really “what’s the point”????. Well-done darling daughter ????????????

  • Hamdie September 17, 2020

    Wow.. nice piece, it brought memories. I remember we had a man that trained us on karate ????, really “what’s the point”????. Well-done darling daughter ????????????

  • Fola September 18, 2020

    Nice write up.