When we received the first email from Mohammed Jammal, our interest was piqued! He emphasized that irrespective of the colour of his skin, he is purely Nigerian and he had only one passport and it is green. We tried to probe further into his antecedents but he remained firm in his insistence that he is Nigerian. We could only conclude that he was a true bred Nigerian and his blood runs GREEN! Nigerian comedian, AY discovered “White Nigerian” on YouTube and invited him to the AY Live show in London. After his studies at the London Metropolitan University, Mohammed came to Nigeria for his National Youth Service Corps program. We were very interested in finding out how the “White Nigerian” coped at the NYSC orientation camp. He kindly obliged BellaNaija by sharing his experience with us at BellaNaija. We hope you enjoy it.
“They say “never judge a book by its cover” and that’s exactly right. A lot of people see me and assume I am an “Oyibo.” I’m not and let my color not deceive you. It’s what’s inside that counts and for me apart from the color, I am Nigerian to the core. Born and bred in Jos, I grew up speaking Hausa and of course pidgin English. I have one passport and it’s green. So just like every other Nigerian, I completed my studies and decided to serve my country.
It’s time to serve!
When I first went to register for NYSC at the Headquarters in Abuja, everyone was looking at me like “Is this boy well?” “What is this boy doing?” Deciding to do the NYSC is one of the best things I have done for myself and one of the best things every university graduate could do for themselves and their nation.
Many people assumed that because I am “white” I’d try to influence my posting in some way or try to avoid being a part of the program entirely. Camp was a lot of fun. I got posted to Nasarawa camp and that’s where I met people of different backgrounds, different religions, cultures and different statuses. For me, camp was all about discipline. For example, you had to wake up at 4am, fetch your water, take a bath and go straight to the parade ground. At the parade ground the army guys will be waiting for us and if you came late, just know, “Wahala dey oh.” Whenever the beagle rang, you have to leave what you were doing and go straight to the next activity otherwise you were in trouble. You will most likely do frog jump, squat down in the sun or kneel down on the boiling hot floor and that’s all part of the discipline. They gave us a few hours free during the day to go do what you want, but they always reminded us that “For Nasarawa, Corper no dey rest”
In my block/hostel, I guess I stood out from everyone else and I talked the most as I was elected as hostel leader for my block. This meant I was in charge of the over 200 people that were staying in my block. The good thing though is that I didn’t have to go to parade ground until everyone in my block has gone out. Yes, some people were a pain, but the majority of those in my block were actually very disciplined. I think my block was the only place where nothing went missing…well apart from people’s buckets, and that was only for some time as it always ended up under your bed when you woke up in the morning. The rule I put in my block was no one was allowed to say “who stole my…” You had to say “who borrowed my…” Because, that way the person who “borrowed” your item will feel guilty and bring it back and to be honest it worked very well. Also when we got to our block, our bathrooms were not too clean so everyone in my block contributed money in order for one of the cleaners on camp to come everyday and clean our bathrooms, toilets and the whole hostel. I’m sure not everyone in my block paid but we were still able to raise enough money to keep our blocks clean for the 3 weeks and I made sure of that.
I didn’t see myself as different, but I guess because of my color I stood out, which had its pros and cons. For example, there was no way I could escape without going to parade ground or any other activities without people asking where is that “White Nigerian” The soldiers particularly enjoyed using me as a scapegoat. I always got made fun of whenever I did something silly, but I enjoyed making people laugh.
Life in camp
In the beginning, not everyone in camp knew I was a musician; however, as time went on and we had events by MTN, Indomie , Glo and Airtel I started performing my songs and people realized “White Nigerian” was not just a description of what I was but my stage name too. It was a way of doing free promo and I actually got a lot of fans from camp. I even had to call Abuja so they could print CDs for me to give out because everyone was demanding for it. I printed out 1,000 copies and gave them out for free in camp.
As I mentioned earlier I like the fact that people had the opportunity to display their talents at camp. We had some very talented people in my camp from comedians to dancers to musicians. It was an opportunity to show case your talent to over 2,000 people which is a larger audience than many places an upcoming artist finds oneself performing. Also, because we were put in different platoons, we had to compete against others so everyone gave their best.
Towards the end of camp, as much as it was fun, I just couldn’t wait to leave camp because I was exhausted. Sleeping for 3-4 hours a night for three weeks was no joke at all. That last day was the one that I was worried about most because that was the day they gave us our posting letter. I won’t lie I was scared I would be posted to a school in one village or bush where there is no network and no light.
Luckily I was posted to a school in Karu Local Government, which is about 30 minutes from where I currently live in Abuja. I was rejected in my first place of primary assignment but they rejected quite a number of us so I didn’t feel too bad. I had to go and look for another school and eventually found one that accepted me. That’s the school I am currently teaching at now where teach computer studies to JS 1 JS2 and JS3. I remember when I got to the school and heard the children saying “Oh boy we don get Oyibo teacher oh.”
We were placed in different Community Development Service groups also known as CDS. I was in the skills acquisition group. They brought a generator and showed us how to service it; removing all the parts and coupling it back together. In the same day, we also learned how to make proper suya and that was where I started showing off my own skills. In fact I think I made it better than some Aboki suya men.
In general, I have to say that while many people say NYSC is a waste of time and a big joke, it is NOT. Just like everything in this life, it’s all about what you make out of it. I went to camp and I made the most out of it. NYSC brings different cultures, religions and ethnicities together to make a difference in the communities around us. I have seen how much the government has put into the scheme and I have to say its really making a difference in the community. Individually we might not like it, but collectively look how much of a difference we are making both within our own networks and experiences and within our nation. We are able to encourage primary and secondary school children and pass on the knowledge we have learned in our own higher education. It gives the children an opportunity to come into contact with graduates from many walks of life who have one thing in common – a commitment to serve their nation. Just remember, life is what you make out of it and I am making the best of my NYSC experience, so if you have not already had the opportunity to do so, when yours arises – please do the same.
I’m white. I’m Nigerian. I’m corper NS/12C/09XX and I’m proud to be serving my country.