Endurance Trek - Poem by Arinzechukwu Okafor
It is still very fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday.
We were fully kitted. We filed-out of the Okada Camp onto the road. Like ants filling out of decaying stem. Unaware of the distance that lay ahead, we sang and danced. All were in high spirit. Osuofia told us funny stories and also gave us ‘’Morale’’. We were Corpers
on ‘’Endurance Trek’’.
Among us were the Man ‘O’ War boys. Whose strength and resilience were things of marvel. Some of them used the opportunity fraternize with fellow youths. Others used the opportunity to yell at and bully University Graduates. Who have completed a journey most Man ‘O’ War boys are yet to embark on.
Also among us were men of the Nigerian Army. ‘’The real khaki boys’’. Compared to whom Corpers and Man ‘O’ Wars are classed ‘’Otondos’’. The Camp Commandant was there. Njoku was there. Baba Ali, Dada and Joseph were all there. Some of them have only seen mock battles. Have only confronted mock enemies. While some have seen fire in Liberia and Sierra Leone. And are yet to become normal humans. But the abnormality in their behaviour is a mark of honour.
Along the way, we saw, situated on a lonely heath, an aura of sacredness over it, the Castle of Queen Idia. Queen Idia, the mother of Oba Esigie of the Bini Kingdom was famous for her strength of character. She was said to have fought many battles in defence of the kingdom and her son’s throne. Acts that led to the creation of the ‘’Office of the King’s Mother (Iya Oba) ’’. She was the first Iya Oba of the Bini Kingdom.
At the Usen River, we saw a naked man bathing. Customer! Customer! ! the female Corpers yelled at him. Should I come? Do you want me? They asked him. He continued with his bathing completely ignoring the stares and taunts from the female corpers. I said to myself, ‘’this man must be a free thinker’’.
Villagers stood in front of their houses watching us. Mostly women and children. Occasionally they waved and some of us waved back. One Corper used the opportunity to display his crass ignorance of the Bini language. Occasionally, he would run to a group of women and children watching us and shout a greeting meant only men, ‘’Epa Domo’’.
The return journey was less ceremonial. Some boarded vehicles. Some motor-bikes. But the majority trudged tiredly. Some even jogged back to the camp in Okada. To liberate from their hiding places, in Mammy Market and toilets, those able-bodied but self-disabled Corpers, who found themselves unworthy to partake in an exercise which the sickly, the obese, people with Polio-shrunk legs and even the wheel-chaired joyfully took part in.
Together we queued for lunch.
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