NYSC Camps are like slaughterhouses for romantic relationships.
NYSC camp gates will be thrown open tomorrow, Thursday, April 19, 2018. Batch A stream I corp members will understandably be raring to just go to their respective camps.
Of course topics such as safety in camp, good behavior, how to get redeployed and exempted will be the buzzing terms.
But one sub-theme that often goes undiscussed is how NYSC camps and the whole scheme negatively affects romantic relationships.
Ladies and gentlemen; NYSC camps, as terribly maintained as they mostly are, are temptation islands and you’ll be surprised at how many relationships never survive the three weeks let alone the whole service year.
There’s no batch without reports of people, sometimes married/engaged, caught in the act of indulging in sneaky sex in the bushes or other secret spots in camp.
Recall the married lady that was caught in Plateau state just a while back.
And this is where things get interesting; when you are caught having sex or doing any other thing that warrants a dismissal, NYSC officials are required to call your registered next of kin, to tell them of the dismissal.
What do you think will happen to that relationship if the next-of-kin is the lady’s husband or fiancée?
That’s what happened to another married woman caught in Ebonyi state camp in November 2016, says Fred, a serving corps member in the state.
Fred tells of how the lady was caught having sex with another corper, and after being notified of her dismissal alongside the guy, it was the same husband she'd just cheated on who came to pick her.
I’ll leave you to imagine the awkwardness of that long ride home, and what later became of the marriage.
Apparently there’s something about NYSC camps and the whole service year that allows for bonds to be created regardless of the relationships corp members had before they got called up to serve their father land.
It's akin to what we saw on Big Brother Naija 2017, when housemates were separated from their partners for such a long time.
They were put in the same space with members of the opposite sex and it was not long before the place got charged with sexual tension that found release in several inappropriate ways.
During my service year in Ekiti, I personally witnessed something like this first hand.
After we left camp, I followed a guy to Ado Ekiti where we stayed in a three-bedroom flat with 5 other corpers, as we all tried to locate our primary places of assignment [PPA] and sort things out before travelling back home for Christmas.
We were four guys and three babes there in the flat. One of them was always calling her boyfriend and they’d be on the phone for so long that she was hardly ever seen in the living room when we were gisting after the day.
However, that did not stop her from having sex with one of the guys there with us.
And it was not a mistake because it happened on all the three nights before she eventually left the flat… to visit her boyfriend somewhere in Ondo state.
“I think NYSC year ends about 80% of relationships,” says Babs, who was very much in love with his girlfriend before he got posted to Taraba in 2014.
By the time he got to the bus park in Lagos as he was travelling to resume camp, he met another corper who was travelling to the same state and by the time the journey of almost 24 hours ended, they were pretty much friends.
By the end of their 21 days in camp, they were posted to the state capital together and that was what spelt the end of his relationship with his girlfriend.
“Gradually I started losing touch with my homegirl,” Babs, 28, texts me over whatsapp.
“I started finding more interest in the NYSC babe.
”My homegirl tried to call me to order but because I was always with the other babe, I could not answer her calls,” he says.
And that was it for the relationship. It didn’t survive the distance NYSC brought between the young lovers.
Stories abound and almost everyone I asked has once experienced or heard of relationships being wrecked because one partner had to go serve their father land.
Segun, 25, has a story of how his babe went to serve in Niger state in 2014 and left him for another guy she met while serving there.
“She stopped picking my calls, and finally after a while, she said she found someone else,” he says with a sad smile.
Bayo speaks of how some of his partners during his service year in Enugu in 2013 were engaged or had boyfriends.
“I actually preferred those ones,” he says.
“They had no intention of gumming body or looking for emotions.
“It was just sex and that was what all I wanted, too. They still had their boyfriends at home all the while.
"Actually one of them invited me to her wedding last year,” he shares with me.
There are so many more I heard as I asked around for this piece but I couldn’t possibly share them all for you to get the point here – too many relationships do not survive service year.
Yes, not all relationships end because one partner got called up to NYSC, but these stories and many unshared ones prove that partners have a course to be slightly scared when one gets the call to serve, especially in a different state.
One reason why this happens is because of the strain placed on relationship due to distance.
Corpers and their partners suffer the same problems suffered by people in long-distance relationships.
This is compounded by the fact that some NYSC camps are located in remote places without good network coverage. Ekiti state NYSC camp in Ise-Emure is a prime example of this.
I nearly scratched out my eyes in frustration during my stay there.
Even after camp, corpers are posted to worse villages with bad network coverage and no light. This is hardly conducive for communication, the biggest thing long-distance relationships always rely on.
Another reason has been said to be the freedom of being faraway from one’s partner and being in proximity with other people for such a long time.
The temptation sometimes get too much to overcome, I heard.
“Going together through the highs and lows of camp and service year binds people together somehow.
“The emotions and attraction build up over time and before you know it, romance has fully blown up between you and someone else, even though you have a partner waiting for you back home,” says Samantha, a serving corp member in Edo state at the time of this article.
These reasons and explanations are understandable and relatable but the truth remains that faithfulness and loyalty between partners are standards that aren’t bendable.
What’s the point of being in a relationship if you are going to ditch your partner at the first opportunity you get?
In the end, it boils down to poor choices people make; and NYSC, as terrible and unneeded as the scheme is, cannot be blamed for your actions.
NYSC may provide the place and time for you to cheat on your partner but the decision to be that person who breaks the trust and heart of a partner who loves them... that’s all yours.
All names used in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of the people who shared their stories with the writer. All stories are however, very authentic.