Engaging in the National Youth Service Corps was a dream come true. Not just because I had looked forward to it since I was a child, but because it has revealed parts of me I never knew I possessed. Now, as I look back to my service year, the feeling is not entirely of fulfillment, but of hunger, drive, and a strong desire to be a better Nigerian and to dedicate my life to the service of humanity.

When I got my deployment letter that rainy day in April 2016, uncertainty filled my mind. I wasn't sure how to feel; happy, sad, or simply grateful. The stories I had heard about the North didn't help matters, as I struggled to come to terms with the idea that I would spend the next one year of my life in Kaduna state. I knew too well my dad would not give a sweat. To him, God has a reason for everything.

It would not be my first time in Kaduna state. I had spent some time in Zaria in 2008; a year before the deadly Boko Haram insurgents heightened operations in the North East, destroying lives and property, and creating a wrong impression about Northern Nigeria- an impression most of us bought- and that impression had informed my perception about the North and choices until months ago.

Two and a half weeks at the Orientation Camp, Sabon Gaya didn't feel like Kaduna state. We were all young men and women gathered from all parts of Nigeria and thrown into this place that didn't feel homely at all, and left at the mercy of angry-looking soldiers (that was my first thought). After two weeks of being an active member of the Orientation Broadcasting Service and meeting new amazing people, I began to form a new opinion about the service year.

I was posted to the Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC), first at the news room, and later at the programmes department. This is where I would come to learn much of the Hausa I now understand. It is amazing that these guys would speak Hausa even at editorial meetings, except for when a resolution is reached and announced. It was depressing at first and took some getting used to. Months later, I began to enjoy it.

Serving in Kaduna state has not only revealed many truths, it has broken stereotypes and corrected several misconceptions. I used to think every Northerner was Hausa or Fulani, and that there are only a few indigenous Northern Christians. I also used to think that the average Northerner was illiterate and that the people were not refined. I also thought that every part of the North was feeling the heat of insurgency. But there are times when I got calls from home informing me of one crisis somewhere in Kaduna that I didn't even know about.

I was wrong, but don't blame me. There are many others like me out there- people who have built stereotypes from false information and beliefs. They have formed opinions because they have refused to come out of their shells; comfort zones that further enhance their ignorance of life outside their sphere. I would've remained that educated, but ignorant fool who taught he knew all too well.

How would I have come to discover the beautiful people of Kaduna state; loving, giving, accommodating, and very respectful? How could I have discovered the several tribes and tongues of this beautiful people, and the massive land space, spanning hundreds of kilometers from one end to another? How would I have discovered the amazing delicacies and cultures of the people? How could I ever discover these things if I had refused the opportunity of serving in Kaduna state?

There are several other Nigerian graduates who have left their states of residence and are serving this nation in other lands; the Igbo man in the North-Central, the Hausa man in the South-South, the Edo man in the South West, the Yoruba man in the South-East, the Efik man in the North-West, and so on. Millions of Nigerians who never thought they could settle and raise families in other states have done so because of the NYSC, and because they broke free from the chains of ignorance.

The NYSC continues to emphasize that the main purpose of the scheme is national integration, but people still don't understand it. Maybe that term is too vague and can only be explained with shared experiences like mine. How peaceful and progressive Nigeria will be if we truly know and understand our peculiarities and differences. Imagine how much we can achieve if we do not ignorantly criticize, but understand that the next man is a loving, caring and passionate Nigerian. This is what the NYSC means to me.

Published in Kaduna Kopa, a publication of the Public Relations Unit, NYSC, Kaduna State.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am a passionate writer from Nigeria, with a desire to change the world- one step at a time.