A Thing So Simple

For two weeks I’ve been secure within the Kaduna State NYSC orientation camp, which some persons see as a semi-prison, while some others including myself, see it as a blend of fun, stress, boredom and excitement. Hiding under the excuse that camp conditions are not conducive for creative writing, my notebook has lain idle until yesterday when an encounter provided enough motivation for me to put pen on paper.

While queuing with buckets to fetch water from a storage tank, a number of fellow corpers came with food bowls, flasks, and cups, pleading to be allowed to get water to wash their respective items. Some even came with buckets to get little water to wash clothes, or for toilet emergencies. Each request was speedily granted. No humane person would refuse such requests even if such a person has spent over thirty minutes on the queue.

However, some persons just walked to the tap and placed their respective containers beneath the tap without bothering to courteously ask for permission. After witnessing this ill-mannered behaviour for a while, I decided to speak up. Further motivation was offered by the fact that one of the executors of this malfeasance had been advised against it the previous day. I upbraided him for his behaviour, stating that a little courtesy was expected from a “gentleman corps member”. Some other persons in the queue joined in reiterating my advice, while some others spoke in support of him. The young man lambasted me for expecting a plea from him for “ordinary water”.

It was obvious that a sense of entitlement was driving the corper’s action and response. This was coupled with pride, a feeling of superiority. The Nigerian government must have been thoughtless to bring people of different tribes, parental wealth, and educational backgrounds to the same place, imposing the same uniform and set of rules on all.

As I walked away with my water-filled bucket, I advised the young man and his supporters to rethink their stance. The word “please” has not killed any person. Neither has the scarcely used word, “thanks”. These much overlooked words can make or break human relations. If we could just use these words more often, we would witness a change in the attitude of people around us. More warmth and engagement definitely trumps coldness.

My unrequested advice may have fallen on deaf ears, but I know that they would someday see the truth in the admonition – a thing as simple as courtesy can make the greatest good.

• Ignore your dictionary. “Corper” is a valid Naija word.
• This article was written while my ears were blocked with headphone sounds loud enough to simulate headaches. Thanks to my highly interactive roommates for creating enough distractive noises.

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