I travelled back to base and resumed duty on a Monday; it was a week to Christmas. The daily routines were waking up in the morning and do my morning pushups and sit ups as I get set for work. I report for work at 7.30am and by 8.00am it is time for morning parade. Here we are addressed by the Commanding Officer (C.O) the Administrative Officer (A.O) or the Regimental sergeant Major (R.S.M) we are briefed of any development and any information necessary is announced to us. Issues are also treated on the Parade ground.
Issues could be anything ranging from refusal to give your Wife adequate monthly allowance, Wife battering, drunkenness, Igbo smoking, sleeping with the daughter of a fellow Soldier (Children above 18 are not supposed to live in the Barracks) Fighting, the list is endless. Our dresses are also inspected and our breath smelled to find out those that wash their eyes with hot drinks before coming to work daily.
Our Office is inside the barracks community and I trek 30 minutes to the Office from my House, some Soldiers come to work with Motor Cycles while others trek, Soldiers that were fortunate to have gone for one or two internationally peace keeping mission drive Cars to the Office. They could afford Cars as a result of accumulated salaries while away on the peace keeping mission; they are paid allowances while on mission so they could save their salaries.
For those that are married, they sign up some cheque leafs for their Wives for monthly family upkeep and Children School fees, the unmarried ones save more except for those that have serious relationships or live-in lovers before departure for the operation. There are several cases of Men that returned from two years peace keeping mission only to discover that all the monies saved up or sent home have been squandered by their Wives, such cases results into family break ups as such Wives are termed “Witches” they never expected their husbands to return alive. For Soldiers that do not return home alive, all his savings and benefits goes to his next of Kin.
At 2.30pm it is close of work officially but sometimes one has to hang around until the senior officers have left the Office before you can leave because of any ad-hoc assignment that could come up.
I was a signaler, attached to the radio room and my job was to receive and transmit information within all military formations, some information are coded and has to be decoded for further transmission. Some volatile and high profiled messaged are transmitted “encoded” for security reasons. Only the recipients can decode such messages. Our office also tracks messages within the national telecommunication networks to surf out potential dangerous information of national interest.
Whenever I am on night duty, I take the next day off, sometimes I am attached to the house of a senior officer as night guard, or I am assigned to guard a sensitive post. The job routine was fixed and I have my weekends to myself except if I am on weekend duty. I have planned to enroll in either of the Enugu state university or the institute of management and technology for a part time degree program once I am fully settled, say next year.
We did not receive any salaries in December and January; HQ admin was yet to be done with our documentation into the NA database so I survived on borrowing and charity. We were very credit worthy for older Soldiers readily lend us monies because they all knew we were expecting something big when our bulk money is paid up, and once this is paid, everyone will know. The barracks is a small community where nothing goes unnoticed.
I stopped smoking marijuana because I was broke and managing the meager resources with me as I wait patiently for my pay, Secondly Igbo smoking was not encouraged in the Army contrary to my expectation, in fact it was a punishable offence to be caught smoking Indian hemp, however, fifty percent of the Soldiers still smoke it. I had brought a lot of food stuff from the Village but after three months of non receipt of salary my Ban became empty.
By April in 1991, we were preparing for the annual G.O.C (General Officer Commanding) Cup inter unit football tournament. I was among the Players of the Signals Corp, I played centre forward and we go to the Field every evening after office hours for training and practice. It was during one of those sessions that I met Mr. Chike or Oga Chike as he was popularly called.
Oga Chike was a Civilian business man that deals on Machines and automobile Spare parts at a market called “Coal camp” in Enugu. He supplies the Army spare parts from time to time and he is well known in the barracks, he is about the only Civilian that would drive into the barracks without being interrogated at the main gate. He approached me after a training session and shook hands with me, he said he liked the way I play football, he encouraged me to keep it up and strive to be enlisted into the revered “Green Beret” Army Team. Players in the Green Beret are favoured with speedy promotions and a lot of leisure. I thanked him and together we strolled to the Corporal below mess (CBM) we joined others to watch an ongoing football match while he ordered for drinks. I had no Television set in my house so I normally come to the mess to get entertained.
It was during my discussion with Chike that I indicated interest in buying a cheap car when I receive my money, I told him I would love to drive the Car to my Village to pick my Mother and bring her to Enugu with me. He promised to help me get one when I am ready. He said he had some cars handy for sale but are far beyond my reach based on my budget.
The Football competition started in earnest and I made more friends, my skill at playing local football in the Village and chasing games in the Forest paid off as I was easily spotted as a Star on the field, I scored in every match that we played, I scored two goals when we played against the military Police, I scored a goal when we played against the medical corps and two goals against Engineers, we drew two goals apart with Workshop and BAD (Base ammunition depot) My unit was top on the league.
To Be Continued