Mothers are like fresh springs of water gushing from the most unlikely places; a rock, an oasis in the desert, or the rain that defiles the sun. These thoughts linger on one’s mind at the sight of the Awgu Permanent Orientation Camp, Enugu; the birthplace of Yakubu Gowon’s vision for a revived and more integrated Nigeria.
Founded in May 1973 by General Yakubu Gowon, the then Military Head of State of Nigeria, the National Youth Service Corps was created as an avenue for the reconciliation, reconstruction, and rebuilding of the nation after the civil war. Enugu State’s Awgu Permanent Orientation Camp was the first camp used as a training ground for the large pool of Nigerian youth from diverse cultures and backgrounds to come together in what would later become a lifelong annual tradition. But this wasn’t always the case.
Years before in the year 1967, the Awgu NYSC Orientation camp served as a home to the short-lived Biafran Republic after its original capital, Enugu was captured by Nigerian soldiers. Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, fled with his troop from Mile 9 in Enugu to Awgu and built bunkers for shelter with the hills providing a strategic blanket for the Biafran training depot, airstrip, and radio station used in communicating with troops in other parts of Eastern Nigeria.
One could say perhaps, that the leather boots, and unwavering spirits of the brave men and women who planned and fought from behind these hills, with their vision for Biafra as their primary weaponry, is the reason for Awgu’s hardened soil.
Unfortunately, not long after these bunkers became home, the Biafrans were fought out of their hold behind the hills and made for Okigwe which was also captured by the Nigerian army.
However, the bunkers remained; with tears, blood, sweat, abandoned battle plans, and heart-wrenching war stories smeared on walls and buried in its soil.
After the war, the Awgu grounds were used by the Citizenship and Leadership Training Center for outdoor activities, and it later became home to the first orientation camp when General Yakubu Gowon declared the NYSC scheme in a bid to put the pieces of the nation together. Youths from different parts of Nigeria returned to the Awgu Camp; this time not as Biafrans racing from an impending doom, but as a united body with unique functionalities; utilizing their knowledge, skills, and abilities in rebuilding a torn nation.
It has however evolved in sync with time to include 8 male hostels, 7 female hostels, and housing over 2000 corps members, as well as 300 camp officials. The Awgu NYSC Orientation Camp, Enugu State, is rumoured to be one of Nigeria’s best in training and effectively preparing corps members for their impact in the nation, and the world at large.
Besides, the Maami market often frequented by corps members, the camp is also surrounded by hills, creating an aesthetically pleasing view of nature. Among other centers of attraction on camp is the infamous meditation ground; known for its serenity and comfort from Enugu’s sun; it seats at the centre of the camp with an almond tree that gracefully pulls the attention of both corps members and passersby.
It’s been years since Enugu State’s Awgu Permanent Orientation camp was conceived, and the Ojukwu Bunkers still remain; but as is the case for every historical artefact, it faces the threat of being covered in dust, with the events that led to its existence forgotten.
However, Agwu camp still holds her beauty; as the soil hardens against each step taken, she dares your feet to push back – drilling you to never give up. Going up and down the rocky hills, an exercise in its own that sharpens your resolve, the three weeks spent on camp leaves corps members at an almost enviable advantage that peers serving in other states are not exposed to, and a bucket list of other values she holds.
Like the mother she served as in 1967, the NYSC Orientation Camp, Awgu, Enugu State, still welcomes and empowers young and old alike, to be the best version of themselves, and phenomenally represent Nigeria globally.
Being the birth ground for the NYSC Orientation Camp, and home to Biafra’s historical Bunkers that still serve as time machines to an era where men fearlessly gave their lives as collateral for their beliefs, a mother should not be ignored. Pay us a visit today.