As a teenager growing up, I loved the Navy. My love for the force came from the many Hollywood movies I watched. The heroics of naval officers enthralled me to the point that I decided I was going to be a naval officer. I bought comics and magazines that displayed naval officers, their equipment, firearms and so on. I was usually awed at the look of their uniforms: smooth and straightly-ironed. Their neatness was something to reckon with. If I were an American, I would have become a naval officer, of that, I’m sure. But you see, all that dream has been dashed because of corruption the Nigerian Navy.
In 2010 I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horn. Advertisement had flooded the internet for interested young Nigerians to apply for recruitment into the Nigerian Navy. For me, my dream of “officerhood” was about to begin. Prior to this time, I had also heard of the opening for new intakes from other lads who had also expressed interest in joining the force. Together with these new friends of mine, I hovered around cybercafes in my area in Port Harcourt, looking for the one with the best internet service so we could get registered. I didn’t want any stories. I had all the requirements for registration and would not take No for an answer. Luckily, my online registration went smoothly and on my online printout, I and others were asked report to Nigerian Navy Basic Training School (NNBTS) at Onne, for a 10-day screening exercise. I was happy. Few days to the exercise, I bought everything I would need in camp, trained for fitness and made sure my documents were intact. I arrived the camp a day before the actual screening exercise was to kick-off.
On my arrival at the camp, the place was already agog with activities. Officers in their neatly-ironed uniforms were on ground to usher potential naval ratings on how to comport themselves. I loved the whole activity. Screening kicked off in earnest. It started with certificate verification, then our heights and weights were measured, and other exercises also took place. All these took place in about three days because of the number of applicants; we were close to 1000 struggling for about 50 spaces. I understood that spaces were limited but the exercise became fraudulent in the manner which the real selections were made. This is where my corruption story begins!
After the about 1000 applicants had been cut down to about 200 or so, the method of selection became arbitrary. The next round of selection was blood pressure check. We queued endlessly. When it got to my turn, the test was conducted, and in few minutes, the result was out. I was told that with the reading of my blood pressure, I would not be able to continue the exercise. They said it read 142/92. At that point, I was broken but won’t take it. I immediately went outside the camp to confirm the reading. And guess what? my BP read 126/84. When I took the result to the naval doctor in the camp, instead of taking a look at it, he asked me to leave. It wasn’t just me alone – others’ test results had also been criminally blotted so that more people can be arbitrarily screened out. I hung around the camp to see how the final selections will be done. As we were not allowed to continue the exercise, we witnessed how some who were certified “medically fit” fainted during a jogging exercise and two even lost their lives in the process. Then I realized that the Nigerian Navy has bad elements who didn’t care about excellence and merit but gave attention to mediocrity.
As if all that was not enough, we witnessed how some young men brought envelops concealing letters from acquaintances and relatives in the Navy to the officers coordinating the different exercises. And when this happened, they were asked to go sit somewhere, away from other candidates. To my greatest surprise, three of the young men who brought those letters were part of the final selection. I know this because I knew them personally. At the end of the whole exercise, candidates with letters from superior naval or government officials made the cut while the rest of us – fit, agile, young, intelligent and willing to serve our nation – were screened out fraudulently. I had witnessed corruption in the Navy I thought was clean. From that point, my love for the navy began to wane. I was abruptly woken up from my dream of being a naval officer.
I am a Nigerian and this is my corruption story.