‘Yours in Arms’ is an ongoing project by Nigerian Photographer, Fawaz Oyedeji. In this project he looks at the trials and tribulations experienced by student-cadets who are committed to conserving the history of a Civilian run infantry in Nigeria. The National Cadet Corps in Nigeria is a voluntary organisation which recruits cadets from secondary schools, universities, polytechnics, barrack-youths, colleges and communities all over. There have however, been growing concerns over the treatment of some cadets, especially with the lack of support when it comes to balancing their studies and their responsibilities as a cadet; which is something that Fawaz takes an intimate look at.
“I was inspired to do this story because I was once a member of this organisation. I felt that the whole organisation was historical, and saw the need for a proper archiving of the whole operation” says Fawaz. His series of images efficiently documents parts of the student cadet’s lives which is not often seen by many outsiders. There is some sort of intimacy that comes through in his images that depicts everyday activities, activities we the viewers can relate to.
The stereotypical ‘abrasive’ characteristics that we associate with military men is subtly diffused in his body of work. “I tried as much as I could to humanise my subjects, at the same time, I have images that gives off the actual mood such as situations where they appear bored and at times looking brutal. Most of the pictures are just honest in their ways, it shows them in both their ‘vulnerable phases’ and when they are in their more-strong and less-vulnerable positions” explains Fawaz. ‘Yours In Arms’ plays with typical conventional ideas and realities that are less known to the outside world.
There have been controversies over the way that some student cadets are treated. Issues such as their superiors demanding certain levels of dedication which can be rather unreasonable, considering that cadets are also juggling their studies and exams on the side. Fawaz uses his own personal experience of being a former student cadet to relay the struggles that some of them continue to face. ‘It was hard keeping up with the traditions, you would usually have to train overnight from 2am to around 6 in the morning, everyone is a student so they would probably have 8am lectures so you would get about 2 to 3 hours sleep before having to go to your lectures and before you can even go to class, you might have to satisfy your superior who has probably sent you on an errand, leaving you super tired before your next class’, narrates Fawaz.
The intensity and vigour of The National Cadet Corps balanced with having to find room to study, is carefully documented with images of student cadets studying next to rechargeable lamps whilst people in the background are either doing the same thing or sleeping. This visual insight helps to not only inform the viewers but also allows the student cadets featured to have a side of them seen which is usually overlooked.
Fawaz Oyedeji is a Documentary Photographer and Historian based in Lagos, Nigeria. His passion is to use photographs as a means for examining important social and historic issues, particularly those related to local communities in Africa. Fawaz was a recipient of the 2019 Eugene Smith Student Grant and member of African Photojournalism Database (APJD) a joint project by World Press Photo Foundation and Everyday Africa. To view the rest of his project, visit his website
Anne Alagbe, Founding Editor of No! Wahala Magazine is an indepedent Photo Editor and Documentary Photogragher based between Abuja and London. She presently works as a Visual Communication Expert within the development space in Nigeria. Visit her website or instagram