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Stats: 2,184,779 members, 4,763,677 topics. Date: Saturday, 16 February 2019 at 06:32 PM
|Naija Tour by madukovich: 9:54pm On Nov 25, 2015|
When I travel cross-country by road for a journey that will take not less than ten hours, especially to a destination (like Abuja) I am not too familiar with, I prefer to travel by night. Apart from the fact that I wouldn't like to waste precious day hours starring into nothingness while the journey lasts, it is also so that I can arrive at my destination in daylight.
My choice of transportation for these journeys are the huge luxury buses traversing the length and breadth of Nigeria mostly at night, and not any smaller vehicles that though exposed to the same dangers appear to be safer or rather much more successful in bringing passengers to their destinations in one piece most of the time.
When it became imperative that I will be travelling to Abuja as well as other towns and cities in my itinerary, I did what I would normally do- travel by night, by the transport company I had severally tested and trusted. In fact, because of my frequent traveller status I didn't anymore have to divulge much information when buying my ticket as the other details easily come up. They also have e-portals via which one can even book seats for travel.
This journey was very much anticipated by me because I the many things I intended to pursue and accomplish before returning to base in Lagos, mixing business with pleasure when and where I can. The formalities of boarding completed we soon set out of Lagos to what seemed to be the routine, not-out-of-place journey. I had blocked out the world (including the man hawking drugs to passengers while the bus waltzed it's way out of Lagos at reasonable speed) as usual with my earpiece strapped tightly to my ears, listening to the news at six on Inspiration FM, 92.3 Lagos, followed by the news on Classic FM, 97.3 by 6:30 and finally "Kubanji Direct", a current affairs programme on Radio Continental 102.3 FM from 7pm, while downloading a remix of Ini Kamoze's "Worl'A Reggae" before I noticed that the bus wasn't keeping pace with the other vehicles on the road.
The driver eventually parked the bus right beside the gate of "Redeemed Camp", and after a while informed us passengers that the bus had developed a clutch problem and the journey with that bus couldn't continue. We would have to disembark and await the arrival of another bus to come in about an hour or two, reboard before continuing the journey to our destination. I have learnt in situations like this to keep my cool, assess the situation before deciding my next action, so while other passengers raised their voice in attack and insults hurled in the direction of the driver and his assistant, I simply looked out for escape routes I could employ should the night become sorrier than it is already.
The police patrol vehicle that was just a few meters from where our luxury bus was parked was soon moved away by the police in it, and I wondered why and how they could do that seeing that we were distressed passengers, left out there by a freak of happenstance with nowhere else to go but wait for the replacement vehicle, we had been promised will come for us. Those policemen further cemented within me, and I guess with my co-travelers the truth that the Nigerian police have come to represent over time, the opposite of their popular slogan to the effect that "THE NIGERIAN POLICE IS YOUR FRIEND", when they conveniently become inconspicuous when you need them the most.
So, I surveyed the height of the small fence of the Conoil Petrol station, and how easily I could scale it into the expansive compound of the Redeemed Camp, should the unexpectedly unwanted happened, while appreciative of the full moon that provided the much needed illumination on that part of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, while awaiting the "replacement luxury" bus that is to come and relieve us from our state of traveling limbo, now even after two hours.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/11/naija-tour.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 3:45pm On Nov 27, 2015|
When people we know travel and intimate us of their departure time we are wont to predict where they could be considering the time they left to the time such thoughts come to mind without considering unexpected events that may lead to delays. I have been involved several times in such situations where I had just bid farewell to an acquaintance at the park only to be stuck for hours just a few kilometers away from the point of departure, with the last person I saw or those I called to inform that the vehicle I was traveling in had left, thinking I'd have by then gone far.
I have since learnt to be humble in the face of delays when I travel (even when it had the tendency to upset well laid out plans or alter appointments, the failing of which will impact negatively on me), as that couldn't possibly be the worst that can happen to a traveler, in fact I have always felt somewhere in my mind that delays sometimes, protect us somewhat from something worse that could happen to us if we had continued. I welcome most delays sometimes with that at the back of my mind. When the replacement bus turned up after three hours and we eventually continued the journey by 11:11pm, it occurred to me that those I'd informed of my departure time would've put me at Ondo or seeing the end of Ibadan at the time, without the slightest inkling that we had barely just left Lagos, having only just only scratched the surface of what is that journey to central Nigeria from its western coast.
It is because of incidents like this that I make it a priority to travel using well established transport companies, as situations where passengers would be stranded without the transport company sending spare buses to come takeover the journey are not what you would normally associate with them. Though the replacement bus wasn't as spacious as the one that brought us thus far, passengers were just relieved that at least the journey to Abuja can continue, and soon enough angry retorts gave way to jocular insinuations, especially of what could've been had the bus failed to turn up or something even more sinister had happened while we waited.
Interestingly, once the journey resumed, most of those who had expended much energy engaging the driver of the former bus in expletives-laden banter, became somnolent. I thought about how I used to be like them in the past, throwing tantrums each time I felt shortchanged by the services provided by the transport companies. Nowadays even for the best of them, I retain very little expectations, even to the extent of refusing to eat their heavily monosodium glutamate-soaked complimentary jollof rice, preferring only their bottled water, while I sorted my own food.
I didn't get my favorite window seat this time but I couldn't care less, as I could clearly see out of the huge windows on all side of the bus, and was amazed at seeing children still hawking snacks even as it neared midnight at each of the points on the Trunk A of the southwestern roads, where vehicles are forced to slow down for one reason or the other. Things are really tough in Nigeria, and many families have to make tough decisions like the ones involving these kids to make ends meet. If only those at the helm of affairs, the politicians and policy makers who feel they know better than the rest of us, what to do to alleviate the sufferings of the people of Nigeria, can only get down to doing exactly that, maybe things will turn around for good. Unfortunately, there's nothing on ground, even with this government that won elections on the CHANGE mantra that suggest that things will soon or eventually change for the better.
The night journey that I am familiar with had finally come, so once again I blocked my ears , this time not listening to radio stations but music streaming from my phone on MP3 and nodding off my head to it, while other passengers slept. Gone are the days when luxury buses provided en-bus entertainment of music, even movies. The case for security has ensured that all of that, had to be sacrificed on the alter of expedience, especially during night journeys, and I couldn't even care less, as when such held sway what was usually on show was the same brain dulling movies off the stable of Nollywood, that I couldn't stand for all it's worth. I searched my eyes for any sign of heaviness, finding none, I knew immediately that a long night awaits me!
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (2) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/11/naija-tour-2.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 3:46pm On Nov 27, 2015|
There's usually nothing to see while traveling at night, just to mark time and find out where one is at every point, or at stops for which to stretch the legs when such opportunities present, so I simply let my mind roam. My recent visits to Ogun State in recent times have shown me how really small Lagos is, making me wonder how smaller still it would've been before part of this same Ogun State was carved into it to become what it today is. I have raised this issue because of another state that is a travel determinant for many (or maybe just me) who travel cross country especially from the west to and from other parts of Nigeria.
It is from my frequent travels from and to the southwest (Lagos in particular) that the hugeness of Ondo State became quite apparent to me. When we had our initial delay, the only thing I could think about was Ondo and many times I had wondered as to how journey times by road could greatly reduce if Ondo was excised from journey paths to and from the west to other parts of Nigeria. Interestingly, for travelers at night, there's hardly any traffic, so its just that going-and-going feeling that's there that gnaws at one's innards. It's disappointing to find after travelling for so long that one is still within Ondo State, and had I not known better I would've surmised that the contractors that handled the federal roads through Ondo incorporated into that stretch of road, a labyrinth.
Not a few of us passengers were highly disappointed to find that by 5am, after leaving the outskirts of Lagos by past 11pm last night we were just at Òwò in Ondo State. I took it in my stride remembering how getting to Òrè (also within Ondo State) when traveling to the east from the west does that too. I don't know if it will help the psyche if Ondo State is split into two or three states, which I doubt will shorten the journey, but at least one will be glad that one doesn't feel s/he stuck within just one state for what seems like unending hours.
I allowed all of Bob Marley's more than a hundred and twenty offerings on my phone stream into my ears in alphabetical order while watching time and space waltz by. He is one of the few musicians (dead or alive) that I could listen to tracks and albums on end without replay, but seamlessly move from one track to the other. They don't make them like that anymore sadly, but this here is what I will use to counter what Ondo State does to me when I travel. I am sure there's no way passing through Ondo will be longer than my array of Bob Marley songs. I win anyhow.
Lokoja in Kogi State is usually another landmark spot. It was one of the reasons I almost considered putting off the journey to Abuja, or deciding in favour of going to the South-south from Lagos, before the east then northward than the other way round. After the death of Prince Abubakar Audu (the late APC guber candidate who died last Sunday, while results of an election he was forerunner in was being collated), pundits had predicted chaos in that axis, but till now not much in terms of violence have been noted, making it unnecessary to alter my itinerary. The way Ondo conspired to hold us within its claws made me wonder if we would ever reach Lokoja. I wasn't surprised when by 6am we were still in Southwestern Akoko area of Ondo State, and my heart sank further, only to receive strength from the Bob Marley music in my head.
It did turn out for good much later that we had to make the latter part of Ondo State in daylight, at least for me because then I could size up those huge rocks and hills that part of Nigeria is very famous for. Many of those sites are visited by tourists outside of Nigeria while those under whose noses these nature's beauty sprang up could give no hoot about them. It was getting increasingly cold now and I wondered if it was due to the elevation of that part of town or the harmattan from the north had already landed in that part of the Southwest. It occurred to me then, that I hadn't come with any form of warm clothing in my backpack, but even that thought was overtaken by the view I was enjoying. Not much appears to have changed with the settlements in the Akoko area of Ondo State, there were signs of electricity but there were more mud houses than the modern block houses, but I know now that that situation is not so much due to poverty than it is because the people in such places see buildings made with mud as more a temperature moderator especially in times of extreme temperatures.
Over the years, I have only associated military roadblocks with the roads in the north, but this time around we have encountered several since we made it into Ondo State and I guess going further we will encounter them more frequently. Only on one occasion though did we come across a police patrol team. The current security situation in Nigeria could be blamed for this state of affairs, and even the misstep by President Muhammadu Buhari days after assumption of office, in which he ordered a dismantling of roadblocks, led to his having to swallow his vomit, when the terrorists struck almost immediately in response, as if in some kind of celebration at the lifting of obstacles that had hampered their operations in recent times.
Nothing gave me greater joy, when we eventually navigated our way out of Ondo into Okenne, Kogi State, for me that milestone is always worth celebrating so I let my innards jump for joy, the best they could do in the limited space allowed them. At this time, school children were already out and on their way to school. Interestingly, all the passengers blowing hot as to how last nights' delay will cost them their appointment this morning were silent, some even still asleep, except maybe like me they have surrendered themselves to fate. Like I always thought, things could've been worse.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (3) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/11/naija-tour-3.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 8:15pm On Nov 28, 2015|
It must be the fact that we had crossed over into Kogi from Ondo that gave me so much rest of mind that I fell into what I can describe as a POWER NAP, and that was despite the uncomfortable atmosphere that the contraption that is the bus we were in provided. We were close to Lokoja when I came to, and I knew then that Abuja was just a matter of time, though it seemed that by the speed with which the driver was now going that he wasn't so keen at arriving Abuja before noon, a long shot from our ETA.
Lokoja, as beautiful as always had in its background intimidating mountains and hills, which in some areas, just like in Abeokuta, Ogun State, some less intimidated indigenes had taken the battle up to the mountain in erecting their abode in its belly, as far up as they figure they could go and yet be safe. The pictures they make is an interesting one to behold, so much so that I wonder if I could have something like that in the future, even though a beachside condo appears more appealing to me than the former.
You really have to witness the vastness of Nigeria when you travel by road to understand why foreigners come into Nigeria and make it. You can sell virtually anything here, and you'll find a market that asks very little questions, though like a mob they'll troop to patronize you when you don't disappoint, but will be quick to go the other way once their expectations aren't met. That is how fluid the market is, but they can also be very forgiving. It is painful that those in leadership position haven't been able to inspire among the people the much needed confidence to aspire to be the best they can be. The land surely is blessed and flows with milk and honey, of potentials. Unfortunately, the challenges are such that on all sides the country is pulled by centripetal forces aimed at dislodging it at it's centre, a painful sight to have to witness and live through.
Ok, enough of me waxing patriotic to noticing that Kogi might just be doing to me what Ondo has always done to me, but I will put that to anticipation or longing for the as yet elusive Abuja not necessarily because it is such a great distance to cover as such. I could see the many plans lined up for the time I was spending on the roads cancelling themselves out gradually, while others rescheduled themselves. Man as usual can only propose, as it is our inalienable right (amongst others) to so do, whether we get to carry out our propositions is another matter entirely, one which many times is beyond our control.
One of those plans was to put out online-real time everything, as I see them in my tour of some towns in Nigeria and there I was, barely into the first major city and Airtel Nigeria my phone's network for data knocks me off with more than 700MB to burn even after 24 hours I couldn't still be linked to the outside world besides the call I could make to my acquaintances. Anyway, before I knew that the situation would last that long, we managed to make it to Abuja but unlike my frequent visits, I elected to alight at Lupe before the bus made it into its terminal at the Utako area of Abuja, which going by the speed the driver was going in, could take another hour. From Lupe I boarded a cab to Area 1, from where I jumped into another to Mararaba but again alighted just before that ever busy part of the outskirts of Abuja for what looked like a newly developing park a few kilometers to Mararaba to board a cab to Keffi, in Nasarawa State where I had a deal to seal. With suicide bombers targeting notable parks to make their statements I intended to avoid major parks in Abuja as much as I could.
Something interesting happened though, when we approached the military checkpoint on the road to Keffi, just a few kilometers after we had passed Mararaba. I had gotten a call from Lagos over an issue I had to resolve with business there, and was doing so as we approached the checkpoint. That was when the Yoruba driver shouted in Hausa something I couldn't make out and couldn't care less because I was sure he was talking about or to me, until the boy sitting next to me snatched my phone from me and held tightly to it while we careered past the checkpoint, and I stilled myself from throwing up my custom "WTF" because of the end of the soldiers' AK-47 that was dangling close to my head by the window side of the back of the cab where I was seated.
Once we were out of hearing range of the soldiers, the boy apologized and returned my phone, explaining to me that we would've been made to alight, even punished (as "erring" passengers were sometimes asked to frog jump, I also learnt) had I been caught by the soldiers making a call. He had to do what he did when I didn't heed the drivers' rant to stop making the call on my phone as we passed by the checkpoint. My anger soon turned to a feeling of appreciation when the ramification of what had happened became clear to me, so I thanked him while wondering why the driver could've thought I could understand the Hausa language when I spoke the Yoruba, which he as well speaks fluently, but I put that to the terrain. When I narrated this event on Facebook much later, George said the ban on making calls at checkpoints was because suicide bombers used phones to detonate their baggage, and Robinson Onogu said I was lucky that my phone wasn't reduced to shreds while I got the pulp beaten outta me till I proved to the soldiers that I wasn't a member of Boko Haram (Islamic Fundamentalist group behind series of suicide bombings in Nigeria's north generally, and the Noetheast in particular). I was left aghast!
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (4) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/11/naija-tour-4.html?m=0
|Re: Naija Tour by laurel03: 9:50pm On Nov 28, 2015|
Travel from Lag to Borno and experience real naija tour...
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 9:53pm On Nov 28, 2015|
Lol, watch out for (5)
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 12:12pm On Dec 06, 2015|
I left Keffi without bothering to check on my friend who brought me back from "Zimbabwe" in the wee hours of the morning. I knew he'd need a few more hours to gather himself together before starting his day. He could afford to do so because of his blue collar working status. If we had travelled back to Keffi in daylight, with as much motorists back on the road than we met on our way back, I might have to be writing this on an emergency room bed, and that is if we had survived. I should've known better not to allow a drunk drive us to Keffi from Zimbabwe, and it is now a scenario I would never like to repeat.
The journey to Lafia was gladly uneventful, and in fact looked shorter than I had ever been on the road to Lafia from Keffi. I could see no immediate reason to adduce that to, because the driver of the cab I boarded didn't seem to move at an incredibly extraordinary speed, and we still passed by military, police, Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) checkpoints (while flouting regulations like having two passengers seated in the front, on a seat meant for one, with the driver without seatbelts on) with passengers alighting at intervals and new ones been picked. I really didn't have deadlines for Lafia, as it was just a fun visit to relish my first love in Nasarawa State. It looked like I closed my eyes and by the time I opened it, we were at Akwanga, then I blinked again and we were in Lafia.
Nothing much had changed since I last visited less than seven months ago. However, the atmosphere was more relaxed because the tension after the elections and before inauguration appeared to have largely dissipated, and everyone seemed to be going about their business without a care. I went about seeing familiar faces once I arrived, ate as much as was presented me till I couldn't take no more. In one place, I was entertained with a Nollywood movie titled "Skeleton, Season 4", and barely managed to watch just ten minutes of the movie that was meant to be a horror movie in shrubland by day, before a massive headache hit me. I begged to watch cable TV and once I was obliged (of which the alternative was to walk away) the headache stopped.
Unlike in Keffi, many of the residents and businesses in Lafia run on Power Generating Sets. There's just no stable electricity anywhere in Lafia from the national grid, and I think even the governors' residence and office also run on generators. Even when power is restored it lasts only a few minutes or at most a little over an hour, and can be said to be the most epileptic in Nigeria (and I stand to be corrected). One would've expected better from a state capital but in that respect Lafia is heavily lacking, amongst other amenities like water and even healthcare. Many of the residents prefer to use local concoctions rather than "go to die" in the government General Hospital there (Lafia isn't as fortunate like Keffi, where there's a Federal Medical Centre). A resident even confided in me, that at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital there, there's religious and ethnic discrimination in favour of Muslims and natives/indigenes over people of other religions and settlers. Had it not been for the activities of International Donor Agency activities in most of the Primary Health Care facilities in the state, I doubt there'd be anywhere to go by the indigenes. The lack of reach of regulatory bodies like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC into Nasarawa State means that the drug stores are saturated with substandard drugs not from proprietary companies but from the East of Nigeria, where places like Onitsha have been notorious in the past for harboring fake drug manufacturing companies, more like shops, of which Nasarawa State is a major destination.
Later that night I trekked from Bukan Sidi where you have the Investment House to town, to what is popularly called Jos Road to see how far things have changed, but was largely disappointed with the fact that only a few change is noticeable from the last time I was there, like the government was still recuperating from an election victory and also victory at the election tribunals for which there'd be no time to do anything new. The paved road in the centre of town was still in good shape, but much of the changes made by government has been such glorifying the incumbent Governor Tanko Al-Makura (aka Ta'Al), with Ta'Al this, Ta'Al that dotting the landscape of town, and though you may find this with schools, libraries and other things he'd built elsewhere, they weren't as preponderant as they were in Lafia, where even the blue tricycles taxis with doors (unlike those in Lagos and elsewhere) carry the tag KEKE TA'AL. There is even a TA'AL CONFERENCE HOTEL in the heart of Lafia, that left me wondering if that belonged to the state governor or to the government. If it didn't belong to the state government, why would Ta'Al build such while in power, and if for the state, what guarantees are there that it won't be transferred to the private citizen that the governor will become when he relinquishes power seeing that this is his last term in office.
I used to think differently about Ta'Al, from how I consider other Nigerian governors, but after that incident in which his convoy assaulted a female driver and her passengers, I began to take a second look at him. He was on TV hours earlier decrying the pitiable situation in government secondary schools in Nasarawa State and promising to do something to remedy the situation, and I wondered how he didn't see all of that in his first term, as well as what it was that he prioritized back for all of those four years? I hope now that he can see the challenge as he publicly admitted on TV, he will do something as soon as possible to alleviate the plight of students in Nasarawa State's public secondary schools, as well as with other levels of education, not just with physical infrastructure, but human capital development of teaching and non teaching staff of the institutions concerned.
I noticed while trekking that policemen where strategically positioned along the road into and within town, and that signaled to me that there might have been incidences that warranted such. Lafia (which means peace) needs to live up to it's name if it must ensure its survival, and its place in the comity of state capitals. It is already overshadowed in terms of infrastructure by Keffi, and I understand the sense (by the military, years back) in making Lafia a state capital following the creation of Nasarawa State, especially if we are serious in Nigeria about spreading developments, but the state governor has to wake up, in making Lafia a state capital outside of a single road. The efforts so far, besides self glorifying legacies, are commendable but more still needs to be done.
I lost my way back from trekking once I was off the main road, and was inside the off-road settlements for the place I was to pass the night, because it was pitch black by the time I returned, with power out as usual. I had entered Lafia even later than the time I got lost this time around and wasn't afraid because of the nature of the town, and so as then I simply rigmaroled until I found myself back on the street where my destination was, though not without making a fool of myself by calling my host for direction while she was behind me, laughing at my stupidity. The next morning, without ceremony and much ado, I picked all of mine into my backpack and headed out for the next cab heading for Abuja to continue my NAIJA TOUR.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (6) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/12/naija-tour-6.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 4:42am On Dec 08, 2015|
I noticed something while at Keffi, then Lafia and on leaving Lafia for Abuja, and that is the fact that there was no masking of Fuel Price by the management of filling stations in those places, unlike in Lagos, in Filling Stations were fuel is sold at a higher amount than the approved pump price of =N=87/L, but isn't reflected on the meter, rather a calculator is used to calculate the value you'd pay for fuel without regards to the readings of the meter. In these places, as exemplified by that filling station at Shabu outward Lafia towards Akwanga fuel is sold at =N=125 per litre (as against the approved pump price of =N=87/L), and that is what you'd find on the meter. Apparently, officials of the Directorate of Petroleum Resources, DPR don't pay the kind of visits they pay to fuel dispensing stations in major cities like Lagos and Abuja.
This is much like when I mentioned NAFDAC in my last instalment in relation to drugs. Most regulatory agencies flex their muscles in their respective sectors in Nigeria, only in major cities, and even at that in the highbrow parts and never in the hinterlands and areas considered out-of-way even when not out of their jurisdiction, sometimes because they are understaffed, many times because they couldn't care less, with the jobs they do where and when they do them, only when they want cheap publicity, or want to appear to their employers (or as with the head to the president or supervising minister) like they are doing something to justify their paychecks. At the end of the day, it is the poor masses meant to be protected by the lawful activities of these regulating agencies, that suffer the most.
I arrived Abuja to meet up with appointments I had put forward the last time I passed through, and it felt right to have made that call, because I had less on my shoulder this time to see to the deal I had to seal in the nation's capital. By noon, I had what was left of the day to gallivant before heading out to Nigeria's South-South or Niger Delta region. The first time I visited Abuja was fifteen years ago as an undergraduate, and each time I visit since then, every other year, I see new things in terms of infrastructure and otherwise. It remains one of Nigeria's success stories though it has lots of ugly sides. A dynamic space, like a construction site in the midst of Eden, as the land continues to be raped by bulldozers planting infrastructure over virgin land, greenery and evergreen trees and shrubbery. With replacement foliage and flora tending towards the plastic, and the humans there living what I can consider a fake life in the main, though it is wrong to generalize in that respect. I do love Abuja, but I doubt it is a place I'd like to make an abode for now, or in the nearest future for that matter.
I went sightseeing after business with a friend, checking out real estate prospect and what is obtainable in some of the estates in Abuja. It's no news that most gated communities in Lagos, as well as Abuja provides you with social amenities that government will ordinarily strain to provide, or not provide in most cases, but the fact that they run cable TV cords into conduit just waiting for you to plug in, including Wi-Fi is a new one for me, and totally almost caught me yearning for the high-end life of Abuja, but somewhere in my mind I knew Lagos would've bettered that somewhere. Even in the University, we had DSTV wired to every room in the hostels by the time I was in my penultimate year, as far back as 2003 in Lagos.
The Tilapia Fish at what was formerly the games village wasn't bad at all, though the shawarma wasn't as good as the ones you'd get at several spots on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Though the Fish took some time in coming, it was worth the wait, and for its weight in cash, paid for by my host. It went down well with the not so chilled bottle of water. That atmosphere, the setting and the meal made for fruitful discussions into the past, the present and the possibilities that the future holds. Lots of insights were shared on that table, the results of which will yield fruit in time to come. You just learn some things that you'd never learn in school when you share some time with people like my host for that day in Abuja. I didn't want to miss the bus to my next destination so we had to wrap up our discussion so I could leave, but not without buying some anti-allergy medication as I was beginning to adversely react to changing environment due to constant travel.
Abuja, wasn't like Lafia from where I'd just come and couldn't get drugs I needed. In fact, the pharmacy where I got my anti-allergy drugs was the second pharmacy I visited in Abuja that day. The first was on the recommendation of the friend I had earlier met. The only problem here is, while you may get medication relatively inexpensive (if they are available) in Lafia, while nursing the fear that it might be substandard or fake, you will have a hole drilled in your pocket buying the same in Abuja where you are most likely to buy the genuine one, with stricter control especially with non-over-the-counter medication.
The ride to Utako where the luxury bus terminus is located was another opportunity to sightsee Abuja. Unfortunately, it was much of the same things. I am of the view that Architects failed Abuja woefully, as there's no ingenuity in the way they put up towers, condos and other buildings, except for very few places. Even the National Mosque had nothing extraordinary besides the golden dome, which made me wonder if all of that was raw gold. Only the road network was something to write home about, but the curse of all cities, traffic is becoming an all too common feature, a reason why I always choose carefully my time when I come or pass through Abuja. I shouldn't go through the traffic in Lagos, and still come to Abuja to suffer same. I was glad to have made it in time to the terminus, but that didn't stop my debit card from conspiring to thwart my effort to leave Abuja that night.
N.B. It came as a rude shock to me, in the course of my Tour to learn of the death of Alhaji Mohammed Chindo Yamusa II, Emir
of Keffi, whom I had paid glowing tributes to in my previous offering, as regards how he managed to maintain peace in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
May his soul Rest In Peace!
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (7) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/12/naija-tour-7.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 10:53am On Dec 10, 2015|
One of the advantages of banking with old generation banks for many Nigerians is the thought that they could not fail like the new generation ones. Even if and when they are rocked by scandals that's enough to swallow the new generation banks, these first generationals manage to stay afloat, especially because I think they have acquired assets over the years, besides their presence in all the nooks and cranies of Nigeria (including the remotest of places), and have in their boards very powerful people (in government and out of it) or their fronts or proxies, that somehow manage to make financial regulators quite sympathetic to them when they run foul of the law, leaving them with a slap on the wrist in such situations.
So, even when such banks slowly and reluctantly embrace latest banking technology they do not necessarily lose their crowd, though they may no longer be first choice for most of their customers. The reason they remain in contention may not be unconnected with the fact that they make withdrawals herculean which is good news for many who intend to "truly" save, compared to the new generation banks where there are a gazillion ways to withdraw your money online real time. Unfortunately, hanging with the old generationals during a tour like I undertook meant that each time the ATM cards works, one must withdraw maximally, as it may be the last time one could be successful at the ATM for another few hours for reasons ranging from poor network (that has a way of peculiarly choosing such banks) amongst others, some of which point at the incompetence of the IT sections of such banks.
So it was, that the last time I used that banks debit card was in Lafia (Nasarawa State capital) the night before arriving in Abuja while strolling through Jos Road. I don't know where I got the confidence to spend cash buying medication and food expensively in Abuja, when I knew I would be traveling later that evening. The first sign that all may not go well was when my host was driving me out of the Games Village after that sumptuous meal of Boiled Tilapia and Shawarma and I tried the ATM there, and I was told that my issuer was unoperative or inoperative (the exact words used skip my memory now). A next try at another, a few meters away (with a guy standing right beside the ATM like he had intention to mug) also proved abortive, but I had hopes. A third try was at Utako (a nidus for transport company termini), before approaching the Luxury Bus Terminus, and it was the same story, though I was able to check my balance (to be sure that the other times I attempted to withdraw was not recorded as successful).
Gladly, my preferred luxury bus company with which I frequently travel was much into the "cashless" thing, even doing discounts for passengers who use their debit cards rather than paying cash. I was happy to use my debit card on their Point Of Sales (POS) machine, which was issued by the same old generation bank whose ATM I had in my possession. Unfortunately, the POS machine declined my card. It was now some few minutes to six in the evening and I was beginning to feel awkward. Off again into the streets I went to try more ATM's only to come back with the same results. Back at the terminus, the lady issuing the tickets wouldn't let me try my debit card again, and was beginning to view me with suspicion even though her records show that I was a frequent traveller with her bus company. I asked if I could transfer the money to her company's account but she flippantly responded that she didn't know the account. Frustrated, I asked to see the manager, she said "ok", but made no attempt to stand from her seat, or beckon to anyone to help me.
Luckily, a young man I had seen walk in and out of the cubicle where she was seated, was once again going out for something, and I approached him and explained my predicament, to which he hardly broke sweat before giving me an account to wire the required sum for the ticket to an account number I suspect was his, and thereafter directed the ticketing clerk to give me the ticket once the "alert" hit his phone. I couldn't be more grateful. The qualms I had with the ticketing clerk didn't stop me from asking her for a window side seat, to which she quickly responded to the effect that there was none. I was just happy to be able to leave Abuja that night, even though it only meant I'd have a day to loaf about before business in Port Harcourt by so doing.
I went about "charging" my "power bank" at one of the stalls at the terminus, as my mobile phones were already showing signs of low batteries, and it was important for me to be online. The food (jollof rice) served by the bus company in Abuja was better than those in Lagos. It didn't smell of so much monosodium glutamate as with the one at the Lagos park, but I could only manage two spoonfuls before chewing away at the fried meat, which also wasn't bad. The water, though not as cold as I'd have wanted it was much welcome, and I gulped the whole content in the bottle down. I couldn't buy anything at the park because I was low on cash and saved what I had for the journey, where I would then need to buy a thing or two if need be.
The bus started boarding about eight thirty later that evening, but interestingly it wasn't full as at the time the journey started. I guess that was why it delayed so much, and there was no first bus or second bus (that was usually by 5pm and 7pm respectively), rather just one bus to Port Harcourt, in Rivers State, South-South Nigeria, in the heart of the Niger Delta. The ticketing clerk may have thought she was dealing me a bad one when she refused to give me a window seat, but it turned out that there was no one for the window seat, and we left Abuja with just me occupying the space for two people. I took up my space near the window with joy, relishing what I missed on my way to Abuja. It was good to know that we were now on our way to Port Harcourt, as it was beginning to feel like something was doing all it could to stop me from reaching that destination, especially at the time I planned to be there.
I slept, woke up and we were at Lokoja. Must be around 2am and passengers were allowed to go grab some things to eat, drink and "pee". As usual, I went for things that wouldn't cause me bowel distress, in kebab (suya in local parlance) and water. The driver and his mate also used the opportunity to fill the bus with Port Harcourt bound passengers they met on ground, and that was how I got me a fat man as seatmate, and the journey continued in earnest. The air from outside was chilly, enough to cause passengers on the other side of the aisle to beg that I closed the window to the dissatisfaction of my seatmate who registered his displeasure with a "mtcheeeeew".
All was going well for a while till we heard a loud bang, that I felt came from under the vehicle, and I had hoped for the worst, seeing that I didn't have lots of cash in my wallet, something that armed robbers don't like to see or hear, and for which many passengers had gotten maimed and killed under such circumstances. I quickly scanned the area for means of escape should push come to shove, only to find that the bus was gradually waltzing to the side of the road closer to a light source that turned out to be from a hotel on a lonely road in Asaba, Delta State. There was no sign of armed robbers, nor of policemen. Even vehicles were passing in trickles, and those were mainly buses and cars used for haulage purposes, heavily loaded within, and without especially on their tops, with the load on top for most of them appearing to be larger than those inside the vehicles.
Most of us passengers alighted from the bus, when it became obvious that it was a case of a burst tyre in the first of the four tyres at the left back, and rantings by passengers began, for me the second time since I started my tour (though for a different reason as from with the first). The feeling of something stopping me from getting to Port Harcourt crept in again and I quietly waved it away while watching proceedings. The drivers' mate's attempt to remove the faulty tyre and replace with another met with arguments and counterarguments from passengers who felt he wasn't going about it properly. He managed to lose all but one of the nuts after "jacking" the bus to what some of the passengers didn't consider high enough. As if things weren't bad enough, it started to rain, not in drizzles but torrentially that those of us on the ground had to run to a nearby stall beside the hotel, to escape getting drenched even though we couldn't escape getting cold. The mate continued to try to lose the nut but when it appeared that there might be a case of misthreading which had made it difficult for the nut to come lose, he decided to put the other nuts back in place, after which we reboarded the bus and continued the journey slowly this time, as much as the burst tyre could allow in the rain. It really didn't feel so bad going the way we were going and I wondered why the driver didn't consider this earlier rather than exposing us to inclement weather, and possible marauding right in the middle of nowhere.
By a few minutes after five in the morning we stopped. I thought we were at a military checkpoint, but it turned out to be a traffic gridlock. Vehicles were parked bumper to bumper and for a long time we didn't move until some flicker of daylight began to appear on the horizon. At this point I got down with some passengers to see actually what exactly was going on. We could see nothing. Even when there was movement, it was for just a few feet and nothing more. The stretch of vehicles was so long that it was difficult to see the end. Passengers were now beginning to alight and walk towards the Niger Bridge into Onitsha. I was very tired, and didn't know if I could do the trek. With the issue of the bad tyre at the back of my mind I wasn't sure that once traffic became lighter that the bus won't stop in Onitsha to finally change the tyre. Eventually, I decided to trek into Onitsha against advice I received of another passenger of how far from Onitsha we were. Some exercise shouldn't kill I thought, and the lack of cash didn't help my situation hence I picked my back pack and started my trek.
It turned out to be a long one, and more people were now doing the trek. The reason for the traffic jam became clearer as I inched closer to the Niger Bridge, that connected South-eastern Nigeria, to the Niger Delta (South-South Nigeria) on that axis. I was informed that the day before, protesting members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB had blocked the bridge and brought commercial activities to a halt in Onitsha (commercial capital of Anambra State and the Southeast as a whole), demanding the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu, currently detained by the Federal Government on charges of incitement, even Treason and Terrorism (for asking for self determination, and a sovereign state of Biafra from what is today the Eastern part of Nigeria, from the rest). A Joint Task Force of the police and members of the arms of the military were then stationed at the Asaba and Onitsha end of the Niger Bridge to screen vehicles entering and leaving Onitsha, in anticipation of the bigger protest planned for the day.
Part of my itinerary was Anambra State, and I could simply go in there, do what I had to do and then go to Port Harcourt, but then I must finish everything that day and head for Port Harcourt the next to meet up with my appointment. I considered that if IPOB youths go on with their plan of a mega demonstration it might be difficult to get out of Onitsha to Port Harcourt even if I was able to conclude my business in time outside of Onitsha but within Anambra State. If however I go on to Port Harcourt, I would still get my much needed rest, make my appointment the next day, then enter Onitsha before careering into the rest of Anambra to fulfill my plans there, get some play time even clock some time in neighbouring Imo State before returning to base in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. I decided while trekking, and now close to the Asaba end of the Niger Bridge to get money first, before deciding what to do next. I figured that my best bet will be to get to an ATM of the old generation bank branch that issued my debit card, so that if it doesn't work, I could go into the bank at eight o'clock and get the much I needed to continue my journey the traditional way, hopefully without making a scene for the embarrassment and discomfort their debit card had caused me the day before. It was then 7am.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR ( http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/12/naija-tour-8.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 6:58pm On Dec 15, 2015|
So it came to pass, that after about an hour of trekking from where the bus I was travelling in had to stop due to traffic somewhere in Asaba, Delta State, I reached the Asaba end of the bridge over the River Niger, connecting the Niger Delta/South-South Nigeria with the Southeast popularly called HEAD BRIDGE (or is it Bridge Head now?). At this point traffic seemed to be slowly moving as a few men of the mobile police force were on hand to control the traffic, sometimes conducting a search especially of some private vehicles.
We (band of trekkers) soon learnt that there had been a protest by members of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB the day before with intention to hold a mega demonstration (demanding the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu, presently in detention on charges of treason, terrorism, amongst others, for demanding a sovereign state of Biafra) same day I made to enter Onitsha en route Port Harcourt. I wasn't perturbed by the presence of heavily armed members of the security services since I had nothing to hide, though I suspected that my huge backpack may arouse some suspicion within them about me, so rather than walk away from them, I walked towards them.
I was glad to find that moped taxis were allowed through the bridge, and though crossing the bridge didn't appear longer than the distance I had already covered trekking, I was already tired and my legs now too heavy to lift, so I did the next best thing by getting one of the bikes to ferry me across the "Head Bridge" from the Asaba end, to the Onitsha end, a journey which took less than five minutes to navigate as we left stranded vehicles behind in the hold-up till we got to the Onitsha end where I had to alight, raise my hands (because I saw others doing same) as we passed by the stern-faced, gun totting military and mobile police men. I had experienced this sometime in 2007 in the heady days of militancy in the Niger Delta, when I visited Port Harcourt from Bonny on my way to a friends'. I noticed to the left of the road, where most of the vehicles of the different arm of the security services present were parked, a man lying facedown into the sand and watched over by about three soldiers, wondering what crime he must have committed to have found himself in such a position. I meant to walk up to the soldiers to ask them what the man had done to deserve such a cruel treatment, but I thought better to walk away as it didn't seem the armed men had any intention to be civil that morning.
I soon walked by the statue of DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU, the late Igbo Icon, who remains to many a demigod (even a god to some others), and I stood awhile, to not only stare at the harmattan-dustied work of art (a shadow of what it was at its unveiling, which I thought should've been better sculpted), but also to take in the legacy of what the man stood for while he lived. It was for the actions of this man, for his beloved people, when Nigeria turned it's back on the Igbos, seeing in them objects for target practice and game only, especially in Nigeria's North, that the then Colonel Ojukwu on the 6th of July, 1967 after due consultations with relevant stakeholders, in what was then Eastern (Now part of South-South/Niger Delta and all of Southeast) Nigeria, agreed to pull out of Nigeria. For the three years Biafra fought to free itself off the clutches of Nigeria, to which it had been joined/amalgamated by the colonialists since 1914, the dream of a utopian land of the free was nurtured, birthed but never weaned, due to the war. Igbos never forgot, much like the Jews never forget the Holocaust, and despite what others may say about Ojukwu, he remained the Hero of the Igbo, up till his death four years ago.
A few Igbo sons have played upon this sentiments (that has remained an idea and ideal for the Igbo, as I elucidated in my treatise on BIAFRA | madukovich's cogitations https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/biafra/) to once a while attempt to recreate or force into being conditions (not necessarily with the bloodshed that birthed the call for secession the first time) under which Biafra can once again be actualized, and because most of these weren't properly thought through, their actions ended up dead on arrival. Some of the agitations for Biafra in recent times have been of and from youths, many of which weren't born ay the time the war was fought (and lost on the Biafran side). This one by the Indigenous People (The Igbo lay claim to being one of the aboriginal groups in Nigeria, unlike some other tribes whose geneology link them to other regions of Africa, even of the world) Of Biafra, IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu who used to head the media arm of the Movement For The Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB (led by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, who has since denounced Kanu's activity and gone ahead to float another pro-Biafra group) via RADIO BIAFRA based in the United Kingdom, is different in the manner in which it has been able to galvanize in so short a time Igbo youth mainly to protest, even in the face of intimidation, arrests, even deaths; and also managing to grind to a halt, activities in major towns in the Southeast (notable for commercial activities, where traders find it difficult to lock their shops even for late siblings or in respect of later close relatives, and rush to open same shops minutes after Catholic morning mass on Sundays) and a few towns in the South-South/Niger Delta region (where the reception, unlike in the former was lukewarm to slightly antagonistic, especially by state governors of the region).
Unlike in the period MASSOB held sway and Radio Biafra broadcasted via shortwave with their message available only to a few who could tune in using transistor radios, IPOB has managed to move to FM and also online, with several efforts by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC to block its signals hitting the brick wall, and even when they were able to block one, floated signals elsewhere on the FM bandwidth with ease much to the discomfort and disgrace of the government agency charged with the responsibility of tracking and ending signals from the renegade station. The messages from Radio Biafra has being largely responsible for the way some youths who have been inundated with the messages have gone on, not only to show support but also to be involved in demonstrations, initially asking for a separate state, and much later (as when I passed through) asking for the release of their detained leader.
But all I wanted to do once in Onitsha, was get to a bank and afterwards eat something. I was fortunate to find a bike/Okada rider to carry me to the nearest bank branch whose debit card I carry, so that if it turned out that I still have ATM issues I could walk into the bank and sort it out, of course not without throwing some insult, the way of any bank staff within reach, for the trouble I passed through with the debit card their bank issued me. Fortunately, I was able to withdraw the much I needed, and with another Okada rider made my way through traffic, past military checkpoints with arms raised, away from the main Onitsha road to the motor park on Owerri Road, with intention to make for Port Harcourt, as it was looking like the day will be quite rough, with the impending demonstrations by IPOB youths with the force at Head Bridge looking ready to thwart any attempt at disturbing the peace for that day.
I jumped into the first bus to Port Harcourt I met on ground, once I got to the park on Onitsha-Owerri Road. At which point the rumble in my stomach reminded me of my sorry state of hunger, but that wasn't because I hadn't attempted to get something to eat. I had in fact approached a lady at a stall while trekking from Asaba towards the Niger Bridge, and asked her if she had bread. From the nook where she was eating bread and stew, she asked if I could see bread as part of the things she displayed for sale, I responded in the negative, and she turned back to her food, while I walked away feeling like an ass.
I was the second passenger in the bus. The only thing I could find to buy for food that I was sure won't cause me any trouble was AKI N'UKWA (coconut and fried breadfruit seeds) snack, which I bought and feasted upon while waiting for the bus to load for Port Harcourt. Time was of the essence for me, not because I had an appointment particularly fixed for that day in Port Harcourt, but rather because I wanted to be out of Onitsha as soon as possible, as what I saw at the Head Bridge earlier that morning at Onitsha could possibly not mean well for anybody who remained to see how things will unravel.
Only one other passenger joined us after about an hour since I boarded the bus. I had by now become very impatient, and began to wonder what was in Port Harcourt that I wasn't meant to see or meet that everything since I started the journey to that destination conspired to delay me. I alighted from the bus, trekked further to the next opening from where the bus I had earlier boarded was, only to discover the "real" park, and that where I'd been was no park, but just a space where unregistered buses stayed to "hustle" passengers, and may be there for a whole day without getting filled, compared to the real park, where three buses headed for Port Harcourt where at different levels of being filled, in fact one needed just one passenger. That was how I went to the "fake" park to appeal to the sensibility of the so called "park manager" to kindly refund my transport fare, or at most give a part of it back.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (9) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2015/12/naija-tour-9.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 9:35pm On Jan 03, 2016|
I wasn't surprised that the fat man going at his food with his fingers while at the same time licking them, did not consider my plight even when I lied to him that the interview I intended to attend in Port Harcourt had started and there was no way I was going to meet it, hence my decision to cancel the trip and ask for a refund or part of the fare I had already paid. He nonchalantly told me there was no way I was getting my money back and continued with the shame that his style of eating represented. I blamed myself for missing out on the telltale signs that should've warned me that I had come to fake park, wondering how it was that I fell for their trick after knowing and successfully avoiding their shenanigans in Onitsha especially, over the years.
Taking all that had happened in its stride, I left the "fake" park for the other one, and was still lucky to find the bus that still had space for just one passenger and hopped in. The joy of finally having to leave Onitsha (in Nigeria's Southeast) before any trouble between the joint military task force and protesting IPOB members started was more than the disappointment from the money I had lost to the people at the fake park. It didn't take up to ten minutes after I boarded the small bus to Port Harcourt (in Nigeria's Niger Delta/South-South) before it made its way into Onitsha-Owerri Road far away from the tense atmosphere of the Head Bridge.
Passengers in the bus were on about the Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano and his penchant for throwing up unnecessary celebrations over projects that required just a simple cutting of tapes or not. They talked about how youths have gone to posters around the state to replace "OBIANO IS WORKING" with "OBIANO IS DRINKING" in reference to the governors' perceived gluttony and support of tradition in a society where the largely christian population was shedding what they term their heathenish past. Though I disagreed with their views on the latter, I didn't contribute to their discussion, just was disappointed with them for thinking that foreign cultures and religion is better and right while ours should be relegated to the background, if not scrapped.
The road after Ihiala, towards Uli was still in that same state of disrepair as I met it two years back, even though construction work which was started back then was either still in progress or must have been abandoned. Passing through a section of that road, especially the unpaved section proved quite an onerous task as the bus groaned as it struggled to move atop the dusty laterite soil, throwing dust at us from the few inlets where the windows and boot (because of the excess luggage) weren't properly closed. The dust thrown up from vehicles passing in the opposite direction also affected us, as I'm sure ours did to them.
It wasn't long before we encountered a military truck fully loaded with soldiers who sang as they passed us by in the opposite direction, shooting in the air at the same time. It was at that point that one of the females in the bus drew our mind back to Onitsha, and how this could be reinforcement to the troops on ground, a pointer that things might have gone awry there. Indeed it was, because another passenger called an acquaintance in Onitsha and was informed that hell has being let loose as there was an ongoing clash between protesting members of IPOB and the security forces, with gunshots heard, following the burning down of a cement-laden truck by the protesters, and fears are that a few of the protesters had been shot, some wounded and others dead.
While fellow passengers kept in touch with people back at Onitsha, I fed my eyes with the much I could glean of the part of Imo State we were passing through. It was much the construction site I met the last time I passed through months back, though much of what I now see were in the advanced stages. The governor apparently feels infrastructure makes more sense than paying workers' salaries, even after collecting bailout funds from the federal government to pay them. It is very unfortunate that the people of Imo State have had to be saddled with a megalomaniac who feels that he's doing his people a favour without any sense to serve, as evidenced in many controversial statements and actions he had made and continues to make, especially in the last two years, making him out as very insensitive and intolerant of opposing views, that I wonder if any of his advisers actually advice him, or that they do and he couldn't care any less about what they or the people think, as he rules the state with his nuclear, extended and compound family.
As we inched into Rivers State I began to feel somnolent. Fatigue had finally set in, such that by the time I alighted from the bus before it continued on to Port Harcourt my feet had become so heavy that walking became an arduous task. I managed to get a cab going to Obigbo with the radio tuned to the FM band of RADIO BIAFRA. I had heard Radio Biafra about three years ago on shortwave, and the presenter then was energetic, though I cannot say if it the presenter was Nnamdi Kanu, when Radio Biafra was the information arm of MASSOB. Even the Nnamdi Kanu voice I heard much later online had some power to it, even when his rants were mostly incoherent and subjects ridiculous. This particular presenter was very dull and repetitious in relaying his message, amidst calls that were coming in from the homeland and outside of it. He confirmed that shots had been fired in Onitsha, and a female protester was confirmed dead, while others were injured. He however didn't mention other information I already had, concerning the burning of a cement laden truck and some buildings.
That man kept on blaming the federal government as well as the Willie Obiano-led Anambra State government for the ugly outcome of events in Onitsha, and none at the doorstep of the group he represents which by the look of things might have been unruly and may have ignited the flame which led to the unfortunate turn of events. Interestingly, none of the callers saw the stupidity in the act of the protesters, who rather than to peacefully protest, had put a commercial town like Onitsha on a lockdown (for the second day running), such that travelers like me, coming into Onitsha had to make like Tuaregs from Asaba across the Head Bridge or wait endlessly in vehicles conveying us into Onitsha to our different places of destination.
By the time the cab got me to Timber Bus Stop a few minutes after, at Obigbo where I alighted, my ears were already aching from the rubbish I had been subjected to, wondering how people like that Cab Driver managed to listen to such for hours on end. I could still see signs of burnt tyres and paper Biafra flags on the ground (reminiscent of the IPOB demonstrations there a few days back) as I waltzed to the hotel nearby, to rest my bones till my appointment scheduled for the next day in Port Harcourt. Though I intended to rest, I found that once I had managed to lazily bathe myself, I walked away from the hotel to buy food from the next street, as I didn't think that I would have my full with the hotel's dishes for the kind of price I was willing to pay. Lunch was roast chicken and bread with a big bottle of cold water, which I lounged upon while switching between CNN and a Ghanaian TV station in my hotel room, as I placed a call to a fair pulchritude I had once known in my days across the creeks to see if there's any truism behind Okafor's Law of Congo-Dynamics.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (10) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2016/01/naija-tour-10.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 3:23pm On Jan 12, 2016|
The hotel I lodged in the first night in Rivers was one I was very familiar with at Obigbo. It wasn't a five-star but it met the basic conditions that I want in a hotel, especially for someone like me to whom anonymity means a lot to. I know how to find such places, trust me. I should've insisted on the room I always took, but I didn't mind when I was given another. Somehow it felt smaller than the one I was used to though it cost the same amount, and the intercom wasn't working such that they had to accompany my visitor up to see me rather than call on the intercom to intimate me of such, only to tell me that they had been trying the intercom to no avail. It also meant that I had to go to the lobby downstairs to make requests each time I wanted something.
I had known earlier that they didn't have hot water, unlike what you'll find in many two-star hotels in Edo State where hotel business appear to be second to none. It feels like every street has one there. The difference between the Edo Hospitality sector and the Rivers States' is that you will get better for commensurate amount in Edo State than in Rivers State. You need to get to a three or four star hotel, especially in Port Harcourt to have the full compliments at a pricey sum, while even as far a destination from the Edo State capital Benin, in a place like Igara, you can get a bungalow two-star hotel that is fully complimented, viz split unit air conditioner, hot water, spacy and well tiled room, with your usual Gideon's International Bible on a desk for your reading pleasure and spiritual upliftment.
Interestingly, as for what is on offer for the two or three stars, not much. TV is just CNN and some Ghanaian stations which show Ghallywood movies that look more like soft porn with a story line. Their ads are also quite hilarious though I doubt they are really that funny in the real sense of comedy, save for the way the Ghanaian accented English sounds to the ears of the Nigerian. There is some discretion when it comes to "escorts" in hotels in Rivers State, especially in Port Harcourt though, unlike anywhere in Edo, where approaches may be made to you if your body language suggests that you may require such a service, especially when potters are aware that you arrived alone.
I normally don't eat the hotel food, for the four and five stars because they could be very expensive, and I have a very large appetite. Once at Sheraton Abuja during a conference, the only food by the hotel I had was the buffet by the conference organizers, while I headed out to eat outside in the evenings, to save me my money, and also to eat foods that I am very much familiar with. With the two or three stars, that I can relatively afford I tend not to trust much besides the appetizers like pepper soup when I go to drink, in the days when I used to so indulge. The last thing I want during travels is to have a stomach upset, and the surest way for me to avoid such is to stick to my tinned foods, bread, kebabs and the likes from the streets adjoining the hotel.
The next morning, with the help of an acquaintance I was able to find a food vendor at Timber Bus Stop, Obigbo where I paid so little for so much food, I had anticipated a long day and junk could take me only so far. I still had till noon to burn so I remained at the hotel, even after eating and taking my bath. I tried to listen to RADIO BIAFRA but again couldn't stand the presenter's voice and made do with the local radio stations like Rhythm FM, while watching the TV without audio. I gathered that peace had returned to Onitsha though not without the loss of a life, injury to others and destruction of several property. I was beginning to doubt if I will still fulfill the part of my itinerary that included going to the Southeast at this point.
On my way to Port Harcourt, and thankfully without the cab driver listening to Radio Biafra, I noticed that there hadn't been much improvements in the landscape of Rivers State since last I was there less than three years ago, and coming during the harmattan also made the whole place appear rustic and totally unkempt. Some repair works were been carried out on a few roads, which appear to be more of an act of the governor to endear the people of the state to himself, ahead of the possibility of elections should the Supreme Court goes on to affirm the decisions of the courts before it, that cancelled the elections that produced him in the first place, than it is of one borne out of necessity.
I was soon at the gate of my destination, in front of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC at Bishop Crowther Memorial Secondary School, Rumuobioakani, in Port Harcourt where stern looking, gun totting "mobile policemen" were standing to frisk visitors intending to pass into the school grounds where a mini fair had been organized for staff of the SPDC using the many credit and thrift societies they belong to. My host soon came around with my pass and we walked into the expansive school compound. Almost everything one could think of buying during the Christmas period and beyond where on hand for sale.
Interestingly, recent layoffs and news of more impending layoffs remaining ever fresh in the air of the oil industry, even at Shell, appeared to have done nothing to dull the atmosphere or dampen the mood, with Shell Staff turning up in their numbers from their office across the road, not only to just sightsee but to pick up items on display, from the little pins and needles to the large like cars and SUVs. I just stopped short of envying them while waiting for the slightest opportunity or window to grab the attention of my host away from business (on display, attended to by her subordinates) she had to attend to, so I could put up before her my business proposal. The reason I had come to Port Harcourt in the first place.
Once a deal, which incidentally didn't take long to agree upon was struck, without need for more persuasive effort on my side like I envisaged, I stayed around to watch events going on around me. Shell staffers and the families were treated like royals for that day, as they waltzed from one tent to the other going through the items on display. I had intended to change my wallet while I was in the North of Nigeria, in the early days of the tour but it totally skipped my mind, and when I saw what looked like the leather I would've gotten from the North I jumped at it, but bounced out almost as quickly as I went in when I was informed of the price. I had forgotten how things can be very expensive in Port Harcourt. Earlier that morning, I had paid premium for an earphone to replace the one I forgot in Keffi, Nasarawa State when I was there days before, as I left the hotel that morning and should've known better than to come to that fair to buy souvenir.
I spent the rest of the day feeding my eyes with what the exhibitors had on show, while also watching progress on the reward aspect of the fair, where shoppers were encouraged to fill and submit a form for which a draw was carried out in the latter part of the day and prizes doled out to successful participants. By the time the fair closed, and a dinner date with my host over, it had become unreasonable to return to Obigbo that night, so I lodged at another hotel in Rumuomasi, as you make your way off Aba Road into Uyo Street, in Port Harcourt, in a very obscure part of town (the kind of hideaway I cherish) that my host showed me, but yet a three-star, with spacious room, hot water but same TV stations including CNN, one foreign movie TV, Emmanuel TV (showing Pastor T.B. Joshua's "miracles" and the Ghanaian TV (showing the usual). The intercom in the hotel worked unlike the one at Obigbo, and they had armed security as well, which may be embarrassing for a visitor coming to see a guest at the hotel, when they have to be interrogated by security before they are allowed passage to see a guest. The mattress was better than the one in the hotel at Obigbo, and the duvet was such that once under the covers, the chilled air from the air conditioner stayed out.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (11) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2016/01/naija-tour-11.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 8:05pm On Jan 28, 2016|
How is it that I forgot to talk about toiletries in these two and three star hotels that I find myself cocooning in when I travel in my previous instalment of the tours? Anyway, seeing that my treatise will be incomplete without letting you in on hotel choices based on simple things as those, I will now do exactly that if you'd allow me some paragraphs before I return to the core of my tale, as what I am about to share with you can help you guess how posh the hotel you're staying in is, in Nigeria that is. Of course you know you get full options, even dry-cleaning with the four or five star hotels, and seeing that I have very little experience with such, I won't bother about that, particularly as I have no intention of regaling you with lies.
Now back to the two or three stars (I am intentionally ignoring the one star hotels you find almost every where in Lagos as elsewhere, with whores swarming over the whole place/bars that serve as "negotiating points", and how toiletries could point you to what to expect. Most of these hotels have miniature soaps, as well as a toilet paper and towel. The better graded ones, that instils confidence in you to expect a fairly good service would have the miniature soaps of popular brands such as Lux, Joy, Imperial Leather, and the likes while the ones at the bottom of the ladder have the not so popular brands, sometimes no soap though this is rare, except you are in for "short time" for some indiscretion or a business meeting, you'd rather not conduct in the lobby or bar of the hotel.
I used to think that three star hotels must have a branded towel, but I have long perished that thought having been to some hotels, like the one in Rumuomasi area of Port Harcourt which had everything four star hotel managers could only but envy, yet served the ordinary towel, though I always make provision for my own towel when traveling and hardly ever need the hotels'. It's either they couldn't care any less about such "trivia" as many little things that truly matter is fast becoming in today's Nigeria or they actually truly know but currently constrained to do so by one factor or the other. The hotel in Rumuomasi where I spent my my last night in Rivers State did have the miniature soap of a popular brand, but not a branded towel. The toilet roll was soft and of high quality, which is a plus for a three star.
The only problem I have found with hotels in the South-south of Nigeria is the TV. I still don't understand why they can't be linked to reputable cable TV companies rather than the uninspiring connections they link to that make me wonder if they actually pay for such or are beneficiaries of some kind of illegal connections that allow them a few rather than all the channels. One three star hotel I stayed in two years ago in Benin even had one station devoted to porn, and it seemed they were streaming it from the hotels central DVD player to all the rooms, and it was so unkempt that the first room I was allotted to had a used condom on the floor, and while I was leaving very early the next morning, I got directions on how to get a cab to the nearest interstate bus terminal from hookers who where on their way home from the hotel (after a hard night's job).
As I did not have a pending engagement the next morning, I decided to wait till noon, about the time I would've fully exhausted my "time" at the hotel, before leaving for my next destination. My wait was not without an interruption from a cleaning staff who thought the room was empty of its guest. I didn't feel it was right to leave Port Harcourt without bidding farewell to the one who made the connections for the deal I was pursuing there possible. From the hotel, I went back to the place where Shell Staff were attending a trade fair organized for them, saw my contact person before leaving to trek some distance in order to get to a part of the road where traffic was freer.
It was while I was on this trek along Old Aba Road, that I came upon a grill with plantains, yams and fish at different levels of "readiness for consumption" and couldn't help but think to get me some helping of some of the "fish head" 'pon the grill. I figured it will be anathema to come to the heart of "Rivers" State and not taste of the local delicacy (like leaving Abuja in Nigeria's Northcentral without "Kilishi", even if I was on my way out of town, and didn't exactly have the appetite to "chow" that at the moment. My eyes and my stomach were sending contradictory messages to me, but my brain knew better to insist that I go for it, as my gut which didn't want it now, may be dying for it later while ruing missed opportunities. Even my left hand had already gone for my wallet, and the fingers on my right flipping through the wads to make up the appropriate sum, enough to cover the cost of buying the fish head which had suddenly appeared to shine more and simmer in the sun to becoming more enticing and irresistible. Before I could even say fi-, I was already haggling for a good bargain for the fish and felt even more fulfilled buying the grilled fish than I was when I sealed a deal a day ago, a short distance from where I was standing. I had the vendor wrap the fish in many layers of old newspaper, to prevent it from soiling my bag and other contents of the space I was going to put the fish in. She also helped me put the sauce in a small nylon bag wrapped within many layers of paper to prevent it from spilling. I tucked my prize in one of the many compartments on my backpack and set off to continue my journey.
I wanted just to get out of town and head for the Southeast which I had passed on my way to Port Harcourt because of the pro-Biafra protest situation in Onitsha, which I gathered had by then dissipated, though the airwaves and social media was trending with issues surrounding the propriety or not of the security agencies deploying strong arm tactics in dispersing and quelling the protests, in which one person, a female (protester?) was "officially" confirmed dead and several others injured. I say officially, because in Nigeria such information has the official and unofficial versions, with the unofficial number of deaths being more than the official, as well as most often than not found to be closer to the truth than the official.
I managed to join passengers in a cab going to Waterlines, an area in Port Harcourt where you can find buses to virtually any state capital and major town in Nigeria. I had forgotten how bad traffic used to be in Port Harcourt, especially in the days after the use of motorbikes as means of transportation was banned there a few years back, and finding myself in one on that day deeply upset me. All of the time I spent in that cab just thinking and wondering might have somehow sown a seed in me that germinated into my decision to call off the journey to the Southeast, where really I had no business to pursue except for the purpose of refreshing myself with the allure and peace of mind that the homeland affords as well as the eustress that just being in a familiar terrain enables.
noesis: NAIJA TOUR (12) http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2016/01/naija-tour-12.html?m=1
|Re: Naija Tour by ugsams(m): 9:55am On Feb 28, 2016|
Nice travelogue... it was lengthy but very detailed. However, at a point i felt some details were not necessary but it's just my personal view.
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 1:17pm On Feb 28, 2016|
You're right, I agree with you about several unnecessary parts. I battled about whether to include those but eventually decided to run with it, many digressions inclusive.
I'm glad to know, someone even bothered to read it. Thank you very much!
|Re: Naija Tour by madukovich: 2:56pm On Mar 08, 2016|
I have passed through Yenagoa severally on my way out of Rivers State to the western part of Nigeria or elsewhere. Unfortunately, I have never had cause to drop by into the town or even spend any time in Bayelsa State. I doubt that the security situation in that state is responsible for my action, though I cannot say I haven't taken note of such enough to influence my thoughts away from anywhere in Bayelsa State as a "tourist" destination.
As we passed by the old bridge over the river in Kaiama, I wondered how it came to be that the new bridge was still under construction right beside the old one, and looked like an abandoned project. I could only shake my head at that state of affairs especially now that the economic realities may and most probably will conspire to thwart any effort at completion, even though much of what should've completed the bridge in the first place, may have been frittered away in the usual and norm that's the corruption story of Nigeria.
Once we were in Patani, Delta State away from the politically charged Bayelsa, I heaved a sigh of relief not because Delta State wasn't as charged, but at least the state wasn't preparing for elections at the time, so I wasn't envisaging any disturbance on the road, and the prospect of reaching Lagos just a bit after sunset loomed likely, until we approached Sapele. It happened that a petrol tanker had burst into flames near a mechanic workshop, triggering a hail of fire that consumed much of the cars parked there, stalling all traffic to and from the area, and that was how we had to be left crawling in Sapele for almost two hours. Even the so called crawling was because the driver knew how to maneuver the bus to gain us some advantage over other drivers who opted to play by the traffic rules. By the time we passed by the scene of the fire, much of what was left were carcasses of vehicles parked at the mechanic workshop and immediate environs, though I could see nothing to show that any life was lost. The firemen were still at the scene with water dripping off their hoses.
Any hopes of reaching Lagos by sunset went up in smoke after we managed to navigate our way out of Sapele, even the passengers the driver had promised to take to Benin (Edo State, Midwest Nigeria) received the shock of their lives when the driver only managed to take them to a bypass to Benin, and despite pleas and later insults from the affected passengers, stood his ground till they reluctantly alighted from the bus, much to everyone's relief, as one of the aggrieved passengers had threatened to ensure that the bus didn't go on to Lagos unless they were taken to their agreed destination. I felt very sad for them been dealt such a hard one by the driver, but because it was now sunset, and we still had a Lagos to reach, I ignored the activism bug gnawing at my innards, and elected to be quiet while the banters lasted, than go against my will to support the driver beside me with the injustice he had just meted out to hapless passengers that late in the evening, the best I could do in a wrong situation that somehow favoured me.
Once those passengers eventually agreed to leave, I changed seats away from the middle front, to the seat directly behind the driver. Now famished, I reached for my roast fish (that I bought in Port Harcourt) and bread (remnant of my meal the night before at the hotel in Rumuomasi), and munched away at it with alacrity while the bus roared away into the night over asphalt. My phones were now beginning to ring from family and friends whom I had intimated of my movement, and had probably calculated that I'd be either here or there, only to be disappointed that I was nowhere closer to any of their estimated positions.
We made Òrè by some minutes before nine o'clock, and the driver made for an empty petrol station where he got some water to wash the windscreen of the bus. I, like other passengers stepped out to stretch my legs, and though there were groceries on all sides, stacked up small baskets and bowls for sale, with no one to sell them to us. I had heard tales of places in Nigeria like this where locales who know what the groceries cost, simply pick from the lot and drop the money on the trays, and the traders come in the morning to find the money and goods intact. Since none of the passengers picked, bought or paid for anything, I followed in their footsteps to simply feed my eyes on the fruits on display before walking back to the bus, where the driver was already waiting for us to continue the journey.
Luckily, till we got to Lagos the journey from that point onwards was without incidence. My phone's battery was now in the Battery Saver mode, and my power bank had long before then run out of stored power, so I could no more listen to music of my choice or mark my presence on social media. That was when I noticed that only the speaker in the driver's space worked, and because of the speed and windy air from the open windows, twas difficult for us passengers behind to hear what was been played on the stereo, except when the bus slowed down. But even when I managed to hear some of the songs he was playing, I didn't feel too bad been left out.
We eventually reached Lagos by some minutes to midnight, and I could see the faces of the taxi drivers light up in anticipation of a "killing" in bargains so late at night, especially if any of us travellers were new in town and didn't know the going rates of taxiing in Lagos. This was home soil to me, so when one of them approached me, I spoke to him in a tone he understood, knowing full well that the choice open to him was to say no to my offering and remain hopeful for something better or agree to my request. Once we reached a deal, I was soon on my way home. I felt good having achieved all but one of my objectives for going on this tour, the only one being a journey to Nigeria's Southeast, my region of origin that I had decided against going from Port Harcourt because I felt I could always go to the east for one reason or the other. Unfortunately, I never contemplated that such a thing as the death of my father would be one of such reasons to bring me back to the homeland.
NAIJA TOUR (14) | http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2016/03/naija-tour-14.html?m=1
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