The Sojourn into the Land of Red Sand and Pitch Darkness
A Happy New Year to all you wonderful people. A belated Barka de Sallah to those of you who celebrated that and ate all of the ram in Lagos without inviting me. So we made it to 2007? No accident, no robbery, no kain nonsense. Ah!! God is good and very very ‘wonderfulous’. To those of you who dedicated time to stop by and read my last entry despite the lack of maintenance, thanks for sticking with your girl. Don’t worry, no condition is permanent and a patient dog always eats the fattest bone. (Reader: Is it me that you are now calling a dog? Adaure: Is your name Bingo?). The month of December was a transitional phase and soon I shall get up to speed so that you can get your dose of what Addy has to say. But let’s get right to it though, the ‘Koko’ of the matter so that some of you can get back to doing your home work and the work that you are being paid for. I got back from the village on Tuesday but let’s rewind….
5am Dec 28th the Journey Begins
Honestly man, thinking about it, I truly was not looking forward to going to the village. It wasn’t just because I was going to miss out on trips or electricity but for the mere fact that Harmattan was going to do a number on me. I had already lost my voice the night before and believe that as I write this, my voice is still beckoning somewhere for me to come and collect it. Since we some how convinced my father that we will find our way to the village just so that we could avoid having to have gone with him on the 24th, we had to go through some suffa-head moves. We agreed that we would take ABC bus to Owerri and the driver or our cousin would pick us up there. For me this was a normal routine as I have played this card a number of times before in order to get in a few more nights of partying with peace of mind. But apparently for one of my sister’s (Onyi) this was history for her as the last time she had been on one of these luxurious buses was ‘the first time I had been on one’, which was in 1991. I remember very well because that was the summer vacation just before I started secondary school. We had stayed at my dad’s house in Orlu and our car engine knocked at on the way to Lagos. Unfortunately for us we were suppose to start school the following Monday, which was in a few days so there was no option to turn back. That was the day I knew that ‘suffering’ had levels. To piss was wahala, not to talk of asking for banana and groundnut, which was part of the highlight of these road trips. My sister wore a hat and sunglasses and was like, ‘If they sent you from America to come and destroy my rep in this Lagos, tell them you did not find me.’ Nnenne on the other hand only broke her non-luxurious bus riding stretch last December when she had to escort my cousin’s Kenyan wife to the village so the nightmare of the situation was still fresh in her mind. We fit all our stuff into one suitcase, each outfit for the duration of our stay carefully assigned. We were like once New Year’s Day is over we are ‘peacing out’ so no need to carry excess luggage. Plus my dad said ‘travel light’. What we did was an understatement. We got to the bus station at Jibowu and then I thought to myself, ‘Babe you know you really don’t have to go through this?’ Little did I know what I was in for. First of all the pot holes along that Lagos-Ibadan Express Road can swallow a Coca-Cola truck and still have room for Pepsi. This is a problem across the country and was certainly expected, in fact you will be reading more about bad-roads and pot-holes in subsequent entries. But what I was not expecting was a suitcase almost falling on my head. Then the traffic that we hit at Ore in Ondo State was just a bastard. We were in it for two hours and our journey was still far. The cause of the go-slow again was bad roads because in that area the East bound lane of the highway was unmotorable and so that traffic had to use the West bound lane. And to say that Nigerians drivers can be very stupid is a statement that is unworthy of a gold medal. That is why there is so much road rage because some things that they do can make you want to get down from your car and become a traffic warden. You get the picture. And then you have those other set of stupid Nigerians that call themselves Mobile Police, government officials and dignitaries who go around with sirens trying to fly over the mess that is their responsibility. And to tell you how extra stupid they can be, one convoy was trying to get by but there was no where to go, so an idiotic uniformed man with a gun decided to shoot out the tire of the vehicle in the way. Now my question is after doing that, did he now expect the driver to carry the car on the head and move it out of the way? And knowing how things are hard in this country, I am sure that must have been a brand new tire the owner bought just to be able to have a safe drive to their hometown. I am quite certain that the ‘Oga dignitary’ saw what his officer did, but of course he or she would not care because to them we the Nigerian masses are ants that are meant to be crushed and so it goes unpunished. In a ‘civil’ society such a thing cannot fly. SHAME ON ALL THESE OFFICIALS WHO ABUSE POWER IN SUCH MANNER AND BLINDLY ALLOW THEIR STAFF TO INDULGE IN SUCH CRUELTY. I slept quite a bit on the bus but what was amazing to me was the fact that we got to Benin at 2.30pm, 6 and half hours after we started. In the past, if we leave Lagos at 9am, we would get to Benin by 12pm. May be it was the speed of the bus and the traffic factor but that one was a wonder. Upon getting to Benin, not only did I find myself talking to God not to allow my digestive system to misbehave, I also found myself playing detective. First about my conversation with God. You know how I had been avoiding peppery food. Well the night before, while I was on ‘my almost-a-date-but-not-quite’, I forgot that I was traveling and decided to indulge myself in a delicacy of Egusi and Pounded Yam. Now I have not ‘swallowed’ since I got back so you can imagine and plus you could tell the cook was Yoruba because the soup had so much palm-oil. Truly ‘Ofe-Mmanu-Mmanu (You know I had to take that cheap shot :). On the bus I felt my stomach go ‘prrrrrr’ and I remember my blunder and I was like ‘Chai Chineke, Abasi Mbong biko, please not here, not now.’ I think that prayer helped me get to Benin. Then I went to attempt to use the facility that was supposed to be the restroom at the ‘rest-stop’. In fact, at this point, I think it was the content of my stomach that was praying to God for me not to ‘discharge’ them into such a purgatory of a facility. I was like you know what, I think I can manage and hold this one till we get to Owerri. I didn’t drink any more water and ate nothing else and truth be told, it was God who put my digestive system in order because it would have been ghastly. As in instead of me to use that restroom, I would not have minded to use banana or coco-yam leaf to do what we call ‘shot-put’. You know…you bend down and ‘oomph’, then you wrap it like moin-moin and then give it another good ‘oomph’ and throw it very far away and then ‘splat’ on a palm-wine tapper's head and run. I speak from experience, but we thank God for his goodness. Then a lady sitting next to us lost her baby. Poor woman went to use the restroom and gave another lady her baby to hold. That is how the 6 month old baby ended up on the bus going to Lagos. The mother now got onto the bus just as it was bout to leave only for my sister to ask, ‘Madam, where is your baby?’ The woman was like ‘is she not here, I gave her to one girl on this bus.’ We then told her that no woman came on this bus with a baby. By now everybody on the bus heard what was going on and the following exchange ensued.
MAN 1: You say what? You don’t know where your baby is? You are a foolish woman.
MOTHER: (crying) Driver please, my baby is not here, help me.
DRIVER: You are not serious. Oya nu….get down. We can drop you here.
MAN 2: Oga driver no mind am jare, make we leave am for here sef, She is very stupid.
MAN 3: Very, very, in fact if I was your husband I will send you packing.
MAN 4: Send her packing ke? She will never set foot in that house again. She thinks baby is telephone.
RANDOM WOMEN: Oga driver abeg make you stop make she go look for the pikin
ADAURE: Please Mr. Driver can you stop the bus let’s go back and find the baby. We cannot leave without this baby; the baby could be in danger.
MOTHER: Somebody help me, my baby o, my baby is not here oh. (Weeping)
MAN 1: Oga driver just turn back jare, she is a very foolish woman. How can? And the person sef that took the baby is even more foolish.
MAN 2: Who did she even give the baby to?
MOTHER: I wanted to piss and I gave her to a girl holding ABC ticket to carry for me. She said she was on this bus.
MAN 3: What kind of piss is that for you to give your baby to someone you don’t know?
ADAURE: (irritated) this is not the time to blame anyone. Let’s just go and help find the baby. It would be a disheartening shame upon each and everyone on this bus if we leave this woman without making an effort to help her find her baby.
RANDOM WOMEN: Oga driver it is true o. Please ehn we don’t mind to get to Owerri at night. It is Christmas too oh.
The driver backs up and I and a few men get of the bus. Most of them were bickering and laying blame instead of asking around. It wasn’t till people saw a crowd gathering and a weeping woman did they come around to ask, ‘Na wetin happen?’ Meanwhile I had been on the other two buses asking if anybody had a baby that did not belong to them. As I was doing this I was trying very hard no to laugh when people, who knew that the babies they were holding in their arms was there own and not the one in question were like ‘Auntie is it dis one… are you sure... look well oh.’ I am thinking to myself do they think this is a joke? After a few minutes I went and started asking the driver to call the other buses. But unfortunately, because they don’t want anyone telling armed robbers the location of the bus, it is against the policy to have the phone on, so the driver was unable to reach the other buses. The other men began yelling at the driver and the attendant to do something and make calls just so that we are sure whether the baby was on the bus before we think other wise. This is Benin we are talking about and it is a city known for some serious ‘witch-crafting’ and ‘baby-nappers’ so everyone had already begun to think the worst. Meanwhile on the bus, the women had already started praying and casting out demonic spirits trying to hinder the smoothness of the journey. I went into the shops and started asking people if they had seen a woman and a baby that fit the description. We all felt helpless because it wasn’t like you could call the police to put out an ‘AMBER ALERT.’ When I thought about it I laughed in my head…now that is super funny…amber alert indeed. Some how, I guess the lady who had the baby had realized that the mother was not on her bus. Then after about an hour we saw another ABC bus pull in to the stop coming towards the crowd instead of the port. Come and here prayers “Fada paform your miracle…Daddy you are holy…Jesus you are wonderful…hollibaba shantarahrah paparahrah kakarahrah HOLY….JEEEEEEZZZUUUUUSSSS’. People flocked to the bus and the attendant emerged from the coach carrying a baby. ‘Na who get this pikin?’
“PRAISE THE LORD!!!!” was the cheer that accompanied the applause and jubilation as the mother received her baby. Some people had already started crying. One of the men who had called for the woman’s head used his handkerchief to wipe the sweat of the woman’s face. “Oya madam iz enough stop crying.” They raise the baby up like hey did Kunta Kinte in Roots. ‘Madam hold ya pikin well’ another man yelled as some women danced and tried to carry and hug the baby. People stretched the faces to kiss the baby’s chicks. ‘Fine baby!! Miracle baby!!’ Never was the baby’s name ever used. We all got back on the bus and continued our journey. We gave the woman our water and biscuit. The baby meanwhile was clueless as to what the fuss was about. She was quiet the entire time according to the other bus attendant. In my head I was thinking, but this pikin sef, you mean to tell me that you had absolutely no clue what just happened and could not even shout out that she was on the wrong bus or something. We went through the Benin-Asaba Expressway Bypass which was a smooth ride because SOMEBODY did his job and built a good road to decongest the traffic situation in Benin City. Props to that Governor. We got the River Niger Bridge and for the very first time in my life there was no traffic on the Asaba side of the bridge, which had always been the case when ever I was traveling to the East. I don’t need to tell you that there was traffic on the Onitsha side. Hiss. Onitsha is just a total nuisance of a place. A total Dump. You think Lagos is bad? Go to Onitsha and see what I call a dump. To cut the long story short we did not get to Owerri until 11pm that night. 14 bloody hours on the road with no food, water or going to the bathroom. If you see the speed that we used to enter our car, I doubt that Ben Johnson can beat that record. But the suffering was not over just yet. We still had the ‘Jogodo’ dance to do. The road from Owerri to Umuaka junction though pitch black was smooth with few pot holes. At one point we almost ran off the road because someone was driving without backlights. The speed sent us into the bushes. But for SUV I could have been telling a different story. Surprisingly the government had tarred the road going into Umuaka. Not sure whether that is left or right but if you are coming from Owerri it is right at the junction. But it was either the contractors forgot to branch left and tar the road from Nwaoriemkpu going into Ebenator and Uburu-Ekwe or somebody just pocketed the money since it just another village. May be we need to get Bill Clinton to visit because the story I heard was that the last time he came to Nigeria, he requested to see a village and guess what, the government decided to tar the road, but there ass was opened when Ol’ Bill looked left and saw a dirt road and called them on their bullshit. Oh well, I am sure the money has been allocated and someone is using it to build a massive house somewhere. Anyways when we made that left at Nwaoriemkpu, come and see some serious galloping and dancing. We did this for 30 minutes till we got to the Mission. The road from there to our house although a dirt road was graded and not that bad. As I walked into the compound, looking haggard, drained of energy, no voice and hungry, I went to my father and said, ‘Mr. Man, I hope you have no intentions of donating any money to the church this year because I need it to buy a plane ticket back to Lagos.’ His response, “You see that bush there, go and dig up the cassava and yam tubers, tomorrow is Bazaar at the Mission.”
MORE TO COME