Another adventure, it’s not as if the last adventure from Warri to Lagos was not enough, believe me, it was enough to last me for years, but my people, you know the situation in this country, one has to be able to face unexpected challenges. Thus, I had another opportunity to travel by road, this time to Warri.
It is 6’o clock in the morning and I am in high spirits, but………what is this? Is it raining? Oh Lord, rain in Lagos can only mean one thing: CHAOS. Not to worry, I know the drill now, cars in Nigeria all swim; they go against the law of nature so no problem.
Lord have mercy, I am still on the way, the traffic is terrible, I cannot bear it, time to abort mission, really, the roads are too terrible, I ll soon start eating my fingers out of desperation, wait why are people still smiling? Do they not see what I see? Why is that guy still hawking in the rain? I really should stop and tell him about pneumonia...is that possible in Nigeria,to catch pneumonia? I should find out, ah ah! What is wrong with these people? Can’t they see we are all in the same boat here? Why are they blowing sirens and flogging cars? Where dem want make we shift go? Ah ah! Even a mad man can see that this is not a time for “sirens”, hissssssssss
Let’s try “greener line” this time around, their park seems so busy....Good, there are seats to Lagos, very good, I and my fellow traveler (who on this occasion we shall name “aproko”) get seats in the middle. Now, let us see the characters of our fellow travelers. Behind me are two pastors, I shall name them Peter and Paul for easy identification, beside them, a thick market woman, on the last row, four business men, all on the way to Warri to sell or deliver products, I could not quite figure that out. Beside the driver, a young woman who has decided on this morning to kill us with the smell of “kessingsheen” in her hair. Let us call her “kessingsheen”, and beside her, an old gentle man. Now, to our driver, who I must say proved to be the lead character on this journey, I will call him “Koboko” head, (only because throughout the journey, I had to physically restrain myself from knocking his head with “koboko”).
And now, let the journey begin......
What is this ? A church person is going to start us off with prayers, good, one really needs prayers on these roads, in fact, he should do a serious scripture confession, I want prayer warriors, holy water, holy oil....oh, he’s about to start....hmmmmm, this man na wah oh, his prayers are serious, wait oh! Did he just say “flesh eating demons” ah! Abeg, this prayer don dey fear me, which one be flesh eating demon again? , honestly, this is too much, now he is praying against the “blood sucking demons” on the road. I need to talk to this young man, set him straight, the “blood sucking and flesh eating demon” is the road. He should not be fooled, really, but no problem, he is doing this for free, out of the goodness of his heart…………ah, is he asking for money? I thought the prayer was for free? Anyway, here is 20 naira, after all that “flesh eating and bloodsucking” talk; I now doubt the capability of the young man.
Ah, sleep is good in times like this, I am sure we are almost at Benin now, beautiful.....ehhhhhhh, No way! Somebody shoot me, excuse me. Where are we?
Koboko head: Na ore road we dey.
What do you mean Ore road? I can recognize Ore road when I see it, this is not Ore road, what is wrong with this man?
“Driver, this no be Ore road oh! No be this road we dey pass those days wey I dey go secondary school”,
Koboko head: “Ehn, this one na “old ore road” n aim we dey use now. “
Ah! I don’t get it, why will anyone choose to use a muddy, bumpy “forest trail” when we have a federal road that is tarred? This whole thing is not making sense to me.
“But driver, you mean the “real” road is worse than this road that has never been tarred?”
The man is not even responding anymore, he is now haggling with the village youths who have now used this opportunity to put their own “homemade” gate, consisting of a huge log of wood, across the muddy road. I am told this is a “toll gate”. I am speechless, I have nothing to say, the driver is busy haggling with the self appointed toll gate workers while I observe the thriving business (hawking) going on all around me.
We have not left “old ore road”, we are now at the second “toll gate”, the workers here are younger, restless and more determined that the first toll gate workers.
1 hour later
We have still not left “old ore road”, we are now at the third “toll gate”, the workers here are older, I do not think they are part of the village youth association, I think they are the touts of the village. Peter and Paul draw my attention to the smell of “igbo” all around us. This toll gate seems to be the “bubbling” one, the guys are in high spirits, drinking and smoking, they seem to be having a good time, at the expense of Koboko head that has now launched into a tirade of curses in Yoruba.
Koboko head has proven himself to be a mad man. I think he escaped from Yaba, with all the pot holes and eroded craters, he drives as if he is on one of the best highways in the world. His talent is wasted on old ore road, he should be on formula one, I am sure he will give Schumacher a run for his money. I have pleaded, begged, admonished but Koboko head is bent on delivering us all personally to the flesh eating and bloodsucking demons. The rest travelers seem to be all scared of koboko head. Peter and Paul are quiet apart from mumbling “Jehovah jireh” and “elshadah” after every single morsel of food chewed and swallowed. Aproko is sleeping apart from raising up her head once in a while and saying “this driver!” or complaining about the chewing sounds of peter and Paul. The travelers on the last row are conversing in Yoruba with the market woman. Kessingsheen is bent on distracting koboko head with her little flirty looks, I am very worried about this, the last thing koboko head needs, is to be distracted. I’ll be watching this development closely. The old gentle man, I have no idea what he is doing, he must be in pain though, because the smell from kessingsheen’s hair must be pure torture.
My people, that I am still alive today to write this story is a miracle. I have come to the conclusion that “driving from Lagos to Warri” should be added as a course in our driving schools (by the way, do people still learn how to drive?). All drivers of the “lines”, edo, delta, agofure, greener, edosa, and others too many to mention, all have a special language which we mere mortals cannot decipher. For example
Koboko head: Straight dey good?
Other driver: Ehn, straight good, use other side but na straight u go use enter.
(if anybody can make head or tail of this conversation, do not hesitate to write me)
At this point in time, we are now on a road called “paradise” road. As the old gentleman remarked, that name should be renamed “hell”, there was nothing remotely heavenly about that road. It was pure chaos. So much so, that a civilian who was immediately named “general”, took it upon himself to co ordinate traffic. The general did a good job but much to my astonishment there were about 6 policemen not less than 500 meters away, on the road. I am sure they had no idea about the chaos that was transpiring just down the road, I was going to inform them but then I saw the inscription on their vehicle, it said, “Operation clean”. They must have been on a high profile secret mission hence; they could not afford to be distracted. That must be the only explanation, I am certain of it.
We have all been on the road for about 10 hours. It is a shame. We are in Benin, stuck in traffic. Koboko head has not stopped once throughout the journey, instead the men occasionally hop down when in traffic, ease themselves by the roadside and hop back on. I brought the attention of the driver to the blatant ignorance of the women in the bus but the driver could see nothing wrong in women “hoping” as the men do. According to him, it was perfectly reasonable for a woman to hop down, go to the side of the road in the midst of igbo smoking self appointed toll gate workers, do her business and hop back on. None of the other travelers seemed especially concerned, apart from Peter and Paul who nodded sympathetically as I went on a rant about “discrimination”.
We are on the outskirts of Warri, for once ia m speechless my thought warped up in banga soup and eba which I knew must surely be waiting for him at home. Suddenly, we are stopped by the police. The policeman is bent on making trouble, koboko head is already frustrated and angry and soon a fight is about to start. I can not believe it, I am almost home, I have to get home, I aks the policeman to forget about kobokohead and let us through. All of a sudden the last row comes alive, there are talks of us not giving the police man anything, “even if it means we stay here until 10”. Now, I understand them, yes, a revolution in this country is called for but now on the outskirts of Warri, not after barely surviving kobokohead’s madness, the flesh eating and bloodsucking demons, not after surviving old ore and paradise hotel. Not after all that. One has to learn to pick on’s battles, and as waffi, it would be irresponsible of me not to mention the dangers of entering Warri at night. The last row is not convinced, they tell me there are from “Lagos”, and are not really convinced about my warnings. Luckily, the policeman sees some sense and allows us to go. As the driver pulls into the car park, he informs us that one of their drivers was killed right in front of the park, about the same time, 7:30.