29 April 2012
I had set the alarm for 4.15am, and it went off, I had to reach down from a faraway land back to earth. The night had turned into dawn in a twinkle. I dared not dilly-dally as I had to get to the bus terminal before 6am. I had a return ticket but needed to confirm it before I could be given a specific bus. When I asked the crew on the bus as I alighted yesterday in Tema, one had asked me to be there by 6am, the other said 7am. I usually went for the safer option, an engineering approach, to leave room to accommodate both answers.
I had packed up the previous evening before I slept: books, shito and some few packs of Neat Fufu flour for my friend Victor Gyimah.
I woke Nana Kwame up and he was so happy to see me! He couldn’t believe his eyes. I am glad I came, these are the little acts with which a parent can bond with his children. We had a short chat, will continue on the drive to Caprice.
By 5am, Vivian, Gideon, Nana Kwame and Nana Yaw, as well as myself were ready and left the house to the terminal. Maame Esi was still asleep and we left her in the care of Kofi. We made a stopover in Tema to see my sisters Yaa Ampoma and Maame Agyebima. By 6am, we were in the terminal and I said goodbye to the family.
I got a seat on the first bus toLagos, and by 6.45am, we were on our way. I spent the time calling my father-in-law, my mum, sisterZionand some friends.
At about 1.40pm, we arrived at the Hilla Condji border betweenTogoandBenin. After Sogakope, I had slept most of the way. I was tired physically, though my soul was fully refreshed after the visit to see the family. At the Aflao border, I was half conscious. Apparently we spent an hour there.
At Hilla-Condji, I was reminded of ex-President Hilla Limann. I hope he knew of this town.
We got off the bus and crossed through two stages. The benefit of traveling with a company like ABC is that they take care of the immigration procedures. Soon we were through, and had to pass by the vaccination office. A notice on a board giving the instructions was in French; thankfully it had been translated into English:
‘Passagers, Continious your round by this sanitary office, Thank you.’
Now, I preferred to read the French one, the one in English read more difficult than French.
On the Beninside, we were besieged by hawkers. One particular young boy just wouldn’t let me go. He pestered me till I bought this ware: tissue paper. I also bought singlets. The hawker said 6 for 1000 naira. I bargained and got 7 for the same price. My friend Kofi Akpabli would have been proud of me; the art of albarika, which he wrote about in his book Tickling The Ghanaian, is active across the continent.
Hot fried yam and turkey, called choofi inGhana, was conspicuous by the road. The lavatory facility on the bus was only for liquid titration; gaseous effluent was also allowed, for sure, though it wasn’t touched on during the welcome announcement by our onboard transport executive, the equivalent of a flight stewardess. We were asked not to execute any solid downloads. So I did a mental mass balance for my body, iterating to see if I can input into the closed system without disturbing the equilibrium, as there could be no outflow of solid waste. My mind won over my adventurous soul. For a short session.
As we started to re-board the bus, we found that one of the rear tires had an issue and had to be changed.
We will be here for a while, I said to myself. Well, perhaps I should eat some yam and choofi. I got my portion. My beef was that the choofi was exposed. The seller didn’t appreciate my attempt at educating her why she needed to put them in an enclosed cabinet. Ghanaian germs are said to be friendly; I hope Beninois ones are too.
I enquired from one of the crew whether it makes sense for us to board just to increase the weight they had to jack up. He said it was OK. OK, I shrugged.
‘Can everyone please get down?’ The announcement came soon. Wisdom is simple.
We alighted and I used the waiting time to finish my meal in a polybag. It tasted good, germs and all. The yams were very hot. I kept the polybag with the bones and associated waste in my hand, as I couldn’t find any waste bin around. There was one on the bus, so I planned to dump it there when we got back on board. A hawker of coconut asked me why I wouldn’t drop it on the ground! Another opportunity to share on the virtue of not littering our environment.
I was on the first morning bus. As we changed our tire, the second and third ABC buses caught up with us.
After about 30 minutes, we were again on the way, two buses in a convoy. Can we have a convoy of two vehicles?
As we drive through Benin, we pass by a lot of mango trees, with fruits hanging on almost every branch. Mangoes season inBenin.
An audio CD of popular Nigerian comedian Gordons, who refers to himself as The Comedy Berlusconi, play on the onboard entertainment system. A bus theatre, analogous to home theater. We enjoy it immensely. One line was that before oyibo invented the plane, Africans were flying; after all, he said, what is the difference between witchcraft and aircraft? He indicated that the only difference lies in where each craft landed: tarmac verses zinc roofing sheets! He also said Jesus used Twitter in His time when he said, ‘Follow Me’.
I saw a lot of sheds where yellow liquid in bottles shaped like a boiling flask for distillation are sold. I suspect the liquid is either petrol/diesel oil or vegetable oil, but I am more inclined towards the former.
InCotonou, I see a number of ladies riding motorbikes. Reminds me of Tamale.
At the Seme border, I saw a signboard for Intercity STC. I don’t think they use it anymore. What an opportunity to do this route that ABC is doing. More of that in my summary observations and thoughts. Time check: 5.25pm (GMT+1).
Meanwhile a Ghanaian film The Game, featuring Majid Michel, John Dumelo, Yvonne Nelson and Yvonne Okoro is on. Nice film. A conversation in the film tickles me.
Majid: What do you think of love at first sight?
Yvonne Nelson: I think it saves time.
Coolest response! This is a film I could buy, I like the intrigues and the dialogue. Storyline is engaging too.
We are now crossing the border to the Nigerian side, after the immigration procedures. The time is 6.38pm and it has taken us more than an hour. More waiting.
7pm and we now join the line of vehicles to move intoNigeria. It’s been about 12hours on the road already. 7:06pm and we are inNigeria.
Turned out that I was wrong. The checks still continued.
7.52pm: We are still at the Seme border and waiting. No one tells us anything.
8.27pm, still at Seme, no explanations. Almost three hours of waiting.
8:30pm: We are moving now and are inNigeria. The issue had to do with one passenger that the officers wanted to authenticate his nationality. I got this information from eavesdropping. The transport executive hasn’t said anything to use, and this is absolutely insensitive to us as customers.
8.42pm: Another checkpoint and an officer comes on board to inspect the bus. We are on our way within minutes.
9.07pm: Yet another checkpoint. 3 minutes later, we are on the move again.
I see Imperial Express bus with Ghanaian registration plate, the only one so far.
I lost count of the various checkpoints, as I drifted in and out of slumber. We were now being entertained with comedy shows via the bus theater, notably those of Basket Mouth, I Go Die and AY; they were many others I was hearing for the first time. Only Basket Mouth was familiar as he had been a regular feature in the annual Nite of 1000+ Laughs show inGhana. It was obvious that comedy is big business inNigeria. Funny Face and co need to learn. And perhaps David Oscar too, if he manages to finally make Viasat 1 viewers Laugh a Minute and beyond.
We arrived at the Amuwo Odofin bus terminal around 11.05pm, and I quickly got a taxi home. The driver was a calm, elderly man whose number I picked and who told me his name was Pastor Williams. I liked him.
He got me home around 11.45pm, and waited for me patiently to surmount my last hurdle for the day: finding the security guy on duty to open the gate. It took almost 6 minutes of knocking on the glass window in the gate house, shaking the gate, attempting to use the taxi’s horn (the horn was out of order!) and calling the steward (his phone rang but no response, he was asleep) before the gate was eventually opened. Phew!
I thanked Pastor Williams, climbed the stairs to my flat, sent a text to my boss – yes, my wife, spoke with her to know I had arrived (she had been calling since Seme and waiting for me to get home before sleeping), sorted out the luggage which contained the shito with one bottle soiled with leaking oil, warmed some food to eat, posted on FB and on DGG to update my friends who were following my travel progress online, and slept after midnight Nigeria time.
Such a tiring but very fulfilling journey.
* I am posting this unedited mostly. I used the Quick office application on my Nokia E63 phone to type it during the journey back fromAccra. Ken, a friend on FB had made a comment on the first posting when I set off toGhanaand that got me thinking of a way to capture my notes during the trip. Thanks Ken.
I will flesh it out some more later and add my overall observations and thoughts.