NEWSZENTS: The Last time the Oracle traveled by road to Abuja was in 1989 and this new trip would be an update on the state of the roads and people, that was what we thought, I had planned to fly to Abuja from Lagos until there was a change of plan and we decided to take the public transportation from Aja in Lagos to Abuja.
It was assumed it should be a six hours trip, that was what we thought and I was excited, it will be an opportunity to see the inside of Nigeria again by road that will cover almost six or seven states namely, Lagos through Epe Road, Ogun State through Ijebu Ode, Oyo State through Ibadan and Ife Road, Osun State, Ondo State, Kogi State through Okene and Lokoja the confluence town.
The beauty and ugliness of the road and interaction, it would generate is difficult to experience by flying, across the nation, one could see and feel Nigerians more if roads are better used and maintained.
The journey was to begin with “God is Good” bus in Aja area of Lagos, the fare was 7,500 Naira, almost the half price for the fare by air, the settings of the company was better, the person who designed the announcement and arrangement of the company had American Greyhound Lines in mind, however, it needed lots of improvement and space.
Somehow, there was no bus to Abuja the last bus left about the time we got there unlike buses to other parts of the country, across the street, the same type of bus with the same arrangement was 4,500 Naira and I kept wondering how they planned their fare system with almost 50% discount across the street.
I know a little price or fare differentiations can change the minds of commuters and N3,000 was one of them. It changed mine.
We took the bus called “Peace mass Transit” it was a sixteen passengers arrangement and the driver looked mature and reasonable, I thought it would be very interesting to have a level headed driver on such a unplanned six hours trip to the Federal Capital of Nigeria.
Due to the jet lag and the previous night party with the Osomos in Aja Lagos, I was tired, the journey would start on the dualized road from Lekki until it turned out very ugly outside Epe and I was still wondering why the express road could not just link up with Ijebu Ode or so, before I slept off, somehow, I woke up and asked where we were and somebody yelled from the front
“Iwo Road sir”
“Why Iwo Road ke?”
“What happened to Ijebu Ode?” I asked.
“We passed that long time” another one said from the side.
“O ma se o!” I said.
I could not believe it; I missed the whole of Ogun State from the trip, maybe next time I would see the much talked about new Governor Amosun bridges in Ijebu Ode, I heard they were better constructed than those in Abeokuta but that is okay as long they are in Ogun State not in Dubai accounts of those politicians.
Ibadan appeared to be too dusty as we approached it and each time I found myself in the city I was born, I always remember the poems of JP Clerk who described the Ibadan City as flanged and scattered among the seven hills like broken China in the sun and the comment of Mr. Eweren the Chief Archivist with National Achieves in 1975 had called Ibadan a City with uncontrollable expansion.
Both of them were right, Ibadan has never changed, it is still flanged and scattered and with uncontrollable expansion and too dusty for any environmental control that could affect the health of the those indegenes but they will never know.
“Why did you not take Ore road?” I asked the Driver.
“The road no good Sir” He said.
“And how long do we still have to get to Abuja if after four or five hours we were still very close to Osun State?” I asked.
“Few hours sir” He said.
“Few hours like two or three hours?” I asked with my eyes wide open now.
Few hours in Nigeria are not the same as in the other parts of the world, it could mean a day.
“I want to ease myself” a lady from the middle seat yelled to the driver.
It meant he had to stop in the middle of nowhere, I was expecting the driver to drive to the nearest gas station or rest areas like America, there was none, he stopped very close to a tree by the road side and we all came out of the bus, the lady went into the nearest bush within the eye distance and others joined in “wetting the grass” around the bus.
It was funny but it was the same procedure I was used to and just watching everyone attending to the call of nature like it was before I left the country several years ago, there was no change it was the same old Sh***t you will not believe it, before anyobe could say Jack Robinson I joined them to “wet the grass”
What a free country, no Police to give u ticket for those things around here, this must be why we love Nigeria and never stopped thinking of coming home.
When we finally done with the call of nature the bus moved, I noticed nobody washed their hands, or used hand sanitizer, no one cares and if they would shake hands or eat with the same hands they used when they were “wetting the grass”.
I brought my hand sanitizer, applied to my two hands and gave it to my brother who also used it along with those around us, 30 minutes later the bus pulled to the the nearest City gas station, i believed there was an arrangement to patronize the food seller there and to buy gas, it was a 30 minutes wait.
The food was good the price was reasonable, and a guy from Maiduguri was there with his hands ties and other stuffs, I bought some from him just as he related how Boko Haram chased his family away from his village.
“Let us go” the Driver said.
Within five minutes we were on the road again, and loving how innocent the country is if only our leaders could see the hearts of these people, they are not asking for too much, just a little to survive with their families.
The police and military check points on the road were terrifying, almost every ten to fifteen miles we encountered them, unlike before, they were not taking bribes, they seemed organized and dutiful to whatever they were doing or what they were supposed to do, the security of the nation was very important seemed to be the goal of these men and women protecting us from ourselves, yes, ourselves, those planting bombs are not from the moon, they were misguided Nigerians, we were told by the Minister of Information, men controlled by radical belief alien to the mode of life of average Nigerians.
Roads and infrastructures are too ugly to describe with Ondo state the most hard hit with poverty, almost all the houses on both sides of the so called “Trunk A” Federal Road were built with mud, on each side of the road, and it was like they gave up on life itself.
On agriculture, they could not even muster enough energy to plant something on their God given free land, unlike the hard working people of Edo State, with good vegetation and the look of development, like President Trump would say here in the United States of America. “Edo State is full “energy” for development than Ondo and Kogi State put together.
It is shameful and pathetic that they ever had elected government in the last sixteen years. If the Governors were guilty of active stealing from the people, the Federal Government must have been an accomplices or what happened to the resources voted for those states?
Okene and Lokoja could still be in the 18th Century mode without anyone caring or talking about it, and probably the same way the British left Lokoja several decades ago without any sign of development and when I heard Lokoja is the Capital of Kogi State I said to myself “Bless your heart”. It is a very ugly city.
As our Peace mass Transit bus approached Okene, I noticed they had more of these people aimlessly rooming the streets, there was a Masquerade on the street, and still wondering why anyone would want to don those heavy Egungun costume in the heat of Savannah in the 21st Century, but in a state where the people could not muster enough courage to ask question from the government on the development the next thing would be to resort to traditional and primitive worship as a consolation for the misguided administrations that had confirmed them to perpetual poverty.
The last time I was in Okene was in 1989, I stayed in Dabras Hotel, it was peaceful and lovely place then but the Okene I saw last week was a complete different City with no dualized Federal of State roads with people begging for development and each successive government stealing from them.
What happened to the resources collected from the Federal Government if they are too naïve to generate revenue internally?
“Where is Niger Bridge?” I asked my brother after we were out of Lokoja.
“We must have passed it” He said.
“We could not have crossed be ridge without noticing it” I said.
By the time we eventually found the Niger Bridge, only one side of the Bridge was opened, a Fulani was using a side of it to move his cows across.
“It is a free country, freedom of movement “
I reasoned, who can blame the system and just wondering how the Fulani could have taken his cows across without closing one side of the bridge, he too needs the bridge.
At the end of the bridge, there was another Military Check point. The sergeant ordered our driver to pullover, he complied and the vehicle behind us was asked to open his sealed 18 wheeler truck, he said he no key on him because it was sealed from office.
That was all he said, he had a big slap on his face, the soldier in our presence beat the hell out of him and threatened to shoot him, we were all traumatized.
“The Army no give me this gun to play with it” He said.
“I don’t have the key” the traumatized driver said
“Lie on the ground” The sergeant yelled.
“Na Police they shoot to wound , me a Soldier they trained me to Kill” He said.
Until a kid in the vehicle cried. That was what moved the Sergeant.
“Who be his mother? He asked
“Na me Oga” The mother said.
“Is he hungry?” He asked.
“Yes sir” she said almost with fear.
The Sergeant brought out Gala from his side pocket, he gave it to the little boy, surprisingly, the little boy said thank you and for the first time the Soldier smiled and he asked our driver to go, the boy saved us from the Sargent. It was as if the soldier was bipolar the mood change was too rapid to comprehend.
It was almost eleven hours on the road and again I asked the driver.
“For heaven sake how far is Abuja to this place?”
Few hours he said” He said.
Did u not say that three hours ago?
I knew If I can get to Abuja safely that will be the last time on the road.
To be continued.