Archives for posts with tag: living in Nigeria

Despite the soothing green spaces, the powdery blue sky and the softly lit horizon,  I was completely unprepared for the flood of conviction which took shape in my mind.

Eking  out a living in Nigeria requires far more mental  and physical stamina than any other place I have had the opportunity to experience first hand. As I observe the world outside slowly merge with mine,  faces blur into a mist of life and the scope of  human enterprise is both energizing and challenging.

I am warmed by the ready smiles of the  roadside  hawkers, eager to sell their freshly farmed produce of corn, yams, tomatoes, peppers, garri, palm oil, plantain and a myriad of organically grown vegetables.

JAKES WEDDING 1979

 

The visual collage intensifies vividly as we pass through the iconic city of Ibadan; famously described by John Pepper Clark as: “scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun”. In this metropolis of over 3 million Nigerians,  Ibadan is teeming with wide parades of people  seemingly on the move-engaged in an endless number of human activity.

All around me, in mobile stalls balanced on their heads, young boys, girls, men and women  have most of what you might need  on a hot humid afternoon and commuters stop here and there to stock up.

Lone bystanders look on intently, buried in their own universe of things to do and places to get to ; waiting for the next bus or vehicle to carry them along to someplace else;  moving or standing, humanity here is indeed in motion- man go chop-the hustle moves on.

ibadan 4

Despite  what for many  might seem like difficult odds and uncertain times, like anywhere else in the world, ordinary Nigerians continue to see to their established routines of work, family and enterprise.

Isn`t it  these immediate experiences and the  relentless energy to keep it moving which gives individual lives meaning and adds value to everyday stories?

 

 

 

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It was  5.00 am .

From the sounds of the hooting cars and voices outside my window, Lagos had  clearly been awake for much longer. My plan was simple; to take a  speedy dawn ride to the Cross Country Bus garage in Yaba and hop on a luxurious bus from Lagos to to Accra.

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“Flying from Lagos to Accra is about an hour, why travel by road?  Why on earth would you put yourself through that madness. Hah!  I hear if you are lucky you might get into Accra by 12 midnight.”

My friend was desperate ; this idea of mine was altogether crazy.But my reasoning  was far from crazy. By all  my estimates,  the distance  by road from Lagos to Accra is under 600 Km, that should  take about 9 hours, as the crow flies. How bad could that be if we left early ? And in a luxurious bus with air conditioning,  plush chairs, and en-route entertainment, how bad could it really be?

 

28042012004 video bus

And there was the little matter of finances. At just a little over 10,000 Naira one way, traveling by road is a fraction of the cost of a air ticket which could range from about  45, 0000-50,000Naira

Moreover,  as the largest and second-largest economies in West Africa respectively,  Nigeria and Ghana have strong economic ties;  thousands of Nigerians travel to and fro everyday by road, so what exactly is  the big deal I wondered?

Traders at the Aflao border

Traders at the Aflao border

Two hours later, sat meekly in the lounge of the cross country station, I had to admit that  apart from the early shuffle out of bed,  so far it had  been a mildly pleasant experience.

The Cross Country lounge was  clean, well ventilated  with chairs designed to be comfortable  perhaps just for a few hours but comfortable nonetheless. All in all, everything seemed perfectly normal except for one tiny detail. Like  the rest of  my fellow sleepy-eyed passengers , I simply did not know when we would depart. We all  just waited for the  bus to “be ready”.

topbar crousscountry

And  at 9.20am we were ready. Taking my seat comfortably at the back of the bus, I basked  in the cool  air conditioning as the bus lurched forward ponderously curling its way out of the  station . We were off..

Then I realised  that there was a preacher on board. Well he must have been a preacher; he was  preaching and rendering passages from the bible  with such vigor that he could only have been a preacher.

I wondered about him for a minute. Was he not a preacher? 

Was he in fact a  passenger, who just felt the urge to pray for a bus load of strangers heading out on an uncertain trip? Or was he actually a paid  staff of  Cross Country performing a service for their customers, a bit like a spiritual massage before we set off. 

As I pondered, voices chorused “amen” several times in unison, spontaneous choirs sprang up as familiar gospel tunes were rendered fervently. Clearly, this was a familiar ritual for everyone except me.

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Then the epiphany. I smiled. I understood. I joined in.

That God is present everywhere and that all prayer, all heartfelt song whenever and wherever shared must be shared by all, was the philosophy that we all  needed to get us through  this very long trip,  this very unpredictable journey.

This  was the Nigerian flavour- ambiance is everything- eagerly expected, passionately sustained and completely unspoken by all.

 It didn’t matter that we were all strangers, it didn’t matter that we didn’t really know when we were going to arrive at our destination or if indeed, delays at border would add hours to the trip. What mattered most on that bus, on that most uncertain journey was preserving and sustaining the mood of hopeful expectancy and almost blind optimism that all would be well.

Hence, it was all  a required sequence- the prayers, the Nollywood film, the heated conversations with the conductor checking for visas, the banter with fellow passengers-all  essential ingredients to ensure that whatever else may not be happening as  desired- your sanity would be preserved come what may!

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