Tuesday, March 8, 2016

NAIJA TOUR (14)

I have passed through Yenagoa severally on my way out of Rivers State to the western part of Nigeria or elsewhere. Unfortunately, I have never had cause to drop by into the town or even spend any time in Bayelsa State. I doubt that the security situation in that state is responsible for my action, though I cannot say I haven't taken note of such enough to influence my thoughts away from anywhere in Bayelsa State as a "tourist" destination.


As we passed by the old bridge over the river in Kaiama, I wondered how it came to be that the new bridge was still under construction right beside the old one, and looked like an abandoned project.

BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER IN KAIAMA


I could only shake my head at that state of affairs especially now that the economic realities may and most probably will conspire to thwart any effort at completion, even though much of what should've completed the bridge in the first place, may have been frittered away in the usual and norm that's the corruption story of Nigeria.


Once we were in Patani, Delta State away from the politically charged Bayelsa, I heaved a sigh of relief not because Delta State wasn't as charged, but at least the state wasn't preparing for elections at the time, so I wasn't envisaging any disturbance on the road, and the prospect of reaching Lagos just a bit after sunset loomed likely, until we approached Sapele. It happened that a petrol tanker had burst into flames near a mechanic workshop, triggering a hail of fire that consumed much of the cars parked there, stalling all traffic to and from the area, and that was how we had to be left crawling in Sapele for almost two hours. Even the so called crawling was because the driver knew how to maneuver the bus to gain us some advantage over other drivers who opted to play by the traffic rules. By the time we passed by the scene of the fire, much of what was left were carcasses of vehicles parked at the mechanic workshop and immediate environs, though I could see nothing to show that any life was lost. The firemen were still at the scene with water dripping off their hoses.


Any hopes of reaching Lagos by sunset went up in smoke after we managed to navigate our way out of Sapele, even the passengers the driver had promised to take to Benin (Edo State, Midwest Nigeria) received the shock of their lives when the driver only managed to take them to a bypass to Benin, and despite pleas and later insults from the affected passengers, stood his ground till they reluctantly alighted from the bus, much to everyone's relief, as one of the aggrieved passengers had threatened to ensure that the bus didn't go on to Lagos unless they were taken to their agreed destination. I felt very sad for them been dealt such a hard one by the driver, but because it was now sunset, and we still had a Lagos to reach, I ignored the activism bug gnawing at my innards, and elected to be quiet while the banters lasted, than go against my will to support the driver beside me with the injustice he had just meted out to hapless passengers that late in the evening, the best I could do in a wrong situation that somehow favoured me.


Once those passengers eventually agreed to leave, I changed seats away from the middle front, to the seat directly behind the driver. Now famished, I reached for my roast fish (that I bought in Port Harcourt) and bread (remnant of my meal the night before at the hotel in Rumuomasi), and munched away at it with alacrity while the bus roared away into the night over asphalt. My phones were now beginning to ring from family and friends whom I had intimated of my movement, and had probably calculated that I'd be either here or there, only to be disappointed that I was nowhere closer to any of their estimated positions.


We made Òrè by some minutes before nine o'clock, and the driver made for an empty petrol station where he got some water to wash the windscreen of the bus. I, like other passengers stepped out to stretch my legs, and though there were groceries on all sides, stacked up small baskets and bowls for sale, with no one  to sell them to us. I had heard tales of places in Nigeria like this where locales who know what the groceries cost, simply pick from the lot and drop the money on the trays, and the traders come in the morning to find the money and goods intact. Since none of the passengers picked, bought or paid for anything, I followed in their footsteps to simply feed my eyes on the fruits on display before walking back to the bus, where the driver was already waiting for us to continue the journey.


Luckily, till we got to Lagos the journey from that point onwards was without incidence. My phone's battery was now in the Battery Saver mode, and my power bank had long before then run out of stored power, so I could no more listen to music of my choice or mark my presence on social media. That was when I noticed that only the speaker in the driver's space worked, and because of the speed and windy air from the open windows, twas difficult for us passengers behind to hear what was been played on the stereo, except when the bus slowed down. But even when I managed to hear some of the songs he was playing, I didn't feel too bad been left out.


We eventually reached Lagos by some minutes to midnight, and I could see the faces of the taxi drivers light up in anticipation of a "killing" in bargains so late at night, especially if any of us travellers were new in town and didn't know the going rates of taxiing in Lagos. This was home soil to me, so when one of them approached me, I spoke to him in a tone he understood, knowing full well that the choice open to him was to say no to my offering and remain hopeful for something better or agree to my request. Once we reached a deal, I was soon on my way home. I felt good having achieved all but one of my objectives for going on this tour, the only one being a journey to Nigeria's Southeast, my region of origin that I had decided against going from Port Harcourt because I felt I could always go to the east for one reason or the other. Unfortunately, I never envisaged that such a thing as the death of my father would be one of such reasons to bring me back to the homeland.


'kovich





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