The sun was radiant, all-watching eye, its light creeping into every corner, bathing the whole world in a warm glow.
The mini van cruised down a twisting road, grassy, forest green hills looming over the mountainous drive. An endless expanse of turquoise wonder, shimmering a liquid gold, stretched towards the distant horizon. The grasses looked like yarn weaved carpets and the birds hoping from tree to tree chanting in the distance. The countryside view of Velbert in Germany was breathtaking.
To my notice, Uncle James was also admiring the view and quickly hinted, ‘It is fun to travel and learn new cultures’. I was quick to put in, ‘start with your country’. Ofcourse I had travelled the length and breadth of my country. He was eager to hear all about it, and the story started.
Wake up! wake up! are you not going to school today? ‘Mummy I am tired’ was my usual response. My mother could not help laughing, ‘you have been sleeping the whole night, why are you tired’? of course her question needed no answer. It was Monday again, another day to face Mr Akpan – the Mathematics Teacher. What a nightmare, when will I graduate from this maths subject. I kept pondering on the matter amidst brushing my teeth and sleep walking. Life is not fair, must I go to school?
Poom!!! Poom!!! the sound of the school bus awakened me fully and by this time my mummy was pushing food down my throat and my Daddy was arranging my Lunch box. I have to run now, ‘Mummy, I promise to be a good girl, byeeeee’ I said running and stumbling over the fancy chair my daddy described as ‘I worked so hard to buy it’. Running and struggling with my schoolbag, Princess cut school uniform and the fanciful ribbons on my hair my mother used always to make me stand out, was my daily ritual of not missing the school bus.
I was adored by my parents and the parents of the children I took care of in the school bus. Today was a special day, I was chosen to read the welcome address to the Governor of our State. As I saw my father in the crowd, I wished God extended the mouth to the ears, because his smile was getting broader by the minute and his mouth could not contain it. I thought, was this moment more special to me or my father?
I did not just read the welcome address to the Governor of Cross River State, You can imagine a 5 years old riding with him to the Government House and surrounding Local Government Areas. I believe that was what sparked my urge for ‘adventure in the woods’ as I would call it.
The urge to tour never left me, as long as there was a wedding ceremony in the neighbouring states, my asoebi was always ready. I had covered the south-south states in four months and began a Journey into the Eastern States.
My first observation was the number of ‘storey buildings’ built so close to one another in different forms and the manner in which the young Catholic girls tied their hair imitating Our mother-Virgin Mary. One thing was sure, I will view the city from the top of the building to avoid the heavy traffic of people and the cat names – Nne, Ada, Nneoma that rang in my ear. I washed my hands that day with all the Detol I could lay my hands on, I could not just come to terms with the fact that everyone touches you in Onitsha Market.
Na wa ooo, Can I tell someone that, I have never been to Lagos? I told my friend Itoro that Saturday morning. Forgetting that the Man who will not allow my phone rest lives in Lagos. Of course I was not ready to take the bus to Lagos, I heard the bus took 12 hours to Lagos. Who says my Country is small? I dialled his number and that was my ticket to Lagos. Very excited in the big SUV,(Jeep) as we call it, and singing along with P square busy body album, I had called everyone who cared to listen, I had just arrived in Lagos. Nothing prepared me for the heavy traffic on Third Mainland Bridge. My friend told me people sold even houses and cars in Lagos traffic, today, I believed it. The gala and Lacasera boys became my companions as the driver decided to be angry with himself for struggling through the traffic to the airport to pick up a ‘chick’.
Feeling refreshed the next morning, I visited the most talked about ‘Shoprite’. That was the biggest departmental store I had ever seen. It was a beautiful City. I also decided to visit Balogun market. Even my ancestors were in support. All I heard in the Molue Bus was the clanking of one metal to another and the rigorous process of changing the gear. The conductor’s slap on my shoulders brought me back from my worries. Wetin!!! I shouted, angry at myself for going through this process. ‘san owo rẹ'(pay your money) he said. ‘I don’t understand Yoruba’, I said. ‘Madam, wetin you come dey do for Lagos'(what are you doing in Lagos) was his response. I was flabbergasted, ‘must I speak Yoruba to live in Lagos’? Due to the traffic, I was told to use the commercial motorcycle. Happy to get to the market on time, the sight of Oshodi refuse dump and the Okada struggling between two trailers was enough to make up my mind. My Lagos adventure was ok. Time to go back home.
And then it was time to serve my country, of course the witches in my village held a meeting against me and I was posted to Kebbi State.
From the large number of flies to the harsh sun, it is still difficult to decipher the worst devil. Strolling through the city, I noticed something lacking, it hit me, I had not seen more than 10 women. Where are the women? I asked my new friend Musa. His reply ‘ there are all at home and come out mostly at night, have you forgotten where you are? I ran all the way back to my quarters after noticing my perfectly cut jeans which acted as a second skin, shaping my perfectly rounded buttocks and leaving little to the imagination. What was I thinking, is it here I will get a husband? Thank goodness for my Catholic background, I had more scarves than I needed. I did not recognise myself after dressing up like a normal muslim lady.
‘Farming is our Pride’ greeted me as I entered the territory of the Governor who married a 13 years old girl. You can imagine the shock after hearing of all the ‘sharia shortsleeve and longsleeve stories’ and seeing the modern buildings in the state capital. Wow, experience is always the best teacher. I expected worse.
As the bus driver stopped for the prayer ritual which was gradually becoming uncomfortable, even the sting of grases made the hairs on my neck stand. I could not help but admire the large expanse of flat land in the northern parts. As the farmers passed me, I noticed most of them had little or no tooth. Why? I still wonder. One thing stayed with me, Kunu, burkutu and nono drinks have a special place in my heart.
My history classes painted Sokoto State so well that it would have been a taboo not to visit the State. Struggling in the bus with people with different body odours just to discover I was the only woman in the bus, worst of all, only one of them could speak near-english.
How sad I was, sitting at the back with two male goats tied behind. Which was worst, the human odour or the goats odour? Hell fire is actually real, I thought.
The North is indeed unique, from the shape of the houses, the meals, my experience on a Donkey, Camel and a Horse to the most beautiful women I had ever come across, we are indeed blessed. My restless spirit would not let me go back the way I came, but because it has to be written in the sands of time that I have also flown from Sokoto airport, the aeroplane decided to fly for 9 hours to Lagos. On getting to Lagos, I became an engineer who also struggled in opening the cargo door of the plane to get my beloved Burberry box. According to my Efik brothers, ‘ a traveller always has stories to tell’.
Nothing prepared me for marrying a Yoruba man from Ibadan. The only stories I knew of Ibadan were from my Primary school books, ‘Edet lives in the town of lagoon which is not far from Ibadan’. You can imagine my surprise in seeing the same lorry drawn in those books in Ibadan.
Following my sister in-law to market the next morning, my knees were aching from the constant ritual of kneeling to greet everyone older I came across, I thought yesterday was past only to be surprised as we continued kneeling in the market to greet her friends and family friends.
Will I do this for the rest of my life?
All I saw in the market was tomatoes and peppers, hmmmmm, Yoruba people will die from tomatoes, I thought. As I was admiring the women in their buba and iro, noticing that all the women dressed alike, I saw a man lieing flat on the ground. What is happening? I thought, he is greeting another man, my sister inlaw explained.
I thought to myself, my adventure has actually taken over my life.
Till date, I can not live without eating Amala, gbegiri, and Ewedu, not forgetting Efo-riro which I can actually win a cooking contest with any Yoruba Lady anytime.
I won’t forget the three years I lived in Abuja. I cannot forget Kaduna, which I call a semi-northern state and Makurdi where I was given 5 types of soups for a single meal, also Kogi where I was opportuned to see where the two rivers meet. Kano, where my money got finished buying gold. Jos where I bought a basket of Onions for an unbelievable price. Niger which seemed endless during the drive and Gombe, where a court case held me for a month.
Nigeria is actually a beautiful, rich, big and naturally endowed Country.
I still have to visit Yobe and Borno, then, I qualify to have visited the 36 states of Nigeria.
This is an excerpts from my travel stories.