It was about 11.00 am on a Friday morning, we were five in the car and travelling to ‘ISEYIN’, the town used for the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) camp in Oyo State, Nigeria. It was a family occasion and also an opportunity to tour and experience the countryside.
The single carriage road that connected to the town was tarred but some parts had massive pot-holes and our driver for the day had to carefully stir around them to avoid bumping inside. Some parts of the tarmac were also damaged, with lots of towering road humps that required the car to slow right down.
We progressed further on some smooth road, but it was short-lived by the first police Checkpoint that we encountered; I was relieved when a stern looking Policeman waved us on and we continued the journey.
The discussion in the car was mainly about politics in Nigeria and the coming elections in April 2011, we also looked forward to our destination, to see if there were any new developments in the town. I observed a few hills on the way and thought: “What a nice tourist attraction it could turn out to be” and the socio-economic impact on the community.
It wasn’t long before we came across the second Checkpoint. I lost count of them after some time because it became a norm on this road, each point manned by either the normal Police in all black or Military Police distinguished by their green and black uniform.
Fortunately, none of the Policemen stopped our car, but what an unusual surprise we had ahead of us. As we neared the entrance of the town, a big lorry had crashed and it sprawled across the length of the road, our car had to stop and drive off the road, right through the vegetation along the sides.
It was a royal entry and with smiles on our faces, we finally arrived at our destination and decided to have some refreshments, so we drove into the car park of what I assumed to be the only fast food restaurant in the town. I was impressed by how neat and tidy the eatery was, the waiter that took our order was also very polite and gave us excellent customer service.
We collected the take-away and continued our hearty chat with the Manager and some other staff. There was an ice cream machine that reminded me of my local Nando’s restaurant in the UK and I asked with a mischievous smile if it worked, the attendant answered me confidently that it does and she gestured that I should go serve myself.
I declined and told her it was just an enquiry (tempted but remembered my goal to cut down on the junk food).
The security officer at the door even volunteered to carry our things to the car and I tipped him for the good service he rendered. The party went well and we left for home around 4pm. Little did we know that this part of the journey was going to be more challenging because one of the cars that brought some of our visitors broke due to a faulty fuel pump.
We stopped to show some solidarity and support to them and I watched the driver use a rubber hose to draw some petrol with his mouth into the engine’s carburettor and managed to drive it to safety in a nearby village.
A couple of men agreed to keep an eye on the car till someone came back the next day with the spare parts and an automobile engineer to fix the car; we were charged 2000 Naira for the overnight security checks, but in the typical Nigerian way of doing business, we negotiated it down to 500 Naira and they agreed.
The rest of the return journey went uninterrupted till we arrived at a place called ‘Moniya’, on the outskirt of the city of Ibadan, where there was a roadblock, not by the Police this time but a group of political thugs (Area boys) with big machetes in their hands.
It was a tense moment of ‘Clear and Obvious Danger’ as we sat waiting in their self imposed traffic and they walked past our car, staring continuously at us till they drove off in their buses.
I closed my eyes and imagined this happening in the United Kingdom, there would be ‘Armed Police Officers’ called immediately to take care of the situation. I reluctantly opened my eyes and faced the reality that I was now in Nigeria (Naija), the traffic eased and I was pleased as we drove off to safety.