Even though you might have substantial experience in international travel,…
By Uchechi Moses
One of the techniques I developed during my newspapers’ reading days (I rarely read hard copies these days – virtual world) is to start from the last paragraph or statement and read to the beginning. Extrapolating the technique to my NYSC experience, I relay my journey from Potiskum to Lagos as a redeployed corp member. Late July 2018 (Batch B, Stream 1), I was posted to Yobe state (first time in the north) and vowed to redeploy using insecurity as a reason. While in camp, redeployment forms were issued out and I filled Lagos (had a job waiting for me there) and hoped to get the commercial nerve centre. On the last day of camp, we were told to print out redeployment forms after paying N1, 000 online. My plan was to pay the money, see the state of redeployment (without paying, you won’t see the state) and travel home – Uyo – and later travel fully to Lagos). I tried paying the money to no avail (which was very painful as I was amongst the first in my platoon to discover that the site has been opened to check and print one’s state of redeployment). I tried oh, e no gree pay and I had enough money in the account.
I called my younger brother at home to pay and let me know the state, he complained of issues with his bank account; did same to my sister, she agreed (would she have done the opposite?). After an hour and with the only bus (The Young Shall Grow Motors) heading east from Potiskum almost set to move, my sister called and said the site is extremely busy and she cannot continue based on the duration I told her. Ah! OK, I responded and asked for her debit card details and tried same on my phone and it did not go! Na there I know say my own has finished! Mme kpa (I’m dead)! I kind of blamed my not praying that morning before leaving the hostel (I am not very religious) as the cause. I had to start begging around and soliciting help for persons to pay using their money online and I will pay N1, 500 cash. First person had N1, 300 in his account and as such could only do for himself. Second person agreed but the site was jam-packed (site that was free as a bird when I saw it first). Next minute, dude wants to go. The YSG bus to the east (Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri, Aba and PH) was about moving, I could not blame him and thanked him for the time.
I cannot travel without knowing where I am being redeployed to neither can I stay in this camp overnight (Army for gree me?), so I thought and decided to try the cyber cafe guy in camp (only him for over a thousand plus corp members wanting to check and print – which I was not interested in). The traffic on the website was phenomenal and very few could check and print. Queue? Very long (The Great Wall of China was learning). I summoned courage and went to the last bus (still YSG Motors) heading south, this time to the west (Lagos as its final destination). I had a place to stay and I’ll get Lagos as my redeployed state, I thought. Paid N10, 100 and kept trying with the cyber guy, no hope.
Few minutes to five and with only 13 passengers, the YSG decided to move to Lagos. I was worried as luxurious buses will not move to a destination without having a full house (I entered same YSG Motors from Onitsha to Potiskum and I knew how things were; everywhere was filled). But then, I have paid N10K+ and had to enter. Past five and we left Potiskum (lovely city with cheerful residents especially the kids), after a short nap, I decided to try and pay the N1, 000; yet again, I got the same response but on a closer look, I read “…undo cookies and popup restriction…”. So I did not know these all along? Did the changes, paid, only to see Ogun! Nsuto nfana idom? (Which kind wahala be this?). And some persons advised me earlier to influence the process, I disagreed; I was being a good citizen. That is where the wahala started for me.
The driver and his men at about 8:30pm entered their park in Kano and said we would be there for the night and they cannot go to Lagos until they carry more passengers the following day. Like I knew! But they should have told us na. Few minutes later, driver and his men were not seen anymore. Damn! Stranded in the north, Kano fa. This is not Uyo oh, I felt depressed. Luckily, we saw a dude who promised to show us where to stay, went there and it is the most horrible “hotel” (more like a motel) I have ever seen! I have managed a hospitality outfit previously and I did a fantastic job. Price? N1, 500. Well, I could understand, but at least the place should be clean. Humans not animals are to stay here, so I thought. Paid the money, entered the room (we were five – males (3) and females (2)). Others, all females, stayed in two other rooms. As someone who knows the business, I entered first and sighted the bed and vowed not to sleep there and instead sat on the chair (others were still outside). They came in and slept on the bed with their NYSC paraphernalia still on them (who was to contact a dermatological disease?). Good a thing there was light and we slept.
Sunrise and we headed to the park, still no driver or his men in sight. While the debacle happened the previous day, we phoned relevant authorities in Yobe explaining our ordeal, I contacted the camp commandant as we knew each other beyond NYSC. Camp officials called YSG Management that morning urging them to take us to Lagos or refund the monies (the management promised the former but not the latter). OK then. We waited till at about 8am – since 6am – and no bus in sight. We go enter Lagos today so? And the rule as we were told by NYSC’s officials was to be in your newly redeployed state by a week, this was the fourth day, and I’m even Ogun bound sef! Then, a lass from my platoon and Akwa Ibom came and propped an idea of us looking for a bus in Kano and head to Lagos that day. Nice one, I thought, but what about others and looking for a transport medium to Lagos by 8:30am? She said there is no point waiting for others since they have decided to wait for the YSG Motors (which none of us had an idea if/when they would depart Kano). We both had the cash (extra cash is important expected, they discouraged us, but I pleaded. Wawu! We parted ways and took a Keke to where we can get a cab/bus; just any medium to Lagos that day at about 9am. Got to the first park and no bus or cab to Lagos, mkpo se ba o (things are happening). Maybe we should use the plane, the lass said. I turned, looked at her, holding her head gently and asked in: Amenie N33, 000? (Do you have N33, 000?). No, she said, but I can get the amount if I call home (me speaking), but if you do same, will you get it? No, again, she replied.
Then I told the Keke rider to take us to another park (as a sidenote: Kano is a busy city, more than Uyo – expectedly). Got to the second park and parted with N500 as agreed from inception. Approached the men and asked if they knew a bus or private cab heading to Lagos, luckily, they knew and told us to wait. Wait? Oh Abasi mi! (Oh my God). Told the lass to wait while I discuss with the men. Numbers here and there and a man was called, the men (all Yorubas) assumed I was Igbo (which I am etymologically) and gave me the phone to speak in Igbo to the driver. Damn! I don’t speak nor understand Igbo, what will I do (my thoughts)? All my life has been Ibibio or Efik (they can be interchanged). Took the number, moved a distance and called him only to hear Igbo, and I quickly replied “bros, I no understand oh”. He changed to Pidgin and agreed to carry us by 10am near Rano Petrol Station somewhere in the city. I checked the time and thought of 10am travelling to Lagos from the core north. We go reach so? When we go reach sef? By then, the lass was tired, but we must continue. It would be shameful heading back to our colleagues waiting for the YSG Motors. We must stick to our plan, fervently.
As expected, by ten, the driver arrived and we paid him N18. 000 (9K each – allawie given in camp haff finished ni). I paid the Yoruba man N1, 000 for the assistance even though I did not trust him initially (YSG treatment on my mind). I even bowed like the Japanese as a sign of respect. Entered the Toyota Sienna (most likely late ‘90s model) with five other passengers and off to Lagos. The journey was good and fair enough with the longest time wasted in Kaduna by some FRSC officials. Thank goodness for a paramilitary dude in the car, if not eh! FRSC officials were ready to keep us waiting because the driver took along with him the photocopy of his driver’s licence instead of the original. The north is beautiful with huge (apologies to Donald Trump) swathes of land. Joked to the lass that with a million naira, I would become a local government chairman, she feigned a smile. Poor me forming Basket Mouth. We passed through Zuma Rock and I even forgot about the name of the adjoining towns notwithstanding my good knowledge of geography (finished as the best in secondary school). Passed through Kogi (where we ate), boy! That state eh!
See land…a million naira and the local government is mine. Somewhere in Kaduna state.
Deep into the night and we were approaching the western parts (Ife, Ibadan, Sagamu etc) of Nigeria. Lass had slept, deeply (I slept c.30 minutes all through the journey). Next minute, driver develops James Bondism as a syndrome. Not now, mbok (please), I begged the dude. He replied “any slow movement and we would be robbed”. Frantically, lass wakes and asks me nsidoh (what is it?)? I comforted her and said we are heading west. Journey continued with the F1 driving skills by our man (Lewis Hamilton is a learner) and passed Sagamu around 1am (where he stopped to obey nature’s call – I was not concerned with urinating until I get home, ditto the lass).
Finally, driver says we are entering Lagos (c.2am)! Wawu! Lass wakes and asks ado akpaniko? (is it true?). Ntoro (it is so), I replied. Circa fifteen minutes and we are in Ojota and I alighted (pleaded with the driver to take her to where she would easily get a cab to Ajah as she is a tyro with regards to mainland movements) while I headed to Ikeja. A little over a month later, we saw ourselves on CDS day; an eventful period, so to say. Same states of (re)deployment, city of residence (Uyo), platoon (2), bus and cab entered, local government area (Ota) and CDS’ group (Med & Health).
P.S. Our colleagues from Potiskum departed Kano for Lagos two days after we did.
To folks who might think lass and I dated/date or knew ourselves before camp, not so. Everything including the LGA or CDS was not betokened.
Uchechi Moses writes from Ota, Ogun state.