Where will I begin this one? It’s a few days after Christmas and the days are rushing towards the new year with lesser activities than before Christmas. I am in Lagos. Christmas for me has been sort of a laid-back one, more of reflections about life and its twists and curves. Naturally I was on the other side of things when it comes to all the high-sounding celebrations.
But then an opportunity came, an idea struck. I could go to Accra for a few days rather than get stuck in the monotones of Christmas here. What is it like in Accra now? As a Trans-African being, a border-being so to speak, it was not at all an unwelcome thought, one that is likely to see the light of the day in action. Besides, Ghana has always been the much contested neighbor of Nigeria, and events constantly affirm that.
What I did not immediately settle for was the fact that this was going to be a road trip. I considered flying, but given that everything during Christmas is double the price, it was not even thinkable to buy a plane ticket one day before travel, considering that my budget is such that does not allow for some crazy maneuvering, this is the point I always dreamt I was as rich as Michael Jackson (but if I continue like this, I will surely match his craziness someday).
So the nearest option, was going by road in the good old ABC transport, the only known road transportation company that plies this Trans-African route. In conversation with a friend, who is of the same age grade, he told me that when he was young, he could remember his dad coming home from the neighboring countries clutching an ABC transport ticket. ABC has been in operation for 19 years. They have managed to work their way into the way of life for most Nigerian road commuters. Immediately I got excited at the prospect of going by road on board this thriving transport company.
I got to the Amuwo Odofin Terminal at 6.30 am, it was already swarming with travelers. They were quite organised with lots of porters assisting the passengers to weigh and tag their bags. My journey was more a result of some acute restlessness, so I am neither exporting nor importing, just carrying few clothes but most importantly, my portable office, laptop, iPad, phones and most naturally my camera. This time I am rolling with my G12, trying to keep the journey as simple as it can be.
At 7.25 am, check-in starts. It was systematic, easy, in the next 15 minutes the engine of the 52-seater Marcopolo had been engaged, another five minutes it began to pull backwards out of the parking lot. But at the same time, the prayers kicked off by the in-bus pastor, who prayed and washed the the bus “with the blood of Jesus” and prayed that as the bus moved forward, so would our business, our life and our success, to which most people echoed “Amen.”
And I pondered prayers: it seems to me that most of the time that we pray to God, it is to ask something from Him! How about the aspect of worship? That which is just about thanksgiving for the mere fact of being alive and having the luxury of asking favours. Is it not said that He has already given us all things? That what is left now is for us to muster faith as tiny as a mustard seed and all can be ours? And does faith not come from work, everyday activities in and to the name of God? Does it come from high-sounding demands and petitions? I must say that it is in all these prayers and attitudes towards God that man’s lack of faith and conviction in God is most revealed. We do have a conception of God as the greatest of all powers, but as human beings, is He only useful when we do not have or cannot fathom any other solutions to our problems? I wonder if there will be so many churches if we are not so abjectly poor. The poor want to be rich, the rich are afraid to be poor, and in-between these poles there are thousands of churches, defining one God. But hey, this is just one man’s opinion, I stand to be corrected.
My thoughts drifting…..
Now we have meandered our way to the border, in-between I was multitasking, pinching away on my iPad, twitting and chatting on my phone to justify my sudden journey to some close ones. I had my earpiece deeply stuck in my ears, as Nas was blasting away, “I know I can be what I wanna be, if I work hard at it.” Nas is an artist I respect greatly; when he sings, I just don’t dance, I listen. At 11.15, we got to Seme border. But before that, the attendant took us through a crash course of what we should expect at each border. He spoke impeccable English and French, and afterwards he asked if there was anyone who did not speak any of the two languages so he could speak in the person’s local language. I wonder if that was a joke or if he has truly learnt to speak the local languages of these regions. We got to Seme, our passport was handed over to the attendant, we stayed in the bus while they took care of the formalities. In less than 45 minutes we were on our way. For me, such stress-free border crossing is somewhat unusual, considering that in the Invisible Borders trip every border is a bottleneck. Most times because we refuse to pay all the backyard money and that meant more delays, more stress. This time it was unreal, but on getting to Hilla Conji, the border between Benin and Togo, we had to come down and traverse the border on foot.
The Togolese border was quite busy, I could not tell exactly why this was so, neither could I figure out why changing Naira to Ghanaian Cedi was much more feasible, and even cheaper there than at the Ghanian border proper. Also one gets the impression that things were much cheaper in Togo than in the two countries flanking it on both sides. One could still buy things with the Nigerian Naira, the Ghanaian Cedi and of course the French CFA. It is intriguing how borders become a mishmash of those entities they tend to demarcate. Soon we were done with crossing into Togo with no further drama except that this exodus-like crossing was accompanied with buying food and drinks for the rest of the journey ahead.
Now we were back in the bus, I decided to take a nap…
I woke up because apparently my neck could no longer take my sitting, or should I say sleeping position. For lack of something better to do (or better still, to cure my acute restlessness), I began to read Victor Ehikamenor’s “Excuse Me”. First few pages and I was already lost in his world of twisted humour that has you fixing the pieces of childhood memories together in order to make it a whole experience again. As a wanderer with many encounters of life, it is easy for one important experience to overlap the other as remarkable events fight for front row seats in my life. Reading Victor’s descriptive reality of a Nigerian childhood had me relishing my own childhood over again, and during those moments I was lost to what was happening around me, I was back 20 years ago or more in time, when as a child you lived life never knowing that it would turn out this demanding, you had wishes and fantasies, but you never thought that the actual process of getting you to the acme of those wishes will turn out to be the most remarkable events rather than the final fulfillment of the events itself. The process is the fulfilment, rather than the outcome of the process.
We were still in Togo, and as I looked out the window, I saw CIMTOGO, my guess was that this is the Cement Company (but a play of words in my head likened it to “Cemetery Togo”), a gigantic building looking like a grotesque structure especially in the backdrop of the dusty harmattan atmosphere. There was a slight standstill, but this was because the road was being constructed by of course, the Chinese. They have come to be known as the Road-makers. The image that comes off is of the same cliché: local workers spotting their helmets and their Chinese boss, usually a little man, tight-faced (makes you wonder what will happen to that face if by an act of God he smiles), pointing or talking out orders to his workers. Sometimes it feels like by mere watching you could even sense the reluctance on the part of the local workers to carry out the orders. I wonder how they eventually get by, Chinese is a tough language to speak (and they are not that interested in making a big deal out of spreading the beauty of their language through cultural schemes like the Germans and French do), yet they are constantly working with Africans who obviously cannot be bothered to speak Chinese on their own soil even though their daily bread depends on it. But somehow, they get the job done, they pave the way. They are everywhere, not just roads, they also built the Africa Union complex in Addis Ababa, and will be running it for two years.
Ehh, chale! This China thing, it is also drawing the interest of what is left of Europe, mainly Germany and France, then India, soon it will be the United Arab Emirates (I doubt that though, except if oil turns to ice under the ground, or if the West runs out of ideas that they would love to duplicate). It made me wonder how slavery and colonialism happened. Was it not an accident? Was it not just a bunch of explorers who came, saw and thought they could conquer? When they took an elbow and saw that it was met with little resistance, they decided to take an arm, and then eventually both arms, then at some point, thought why extract salt from the ocean when we can take the ocean? Then they took all the body in large quantities, across shores. Can we not see the handwriting on the wall? That history is pushing to replicate itself? Africans, as you make your bed, so will it decide who eventually lies on it, whether you or someone else. Shikina!
We got to Aflao border, the last for the day, I have always loved this border, in the past we had so many good things to say about this border, the Ghanian border officials are just too good to be true, they are straight to the point, no delays, no shouting no maltreatment of any kind, but most importantly corruption is greatly curtailed at this border. So I was at all not surprised when we were asked to come down for our luggage to be manually checked by the customs, we performed this task with no hassle. It was time to buy some Ghanian sim card, I did and in matter of minutes I was hooked on to the internet! I continued my tweeting and all the Facebook updates. It was dusk now, coming into Ghana we just gained one hour, so it was about 5.30 pm while it says one hour more on my wristwatch which was still set to Nigerian time.
We forged ahead towards Accra, as if the bus attendant knew, it was time for some comic relief, our very own Nigerian comedians, from the popular comedy show, “Night of a Thousand Laughs,” graced the screen for the rest of the journey, Basket Mouth, AY, Gandoki, I go Die, Aki & Paw Paw, and many more. It was laughter all the way as we watched them make jokes out of very daunting issues, making us laugh as a better alternative to crying. The depth of their art is hidden in the safe confines of comedy. I respect these guys, they have made this industry lucrative and relevant from nothing, and they keep perfecting it, taking it far beyond the shores of Nigeria, insisting that our ways of being and living be seen as just what they are: “We be who we be, take am as you see am”.
At about 7.30 pm Ghanian time, we arrived in Accra, and people began to alight in a good mood and I could hear a woman somewhere in the bus exclaim, “Thank God for Journey Mercies o”. Yes, Thank God for a first time experience that was really worth it. ABC Transport is a pioneer in that dream of building a Trans-African Transportation that will encourage Trans-African dealings and exchanges. They are amongst those elements of our society working on a daily basis to make this a way of life which it will become for us all in no distant future.