Oct 29, 2007

From Nigeria to Ghana by Bus

Time: 0900hrs
Location: National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos
Mode of transportation: Bus
ETA: 2000hrs

I was excited and thrilled. Having never stepped out of Nigeria in my entire life, I had every reason to be. I had already met a few friends and we had discussed how we were going to enjoy the scenery, have fun at the borders and marvel about being in 4 different countries all within a day. Unfortunately for us, we were about to go through some shocking experiences which made me conclude that most of the problems we have in Nigeria are caused by Nigerians themselves. I’ll start the story from the departure point.

We boarded the bus at Surulere under the bridge opposite the National Stadium. When we were ready to move, the first of the problems came up. Area Boys, (a popular menace in Lagos, Nigeria) held us hostage and refused to let the bus move. Why? The bus had just loaded in their territory and being the territorial terrorists guardians, they were entitled to territorial fees! Talk about Robin Hood and the Sherwood Forest, except this time it was not for a common good! Fortunately though, we were bailed out by some mobile policemen not too far from the area. A minor setback, I thought ... little did I know.

The next experience was at the Seme Border. Some curious okada-like tricycles were riding past and a friend of mine (Gbolade) brought out his camera and took a picture. Suddenly, Customs officials appeared in the bus as if from nowhere and started shouting furiously, "Who is that?", "Bring that camera here", "Move outside" and other such phrases associated with the military. His camera was confiscated and he was taken away for some brief "questioning", during which his memory card was explored and the images deleted. I thought to myself, "OK, even if there's a law against taking pictures at borders, and yes someone broke that law, why should you talk to him like a kid, snatch his camera and march him outside like some criminal without exhibiting one iota of professionalism?" I realised that that was just the typical Naija definition of Law enforcement which we're supposed to be used to.

The next experience was when a friend and I stepped out of the bus in search of a toilet or secluded area where we could do the No 1. Finding no convenient place, I left my friend and turned back, when suddenly, some rough looking fellow approached me and said, "Officer dey call you". I looked at the "Officer", and behold, I've never seen a more shabbily dressed officer. This "officer" guy was in ragged jeans and a dirty T-shirt. Thinking to myself, "This guy think say them born me yesterday", I said to him "Which officer? Wey im uniform? ... Tell am make he come meet me for inside my bus". Nonsense and Concorbility. However, a fellow traveller was not so lucky. He obeyed the "officers" and they told him to declare the currency in his possesion. He did and after their "inspection", N500 had disappeared. Now what do you call that? Theft, extortion, or what?

We spent the next 4 hours at the border waiting for our passports to be stamped for exit from Nigeria. 4 hours in the hot sun in a bus with the engine and AC switched off is no joke in any way. During this time, the frequent travellers amongst us (apparently identified through the VISAs on their passports) were invited for a special session of silly questioning like "What did you go to do in France?" , "Who did you stay with in London" etc. all this while, I noticed Okadas crossing the borders freely with passengers without any such thing as a security check. All they needed to do was drop an undisclosed amount of money with the guards at the gates. Eventually, we were stamped out of Nigeria and surprisingly we were stamped into Benin Republic in under 30 minutes. We crossed the border and drove into Cotonou, and lo and behold ... it was like heaven ... compared to where we were coming from.

Cotonou is a beautiful city. During our drive through, we did not step into a single pot hole in the roads, neither did we pass through any undulating patch. The street lights were all complete and shone brightly. There were no traffic jam and we soon got to the Benin/Togo border. In about 20 minutess we were in Togo. I then thought to myself, "Have we just crossed a border?". It took us just 20 minutes and I couldn't believe it. We crossed a border in a strange land in a fraction of the time it took to cross our own border. Did those people trust us more than our Nigerian brothers did? We got to the Ghana/Togo border and it was the same thing. Within 45 minutes we had gone through. The Ghanian officials were very polite. A soldier came into the bus to look through the bus. He was very well mannered, friendly and looked quite decent and neat. He soon became a subject of discussion on the bus. On comparison with our recollections of Nigerian soldiers, he stood miles apart.

At the Ghanaian border we were treated like invited guests and tourists. At the Nigerian Border, we were treated like spies and criminals ... without any reason. At the Ghanaian border, we were people to be reckoned with. At the Nigerian border, we were just another number of people, opportunities for the Nigerian officials to make money. I used to think that the whole of Africa was like Nigeria, but like the popular yoruba adage, I had to visit another farm to know that my father's farm wasn't the biggest. Nigerians really do cause problems for Nigerians.

The trip opened my eyes to 3 problems that are prevalent, and need to be addressed ASAP.
  1. Autocracy. The "Do as I say, because I say so" syndrome exhibited by everyone with any measure of authority.
  2. Corruption. In many places, the officials are not just corrupt, corruption has become official.
  3. Crime. Starting with such little things as swindling innocent people of little sums of money, it soon blows out if not arrested.
I know I promised not to write any bad thing about Nigeria, but I had to put this up, so we'll know exactly what we're up against. We are the cause of our own problems, and by the Grace of God, we shall be the solution. God Bless Nigeria.

29 comments:

Writefreak said...

Hmm Tayo, that must have been really terrible (that's why i didn't travel to Ghana by road...lol). We need help in this country, honestly..our uniformed people think it's a way to oppress fellow citizens and they just have no respect for the human being...i guess in our own little way where we find ourselves, we should reject oppression and also never oppress people

The Last King Of Scotland said...

eyaaaaa.

check out my new series every friday, TGIF about music, spread the word son. hope u r cool

cally-waffybabe said...

You are not talking bad about Nigeria with cruel intent. You are just opening our eyes to the problems rocking our country.
In my opinion, you addressing these issues and wanting to exact some sort of change is highly commendable. We need more brave youths like yourself. I am mightily proud of you.

Way to go dude
xxx

Omodudu said...

However, a fellow traveller was not so lucky. He obeyed the "officers" and they told him to declare the currency in his possesion. He did and after their "inspection", N500 had disappeared.
What more can I say. Nigerians sef too dey fear sef. But chei those area boys have no value for life sha..what can a brother to do?

onydchic said...

Yeah, I don't like thinking too much of how messed up people are in this country. I totally agree with you on those points... especially autocracy. I noticed such foolishness as early as Jss 1 when SS1 students, by mere virtue of being in a higher class decided to treat younger ones like crap.
We need a reality check in this country. And rights.

I've been meaning to go to Ghana, u know, but I dont think I'm ready to be depressed!

Titi Owoade said...

Na wa o. Now u see y I always say the problem with Nigeria is the Nigerians themselves. God help us. How do we expect the country to move forward when the average Nigerian is as corrupt as anything even primary school kids too. Its really something to think about o. God help us gan o.

Tayo said...

@writefreak, yes o .. "terrible" can describe a good part of it.
@TLK, I'll do ... and thanks for visiting
@cally-waffy, thanks a lot! Thanks for you encouraging words.
@omodudu, na true o. Even me wey dey form tough, i knew I had limits.
@onydchic, lol. Yes o .. we really do. It might actually be better for you to go by air ... you'll be saved all the harassment.
@titi, true talk. Corruption is so deeply rooted, it'll take some time to uproot it.

truth said...

That was a good read Tayo. Oh well what can I say that you all don't already know; we most certainly need a change. Corruption is so big an issue with Nigerians that innocent Nigerian in foreign terracies are run over by that perception.
My experience: I had an interview with a British company. the interview was in the US and they asked silly questions like "how can we be sure you really worked at this place in your country"...needless to say it crossed my mind to dish that interviewer a slap....or better still some verbal venom. then I thought; I am just a victim of a wrongly generalized perception.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

My brother, you didn't write anything bad about Nigeria. You wrote the fact about the place. Nigeria is sometimes synonymous with madness. And, I am not ashamed to say that.

As for "seniority politics" aka autocracy, it will be the end of the country. We have a way to go, but we shall get there someday.

Tope said...

I totally agree with you that most problem we facing in that country are actually caused by us(Nigerians),coming or going out of Nigeria is something i classify as impossible mission,My husband was sent back from the airport twice because he was travelling with one way ticket and secondly he has less than $1,000 on him,even after showing them his credit card.It's a shame for us really,cos when i travelled all over and i'm been treated like a human being,I cried for my beloved country.

Anonymous said...

I used to think the problems we have in naija na across the whole continent until I waka go another African country! I don't know why we are called giant of Africa because I don't know what is 'giant' about us other than our population. If you ask me the way forward, I will say privitization is the answer. Afterall, the functional sectors in Nigeria are privately owned.....true talk

Tayo said...

@truth, you're so right ... thank God you didn't give that interviewer that slap. lol. So did you get the job?
@solomonsydelle, yes o. Nigeria is often synonymous with madness. We need a psychiatrist .. lol
@tope, true talk. I'm sure if it was a foreigner, he would have been treated with more respect. That's what we get.
@anonymous, well said. Privatization is a good shortcut, if we want immediate results. But again, the process of privatization is often times questionable.

akin said...

You know, the last I was in Niaja was a couple of years ago with the missus whom vowed never to go back to Niaja again. And this was even before we even left Murtala Airport on arrival. I had a custom official asking me "what I had brought for her", then I had the "area boys" giving me attitude. Not too long ago, I was thinking about doing a photo essay about Niaja, then I realised that I would be more safe doing that in Iraq than Nigeria.
We need a serious revival in our lives, us Nigerians. Don't get me wrong, some countries are worse off, but damn!!

Flame said...

dude next time(if theres a next time)you decide to go to ghana by road,try ABC transport.My sister went to ghana with them,and it was all gravy,they make the journey real easy.

Bro. Tee said...

I share your optimism. Nigeria will get better. All this horrible stories of misbehavior will become a thing of the past. We're not going to give up on Nigeria. I love Nigeria!

Ozymandias said...

Which day would things change in Nigeria...Nigeria would always continue to kill its people and hinder its own development...When would things change..hope you had fun though!

Bobby said...

First of all i am angry that you went to Ghana and didnt tell me. Thats my second home!!!

Please when next you are going to Ghana by road...you make sure you use ABC transport ONLY. No other type of busses. I think its like 7K

Or you get my man "ORUNKANBODI" (sp? supposed to mean man with no neck), to drive you in his flashy BMW for 10K. Orunkanbodi knows all the officials, you dont get out the car, he takes your passport...and does all the dirty work and drives you. You dont get down from the Beemer!

Either way i am sorry you went through all this.

I have also been to Ghana by Road from Lagos and to Lagos from Ghana by Road with no wahala. Its either the ABC (used only once) or my man ORUNKANBODI...

Naija when will you change so that we can move back home? *Sigh*

Jaycee said...

I don't blame u at all Tayo. I remember my own experience, I attended the popular French Village one particular summer in Badagry, and one of our field trips was to go across the Border to Benin Republic. They may not make as much money as Nigerians, but I just felt so different. I felt a different kind of bliss, everything in order.

Do you know that their electricity is supplied by Nigeria, but they have a more constant power supply that Nigerians themselves? I really still don't get it...

Then their market system, also crowded...but more orderly. And the people are more trusting of themselves...

Nigerians can't even trust each other anymore...

Loomnie said...

Oh yea, I know that border. I have crossed it before - and because of my work, I will be doing that pretty often in the next months. You are right, one can actually feel the difference crossing between Nigeria and Benin with all ones senses....

NIGERIA POLITRICKS said...

Glad this was an eye opener for you; at least travelling is part of education so this is a lesson well learned...anywayz, dont beat yourself too hard for stating the facts about the corrupt state of Nigeria; now u know why we do it all the time!

Jenny Sandvig said...

Hi! Just wanted to say I take great interst in reading your blog. I'm a journalist student at the Danish School of Journalism. This week we are actually doing a webpage project on Nigeria. We could use some good sources for that.. Could we maybe contact you, by mail or telephone? That would be great!

My mail: jsandvig@mail.djh.dk

Hope to hear from you! - Jenny Sandvig.

pamelastitch said...

I have nothing to say.....
Okay, one thing: I think it is a shame that a country as huge as Nigeria, as recognized as Nigeria should still be having the problems it has now....

it is simply horrible...

Anthony said...

Welcome to the joys of international travel :-)

Tayo said...

@Flame, everyone's told me so o. I actually went this way because we were all together. Next time will definitely be by air or ABC
@bro tee, Amen. It shall happen soon
@ozymandias, things shall change soon, hopefully
@bobby, abeg no vex o! I thought I mentioned it. Don't worry, I don learn my lesson, and you bet I'll be contacting you for Orunkanbodi's contact details.

Tayo said...

@jaycee, that's what keeps beating me. How can an African country that's so close to us be so neat and organized? Something's not right about us!
@loomnie, thanks for visiting. Have fun @ the borders
@nigeria politricks, yes o. I learnt this lesson.
@jenny, you can contact me via mail or through the contact me link on my site
@pamela, I agree with you,it's a real shame
@anthony, joys? I'd rather remain sad!

aloted said...

Sorry this is coming late. I haven't really been on blogville for a while.

nawa o tayo, u sef u try..why u come go by road to Ghana...for the experience or what??? I hope next time u fly o...

We (Nija) have a loooooooong way to go!!!

So how was Ghana itself? Hope u had fun.

Are u serious u have not been out of naija till now..that's one thing i didn't know about u!

2ndCorin5:17 said...

Finally..... I get 2 read ur blog widdout interruption!!!

I saw d invite on fcbk oh!!! wish i was around.....

Glad u left d lagos hustle n bustle.... take care buddie

Naomie Fals said...

Very descriptive....got a vivid image of your experience...brilliant writing....thanks for sharing,I almost forgot what these officials were like until now (reading your post).....

~OmoFals~

Voiceof Reason said...

It's funny how most people offer their condolences and express their disappointment towards the whole situation, but ultimately what is being done...NOTHING! Ten more years from now what will be done...NOTHING. We all point fingers (the government need to fix things) but what are WE doing to help...NOTHING. In my opinion the major problems in Nigeria stem from our culture, our illiteracy, our greed, horrible wealth distribution, and the lack of everyday people saying "Dammit I wanna do something to help." If we all pinch in somewhere, somehow (think about the millions of Nigerians based all over the world, and millions of the "educated youths" that know what the problems are). It's about time to stop sitting back in someone else's country, waiting for our country to magically get better, and start doing something to help. Naija needs a hero (like MLK whose not affraid) to lead the way.