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Thursday, February 23, 2017


Written by Alfred Obiora Uzokwe, P.E
Author of the books:
1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays
2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War

n May of 2016, after a four-year hiatus from Nigeria, my wife and I decided to visit again. The last time I visited was for something painful – to bury my beloved mother. I left Nigeria then with many painful memories that dampened the prospects of future visits by me. This time, though, after overcoming my skepticism about visiting, we were determined to make the visit an enjoyable one.

Our departure date was set for December 13, 2016 and preparations began. On the appointed day, we drove to Washington DC Dulles airport. After checking in and boarding, by the time the 7:00PM hour came around, the wide-bodied Lufthansa 747 jumbo jet was already “kissing” the evening skies headed to Frankfurt Germany. Except for a few moments of air turbulence, when my wife would grab and tightly hold onto my hands as if that would ease the turbulence, the flight was smooth. I later teased her that she was acting in consonance with the biblical admonition that a woman must leave her family, join together with her husband and they shall be one and not even aircraft turbulence would put them asunder judging from the way she held onto me. We laughed about it.

After our layover in Germany, we boarded a Lufthansa airbus and the flight to Lagos Nigeria commenced. The flight was also smooth but just when the aircraft was roughly about 90 minutes to landing, two young men, each with a glass of red wine in his hand, appeared in front of our cabin. One was burly and of average height. He had a series of gold jewelry around his neck and a few tattoos adorned his arms. I had earlier seen him sitting in the business class cabin fully clothed but now he was wearing just a black tank top. I thought to myself that someone who could afford the business class should at least have the decency of not wearing tank tops in an airplane. He seemed to have removed his shirt on purpose to “show off” his tattoos and I wondered if he was aware that not everyone is enamored by tattoos.

The second man was very thin, in fact he looked malnourished. His pants were pulled down below his waist, fully exposing the boxer shorts he was wearing. Both men began a conversation, at first in low tones, but as the minutes passed, they became louder and louder. I must have been sitting about 10 rows away from them but I could hear some of what they were saying. Passengers trying to use the rest rooms located next to them were having hard time going past because they were partially blocking the right isle. With every minute that passed, they grew louder. They must have been there for about 35 minutes when one passenger, sitting closer to them, stood up angrily and addressed them: “Go to your seats,”, he said, “you are disturbing the rest of the passengers”. It was as if he spoke for the rest of the passengers in the cabin because many nodded their heads in agreement and started looking to see what the men would do. The burly man simply said they would lower their voices but the slim one erupted. He claimed to have been insulted by the passenger. 

Dashing toward the passenger, he boasted: “When the plane lands in Lagos, I will deal with you, you don’t know who I am”. I took one look at a guy who was telling someone that he would deal with him and he looked so malnourished and did not seem as if he could withstand a slight shove. I wondered where he was going to get the strength to “deal with “someone. It would have been laughable if not for the seriousness of what was unfolding.

As if his threats were not getting him the intended reaction from the passenger, he brought out his wallet and slammed it hard on the floor, asking the passenger to take it and see who he was. The sound that resulted from this seemingly choreographed antic drew the attention of passengers in other cabins. A few people at this time gravitated towards them and tried to no avail to get the man to calm down. His burley companion was now trying to make peace, asking his friend to calm down but he had become unhinged and could no longer be controlled. I was sure he was now feeling like Dr Frankenstein that created a monster. Just when we thought that things were quieting down, the seemingly deranged man walked closer to the now frightened passenger, cursing and making all manners of threats. Periodically, he would charge towards the passenger and those around would restrain him. The loudness and threat of physical abuse continued for a couple more minutes. I kept wondering why no Lufthansa staff came to intervene.

When one of the hostesses finally came, she could not talk down this guy. He was eventually forced back to his seat, but periodically, he would let out a very loud yell like someone possessed, complaining that the passenger insulted him and would pay when the aircraft landed. I was very disappointed that there was no Marshall in the craft. I had thought that in this day and age of terrorism, having a secret Marshall in an airplane was part of security measure. If this had been a terror threat, the passengers were basically left on their own. I did not like that.

Eventually, the aircraft landed in Lagos. It turned out that the burly man, sensing what was in store for him and his companion on landing, had hurriedly tried to disembark from the air craft but was intercepted by security officials who were waiting for them at the entrance door. The security folks were contacted by Lufthansa staff while we were still in the air and told about the disturbance so they came to the entrance door prepared to accost the men. As I walked past the burly man, I could hear him asking passengers to vouch for him that he was not the unruly one. He was now fully clothed, his bravado gone and he looked as meek as a lamb with tails tucked in between his legs. As we walked down the air craft gangway, one of the passengers behind me retorted, “these guys don’t need to be detained or arrested. They just need to be given twelve strokes of the cane each. Next time, they will not disgrace Nigeria in front of foreign nationals”. I chuckled. These men disrupted the sleep of many passengers and gave Nigeria a bad name just like internet fraudsters gave the nation an indelible negative mark in global circles.

I want to make a point here. I already mentioned that when the men first appeared in front of our cabin, they had glasses of wine in their hands. They must have been drinking all day in the air craft. May be airlines should revise their policy on serving of alcohol. They must not serve one person more than two small glasses of wine during a flight. I did not believe that anyone in their right senses would behave the way these two men did without being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Murtala Muhammed airport at night
We were now in the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed airport. I was impressed by some of the upgrades they had effected in the hall since I last visited. They now have channelizing hand rails on both sides of the walkway that force passengers to move in single files and in an orderly fashion towards the customs area. While waiting for my turn to go to the custom’s check, I saw a sign on one of the piers that said something like: “Stop corruption” and gave a number to call if one witnessed corruption. It seemed like a good idea. As I ruminated the matter, it was my turn to go to the custom’s officer. I took a few steps forward and was face to face with a young man seated behind a counter. He was prompt and courteous but he kept looking up and smiling at me. “Welcome sir” he said and I responded “thank you”. He then said merry Xmas and I responded also. I thought that was the end of the salutation but when the greeting continued, I stopped responding. He stamped my passport and for the last time looked up at me smiling. Without reciprocating his gesture, I picked up my passport and walked away.

Paying homage to my parents in their final resting place in Nnewi
I walked over to the baggage claim and was even more impressed. It also seemed like they had upgraded it since the last time I was there. Four years ago, the place was crowded, muggy and smelly and the conveyor belt was faulty. This time, the conveyor belt was working, the hall looked cleaner and less chaotic. Soon, a guy wearing what seemed like an airport name tag walked up to me and asked how many bags we had because he could get us a big trolley. I told him and he left and came back with a large trolley. We crowded around the conveyor, waiting for the bags to start rolling out but it was taking too long for a single luggage to emerge. Eventually ours came out and were loaded on the trolley. Then the man pulled me aside. In very low tone he said he did not want us to be delayed at the customs check because of our luggage. His point was that if we parted with N50,000 so he would grease the skids with the custom’s guys and our luggage will not be searched. I was alarmed. “It is my right to carry the bags I have and I have no contraband so let’s proceed to the customs, they can search me all they want,” I said fuming. “I just don’t want them to delay you” he said. “That’s okay, I can handle it”, I said. Then he demanded the money for the trolley-N1500. As soon as I gave him the money, he started pushing the trolley towards the customs check.

Sign says Stop Corruption
The custom check-out was a long table with staff of various agencies standing behind it. The first lady, very cheerful, said, “Oga welcome”. I acknowledged with abroad smile. “What did you bring for us”?, she followed up. “Nothing o”, I said, stiffening my face. She looked at me as if trying to size me up. In the final analysis, she did not push it but let me go. The man pushing our trolley proceeded outside and we followed.

When I think of the request for N50,000, I cringe. Right under the very sign that said stop corruption, someone was trying to perpetrate bribery. So if someone had brought in something dangerous or contraband and then handed over N50,000 to this trolley guy, the person would be allowed into the country with it without a search?. In fairness to the customs folks, this guy was not part of them, at least he was not wearing their uniform. He just had a name tag that had the airport insignia and so may have just been speaking for himself. All the same, he was inside the arrival hall where non-passengers were not allowed and had access to trolleys. He also professed to have access to the custom’s folks. Nonetheless, If the war against corruption must work, then video cameras must be sensibly deployed with microphones to capture actions and discussions at these critical points of entry.

Similar channelizing hand rails in the arrival hall 
passengers to proceed in an orderly manner. 
The above is in the departure
Outside the arrival hall, that familiar scent of Nigeria, muggy and dusty, wafted through the evening air and I said to myself, albeit under my breadth: “welcome to Nigeria”. I was loving it. It was good to return again. Everywhere was teeming with people. Those waiting for arriving passengers were milling around. A man in white flowing robe approached us. He was clutching a stack of naira notes in one hand. “Do you want to change money, he asked. “What is the rate?”, I asked. He rattled off the rates. I think he said one dollar to N470. My heart sank! The naira was getting close to worthlessness. I kept wondering what this was doing to the economy and soon enough, I found out. A bag of rice was N24,000. A chicken or hen was N6500. Even a small head of banana, was N700. Remembering that the minimum wage was still N18,000, I felt pity for the Nigerian in the low rung of the economic ladder. How would they be coping in this harsh economic environment. Is Buhari aware of this I wondered? Are Nigerian legislators aware of this? I ask because if they are, they sure have not shown that they are doing anything meaningful to arrest this. We flagged down a taxi and headed to our destination. The Christmas festive mood was in the air. Many places were adorned with Christmas ornaments and I loved it.

Waiting for our bags from the conveyor belts

he next morning, we caught a taxi to Tejuoso market in Surulere Lagos. Our mission to Tejuoso was twofold: We wanted to check out the market to see what kind of wares they carry. We also wanted to meet the tailors that make traditional outfits for my wife and I. They have stalls in Tejuoso. Through an intermediary in Nigeria, we sent our measurements to them and they have been making Nigerian outfits for us since. Because they did not take the measurements themselves, though, sometimes the clothes fail to fit to a T. So we resolved to see the tailors physically and have them take our measurements themselves.

My Nigerian tailor takes my measurement
Street Cleaner along 
Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way- Lagos
I must pause to note that Nigerian traditional clothing designers and makers have elevated the art to an unprecedented level. Just like Nigerian musicians and comedians, they have also taken clothing design across international boundaries. You see their designs in the United States, you see them in Britain, in Australia, in South Africa, in China! Some of the designs leave me speechless! Caftans, “resource control”, safari, aso ebi and the likes. Simply awesome. When I had my book signing here in the United States in 2015, some of my American guests would not stop talking about the magnificence of the Nigerian attires especially the female ones. I therefore use this medium to salute and encourage the designers and makers. They create employment for many, raise cultural awareness and most of all, make Nigerians proud. I am determined to continue to do my part to patronize and uplift the designers and tailors that make these clothing.

Tejuoso Market- People seemed to relish hawking 
their wares along the road
Back to our ride to Tejuoso, I must confess that all the roadways we traversed from Mobolaji Bank Anthony way to the market seemed reasonably clean. It did not take long to see why. Lagos state street cleaners sweep the streets and remove thrash. You can see them laboring in the hot sun to keep up with Nigerians that recklessly drop soda cans, plastic bottles, banana peels and likes on the road. My message to Nigerians is that if there are people you should give tips, these men and women laboring to clean the streets you make dirty deserve your tips. I will hazard a guess that they are not paid much. I commend Lagos state government, though, for this. But this effort must not only be concentrated in visible and affluent areas of Lagos. Places like Ajegunle and portions of Surulere that have been neglected for long because they are not strategically located or populated by affluent Nigerians deserve the unvarnished attention of the State. The residents live in and also pay taxes in Lagos.

As we alighted from the taxi at the Tejuoso market, the sound of “Oga buy 
Tejuoso market building seen from the street
this…, madam buy that…” filled the air as hawkers came hustling around us. One of the hawkers specifically followed me. “Oga buy winter jacket now”, he said. I was flabbergasted! The temperature was already about 89 degrees and rising and the young man wanted me to buy winter jacket? Turning towards the young man, I said, “I am headed to Nnewi, why would I need a winter jacket?” “Oga, but you go use am when you travel back”, he said smiling. I stopped and faced him, smiling back I said light-heartedly: “What makes you think I am flying back anywhere?”. “ E dey for your body now”, he said. I pointed at my brother-in-law who was walking in front and said: “he is the one that will be flying back not me” “No, na you oga”, he said. I have always said that Nigerians are very resilient. In spite of the sweltering heat this young man was under, in spite of the profuse perspiration induced by periodic bouts of fifty-meter dash, chasing after moving vehicles to sell his wares, he was very cheerful. I talked to him for a while before departing.

Urinals at Tejuoso Market
We went in to Tejuoso proper. It is now an ultra-modern built-up market complex. It had ample ground floor parking garage (not a lot of patronage in the garage though), toilet facilities, elevators and even escalators. The elevators and escalators looked like they had been out of commission for a long time. I am guessing it is because of epileptic power supply. The market stalls were not as populated as I had expected. Many stalls were closed. A lot of hawkers seemed to prefer doing their business outside, along the streets, than inside the building. Someone later said that the cost of the stalls was very exorbitant and that may be a factor in its sparse population.
We spent a couple of days in Lagos, visiting friends and family. They were gracious in hosting us. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Orji and Funmi, Chike and wife, Nonso, Elochukwu and others. Daalu nu - Thank You.
Street hawkers besiege motorists along 
a street in Lagos
Tejuoso market- Not sure why many stalls seemed
unoccupied or closed and car garage half empty
My wife and I had confirmed flight tickets for Arik air to Abuja. The plan was to fly to Abuja, spend two days visiting friends and then fly down to Asaba and onward to Nnewi on the 21st of December. We wanted to be in Nnewi in good time to get the Xmas celebration underway with family. I started having misgivings about Arik air when we visited my cousin while in Lagos. As soon as we mentioned that we were going to Abuja on Arik flight, he and his wife advised that we should have used another airline because Arik had no good customer service. The airline was said to cancel flights all the time, did not pay their staff 
and lacked a good maintenance culture. 

I then remembered that even before I left United States, the publicity secretary for APC in Lagos state, Joe Igbokwe, had narrated his ordeal with the same Arik when he wanted to fly to Abuja from Lagos. I had thought that Arik’s problem was a fleeting one and moreover the ticket was purchased on our behalf by someone. I was concerned but hoped for the best.

Our flight from Lagos to Abuja on the 19th of December was to depart at 11:00am. We got to the airport around 10:00am and I was convinced that passengers would have started the boarding process. But from the time we arrived to about ten minutes to eleven, there was no announcement about Arik flight to Abuja. The waiting lounge was crowded and very warm. It seemed like all the seats had been taken and people were just milling around everywhere. After more time passed and still no word about the fate of our flight, I began to feel that we were about to face the same plight that many before us had complained about - Arik cancelled flight. I became very disappointed but instead of just sitting there, I decided to do something.

I walked towards an Arik kiosk and asked two young girls sitting behind the kiosk what the status of the flight was. They seemed oblivious and even uninterested in what was happening around them. One of them even acted like I was disturbing them. The other one just said nonchalantly that she did not know what the status of the flight was and resumed fiddling with her phone. I figured that they were lower level staff and did not fully understand the concept of customer service. I decided to take things further.

I walked to the front of the Arik counter where passengers were supposed to be lining up for check-in. A young lady in her 30s, very well dressed in what seemed like Arik Air business suit, was directing people to move their luggage around. “Excuse me ma’am”, I said politely. She continued to do what she was doing without turning. I was not sure if she was ignoring me or just did not hear me because of the hustle bustle around and attendant noise. “Excuse me ma’am”, I said again, this time louder. She cast a furtive glance in my direction and then said perfunctorily, “Yes?”. I could tell that it was not her pleasure to attend to a passenger but I ignored her demeanor and proceeded: “I am scheduled for the 11:00 am Arik flight to Abuja and am trying to find out the status of the flight. “When we get the information, we will announce it”, she said. It was more than 20 minutes after the flight should have departed yet she did not feel an obligation to be empathetic or somewhat customer-friendly. “This flight should have departed more than 20 minutes ago but you have not even called for boarding and there is no information for passengers”, I said . She had now bent back over and resumed what she was doing while muttering under her breadth that when information becomes available, they would announce it. I was taken aback. “This is unfortunate”, I said. “Do you know that as I speak, there is a petition against this airline and if the airline shuts down, you will lose your job?” This statement really got her attention. She stood back upright, took one step back away from me and waving her left hand said: “let’s not even go there, I will let you know when we get the info”. At this juncture, I remembered that someone said that Arik was owing their workers about 7 months of salary. The empathetic side of me kicked in. If this lady is being owed 7 months of salary, may be her action, in a weird way, can be excused. The anger that was already welling up in me dissipated some.

“Can I speak to a manager?”, I asked her. Without hesitation, she called on another younger employee and asked him to lead me to their manager. I was surprised that they opened a hitherto cordoned off area and asked me to follow the young man. I followed and meanwhile, other passengers were standing aimlessly on the left side. At the end of the line, I found myself standing face to face with the manager. She was clutching a cell phone and wearing a brownish business suit or so it looked. Once I took a step toward her, she flashed a broad and frankly customer-friendly smile. I was temporarily disarmed because I had already prepared myself to constitute a nuisance if she failed to provide a good answer. Still wearing the smile on her face, she said “yes, what can I do for you?”. “I am an Arik passenger for the 11 am flight to Abuja and this plane was supposed to leave more than 30 minutes ago but there is no single information about it.” She said nothing but still with a generally friendly demeanor, she dialed her cell phone and after a few seconds, I heard her ask if the aircraft had reloaded. Then she listened for a while. After the discussion, she turned to me. With a type of politeness that is often lacking in people that serve the public in Nigeria, she said, “the aircraft will be here soon and we will announce soon”. I must confess that because of her politeness, I did not question any further and just said “thank you”. The point, though, is that the fact that she did something by making a call and finding out whether the aircraft was re-loading, was better information than just saying we will tell you when we know. This is a lesson for Nigerians who serve in public. You can go a long way by being polite to customers. In Nigeria, it seems like public servants only become polite and customer-friendly when they expect something from you. And in such cases, they overdo it to the point of servility which then becomes annoying. 

Immigration and custom people do that a lot. Some hotel staff do that too.
Before heading back to where my wife and brother-in-law were waiting, I detoured into the rest room. A few people were standing around in the rest room, waiting for the rest room stalls, about 3 of them, to become vacant. The three were all occupied at that moment. Then my attention was drawn to a young man of no more than 25 years standing in front of the middle stall door as if he was almost hugging it. Periodically, he would knock on the door of one of the stalls and you will hear a faint “yes” sound coming from the stall occupant. At first, I thought to myself that the young man must be really pressed and that was why he was persistently knocking on the stall door to alert the occupants that he was waiting. It turned out that the restroom was actually his office! Yes, his office! He was the restroom attendant. He was mentally timing every occupant in the stall and whenever it seemed like someone was overstaying, he would knock on the door as a reminder to the person that he was overstaying. I did not like that at all. In fact, I found it disgusting. Just then, someone came out of one of the stalls and this same young man, able-bodied and all, picked up a jar of liquid soap from the sink, asked the man that just came out of the restroom to put out his palm and then he squirted liquid soap into his hands. The guy proceeded to wash his hands in the sink. Just when I thought he had done it all, he took a step into the stall that just became empty, flushed it, cleaned the seat before allowing the next person to go in.
Why could the guy not just have a set time when he goes in, cleans the rest room and leaves? Why does he have to “live” in the rest room and wait patrons hands and feet in the toilet of all places? He may as well just help the patrons “do their thing and wipe them down” too. I condemn that type of job description. It is demeaning to any human and must be revised. After what I saw, I no longer had the urge to hang around but I was itching to ask the young man if he was just being overzealous in expectation of tips or if that was really his job description. I changed my mind because I did not want him to misunderstand me. When I went out, I told my wife and brother-in-law about what I saw. To my surprise and almost chagrin, they just found it funny but not outrageous. I can understand my brother in law not finding it outrageous because he lives in Nigeria and sees this all the time. But I wanted to say to my wife, “Even you Anthonia?”

Not long after, a call came through the public-address system. Abuja-bound Arik air was checking in passengers. Later, we were seated in a Boeing 737 aircraft. Before long, the pilot revved up the engine and lifted off.

I had heard many stories of how turbulent flights from Lagos to Abuja usually were so I prepared my mind. To my pleasant surprise, the flight was one of the smoothest I had ever boarded anywhere. At the arrival hall, I walked over to a ground transportation kiosk and a lady asked where we were going and I told here. “N5,000 to Sheraton hotel”, she said. I figured that there was no room for haggling so we boarded and later were fully checked into Sheraton Abuja. It hit me that Sheraton has security scanning equipment through which all bags, phones and the likes pass right from the entrance door. And then all patrons have to go through what seemed like back-scatter x-ray scanners. I am one of those that never complain about security measures that ensure the safety of people. Current security exigencies have made this measures necessary. I welcomed it and patiently submitted myself and my bags for screening.

In the evening, my friend and school roommate, Chuks, graciously picked up my wife and I and for the next three or four hours he gave us an unforgettable tour of the capital city of Nigeria by night. And yes, to round things up for the night, he took us to fish joint where we had a very delicious and huge fish meal. More than 35 years ago, I shared the same room at the university of Nigeria with Chuks. Here we were, back together again, even if for just two days. He was a great guy then and 35 years later, he is still the great guy I knew. We remain indebted to himfor the tour. Chuba daalu. I use this time to also thank my former classmate, Emele, for his hospitality too. He made it possible for me to speak to more than six of my former class mates at the university of Nigeria over the phone. It was very nostalgic and joyful for me.

Abuja - The famous rock in the background
Abuja has its share of street hawkers
Abuja is beautiful. Beautifully-designed and well-appointed buildings (commercial and residential), dot the landscape. Landmark buildings like the central bank looked spectacular at night. We went to the various districts, Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse, etal while Chuks pointed out the bridges that marked the demarcating boundaries between each district. I kept thinking to myself that Nigeria’s capital city could compete with any capital city in the world from what I could see. We also had another tour during the day the next day that gave me the opportunity to better see the lay of the land. The roads are well laid out and solidly macadamized. I have some technical comments about architectural layout and erosion and sedimentation but I will save that for the technical part of my commentary series coming later.

Arriving Sheraton Hotel Abuja
We had just retired to the hotel, after the tour, when I got a heart-sinking WhatsApp message. The staff of the airline that was supposed to take us to Asaba on the 21st were on strike. We turned on the TV but could not immediately confirm that. It was the next day that the whole thing started crystallizing. Arik Air staff were on strike and flights emanating from Lagos were being canceled. The staff were protesting non-payment of salaries. Soon, we heard that all Arik flights from Abuja to Asaba were also being cancelled. So the prospect of spending our Xmas in Abuja because of absence of transportation began to loom large. While I liked Abuja, it was not something I wanted in my wildest imagination. For me, Xmas would not be Xmas if I did not spend it in Nnewi.

ll day on the 20th of December, we continued to hear that arik staff was still on strike. This meant that our planned flight from Abuja to Asaba the next day was not going to happen. Chuks swung into action, taking my wife and I around Abuja to see if there were ground transportation options like hiring one of the Toyota sienna vehicles to take us to the east. At every one of the ground transportation stops, we had to inspect the vehicles. We were concerned about the condition of some of the vehicles we looked at. We did not want to hire a vehicle that will break down along Abuja- Asaba route. I was surprised that some of the vehicle companies did not even have vehicles available because passengers had booked them up for Christmas travels. As evening time began to draw nigh, we started hearing rumors that arik staff may end the strike in which case, our flight the next day could still happen. We still continued to search out ground transportation options just in case. Even though we were searching for ground transportation, though, my friend was concerned that the seven and half hour bus travel may become grueling for us and he voiced that concern. We were all hoping it would not come to that.
Making some notes and waiting for 
departure from Abuja airport

The next day, December 21, the day of our departure, around mid-day, my wife and I caught
 a cab to Abuja airport. I asked the driver, as we drove on, what he knew about arik flights at the airport. “E be like say they still dey cancel their flights but them say they don’t stop the strike”, he responded. My mind continued on overdrive. What would we do if indeed the flight at 3:00pm was cancelled? The airport was chaotic, people were milling around uncertain about their flights. There was a lot of talk about harmattan haze affecting visibility in the air. When time came, we were pleasantly surprised that passengers were asked to commence checking in for the Asaba-bound flight so we complied. Once in the waiting room, feeling relieved and confident that we were going to fly out, I ordered food to eat from one of the adjunct eateries. My wife said she was not hungry. I had just started digging in when an announcement came in. “This is for Asaba-bound arik passengers, please report to the check-in counter for an important information”. I turned and looked at my wife and said: “They just cancelled the flight, otherwise why would they ask checked in passengers to go back to the check-in counter”. I was not about to abandon the food, though, so I continued eating. In less than ten minutes, just before I finished my food, another announcement came, the flight had been cancelled. I was not surprised.

My wife was insistent on getting our money back
After eating, we slowly made our way back to the departure lounge. Arik air staff could not 
tell us for sure why the flight was cancelled. We had to get our checked in bag. I asked them at the counter if there was any chance that we could get a flight the next day. The young man responded that there was no guarantee. That’s it, I said. People started making frantic efforts to change flights and the likes. I did not do any of that. I just wanted to get back to a hotel we had already checked out of and bid the staff goodbye. My wife was adamant that we were not going to leave the airport without getting arik to refund our ticket money. I said we could do that later but she refused to leave the airport. It took a while before we could get someone to tell us what to do. Eventually, she queued up in the line. On the whole, it took almost 90 minutes of queuing up before we could get our money, it was about N59,000. We caught another airport cab and went back to the hotel.
Queuing up at Arik counter for refund

Back at the hotel, my friend suggested that we try the Owerri route via air peace. The plan 
was for us to fly to Owerri and then use ground transportation to Nnewi. I originally did not want to think about that option but now that it had become clear that arik was not going anywhere, this option suddenly seemed viable. If I had considered it while we were still at the airport, we could have bought the ticket right there. When air peace was contacted, they said they had some seats for December 22nd. In the process of trying to make up our minds whether we wanted to fly to Owerri or Enugu, as well as determine the method of payment, since my ATM card was not yet functional, the remaining seats were taken by other people. It looked like we were officially stranded in Abuja.

Aware of our predicament, my brother in-law in Lagos sent me the name and phone number of the manager of a ground transportation system in Abuja. He said they had a large fleet of air-conditioned Toyota Hiace that commuted from Abuja to Onitsha or Awka that we could follow. I called the manager of the bus company and he confirmed what my brother in law said but warned that if we wanted to get a place in any of the buses, we had to be in a place called Utako, near the police station, at 5:00am.

At 4:00am the morning of 22nd December, we quickly got ready and checked out of the hotel. It was now about 4:30am. “How much from Sheraton to Utako?”, I asked a cab driver outside the hotel. “N4,000”, he said. ” I thought you guys said the place was not far, how come it is N4,000?”. I asked. “Oga, Sheraton charges taxi drivers a cut of the money passengers pay so we have to charge more to make up our money” I was appalled. For just a fifteen-minute ride, one has to folk over N4,000. Gouging I thought but that was the furthest of my worries. I was more concerned about the journey ahead of us at that hour of the day.

The bus station was an open space, a sort of motor park with some make-shift structures. It had haphazard perimeter cordons around what seemed like about 20 Toyota Hiace buses parked in the premises. They all looked fairly new. The place was already a sea of people in spite of the fact that we got there before 5:00am. Some were seated on regular chairs, others on their luggage while others were standing around. I looked at the time, it was about 4:50am or so. Then suddenly, two young men, one in tie won over a white shirt and the other in jacket and tie, came in. The one in white shirt and tie announced that people should line up. People quickly lined up in front of signs above the make-shift shed building. I stood behind the people going to Asaba and Onitsha. I was standing about three or four people from the front of the line. Then the waiting began.

After standing in line for about 60 minutes, with periodic shoving and pushing, watching dawn break without any information from the two bus staff sitting in front of the line, my patience began to wear thin. The men were both hunched over the desk in front of them, writing copiously. We must have been standing there for over one hour when a lady standing in line like the rest of us said something that sank my heart. “The three buses allotted to Asaba and Onitsha are already full”, she declared authoritatively. “I checked online yesterday, we are only waiting to see if some of the people that booked online would not show up”, she added with an air of finality. That was my first time of hearing that one could have booked the bus online and that the buses were full. If it turns out that the woman was right, what would we do? I kept thinking. We had already spent one additional day we did not budget for at the Sheraton when the Arik air was cancelled and I did not like the thought that we could again head back to Sheraton. I kept blaming myself for not thinking of online booking for the bus.

It was now about 6:30am. I was feeling frustrated. “Excuse me”, I said to the lady in front of me and took one step forward, towards the two men sitting in front. “Excuse me”, I said, sticking out my head. One of the men was still hunched over writing. “Excuse me”, I said again in a louder tone to get his attention. “I am listening”, he said without looking up. “You are frustrating your customers. The people have been standing here for almost two hours hoping to get tickets to travel and you are just sitting there writing and not saying a word to anyone? This is bad customer service and poor communication” ‘I think I got his attention because he looked up and apologetically said he was waiting to get information from his boss before telling us the situation. At this time, the people around me saw that someone had gotten the man’s attention and so the spigot of complaints opened. People were venting their frustrations in various forms, yelling, pleading. I spoke further, “you don’t have to have all the answers before you speak to us. Just standing up and telling everyone what you just said would suffice for now”. “That’s all we want”, someone behind me intoned. “We just want to know if our continued stay on this line is mere waste of time”, another said.

About ten minutes or so may have passed before the young man stood up and looking like a reluctant person, said that the three buses earmarked for Onitsha and Asaba were full. He added that in the past, to avoid stranding passengers, his boss usually provided a fourth bus to take the remaining passengers. He asked us for patience as he awaited word from his boss as to whether a 4th bus was going to be made available. I was optimistic again. But then the lady handling the passengers going to Port Harcourt announced that all the buses were full and no more buses were available. The whole place erupted with angry passengers and angry threats. A lady to my right even said, “I will kill you people if you leave me stranded here”. I started preparing my mind for the same announcement about the Asaba /Onitsha route. Surprisingly, I heard the young man in front of us say that they now have 5 openings in that route. Probably the internet online bookers did not show up. I was now the third person on line. I figured that my wife and I would be accommodated.

Just as I positioned myself to submit our contact information to the young man in front as they had requested for the manifest, the man who was number two in line and in front of me, stretched his hand backwards and took a piece of paper from another lady passenger behind me promising to get her a place. I lost my cool because it was to me tantamount to jumping the queue. The gentlemanly disposition in me suddenly evaporated. I exploded: “If you don’t give the lady that piece of paper back, I will push you out of the line”, I blurted, fuming. It was that type of attitude that had made it difficult for Nigeria to fully develop. People are always looking for the easy but unfair path to everything. Nobody wants to wait for their turns anywhere, reaping where they did not sow, getting credits for work they did not do. I think the lady behind me sensed what was shaping up and said in a very low and resigned tone: “I am sorry, I did not mean to interrupt things, please give me back my paper.” Meanwhile, the man said to me: “You will push me out of line?” I chose not to respond as I had made my point and gotten the intended reaction. I could tell from the corner of my eye that he was staring at me and I knew that if he could, he would actually “deck” me. The lady he was trying to either impress or do a favor at my expense was still standing there with her hand stretched to collect her contact information back from him. After staring at me for a while, the man handed back the paper to the lady.

Suddenly, another twist was introduced into an already uncertain situation. The man attending to our line again announced that the opening now available was for people going to Awka. I was confused. I had wanted to stop in Onitsha or Awka but at that point, even if they wanted to drop us in Enugu, I was willing to go along, at least we would be in the east and I could call Nnewi to come and pick me up from there. I said: “whether Awka, Onitsha or Asaba, just sign me up”.

Eventually, the young man in front took our papers, wrote our names on the manifest and said it was N9,500 each for the fare. A lady beside me protested that the normal fare was N5,500 but because of the Christmas rush, they were charging N9,500, a form of price gouging. She was correct but for me at that time, I was almost willing to pay anything to be taken home.

As I stood there watching the young man write the receipt after I had given him the money, I began to think to myself that humans were truly shaped by their environment. In just two hours, I had been forced to do two things I would normally complain about when people do it in Nigeria. I was forced to threaten a man who wanted to jump the queue because I was frustrated. Secondly, I was forced to go along with price gougers, something I would have complained about and blamed Nigerians for succumbing to. I thought to myself that before criticizing Nigerians for certain things in the future, I had better think deep and be sure I would not have done the same thing they do under their kind of circumstance.

Our vehicle tire busted. 
I wiped out the logo on the 
vehicle for their confidentiality
At about 7:05am, the bus loading was announced and at about 7:38am, the bus pulled out of the “motor park”. To me, all that mattered was that we were headed to eastern Nigeria, the place I wanted to be most at that point in time. I saw my wife make the sign of the cross on her chest. The place was now less crowded as many passengers going to other places had departed in their buses. But you could see gloomy faces staring back at us. It must have been people who were unable to get transportation.

As the bus made its way out, I was lost in thought. I recalled that when passengers’ bags were being loaded onto the bus, I had hoped to see someone frisking the bags for security, but there was none. In this day and age and being in Abuja which had been a target of terrorists in the past, just loading bags without proper security check was not a good thing. Someone could easily load an untoward baggage and end the lives of many unsuspecting passengers. I also noted that when we came into the park early in the morning, we simply wheeled our bags, just like any other person, into the park without any checks and people were all over the place. That was wrong also. The owners or owner of that bus company and others should make people feel safe by restricting haphazard and easy entry into the place. Use perimeter fencing to cordon off the place and create just one entry and one exit and be sure that any and all bags that enter the place are frisked before being taken into the park and also frisked before being loaded into the bus. It is the right thing to do.

One could tell that I did not sleep well the night before because as soon as the bus picked up speed, I fell asleep. I was jolted up from my sleep by a loud bang followed by what seemed like a flopping or wobbly motion by the vehicle. I looked toward the driver and noticed that he was struggling to steer the vehicle toward the shoulder while reducing the speed. A couple of passengers had grabbed on to the arm rests or the safety grab bars attached to the vehicle. Slowly, the vehicle started coming to a stop and finally rested on the shoulder. 
Changing tire
Meanwhile, vehicles were zooming past at top speeds. I tried to look back to get a sense of what was happening but the rear window was blocked by bags stacked up in the luggage compartment in the back. “What is it?”, many, including me started asking. Then I heard someone say, “our tire don burst o”. The isle of the vehicle was packed full of bags that there was no way to make a hurried exit out of the vehicle. It dawned on me that if the vehicle had become involved in an accident and passengers needed to make quick exits, the bags would become obstacles. I seize this opportunity to implore ground transportation owners to caution their drivers about this violation. Passengers in a vehicle could survive an accident only to be trapped inside with attendant inferno all because of blocked isles. As we all started disembarking, in spite of the obstacles along the isle, I was lost in thought. Did we make the right decision by using ground transportation? I was sitting directly above the tire that busted.

Passengers stand around waiting for tire to be changed

Working to change the vehicle tire

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I am an Igbo, I was born an Igbo, I live the life of an Igbo, I come from Igbo, I speak Igbo, I like to be Igbo, I like to dress in Igbo, I eat Igbo food, my heritage, culture and tradition is Igbo, my parents are Igbo.

Am sorry I cannot help it if you hate my lineage. Am sorry I cannot help it if you detest Igbo, am sorry I cannot help it if you hate me because am Igbo. Igbo is who I am, my name is Igbo and I must die an Igbo.

You see Igbo as a threat, why? You call Igbo rapist, criminals, ritualist, prostitutes, kidnappers. You attribute all negative vices to represent Igbo? Why do you do that? You do because you feel threatened that Igbo might outrun the rest of the tribes. Why do you hate Igbo and despise us? You do that because we are creative, enlightened, hardworking, industrious, genius, intelligent, smart, rich, beautiful and amazing. But its difficult for you to admit it because you feel jealous of my race.

Igbo do not own politics, Igbo do not control the economy neither do we control the natural resources and the common wealth of the nation. You do, we don't and yet, despite the fact that you own everything, we still remain one indispensable race that has outshined the other race in all ramifications.

You fear us because you want to exterminate and annihilate our race, you deny us many things and yet we are stronger, richer and mightier. You fear us because we are everywhere. You fear us because no matter how rural a place might be, when Igbo steps in, they turn it into a Paradise. We have our own resources, which lies in resourcefulness, we do not bother you and your control over the polity, but yet when we cough you and the other race begin to shiver.

Am proud being an Igbo, am proud of my heritage and culture. Igbo means high class, Igbo means independence, Igbo means hard work and strength, Igbo means riches, Igbo means resourcefulness, Igbo means self belonging, Igbo means self esteem, Igbo means pride, Igbo means swag.

Udo diri unu umunnem.
# IgboAmaka
# AnyiBuNdiMmeri

Michael Ezeaka

This is beautiful poetry ...

In response to Alaba Ajibola, the Babcock Lecturer Hate Speech against Igbos.


In Igboland women live apart from their husbands and neither cook for them nor enter their husband's quarters when they are in their period. They are seen as unclean. Even up till today such practice is still applicable in some parts of Igboland especially by the traditionalists. Before a woman can enter the palace of Obi of Onitsha, she will be asked if she is in her period, if yes, she will be asked to stay out.

Leviticus 15: 19-20
When a woman has her monthly period, she remains unclean, anyone who touches her or anything she has sat on becomes unclean.

An Igbo man's ancestral heritage, called “Ana Obi” is not sellable, elders will not permit this. If this is somehow done due to the influence of the West the person is considered a fool and is ostracized by the community.

1 Kings 21:3
I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors, and the Lord forbid that I should sell it, said Naboth.

Igbos have practiced the taking of a late brother's wife into marriage after she had been widowed until the white men came. Now it is rarely done but except in very rural villages.

Deuteronomy 25:5
A widow of a dead man is not to be married outside the family; it is the duty of the dead man's brother to marry her.

In Igboland, there is a unique form of apprenticeship in which either a male family member or a community member will spend six (6) years (usually in their teens to their adulthood) working for another family. And on the seventh year, the head of the host household, who is usually the older man who brought the apprentice into his household, will establish (Igbo: idu uno) the apprentice
by either setting up a business for him or giving money or tools by which to make a living.

Exodus 21:2
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve you for six years. In the seventh year he is to be set free without having to pay you anything.

In Igboland , the yam is very important as it is their staple crop. There are celebrations such as the New yam festival (Igbo: Iri Ji) which are held for the harvesting of the yam. New Yam festival (Igbo: Iri ji) is celebrated annually to secure a good harvest of the staple crop. In the olden days it is an abomination for one to eat a new harvest before the festival. It's a tradition that you give the gods of the land first as a thanksgiving.

Deuteronomy 16:9
Count 7 weeks from the time that you begin to harvest the crops, and celebrate the harvest festival to honor the lord your God, by bringing him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing he has given you. Celebrate in the Lord's presence together with your children, servants, foreigners. Be sure that you obey my command, said the Lord.

In Igboland it's a tradition that the male children are circumcised on the 8th day. This tradition is still practiced till date.

Leviticus 12:3
On the eighth day, the child shall be circumcised.

In Igboland, there is a practice known as "ile omugwo ". After a woman has given birth to a child, a very close and experienced relative of hers, in most cases her mother is required by tradition to come spend time with her and her husband. During which she is to do all the work of the wife, while the new mom's only assignment to the baby will be to breastfeed. This goes on for a month or more. In the Igbo old tradition, at this time, the new mom lives apart from her husband, would not cook or enter his quarters.

Leviticus 12:1-4
For seven days after a woman gives birth, she is ritually unclean as she is during her monthly period. It will be 33 days until she is ritually clean from the loss of blood; she is not to touch anything that is holy.


The Igbo tribe is in a serious problem and danger of extinction for the following reasons:

50% of Igbos are born outside Igbo land. Meaning that those children are not likely to live and work in Igbo land and cannot speak Igbo language but foreign language (Yoruba, Hausa, French, English).

40% of Igbos girls between the age of 25 & 45 are single with no hope of marriage because 35% of Igbo boys live overseas and they have all married white ladies.

75% of Igbo youths leave Igbo land every year in search of opportunities in Yoruba, Hausa land or overseas.

85 % of Igbos have family houses and own investments outside Igbo land. They strongly believe in one Nigeria but failed to know that NO Yoruba or Hausa man has a family house or investment in Igbo land.

Igbos are the only people who believe that living outside their land is an achievement.

Igbos are the only tribe that celebrate their tradition outside their land e.g. Eze Ndi Igbo, Igbo Village in America and this is because they have family homes in foreign lands.

Igbos have failed to know that the children you have outside Igbo land especially overseas will never think of living in Igbo land. So what happens to the properties you are building for them when you are gone?

Igbos are the only tribe who see their land as a place to visit or a tourist site than a place to work and live.

Igbos are the only tribe who instead of promoting and appreciating their culture through movies and documentaries they have sought to ridicule it by portraying rituals, killings, wickedness, love for money and other social vices which were not originally inherent in our culture thereby cursing more harm than actually promoting their culture.

Igbos are the only people who without hesitation believe their history and description when it is told or written by an enemy or a foreigner. E.g. that you do not love yourselves or that you love money.

Igbos are the ONLY largest tribe on earth who fought for their independence and failed to achieve their freedom after 40 years.

Igbos are the only tribe who fails to honour their brave heroes and heroines especially the innocent children starved to death during the Biafran war.

Igbos are the only tribe who embraced their enemy after a bloody civil war and subsequently become slaves.

Igbos do not find it necessary to teach their own version of history to their children.

Igbos fight for marginalisation in Nigeria but has no collective strength or teeth to bite.

Igbos how long are you going to fight for your relevance in Nigeria?

How long are you going to fight for a functional airport, rail networks and other structural establishments that underpin sustainable development?

How long are you prepared to wait for your enemy to guide you to your destiny?

Oh Igbos!
Where are your leaders?

Unfortunately, none of them live and work in Igbo land. If you wish to save the future of your children, your identity, your generation and your race then you need freedom and that freedom is Biafra.

Ukpana Okpoko gburu bu nti chiri ya!

By Chime Eze

The Igbo: We die for causes, not for personalities

Written by Emeka Maduewesi

~on fb. 28th September, 2016.

The Igbo will never die for anyone. We will not even riot for anyone. But the Igbo will die for any cause they believe in because the Igbo have a true sense of justice and a determination to obtain it.

The Igbo will not riot because one of their own lost an election. Operation Wetie was the Western response to a massively rigged 1965 election. The Yoruba doused fellow Yorubas in petrol and burnt them alife. Properties were burnt with occupants. The Igbo will never do this.

In 1983, the Yoruba went on a rampage again over the massive rigging by NPN. Lifes were lost and properties destroyed. The riots were over personalities.

Contrast that with Anambra State where Chief Emeka Ojukwu was rigged out by his own NPN, who also rigged out Chief Jim Nwobodo. The Igbo did not protest because the goat's head is still in the goat's bag.

In the North, ba muso was the battle cry when Sultan Dasuki was imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate. The riot and protest lasted for days and crippled economic activities.

The Igbo will riot over issues and causes. The Aba Women Riot was over Tax. The Enugu coal mine riot was about conditions of service. The Ekumeku Uprising was over British colonialization.

Those of "Ekumeku" ancestry - Umu Eze Chima and Umu Nri - were at the forefront of the struggles for Nigerian independence, with people like Dr. A A Nwafor Orizu and Chief Osita Agwuna serving prison terms. Any struggles the parents could not conclude is continued by the children by other means.

The Biafran war was a response to the genocide. The war in fact was brought upon us. The battlefield was Eastern Region. The war ended in 1970 but the issues and causes were not resolved. That is where we are today.

The Igbo will also jointly rise to fight evil in their midst. They did it in Onitsha in the 1980's, Owerri in the 90's, and with Bakkassi in the 2000.

The Igbo will not die for any man. But the Igbo will stand by any man who symbolizes their cause and their pursuit of justice. Even if the man dies, the struggle continues, and like the Ekumeku warriors, the children will pick up the baton from their parents.

This is the Igbo I know, the Igbo I am, and the Igbo we are. This is my story. Feel free to tell yours.


"My boy, may you live to your full potential, ascend to a dizzy height as is possible for anyone of your political description in your era to rise. May you be acknowledged world-wide as you rise as an eagle atop trees, float among the clouds, preside over the affairs of fellow men.... as leaders of all countries pour into Nigeria to breathe into her ear.

But then, Chuba, if it is not the tradition of our people that elders are roundly insulted by young men of the world, as you have unjustly done to me, may your reign come to an abrupt and shattering close. As you look ahead, Chuba, as you see the horizon, dedicating a great marble palace that is the envy of the world, toasted by the most powerful men in the land, may the great big hand snatch it away from you. Just as you look forward to hosting the world’s most powerful leader and shaking his hands, as you begin to smell the recognition and leadership of the Igbo people, may the crown fall off your head and your political head fall off your shoulders.

None of my words will come to pass, Chuba, until you have risen to the very height of your power and glory and health, but then you will be hounded and humiliated and disgraced out of office, your credibility and your name in tatters forever...”


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