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|
|Paying homage to my parents in their final resting place in Nnewi|
|Sign says Stop Corruption|
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
|Waiting for our bags from the conveyor belts|
|My Nigerian tailor takes my measurement|
|Street Cleaner along |
Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way- Lagos
|Tejuoso Market- People seemed to relish hawking |
their wares along the road
|Tejuoso market building seen from the street|
|Urinals at Tejuoso Market|
|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
|Abuja - The famous rock in the background|
|Abuja has its share of street hawkers|
|Arriving Sheraton Hotel Abuja|
|Making some notes and waiting for |
departure from Abuja airport
|My wife was insistent on getting our money back|
|Queuing up at Arik counter for refund|
|Our vehicle tire busted. |
I wiped out the logo on the
vehicle for their confidentiality
|Passengers stand around waiting for tire to be changed|
|Working to change the vehicle tire|