I haven’t travelled out of Abuja in a while, and now that I think about it I wonder why. I think it may be for a number of reasons. For the most part of five years, I’ve been pregnant, rearing kids and changing jobs. Travelling never was a priority, I had created a comfort zone which nothing must disrupt.
Now, two of my kids are teenagers who feel they are so cool, they know it all and I don’t. I also have a toddler who asks me so many questions that when I’m done answering them all, I’m breathless and drained. Not to mention, her 2-year-old brother who loves to repeat anything she says and he expects his ‘own’ answer as well. So I end up giving the same answer twice!
Anyway, they all said they were bored staying in the same place year in year out. They all wanted to spend Christmas with their grandparents in Warri.
“There’s always Christmas spirit in Grandma’s house, and she has the loveliest Christmas tree!” says my teenage daughter. “I hear you,” I hiss under my breath. “It’s me that has Christmas demon, in my house!”
December 23, 2013-ROAD TRIP TO WARRI
I just discovered that packing for five kids is so cumbersome. It’s at times like this that I wonder if having kids ‘Angelina Jolie style’ was a wise idea. I spent the whole night of 22nd packing clothes for warm and cool weather, packing undies, vests and shoes. I just weaned my 2-year-old, Harel off diapers and so I had to pack extra clothes just in case he soiled himself.
Then I had to pack onions, tomatoes, peppers, tatashe, spring onions and all those nice veggies you find in the north for my folks down south. The car was stuffed with luggage.
We had two errands to run before we set off. I had forgotten some of my shopping at the market on December 21. The next day was a Sunday, markets weren’t open. I was hoping that by Monday I’d trace where I misplaced it hoping that the finder was honest enough to keep them for me. I found it and raced back home so I wouldn’t disturb our travel schedule. There’s this bridge just before the road to my house. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there, so I stepped on the throttle. Lo and behold olopa (policemen) had mounted a checkpoint there and stopped me.
“So you be woman sef, na im you dey drive like man?!!” the policeman screamed at me.
“Sorry officer, I’m rushing to meet my kids at home. I left them home alone.”
“Do you know you would have killed me?! Oya clear here!” the officer ordered.
“Officer, please I’m late for my trip. But I wasn’t expecting anyone to be standing in the middle of the road now?” I tried to explain but he wasn’t having any of it. To this officer who bore “Monday” on his name tag, he had found the perfect mugu to make his ‘Christmas money’ from. He got into my car and said we should drive to the station. I played the I’m-a-mother card but all the charm I turned on didn’t work and I certainly had no bribe for Officer Monday. I had spent all my money on shopping.
“Show me your particulars.” he ordered. Wahala! I couldn’t even remember the last time I saw those. I only used that car to run errands within the town, so I don’t bother with the papers. Then he asked for my driver’s license. I opened my purse and pulled it out. That one was expired. I pulled out the valid one and gave to him. He seized it and said i should remain there.
This officer was really beginning to tick me off and if I remained there we certainly wouldn’t make that trip today. So I did the first thing which came to my head. I sped off and left him with my license.
As I looked through the rear view mirror, I saw Officer Monday waving my driver’s license at me; a wicked reminder that I could run but not hide.
I’ve never gotten into police trouble before, so I was scared. Also I didn’t know if running away was a crime or what implication leaving my driver’s license with the police meant. I ran home to hubby and told him everything. He just stared at me like I was joking. Finally he said:
“You can’t leave your license with them. Your home address is on it. They could come here and arrest you. Then it would be worse.”
“So what do we do?” I asked. “We go back to them.” he replied.
Finally after hours of pleading, we were booked and fined. We set off for Warri at 2pm.
WE GAVE MY PARENTS A SURPRISE VISIT
We got to Warri at 10pm. What a surprise we gave them! My Mum was screaming in excitement. My Dad was so happy. My brother, Drew was in town and he’s my pal…besties in crime…hahaha!! First full house in many years. They were all gushing at how much the kids had grown.
Just like many other years, Mum had her huge Christmas tree set up with an angel at the top. Then it had the most beautiful ornaments ever…of tiny santas, snowflakes, drums, disco balls, embellished balls and every exotic ornament you could think of.
My sister joined us from Lagos on Christmas morning; and we ate, laughed and had fun. After the new year, everyone said their emotional goodbyes and left one by one. My family was the last to leave because my kids wanted to spend the whole holiday with their grandparents.
Here’s why: grandparents basically spoil their grandchildren. My mum is a stylish, petite British size 8 woman. So my 13-year-old daughter loves to raid her wardrobe and my mum is simply delighted she has a grand-daughter that adores her sense of fashion. While, my own is to look at them with envy; wishing my fat size British 18 body could magically shrink *sad face* My teenage son also went shopping at two different times. First, Drew took him shopping, then his grandpa took him shopping for jersey tops. While Grandpa took the rest three younger ones out nearly every day to raid fast food joints.
January 12, 2013 – ROAD TRIP BACK TO ABUJA
My experience from here is not too pleasant and goes further to prove that going on a road in Nigeria is UTTER MADNESS. On Saturday night, January 11, hubby stopped to fill his car tank somewhere in Oghara, Delta State, in preparation for the trip the next day.
The summary of the story is that the fuel was bad. It refused to burn, the car refused to fire and the car exhaust pipe was shooting furiously. We bought fuel injector cleaners, which we thought would solve the problem. At Ekpoma, just after the university, the car broke down finally. The petrol tank had to be dropped.
You needed to have seen the quality of the petrol after it was drained from the tank. It was black and greasy. It looked like it was mixed with thick, dirty engine oil. By now, two of the engine nozzles were blocked, the plugs were soaked and the injector filter had been compromised.
I cannot begin to tell you the stress it caused me having to handle five kids in that situation. When the car first broke down at Benin, it was just before the bridge at Ikpoba hill. My four-year-old daughter, Katriel said those words I was so dreading to hear:
“Mommy, I want to poo-poo!”
Her dad had just gone to look for a mechanic, leaving me to crack my head on how to manufacture a toilet for the girl. When I saw her breaking sweat, I knew she really had to go. Quickly, I took a black nylon bag and said:
“KaKa, I’m going to pull your pants down in the car. You’ll have to squat putting your bum-bum in the bag.”
Katriel managed to do her business amidst teasing and laughter from her siblings. I told my son to dispose of the waste bag in the small bush by the bridge. But I had a strong feeling not to let him go alone, so I went with him. By the time we got to the bush, I noticed it was just by the bank of the river and there was a bini high priestess there performing some rituals on a half naked woman. They looked up at Caleb and I, eyeing us angrily for intruding into their privacy. So I whispered to Caleb:
“Don’t drop that thing there. Just keep walking.”
It turns out, the river bank was a makeshift shrine for the priestess and another priest who sat nearby on a chair with a canopy above his head as shade. I saw two or three beautiful girls in their 20s and well dressed consulting the Baba. We left them to their business and flung the waste into another bush far away from them.
At Ekpoma, the mechanic was able to fix the problems to an extent. We managed the car to Auchi where we spent the night.
January 13, 2013; 5am – AUCHI TO ABUJA
Hubby wanted us to set off that early so he could make it on time to work, but again the car broke down on the highway and it wasn’t yet daybreak . Hubby, Caleb and I came out in the chilly morning cold and pushed our vehicle. Now pushing a saloon car is easy. But pushing a jeep that’s laden with heavy luggage up a hill is a different ball game. I gave silent thanks to heaven when a villager who was on his way to his farm joined in pushing our vehicle to the nearest village in Ukpilla (also spelt ‘Okpella’) where the famous cement factory in Edo state is. The good Samaritan also helped us to get a mechanic to fix our vehicle.
It was at Ukpilla village that I started drafting this story. The villagers were kind. A woman gave us hot water. We had dry cocoa and milk in the car, so we brought out our mugs and made hot cocoa drinks to warm us up. We took that with bread and akara fried by the roadside.
I was wearing flip-flops, no makeup with unkempt hair. I set up my laptop, taking pictures and writing while the mechanics tried to make the car move again. The alternator belt had cut. Spark plugs were changed and engine nozzles flushed. Then we left. Less than an hour later, the car broke down at Okene, Kogi State…just below another hill!!
I went ballistic! What kind of suffering was this? All because of our corrupt Nigerian system! Who adulterated this fuel and supplied it to the filling station? The fuel station, Amenaghawon Oil was brand new. It was its first day of business and they even gave hubby a tee-shirt gift as he was one of their first customers. Did they sell the bad fuel on purpose or were they unaware that their petroleum suppliers had sabotaged their business integrity? All these questions were on my mind as we made that trek uphill; a second tedious exercise in one morning.
I arrived Abuja deadbeat. I couldn’t even open my laptop to complete or post the story.
So Pweebers, that’s why I couldn’t post much yesterday or the day before. I really pray the situation in Nigeria improves. As it is, no form of transport in Nigeria is safe or totally pleasant…whether by air or by road.
I had a wonderful time in Warri with my loved ones, but it’s good to be back home.
Written By: Peace Ben Williams