Friday, December 18, 2015

THE MOURINHO-WENGER FACET OF LIFE

When Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho was let off by the club for the second time in as many years, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I, like many others, felt it would come when (more probable than "if") after Chelsea's next game against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge after the embarrassing loss Monday night to table toppers, Leicester. Even some Chelsea fans I know have been for the past few weeks raking huge winnings from sportbetting by betting against their beloved clubs, that is how dire Chelsea Football Club's case had become before this sack.

A DISGRUNTLED MOURINHO

I actually have nothing personal against Chelsea but some of the things which make my weekend, besides a Liverpool win, is a Chelsea loss. I can't remember exactly why right now, though there are a legion of reasons I can adduce for this, but a Chelsea loss has always left a sweet taste in my mouth since the Rafa Benitez era (who stopped them quite a few times from advancing in the Champions League). Unlike what Uzoma Albert Okwuadigbo thinks of me, as one who goes to continually kick a man that's down and out and having a hell of a fun while at it, I believe I am not exactly that, though I would proudly wear that toga under a Chelsea team coached by Jose Mourinho any day, just to put the LOQUACIOUS ONE in his place, each time he's reminded that he's no SPECIAL than that next man on the street, no one should in fact be. 

Of course an event such as the sacking of the so called SPECIAL ONE wasn't going to pass without an associated media frenzy as well as social media "trending" (which I see even Facebook has copied from Twitter). So, in my usual jobless day yesterday, I waltzed through comments on all the media that threw themselves at me about the BREAKING NEWS, in their different shades, from which of all, I picked two which threw some light on the workings of life.

The first was the usual epic from Piers Morgan on his twitter handle:
"@piersmorgan: ‪#‎Mourinho won Premier League 6 months ago - SACKED.
‪#‎Wenger hasn't won Premier League for 11yrs - UNSACKABLE."

Initially, I didn't know whether to cry or laugh at that from an Arsenal fan and fierce critic of Arsene Wengers' policies at Arsenal Football Club, but the awesomeness of his tweet resounded heavily with me, even several minutes after reading it. This is moreso coming just months after Mourinho referred to Wenger as a SPECIALIST IN FAILURE, then went on to throw his medal into the stands after his team lost the Charity Shied to Arsenal before the start of this season. Things may not have started going downhill for Mourinho after that  missile aimed at Wenger, but people made recourse to it each time Mou faltered or Wenger inched one over him (as with the Charity Shield). The Eva Carneiro (Chelsea Team Doctor) saga did not also help matters as I believe that it went some way to dampen morale amongst the players, even contributing to the situation where Mourinho found himself increasingly losing his dressing room as the season progressed. The extent to which the Eva situation contributed though remain a matter of conjecture, but I am yet to see anyone that has totally ruled that possibility out.

More profound for me was Idowu Addison's comment here rendered, "such is life, sir! mourinho needs to win trophies to be relevant. coach wenger has something stronger working for him. his relevance extends beyond trophies. such is life", after I quoted and retweeted Piers Morgan's tweet, and simulcasted on my Facebook wall, as it shed more light on the Mou(rinho)-Wenger facet of life.


WENGER AND MOURINHO IN ONE OF THEIR SPATS

I deduced from what happened/and is happening with and to these men aforementioned, is typical to what happens with and to us in life. To some people life is a competition (and it truly is), hence every step climbed, position/status/favourable condition attained is claimed with pride as Mourinho values his trophies and trophy chest, and they seem to draw breath from winning and the exact opposite when faced with adverse conditions, of which the third-year jinx with Mou remain an infallible instance to site. A coach like Wenger symbolizes the direct opposite, and reminds us that it is how well and not how fast we go in life that matters, and hence he has continued to be judged on that basis. The problem with the Mourinho model is how easily such men fade from reckoning once their glory days are past them, and how some such people can easily slip into despair when they seize to be the cynosure of all eyes.

Though, I am not here to extol Wenger's virtues, and that's besides the fact that I am no Arsenal fan, I think he will do his club and its fanatical fans a whole world of good, if he can once again redeem for them an English Premier League Trophy, as the possibility of winning the UEFA Champions League dimmed again with their pairing with perennial arch rival and nemesis, Barcelona Football Club in the next stage of the championship. For now, I will just continue relishing another period of Mourinho as the DEMYSTIFIED ONE, while hoping that Pep Guardiola as his possible replacement would've lost most of his charm and luck by the time he comes to manage Chelsea (if they would have him). All obstacles before Jurgen Klopp bringing Liverpool a Premier League trophy for the first time since the Premiership Era must be removed or degraded by next season. *sips Al-Iksir*

'kovich

PHOTO CREDIT:
- http://maidirecalcio.com
- http://www.lebuzz.eurosport.fr

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

NAIJA TOUR (9)

So it came to pass, that after about an hour of trekking from where the bus I was travelling in had to stop due to traffic somewhere in Asaba, Delta State, I reached the Asaba end of the bridge over the River Niger, connecting the Niger Delta/South-South Nigeria with the Southeast popularly called HEAD BRIDGE (or is it Bridge Head now?). At this point traffic seemed to be slowly moving as a few men of the mobile police force were on hand to control the traffic, sometimes conducting a search especially of some private vehicles.

We (band of trekkers) soon learnt that there had been a protest by members of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB the day before with intention to hold a mega demonstration (demanding the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu, presently in detention on charges of treason, terrorism, amongst others, for demanding a sovereign state of Biafra) same day I made to enter Onitsha en route Port Harcourt. I wasn't perturbed by the presence of heavily armed members of the security services since I had nothing to hide, though I suspected that my huge backpack may arouse some suspicion within them about me, so rather than walk away from them, I walked towards them.

I was glad to find that moped taxis were allowed through the bridge, and though crossing the bridge didn't appear longer than the distance I had already covered trekking, I was already tired and my legs now too heavy to lift, so I did the next best thing by getting one of the bikes to ferry me across the "Head Bridge" from the Asaba end, to the Onitsha end, a journey which took less than five minutes to navigate as we left stranded vehicles behind in the hold-up till we got to the Onitsha end where I had to alight, raise my hands (because I saw others doing same) as we passed by the stern-faced,  gun totting military and mobile police men. I had experienced this sometime in 2007 in the heady days of militancy in the Niger Delta, when I visited Port Harcourt from Bonny on my way to a friends'. I noticed to the left of the road, where most of the vehicles of the different arm of the security services present were parked, a man lying facedown into the sand and watched over by about three soldiers, wondering what crime he must have committed to have found himself in such a position. I meant to walk up to the soldiers to ask them what the man had done to deserve such a cruel treatment, but I thought better to walk away as it didn't seem the armed men had any intention to be civil that morning.

I soon walked by the statue of DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU, the late Igbo Icon, who remains to many a demigod (even a god to some others), and I stood awhile, to not only stare at the harmattan-dustied work of art (a shadow of what it was at its unveiling, which I thought should've been better sculpted), but also to take in the legacy of what the man stood for while he lived. It was for the actions of this man, for his beloved people, when Nigeria turned it's back on the Igbos, seeing in them objects for target practice and game only, especially in Nigeria's North, that the then Colonel Ojukwu on the 6th of July, 1967 after due consultations with relevant stakeholders, in what was then Eastern (Now part of South-South/Niger Delta and all of Southeast) Nigeria,  agreed to pull out of Nigeria.

STATUE OF DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU IN ONITSHA, ANAMBRA STATE JUST AS YOU ALIGHT FROM THE HEAD BRIDGE

For the three years Biafra fought to free itself off the clutches of Nigeria, to which it had been joined/amalgamated by the colonialists since 1914, the dream of a utopian land of the free was nurtured, birthed but never weaned, due to the war. Igbos never forgot, much like the Jews never forget the Holocaust, and despite what others may say about Ojukwu, he remained the Hero of the Igbo, up till his death four years ago.  

A few Igbo sons have played upon this sentiments (that has remained an idea and ideal for the Igbo, as I elucidated in my treatise on BIAFRA | madukovich's cogitations https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/biafra/) to once a while attempt to recreate or force into being conditions (not necessarily with the bloodshed that birthed the call for secession the first time) under which Biafra can once again be actualized, and because most of these weren't properly thought through, their actions ended up dead on arrival. Some of the agitations for Biafra in recent times have been of and from youths, many of which weren't born ay the time the war was fought (and lost on the Biafran side). This one by the Indigenous People (The Igbo lay claim to being one of the aboriginal groups in Nigeria, unlike some other tribes whose geneology link them to other regions of Africa, even of the world) Of Biafra, IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu who used to head the media arm of the Movement For The Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB (led by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, who has since denounced Kanu's activity and gone ahead to float another pro-Biafra group) via RADIO BIAFRA based in the United Kingdom, is different in the manner in which it has been able to galvanize in so short a time Igbo youth mainly to protest, even in the face of intimidation, arrests, even deaths; and also managing  to grind to a halt, activities in major towns in the Southeast (notable for commercial activities, where traders find it difficult to lock their shops even for late siblings or in respect of later close relatives, and rush to open same shops minutes after Catholic morning mass on Sundays) and a few towns in the South-South/Niger Delta region (where the reception, unlike in the former was lukewarm to slightly antagonistic, especially by state governors of the region).

CHIEF RALPH UWAZURUIKE (LEFT) OF MASSOB AND NNAMDI KANU  (RIGHT) OF IPOB

Unlike in the period MASSOB held sway and Radio Biafra broadcasted via shortwave with their message available only to a few who could tune in using transistor radios, IPOB has managed to move to FM and also online, with several efforts by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC to block its signals hitting the brick wall, and even when they were able to block one, floated signals elsewhere on the FM bandwidth with ease much to the discomfort and disgrace of the government agency charged with the responsibility of tracking and ending signals from the renegade station. The messages from Radio Biafra has being largely responsible for the way some youths who have been inundated with the messages have gone on, not only to show support but also to be involved in demonstrations, initially asking for a separate state, and much later (as when I passed through) asking for the release of their detained leader.

But all I wanted to do once in Onitsha, was get to a bank and afterwards eat something. I was fortunate to find a bike/Okada rider to carry me to the nearest bank branch whose debit card I carry, so that if it turned out that I still have ATM issues I could walk into the bank and sort it out, of course not without throwing some insult, the way of any bank staff within reach, for the trouble I passed through with the debit card their bank issued me. Fortunately, I was able to withdraw the much I needed, and with another Okada rider made my way through traffic, past military checkpoints with arms raised, away from the main Onitsha road to the motor park on Owerri Road, with intention to make for Port Harcourt, as it was looking like the day will be quite rough, with the impending demonstrations by IPOB youths with the force at Head Bridge looking ready to thwart any attempt at disturbing the peace for that day.

I jumped into the first bus to Port Harcourt I met on ground, once I got to the park on Onitsha-Owerri Road. At which point the rumble in my stomach reminded me of my sorry state of hunger, but that wasn't because I hadn't attempted to get something to eat. I had in fact approached a lady at a stall while trekking from Asaba towards the Niger Bridge, and asked her if she had bread. From the nook where she was eating bread and stew, she asked if I could see bread as part of the things she displayed for sale, I responded in the negative, and she turned back to her food, while I walked away feeling like an ass.

I was the second passenger in the bus. The only thing I could find to buy for food that I was sure won't cause me any trouble was AKI N'UKWA (coconut and fried breadfruit seeds) snack, which I

AKI N'UKWA

bought and feasted upon while waiting for the bus to load for Port Harcourt. Time was of the essence for me, not because I had an appointment particularly fixed for that day in Port Harcourt, but rather because I wanted to be out of Onitsha as soon as possible, as what I saw at the Head Bridge earlier that morning at Onitsha could possibly not mean well for anybody who remained to see how things will unravel.

Only one other passenger joined us after about an hour since I boarded the bus. I had by now become very impatient, and began to wonder what was in Port Harcourt that I wasn't meant to see or meet that everything since I started the journey to that destination conspired to delay me. I alighted from the bus, trekked further to the next opening from where the bus I had earlier boarded was, only to discover the "real" park, and that where I'd been was no park, but just a space where unregistered buses stayed to "hustle" passengers, and may be there for a whole day without getting filled, compared to the real park, where three buses headed for Port Harcourt where at different levels of being filled, in fact one needed just one passenger. That was how I went to the "fake" park to appeal to the sensibility of the so called "park manager" to kindly refund my transport fare, or at most give a part of it back. 

'kovich
PHOTO CREDIT
- http://www.nigeriamasterweb.com
- http://www.nigerianmonitor.com
- http://www.naijatreks.com

Thursday, December 10, 2015

NAIJA TOUR (8)

One of the advantages of banking with old generation banks for many Nigerians is the thought that they could not fail like the new generation ones. Even if and when they are rocked by scandals that's enough to swallow the new generation banks, these first generationals  manage to stay afloat, especially because I think they have acquired assets over the years, besides their presence in all the nooks and cranies of Nigeria (including the remotest of places), and have in their boards very powerful people (in government and out of it) or their fronts or proxies, that somehow manage to make financial regulators quite sympathetic to them when they run foul of the law, leaving them with a slap on the wrist in such situations.    

So, even when such banks slowly and reluctantly embrace latest banking technology they do not necessarily lose their crowd, though they may no longer be first choice for most of their customers. The reason they remain in contention may not be unconnected with the fact that they make withdrawals herculean which is good news for many who intend to "truly" save, compared to the new generation banks where there are a gazillion ways to withdraw your money online real time. Unfortunately, hanging with the old generationals during a tour like I undertook meant that each time the ATM cards works, one must withdraw maximally, as it may be the last time one could be successful at the ATM for another few hours for reasons ranging from poor network (that has a way of peculiarly choosing such banks) amongst others, some of which point at the incompetence of the IT sections of such banks.

So it was, that the last time I used that banks debit card was in Lafia (Nasarawa State capital) the night before arriving in Abuja while strolling through Jos Road. I don't know where I got the confidence to spend cash buying medication and food expensively  in Abuja, when I knew I would be traveling later that evening. The first sign that all may not go well was when my host was driving me out of the Games Village after that sumptuous meal of Boiled Tilapia and Shawarma and I tried the ATM there, and I was told that my issuer was unoperative or inoperative (the exact words used skip my memory now). A next try at another, a few meters away (with a guy standing right beside the ATM like he had intention to mug) also proved abortive, but I had hopes. A third try was at Utako (a nidus for transport company termini), before approaching the Luxury Bus Terminus, and it was the same story, though I was able to check my balance (to be sure that the other times I attempted to withdraw was not recorded as successful). 

Gladly, my preferred luxury bus company with which I frequently travel was much into the "cashless" thing, even doing discounts for passengers who use their debit cards rather than paying cash. I was happy to use my debit card on their Point Of Sales (POS) machine, which was issued by the same old generation bank whose ATM I had in my possession. Unfortunately, the POS machine declined my card. It was now some few minutes to six in the evening and I was beginning to feel awkward. Off again into the streets I went to try more ATM's only to come back with the same results. Back at the terminus, the lady issuing the tickets wouldn't let me try my debit card again, and was beginning to view me with suspicion even though her records show that I was a frequent traveller with her bus company. I asked if I could transfer the money to her company's account but she flippantly responded that she didn't know the account. Frustrated, I asked to see the manager, she said "ok", but made no attempt to stand from her seat, or beckon to anyone to help me.

Luckily, a young man I had seen walk in and out of the cubicle where she was seated, was once again going out for something, and I approached him and explained my predicament, to which he hardly broke sweat before giving me an account to wire the required sum for the ticket to an account number I suspect was his, and thereafter directed the ticketing clerk to give me the ticket once the "alert" hit his phone. I couldn't be more grateful. The qualms I had with the ticketing clerk didn't stop me from asking her for a window side seat, to which she quickly responded to the effect that there was none. I was just happy to be able to leave Abuja that night, even though it only meant I'd have a day to loaf about before business in Port Harcourt by so doing.

I went about "charging" my "power bank" at one of the stalls at the terminus, as my mobile phones were already showing signs of low batteries, and it was important for me to be online. The food (jollof rice) served by the bus company in Abuja was better than those in Lagos. It didn't smell of so much monosodium glutamate as with the one at the Lagos park, but I could only manage two spoonfuls before chewing away at the fried meat, which also wasn't bad. The water, though not as cold as I'd have wanted it was much welcome, and I gulped the whole content in the bottle down. I couldn't buy anything at the park because I was low on cash and saved what I had for the journey, where I would then need to buy a thing or two if need be.

The bus started boarding about eight thirty later that evening, but interestingly it wasn't full as at the time the journey started. I guess that was why it delayed so much, and there was no first bus or second bus (that was usually by 5pm and 7pm respectively), rather just one bus to Port Harcourt, in Rivers State, South-South Nigeria, in the heart of the Niger Delta. The ticketing clerk may have thought she was dealing me a bad one when she refused to give me a window seat, but it turned out that there was no one for the window seat, and we left Abuja with just me occupying the space for two people. I took up my space near the window with joy, relishing what I missed on my way to Abuja. It was good to know that we were now on our way to Port Harcourt, as it was beginning to feel like something was doing all it could to stop me from reaching that destination, especially at the time I planned to be there.

I slept, woke up and we were at Lokoja. Must be around 2am and passengers were allowed to go grab some things to eat, drink and "pee". As usual, I went for things that wouldn't cause me bowel distress, in kebab (suya in local parlance) and water. The driver and his mate also used the opportunity to fill the bus with Port Harcourt bound passengers they met on ground, and that was how I got me a fat man as seatmate, and the journey continued in earnest. The air from outside was chilly, enough to cause passengers on the other side of the aisle to beg that I closed the window to the dissatisfaction of my seatmate who registered his displeasure with a "mtcheeeeew".

All was going well for a while till we heard a loud bang, that I felt came from under the vehicle, and I had hoped for the worst, seeing that I didn't have lots of cash in my wallet, something that armed robbers don't like to see or hear, and for which many passengers had gotten maimed and killed under such circumstances. I quickly scanned the area for means of escape should push come to shove, only to find that the bus was gradually waltzing to the side of the road closer to a light source that turned out to be from a hotel on a lonely road in Asaba, Delta State. There was no sign of armed robbers, nor of policemen. Even vehicles were passing in trickles, and those were mainly buses and cars used for haulage purposes, heavily loaded within, and without especially on their tops, with the load on top for most of them appearing to be larger than those inside the vehicles.

Most of us passengers alighted from the bus, when it became obvious that it was a case of a burst tyre in the first of the four tyres at the left back, and rantings by passengers began, for me the second time since I started my tour (though for a different reason as from with the first). The feeling of something stopping me from getting to Port Harcourt crept in again and I quietly waved it away while watching proceedings. The drivers' mate's attempt to remove the faulty tyre and replace with another met with arguments and counterarguments from passengers who felt he wasn't going about it properly. He managed to lose all but one of the nuts after "jacking" the bus to what some of the passengers didn't consider high enough. As if things weren't bad enough, it started to rain, not in drizzles but torrentially that those of us on the ground had to run to a nearby stall beside the hotel, to escape getting drenched even though we couldn't escape getting cold. The mate continued to try to lose the nut but when it appeared that there might be a case of misthreading which had made it difficult for the nut to come lose, he decided to put the other nuts back in place, after which we reboarded the bus and continued the journey slowly this time, as much as the burst tyre could allow in the rain. It really didn't feel so bad going the way we were going and I wondered why the driver didn't consider this earlier rather than exposing us to inclement weather, and possible marauding right in the middle of nowhere.

By a few minutes after five in the morning we stopped. I thought we were at a military checkpoint, but it turned out to be a traffic gridlock. Vehicles were parked bumper to bumper and for a long time we didn't move until some flicker of daylight began to appear on the horizon. At this point I got down with some passengers to see actually what exactly was going on. We could see nothing. Even when there was movement, it was for just a few feet and nothing more. The stretch of vehicles was so long that it was difficult to see the end. Passengers were now beginning to alight and walk towards the Niger Bridge into Onitsha. I was very tired, and didn't know if I could do the trek. With the issue of the bad tyre at the back of my mind I wasn't sure that once traffic became lighter that the bus won't stop in Onitsha to finally change the tyre. Eventually, I decided to trek into Onitsha against advice I received of another passenger of how far from Onitsha we were. Some exercise shouldn't kill I thought, and the lack of cash didn't help my situation hence I picked my back pack and started my trek.

LUXURY BUSES AND HAULAGE TRUCKS HELD UP IN TRAFFIC INWARDS THE NIGER BRIDGE FROM ASABA.


It turned out to be a long one, and more people were now doing the trek. The reason for the traffic jam became clearer as I inched closer to the Niger Bridge, that connected South-eastern Nigeria, to the Niger Delta (South-South Nigeria) on that axis. I was informed that the day before, protesting members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB had blocked the bridge and brought commercial activities to a halt in Onitsha (commercial capital of Anambra State and the Southeast as a whole), demanding the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu, currently detained by the Federal Government on charges of incitement, even Treason and Terrorism (for asking for self determination, and a sovereign state of Biafra from what is today the Eastern part of Nigeria, from the rest). A Joint Task Force of the police and members of the arms of the military were then stationed at the Asaba and Onitsha end of the Niger Bridge to screen vehicles entering and leaving Onitsha, in anticipation of the bigger protest planned for the day.

EVEN LIVESTOCK FEEL THE UNEASE DUE TO TRAFFIC BUILD-UP AT THE ASABA END OF THE NIGER BRIDGE.


Part of my itinerary was Anambra State, and I could simply go in there, do what I had to do and then go to Port Harcourt, but then I must finish everything that day and head for Port Harcourt the next to meet up with my appointment. I considered that if IPOB youths go on with their plan of a mega demonstration it might be difficult to get out of Onitsha to Port Harcourt even if I was able to conclude my business in time outside of Onitsha but within Anambra State. If however I go on to Port Harcourt, I would still get my much needed rest, make my appointment the next day, then enter Onitsha before careering into the rest of Anambra to fulfill my plans there, get some play time even clock some time in neighbouring Imo State before returning to base in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. I decided while trekking, and now close to the Asaba end of the Niger Bridge to get money first, before deciding what to do next. I figured that my best bet will be to get to an ATM of the old generation bank branch that issued my debit card, so that if it doesn't work, I could go into the bank at eight o'clock and get the much I needed to continue my journey the traditional way, hopefully without making a scene for the embarrassment and discomfort their debit card had caused me the day before. It was then 7am.

'kovich

Monday, December 7, 2015

NAIJA TOUR (7)

I noticed something while at Keffi, then Lafia and on leaving Lafia for Abuja, and that is the fact that there was no masking of Fuel Price by the management of filling stations in those places, unlike in Lagos, in Filling Stations were fuel is sold at a higher amount than the approved pump price of =N=87/L, but isn't reflected on the meter, rather a calculator is used to calculate the value you'd pay for fuel without regards to the readings of the meter.  In these places, as exemplified by that filling station at Shabu outward Lafia towards Akwanga fuel is sold at =N=125 per litre (as against the approved pump price of =N=87/L), and that is what you'd find on the meter. Apparently, officials of the Directorate of Petroleum Resources, DPR don't pay the kind of visits they pay to fuel dispensing stations in major cities like Lagos and Abuja.

FILLING STATION AT SHABU, A FEW KILOMETERS FROM LAFIA, NASARAWA STATE WHERE PETROL IS SOLD AT =N=125/LITRE

This is much like when I mentioned NAFDAC in my last instalment in relation to drugs. Most regulatory agencies flex their muscles in their respective sectors in Nigeria, only in major cities, and even at that in the highbrow parts and never in the hinterlands and areas considered out-of-way even when not out of their jurisdiction, sometimes because they are understaffed, many times because they couldn't care less, with the jobs they do where and when they do them, only when they want cheap publicity, or want to appear to their employers (or as with the head to the president or supervising minister) like they are doing something to justify their paychecks. At the end of the day, it is the poor masses meant to be protected by the lawful activities of these regulating agencies, that suffer the most.

I arrived Abuja to meet up with appointments I had put forward the last time I passed through, and it felt right to have made that call, because I had less on my shoulder this time to see to the deal I had to seal in the nation's capital. By noon, I had what was left of the day to gallivant before heading out to Nigeria's South-South or Niger Delta region. The first time I visited Abuja was fifteen years ago as an undergraduate, and each time I visit since then, every other year, I see new things in terms of infrastructure and otherwise. It remains one of Nigeria's success stories though it has lots of ugly sides. A dynamic space, like a construction site in the midst of Eden, as the land continues to be raped by bulldozers planting infrastructure over virgin land, greenery and evergreen trees and shrubbery. With replacement foliage and flora tending towards the plastic, and the humans there living what I can consider a fake life in the main, though it is wrong to generalize in that respect. I do love Abuja, but I doubt it is a place I'd like to make an abode for now, or in the nearest future for that matter.

ABUJA CITY GATE

I went sightseeing after business with a friend, checking out real estate prospect and what is obtainable in some of the estates in Abuja. It's no news that most gated communities in Lagos, as well as Abuja provides you with social amenities that government will ordinarily strain to provide, or not provide in most cases, but the fact that they run cable TV cords into conduit just waiting for you to plug in, including Wi-Fi is a new one for me, and totally almost caught me yearning for the high-end life of Abuja, but somewhere in my mind I knew Lagos would've bettered that somewhere. Even in the University, we had DSTV wired to every room in the hostels by the time I was in my penultimate year, as far back as 2003 in Lagos.

The Tilapia Fish at what was formerly the games village wasn't bad at all, though the shawarma wasn't as good as the ones you'd get at several spots on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Though the Fish took some time in coming, it was worth the wait, and for its weight in cash, paid for by my host. It went down well with the not so chilled bottle of water. That atmosphere, the setting and the meal made for fruitful discussions into the past, the present and the possibilities that the future holds. Lots of insights were shared on that table, the results of which will yield fruit in time to come. You just learn some things that you'd never learn in school when you share some time with people like my host for that day in Abuja. I didn't want to miss the bus to my next destination so we had to wrap up our discussion so I could leave, but not without buying some anti-allergy medication as I was beginning to adversely react to changing environment due to constant travel.

Abuja, wasn't like Lafia from where I'd just come and couldn't get drugs I needed. In fact, the pharmacy where I got my anti-allergy drugs was the second pharmacy I visited in Abuja that day. The first was on the recommendation of the friend I had earlier met. The only problem here is, while you may get medication relatively inexpensive (if they are available) in Lafia, while nursing the fear that it might be substandard or fake, you will have a hole drilled in your pocket buying the same in Abuja where you are most likely to buy the genuine one, with stricter control especially with non-over-the-counter medication.

ONE OF THE SMALL HILLS DOTTING ABUJA'S LANDSCAPE

The ride to Utako where the luxury bus terminus is located was another opportunity to sightsee Abuja. Unfortunately, it was much of the same things. I am of the view that Architects failed Abuja woefully, as there's no ingenuity in the way they put up towers, condos and other buildings, except for very few places. Even the National Mosque had nothing extraordinary besides the golden dome, which made me wonder if all of that is raw gold.

NATIONAL MOSQUE, ABUJA, NIGERIA.

Only the road network was something to write home about, but the curse of all cities, traffic is becoming an all too common feature, a reason why I always choose carefully my time when I come or pass through Abuja. I shouldn't go through the traffic in Lagos, and still come to Abuja to suffer same. I was glad to have made it in time to the terminus, but that didn't stop my debit card from conspiring to thwart my effort to leave Abuja that night.

'kovich

N.B. It came as a rude shock to me, in the course of my Tour to learn of the death of Alhaji Mohammed Chindo Yamusa II, Emir
of Keffi, whom I had paid glowing tributes to in my previous offering, as regards how he managed to maintain peace in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
May his soul Rest In Peace!

Friday, December 4, 2015

NAIJA TOUR (6)

I left Keffi without bothering to check on my friend who brought me back from "Zimbabwe" in the wee hours of the morning. I knew he'd need a few more hours to gather himself together before starting his day. He could afford to do so because of his blue collar working status. If we had travelled back to Keffi in daylight, with as much motorists back on the road than we met on our way back, I might have to be writing this on an emergency room bed, and that is if we had survived. I should've known better not to allow a drunk drive us to Keffi from Zimbabwe, and it is now a scenario I would never like to repeat.

The journey to Lafia was gladly uneventful, and in fact looked shorter than I had ever been on the road to Lafia from Keffi. I could see no immediate reason to adduce that to, because the driver of the cab I boarded didn't seem to move at an incredibly extraordinary speed, and we still passed by military, police, Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) checkpoints (while flouting regulations like having two passengers seated in the front, on a seat meant for one, with the driver without seatbelts on) with passengers alighting at intervals and new ones been picked. I really didn't have deadlines for Lafia, as it was just a fun visit to relish my first love in Nasarawa State. It looked like I closed my eyes and by the time I opened it, we were at Akwanga, then I blinked again and we were in Lafia.

Nothing much had changed since I last visited less than seven months ago. However, the atmosphere was more relaxed because the tension after the elections and before inauguration appeared to have largely dissipated, and everyone seemed to be going about their business without a care. I went about seeing familiar faces once I arrived, ate as much as was presented me till I couldn't take no more. In one place, I was entertained with a Nollywood movie titled "Skeleton, Season 4", and barely managed to watch just ten minutes of the movie that was meant to be a horror movie in shrubland by day, before a massive headache hit me. I begged to watch cable TV and once I was obliged (of which the alternative was to walk away) the headache stopped.

Unlike in Keffi, many of the residents and businesses in Lafia run on Power Generating Sets. There's just no stable electricity anywhere in Lafia from the national grid, and I think even the governors' residence and office also run on generators. Even when power is restored it lasts only a few minutes or at most a little over an hour, and can be said to be the most epileptic in Nigeria (and I stand to be corrected). One would've expected better from a state capital but in that respect Lafia is heavily lacking, amongst other amenities like water and even healthcare. Many of the residents prefer to use local concoctions rather than "go to die" in the government General  Hospital there (Lafia isn't as fortunate like Keffi, where there's a Federal Medical Centre). A resident even confided in me, that at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital there, there's religious and ethnic discrimination in favour of Muslims and natives/indigenes over people of other religions and settlers. Had it not been for the activities of International Donor Agency activities in most of the Primary Health Care facilities in the state, I doubt there'd be anywhere to go by the indigenes. The lack of reach of regulatory bodies like the National Agency for  Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC into Nasarawa State means that the drug stores are saturated with substandard drugs not from proprietary companies but from the East of Nigeria, where places like Onitsha have been notorious in the past for harboring fake drug manufacturing companies, more like shops, of which Nasarawa State is a major destination.


ALONG JOS ROAD, LAFIA, NASARAWA STATE.


Later that night I trekked from Bukan Sidi where you have the Investment House to town, to what is popularly called Jos Road to see how far things have changed, but was largely disappointed with the fact that only a few change is noticeable from the last time I was there, like the government was still recuperating from an election victory and also victory at the election tribunals for which there'd be no time to do anything new. The paved road in the centre of town was still in good shape, but much of the changes made by government has been such glorifying the incumbent Governor Tanko Al-Makura (aka Ta'Al), with Ta'Al this, Ta'Al that dotting the landscape of town, and though you may find this with schools, libraries and other things he'd built elsewhere, they weren't as preponderant as they were in Lafia, where even the blue tricycles taxis with doors (unlike those in Lagos and elsewhere) carry the tag KEKE TA'AL. There is even a TA'AL CONFERENCE HOTEL in the heart of Lafia, that left me wondering if that belonged to the state governor or to the government. If it didn't belong to the state government, why would Ta'Al build such while in power, and if for the state, what guarantees are there that it won't be transferred to the private citizen that the governor will become when he relinquishes power seeing that this is his last term in office.

I used to think differently about Ta'Al, from how I consider other Nigerian governors, but after that incident in which his convoy assaulted a female driver and her passengers, I began to take a second look at him. He was on TV hours earlier decrying the pitiable situation in government secondary schools in Nasarawa State and promising to do something to remedy the situation, and I wondered how he didn't see all of that in his first term, as well as what it was that he prioritized back for all of those four years? I hope now that he can see the challenge as he publicly admitted on TV, he will do something as soon as possible to alleviate the plight of students in Nasarawa State's public secondary schools, as well as with other levels of education, not just with physical infrastructure, but human capital development of teaching and non teaching staff of the institutions concerned.

I noticed while trekking that policemen where strategically positioned along the road into and within town, and that signaled to me that there might have been incidences that warranted such. Lafia (which means peace) needs to live up to it's name if it must ensure its survival, and its place in the comity of state capitals. It is already overshadowed in terms of infrastructure by Keffi, and I understand the sense (by the military, years back) in making Lafia a state capital following the creation of Nasarawa State, especially if we are serious in Nigeria about spreading developments, but the state governor has to wake up, in making Lafia a state capital outside of a single road. The efforts so far, besides self glorifying legacies, are commendable but more still needs to be done.

I lost my way back from trekking once I was off the main road, and was inside the off-road settlements for the place I was to pass the night, because it was pitch black by the time I returned, with power out as usual. I had entered Lafia even later than the time I got lost this time around and wasn't afraid because of the nature of the town, and so as then I simply rigmaroled until I found myself back on the street where my destination was, though not without making a fool of myself by calling my host for direction while she was behind me, laughing at my stupidity.  The next morning, without ceremony and much ado, I picked all of mine into my backpack and headed out for the next cab heading for Abuja to continue my NAIJA TOUR.

'kovich

PHOTO CREDIT:
- jujufilms.tv

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NAIJA TOUR (5)

Nothing out of the ordinary happened for the next forty minutes it took to get to Keffi, in Nasarawa State. The day was already badly burnt and nothing meaningful could be done with it, so I proceeded to the place that will be my hangout for the next three days, to have a much needed bath, and some home cooked meal, even if I had to do the cooking myself.

I had only been in this kind of situation once, when a night journey that was supposed to bring me to my destination by morning extended longer than planned. That was on a journey from Lagos to Port Harcourt, when I spent twenty-two hours for what should ordinarily be a twelve hour journey. This was gladly shorter than that, and though I made Keffi late, even missing the stop-bys at Abuja, I was content with arriving safely. The internet on my phone was still out so I put through a call to Airtel my data service provider for help, and spent time at other things, while waiting for positive response on my phone as well as from Airtel Customer Care Staff.

The twenty four hours I spent without data service was the longest of my life (okay, maybe in recent times). My friends who had my number called to be sure that I hadn't been kidnapped or that something worse hadn't happened, while those who didn't bombarded my Facebook inbox with messages, some careful not to mention anything that can be used by someone that could be with my phone, should it come to be that I was in the wrong hands. I even got the kind of message people get when it seems they won't see each other again, from a sweet lady, and even if I planned to delay my comeback online, I perished the thought just so I can hold her to her words.

I don't know if sometimes you wondered how life used to be before the advent of mobile phone use in Nigeria. I could remember vividly, but really it is difficult to reenact those now, especially with the use of the mobile/smartphone as an internet access tool. The world just simply stopped. I couldn't even go to a cybercafé to do all I needed to do online, like many people I know, for security reasons. I waited only, calling Airtel's Customer Care at intervals, only for them to politely insist that they are working on my line, when it seemed that that was the last thing they intended to do, if indeed they had plans to do such. 7pm that evening, I got sent a text message from my service provider intimating me that my case wil be treated and assigned me a number.

When by noon the next day, the situation didn't look to abate, and deadlines began to weigh down on me, I went into town for solution.  Everything was on the cards, a new phone, to make the Etisalat SIM card into a microsim card to fit into my browsing phone, amongst others. I was lucky to meet a fine couple at Keffi Roundabout near Total Filling Station, who were able to help restore the network on my phone. Once I could browse again, it felt like my life had been restored, and from then on to the next three days I spent in Keffi, everything besides my browsing worked seamlessly.

After visiting Nasarawa State for the first time in 2006, it had come to be for me like an adopted home, where I sometimes run to rest to escape the pressures of Lagos' hustle and bustle, while making brisk business by the side. Lafia was actually the first town I knew and  fell in love with in Nasarawa State, until I met Keffi. Like Bonny in Rivers State, and Oshogbo in Nigeria's Southwest State of Osun, Keffi can boast of uninterrupted power supply for days because it is host to a substation of one of the power companies serving Nigeria's Northcentral region, as is the case also with Oshogbo. Bonny is different because it isn't even connected to the national grid, rather it derives its power from the Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG company it hosts. 

The availability of constant power, coupled with the growing cosmopolitan nature of Keffi had over time knocked off the special status Lafia once held in my heart. Keffi is also noted for its peaceful nature, where the concept of NAGARI NA KOWA (everything in this town belongs to everybody) is alive and well, not only in thought, but in word and deed as well. Many attribute the relative peace in the land to the Emir of Keffi, Alhaji Muhammadu Cindo Yamusa II who unlike his peers is non-partisan, and highly influential amongst interest groups within his domain, that his word in regards to maintenance of peace is law. A few people I spoke with expressed fear that Keffi might begin to experience the level of insecurity found at different times in the past, as now with other emirates (even in Lafia, which is the Nasarawa State's capital) at his demise, unless he is succeeded by one much like (if not better than) him.


ANGWAN KWARA, KEFFI, NASARAWA STATE, NIGERIA


Keffi's development stems from the influx of civil servants from Abuja (Nigeria's capital) who would rather build a home there, than pay huge rent in the latter. Blue and White collar jobbers within Nasarawa and Keffi in particular have also contributed in no little way to the massive growth experienced by the town in recent times. For now beyond the sale of land by the indigenes, many of them have found business in the building of houses, especially using mud bricks, though modifying it to meet the demands of modern times; the market for cement and other building materials is also huge there because of the boom in the real estate sector that is fast turning bushes and forests into havens of architectural splendor and magnificence, at least as much as bungalows (which is what is mostly built there) can showcase. 

My intention, wasn't to spend three days, but it was difficult to say goodbye to that beautiful town and so I added a day, especially as a friend insisted I visited (the eve before leaving) "Zimbabwe" (somewhere I could surmise in the dark, would be between Abuja and Keffi), which he promised me will be a night I will never forget. He was right, for Zimbabwe can be anything you wish for it to be for you, and whatever happens there, stays there!

'kovich