A traveller leaves his home early for a cross-country trip. He has his day well planned out—be here by this time, and there by that time. Little does he know that this trip would be different from any of his previous trips.
A journey from Port Harcourt to Abuja should not be a big deal, especially on a Sunday when the roads are expected to be free. I arrived at the motor park before 6am, hoping to be on the first bus out of the park. I made the first bus, but some poor management issues ensured we did not depart until 8am.
As the bus was about to leave, an “evangelist” quickly hopped in. While he led the bus’ occupants in prayers similar to an industrial safety talk, my overworked earpiece loaded my auditory nerves with rich music from my phone. Why didn’t I join the prayer? I sure didn’t feel like! I have come to despise the policy where an uninvited person prays for passengers, and then collects “freewill offerings”. Whereas it is customary for passengers to cooperate with the prayer merchants, this bus was different. Indifference reigned, and when donations were requested, none was given. The “evangelist” hurriedly dropped at a nearby junction, his offered prayers apparently not appreciated. As he left, passengers burst into laughter, and began teasing themselves about stinginess.
From there, the bus became virtually silent as most passengers began the first of many rounds of sleep. This silence was broken at Onitsha when we saw the results of recent pro-Biafra protests. As we watched security operatives forcing pedestrians and cyclists to raise their hands near a checkpoint, a debate ensued about the wisdom of the protests. The sight of burnt cars and trucks littering the road further fueled the debate.
While several passengers passionately shared their opinions, I tested a new decision—learning to keep quiet during subjective arguments, no matter my knowledge level in such issues. Using “facts” in subjective arguments has recently bestowed some pseudo-enemies upon me, so avoiding such emotional arguments seems a good idea. Keeping quiet allowed me to google claims made by the opposing parties. While they argued, I researched and learned new things.
On one side were three northerners and an Igbo lady raised in the South West. Apart from me and a few other spectators, the rest of the bus was on the other side. The issues tendered in the course of the argument are too hot for this article. The argument continued until we were well inside Edo State. From the Biafra issue, it branched into tangential directions, finally arriving at Chibuike Amaechi and the politics of Rivers State.
At this point, the argument suddenly took a personal turn. A Rivers man aggressively reacted to a “jokingly demeaning” statement by one of the northern passengers. As it turned out, two of the northerners were security operatives—one belonging to the Navy, and the other, the police. As the offended Rivers man and the two officers exchanged words and threats, the atmosphere became very charged. It took the intervention of yet another military personnel in the bus to calm things. She sued for peace and then threatened to arrest any belligerent person. All the parties gave themselves some sense and sheathed their vocal swords.
As we proceeded, we came into Kogi State to witness an event that was equally interesting and annoying. Supporters of the newly declared Governor-elect were celebrating on the streets of Okene. In their euphoria, they decided to restrict movement on the roads. Apparently, the joys of a minority group clinching the state’s top job was enough to punish travelers who could not have voted and likely have no interest in the state’s politics. We lost over an hour crawling through the congested traffic caused by the broom-wielding celebrants. At some points, snails could easily have beaten our speed.
Thanks to the delay at Kogi State, by the time we reached Abuja, around 7pm, it was too late for me to achieve my primary aim for the journey. The person I was to meet had left. I now had to head sadly to my base in Kaduna State. God bless all the people of Kogi State. Yahaya Bello had better give them the dividends of democracy, or else!