Writing The Journey : From Lagos to Lome by Nike Ojeikere

Posted: November 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm

And so today, Tuesday , November 3, 2009, we set out from Lagos. All ten of us -Dreadlocked Driver, Lead. Win. Succeed, Blackbraids, Cap67, Cap Nike, Chicken Feathers, Resource Control, Dreadlocked Kangol, Sports Casual and Curly Curly. Hope rises… We gun down the road unstopped by the invisible internal borders of Lagos- traffic jam! Dreadlocked Kangol keeps warning Cap Nike to go easy on his recordings because he fears that the battery will run out pretty soon. “You think you are going to Aba?” In the background, Yvonne Chaka Chaka belts “Im Burning Up” in robust contralto.

The chaos of Lagos recedes. Palm trees sprout on the roads suddenly and there’s a burst of mellow greens. We come upon relatively unspoiled territory. Fresh air hits our face from the Atlantic. It dawns by intuition that we are in Badagry! The town whose flavour is peppered with coconuts, vast beaches, “the Ahonu Menu Toyi” and the first storey building ever built in Nigeria.

We speed along the coastal road trying to capture the plain and picturesque, plus landmarks and directional signs -symbols of transition from one place to the next. “Slowdown a little’” we admonish Dreadlocked Driver. But Dreadlocked Driver can’t hear a thing we say. He’s coasting merrily on the wings of excitement… z-oooo-ming to Bamako

Gullies suddenly begin to erode the road. Camera’s keep clicking quickly – or trying to. We are all determined to do justice to the iconic hallmarks of the project. Soon shanties erupt along the road like heat rash on the skin. Buses, people, trade and noise takes over – “Lagos” appears to be happening to us again.

It’s not Lagos. We are at the Communede Seme, Togo. “Bienvenue” greets a blue and white friendly sign post. Hardly the different from the Lagos heartland. Only now, there’s disorderly order. And a different buzz of noise”.

“No clicking of cameras here” the more experienced amongst us whisper. The border Officials are averse to it! One of us proceeds to click surreptitiously. It is Sports Casual. Our Director of Espionage. He surreptitiously records the sound of transition- the Invisible Borders of the voice and thought and perception that cameras may not adequately capture.

And so we wait at the border. We wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. We wait. We, passport – holding members of the CEDAO. The Economic Community of West African States. We wait. We wait. We wait… for Godot. At the border.

We drink coffee. We eat French bread for breakfast. We wonder at the delay. We stress. We laugh. We critique and criticize. Some threaten active rebellion. We argue. We wait. And then, we play ball and pay heftily for our passage. We pay official and unofficial taxes at the border. We arrived Seme Border at 10.00Am. We are permitted entry to Seme at 12.05 PM.

Unbeknownst to us… waiting would be the constant feature at all borders up to Lomé- from where this blog is being written. And paying- for both legal and illegal taxes to gain legal passage through…

Corruption is quite clearly an invisible border that stands in the way of free passage of ECOWAS peoples. A monster of division and disillusion.

Sitting here this lovely night, in the serene ambience of the Hotel GHIS PLACE, amongst kindred spirits, it becomes quite clear, that at the end of the thunderstorm comes a silver lining.

We have had a hectic journey, our vehicle has suffered mistaken identity- the attendant mistakenly pumped diesel into our petrol powered van and that set bus back by two hours, so that we couldn’t reach Aflao today. But no matter. We are happily ensconced in the comforts our brotherhood, and sisterhood, and the night.

Will we wait yet again at Aflao tomorrow? And pay? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Whatever happens, our spirits will not break. We will continue to click merry cameras, make great images, cross invisible borders and write the journey…

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