News Opinion

Reporter’s Diary: Flying to Lagos

By MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM

The weather was misty. I prayed the flight would not be rescheduled. I prepared my luggage and set out so as not to miss my flight. I boarded the Adamawa sunshine bus at Gombe line park. And we took-off after 10 am.

After a series of questions to others on how far Adamawa state is from Gombe, I was quite okay knowing that I will not miss my flight scheduled for 5:30 pm later in the day, Allah willing.

We drove through the Gombe to Adamawa road. Not only bad but dusty, potholes littered roads. Having heard of the road condition before taking off, I was not too surprised with the bad condition of the road. Being my first time to Adamawa state, land of beauty, I learned it is a state next to Gombe but too far to reach due to poor road condition.

The said construction of the road was still on going. But the slow manner of the work was disgusting. For how long will it take the contractors to complete the road? One would have thought. We drove through that dusty road till we finally reached a tarred road again.

Arriving Jimeta, Yola

It was already afternoon when I arrived in Adamawa state. It was after 2pm that very February 8, 2020. I was going to board an air peace flight and depart Yola international airport at evening time for Lagos. I was happy that I had arrived ahead of my flying time.

Yola international airport, unlike Gombe’s own, is located in the town. I had to board a keke napep to  the airport after deboarding Adamawa sunshine bus at their park. A distance not long. 

Having arrived at the airport’s gate, I exchanged greetings with a security personnel. When one   immigration officer came passing in her vehicle, the security told me to join her and go in. She drove us into the airport.  

I looked for air peace officials and obtained my boarding pass. Upon the issuance of my pass, he asked me where I wanted to sit. I gave him the go ahead to select the best place for me. He selected the window seat for me. I have had enough time to pray and rest before the arrival of the flight.

It was after 5 pm. My colleagues had also arrived at the airport. We met and moved to the departure room as the flight touched down. We moved after well searched upon entering and exiting the lodge. We walked straight towards the flight. 

Flying

Inside the plane, there was a fair young fulani muslim woman with her baby sitting next to my seat. She was wearing a long hijab. As a muslim, I appreciated her mode of dressing. A female crew helped her to fasten her baby’s seat belt with hers. 

The crying baby made her not be comfortable. Until sleep took him away. I thought her baby was a  girl but she said it was my brother. That indicated that he was a boy. I was enjoying flying on air as some crew distributed snacks and juice. Then, It became more joyous as I took it.

We continued soaring into the sky. She asked whether I was stopping in Abuja or proceeding to Lagos when we landed at the Nnamdi Azikwe international airport, in Abuja. I told her that “I was heading to Lagos for a workshop.” I have not eaten since morning, so I collected snacks and juice for the second time.

I was wondering if those air peace pilots were not over speeding with us inside those clouds. Because they earlier announced the journey to Abuja from Yola to be 45 mins. However, a crew later announced the time spent was 40 mins instead of the time stated earlier.

She later asked me to help her reduce the power of the AC above her. It faced the direction of her baby. I don’t know how to. I turned to ask the person right behind my seat.

Unfortunately he was sleeping. I had to wake him up to help her. Happily, he did. Without any waste of time, he demonstrated to me using the AC above him. And I turned the one above the woman’s baby.

I enjoyed the window seat. I agreed that that air peace official chose the right seat for me as instructed. But the joy turned to fear. I was afraid  when I saw a black wielding spot on the plane wings. All my attention quickly turned to that particular portion of the wing.

My prayer was that the place do not become faulty. My fear grew when I noticed that the place is movable. It moves when the flight is taking off and landing as the bird’s wings do.

Touching Down at Murtala Mohammed International Airport

Upon landing, as she prepared to leave the flight  at Murtala Mohammed airport, she gave me one of her snacks packs- with juice. Having taken two of mine, I rejected hers and told her I was okay.  But she refused to take it back. In fact, she dropped it for me saying she was not taking it. I thanked her so much. Her husband appeared to help her with her bags.

I landed in Lagos at night. When the sun had  fallen. Darkness had veiled the sky. I saw how fluorescent lights descended everywhere right from the flight even before  touching down. Immediately I deboarded the flight, I moved to MM1 arrival lodge, unlike other airports lodges, it was big and beautiful. With tight security and more lights. 

Lagos, the former federal capital territory, looks different from other states of the federal republic of Nigeria more especially to a visitor at night.

I had in my mind that if Lagos was a city, really, I was going to see it by myself. The tall buildings, multiple lane roads, and congested traffic if were real, I would see.

Inside the arrival lodge, I saw her again sitting with her baby on a seat. I was answering a call from home. But I finally bade her farewell after her husband got their remaining luggage for them. This was my encounter with a kind Fulani woman on board from Yola to Lagos.

I didn’t intend to bring her story here but decided to do it. I believe it will show my reader a good image of the Fulani people. Though she didn’t tell me her ethnic group, I have heard her speaking Fulfulde to her baby. From her complexion, she was fair. And Yola is known as a Fulani state.

Departing the Lodge

On departing the lodge, at the threshold, I  met taxi drivers all running towards us, our team from north east.

Everyone was calling us to board his taxi. The manner was unusual to us. That was Lagos, we didn’t trust anyone of them. We heard of kidnapping, frauds, and other illegal acts in Lagos before. We talked to one airport staff so that he would link us with real drivers. Not fake ones. 

He led us to the parking area. There I saw Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, and other expensive cars that I couldn’t even remember their names. Those cars were for taxi purposes.  I looked with astonishment. Lagos people kept on shouting, each of them trying to get passengers.

I sat in the front seat of one Toyota Camry. The driver fastened his seat belt and asked me to do the same. I was surprised and wanted to ask “was there Nigeria?” Then the second surprise came when he turned on the car AC. That was when we departed the airport to the Grand Venice Transit Apartment, our hotel.  

After all these surprises, I understood that the high cost of transportation is common in Lagos. However, one would enjoy his payment.

Driving on Lagos road, at night was so sweet and lovely. The lights, both dim and full, and car horns made the journey a pleasant one. The tall buildings kept me busy. I was glancing at them and the street TV adverts.

Arriving My Destination

Fear surrounded me when we reached a gate. After a series of horns by the driver, a security opened. The place didn’t look like a hotel. Nothing like a parked vehicle. And there was still Lagos, the centre of commerce. I became calm when a voice from the back seat said we have arrived at our hotel, Grand Venice apartment. Then we moved forward and parked at the parking area, where I  finally agreed that we were in a hotel, yes.

Unlike the doors I have seen, that door used a censor. As we approached the entrance, the door opened. Today in Lagos, at night, a door opened automatically. Technology.

I used the lift to the 3rd floor. The hotel staff led us to our room. What we used to see in films that day I saw it in reality. The door didn’t use key, metal key. But a card. It read and opened. He entered first, turned on lights and TV. Showed us the toilet and he departed. I kept my bag on a table inside the room.

While taking a glance around the room, a telephone rang. My room partner picked, he didn’t understand hausa, so he handed it over to me. It was our coordinator calling to ask if all was okay.

In Search of a Mosque

I went out to look for a mosque. It was Lagos. The hotel security directed me to the nearest mosque. I stepped out on Lagos street at night. A street well interlocked. Unlike my state, everywhere, there were gates. I followed the direction but the place looked too quiet, the gate man also told me I was on the right way to the mosque. I was wearing a kaftan.

An identity of a northerner. I know southern Nigeria, anything can happen. I stopped and turned back. I was not comfortable to continue going deep into a dark strange place.

On my way back to the hotel, I asked someone if there was any mosque around. To my surprise, he spoke hausa. He pointed to the direction I came from but added that “it should be closed by now.”  He showed me the place they prayed across the street. 

I crossed amidst vehicles passing. I met the man inside his shop, luckily, a hause man too from the north also. He gave me water to perform ablution. I told him I have performed already. I went to the mat and started praying as one man was making phone calls.

I didn’t know that I was praying in the wrong direction. Until one man came passing and told me that I was not facing the qibla. I turned immediately. Continued praying. I remembered the guy I met making gestures while I was praying but I couldn’t comprehend it.

It was after 12 am. Lagos at night, streets still not quiet. Cars and pedestrians continued moving. Life hustles continued. Businesses continued unlike my state. I asked if police won’t come patrolling and arrest people. But I was answered no.

At Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, GRA, on the workshop day, I interacted with a good number of student-journalists from various tertiary institutions drawn from all parts of the country.  These include Adejumo Kabir, Mohammed Yakub, Fasilat Oluwuyi, Kafilat Taiwo, Samuel Ajala, İbrahim Adeyemi, Hassan Abdulsalam and many more.

Not only them, legal practitioners, including journalists like Oluwatosin Alagbe and others were present. She had presented on how to write a human angle story.

After learning from the various presenters, we had our lunch at the hotel’s restaurant. Where both foreign and local food were available. I also sighted a white man inside with his plate of leaf as food.

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