Badagry to Cotonou
After the events in Going West To Go East, I woke up quite early on Monday morning at the Sycomore Hotel, Badagry, took a refreshing warm bath, ordered for warm water to drink my alkaline coffee. Then, I headed to the Badagry roundabout and boarded a Sienna car for Seme Border.
The fair was 300 Naira, which was quite fair for the distance and for the driver, because he carried three extra passengers. Four of us were crammed in the back and middle seats, and two in the front seat. The road was a lot better in this segment.
I have read a book titled “Creative Destruction”, but one irony I observed was that, in a bid to expand the road from Badagry to Mile 2 in Lagos, the road and buildings were destroyed to create a new road that has created so much chaos. There is this constant urge in humans for expansion and innovation; most times, the consequences of these innovations create so much destruction and chaos that you wonder if all these inconveniences are worth it, just like the Boeing 737 Max with its spate of destruction of lives in two tragic air crashes.
The old road was much smoother and less dusty. However, it definitely is under so much traffic especially when the border was open. If you must expand, please do it in such a way that is properly planned and quickly done to cause the least damage and inconveniences. One half of the road should have been expanded first and constructed; then, after completion, the other side could be worked on.
Just like in my post on Simulation and Sustainability, we built several steel mills and refineries at the same time, but none of them is functioning well. We still import fuel and steel. We built several airports and sea ports, but very few of them are utilised to full capacity or are even of international standards. We have several state and federal universities, but our children still migrate overseas to school. The same goes with the several teaching hospitals in Nigeria.
Grace and Power
I soon realised that the driver of the Sienna car was a military man. He was quite a very gentle man. I could see his wisdom of buying that car. Every day, he will be making an average of 6000 Naira gross, going to and returning from work. After expenses he should have about 4000 Naira. In a month, he could make more than his salary.
There were several checkpoints on the way from road safety officials, customs, police, and army officials. I don’t know how much other transporters pay at each ‘toll gate’, but we were waved on each time they realised our driver was a military man. That’s how we are supposed to be as Christians. Our journey through life is based on the grace of God through our wearing the identity and character of Christ.
Grace confers privileges and authority.
Grace confers boldness and diplomatic authority, as long as we have a right relationship with God.
We finally disembarked at the Conoil Fuel station at the Nigerian side of Seme.
Borders and Border Closures
The border closure by the Nigerian State has affected a lot of activities on the Nigerian side and the Republic of Benin side. Hotels on the Nigerian side were virtually empty because of gross reduction in activities at the border. The border used to be filled with activities, legal and illegal, normal and crazy.
I detest borders. Seme, like several border towns in Africa, is arbitrarily divided by colonial powers even though they are the same people. I felt the same way when I crossed from Busia in Kenya to Busia in Uganda. The case of Busia was quite different; they both speak Swahili and English. In the case of Seme, one side speaks English, the Republic of Benin side speaks French. The people look alike.
My dear friend, Mr Kenneth Mbakwe, had arranged for Pastor David to come and receive me at the border. He crossed over through the Benin side after speaking their language; when he got to the Nigerian side he spoke English and was allowed to cross over. He is married to a lady from Benin even though he is from Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria.
I always feel very vulnerable at international borders.
I had run out of airtime credit and I had to buy credit to call Pastor David. There were border touts all around me. I have had a terrible experience at this particular border, years back. I picked an Ibo speaking tout to help me buy recharge card. I gave him only 200 naira. Even if he absconded with it, I would not have lost much, my eyes were on my luggage and also on him. He eventually emerged with the recharge card. I loaded and called David. He was already at the ECOWAS building. Kalu, the man who bought the recharge card, offered to be my porter. He knows the terrain just like David but he knew the ground rules better.
I submitted my passport to an immigration officer of northern extraction and he held on to it demanding “mosquito allowance” for officer. A husband and wife had already given 1000 Naira for their passports. So I offered him 500 Naira. He still held on to my passport. He eventually managed to release it. No wonder hundreds of thousands of our young people turn out for recruitment into these agencies.
I had to go to the Benin counter, the gentle officer asked where I was headed, I told him I wanted to catch a flight to Douala. He asked for my profession, and I told him I was a medical doctor and missionary. He stamped my passport and wished me a safe trip. He did not demand for anything. I was informed that the President of Republic of Benin had come incognito to the border, arrested a few officers extorting money from travellers and issued orders that no officers should demand bribes from travellers. That is how to fight corruption.
Libreville International Airport
Not in A Hurry
We eventually crossed into Seme in Republic of Benin. Pastor David started negotiating for a cab to take us to the airport. Part of the vulnerability is that you don’t understand what they are saying. Secondly, since the currencies are different and the Francs sound so big in their thousands, I was confused. The most terrible experience I have had is in Madagascar; their currency is in tens of thousands for a few dollars. I opted to first take a taxi to central Cotonou, then hire a cab to the airport. David changed 5000 Naira and we had CFA francs in our hands. We had to wait for other passengers; after all, I had time.
The folks here are not in a hurry like Nigerians. The driver patiently waited for passengers. After about an hour, we were set to move. He had to get a few litres of fuel; apparently, fuel has become more expensive with the border closure. I always wonder why taxi drivers don’t usually have enough fuel in their cabs.
The drive towards Cotonou was very pleasant. The streets are wide, quite clean, and orderly; motor bikes had their own lanes along the major express road.
The thought of having a holiday home in Cotonou crossed my mind.
We finally arrived at central Cotonou and entered into another negotiation with the driver to take us to the airport. He agreed; and off to the airport we went
To be continued . . .