It was the 25th of July 2009 and I was bound to travel to Lagos via Imo Airport with Chachangi Airlines for my onward travel out of the country the same day. Incidentally, The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was on his way to Imo State for the now celebrated defection of the state governor Chief Ikedi Ohakim from PPA to PDP.
For me it was not a big deal, the coming of the president is a party affair—coming to welcome a new convert—however, I was in for a shock. On my way to Imo Airport I observed that the ever-busy Douglas Road was a shelf of itself. It was a ghost street. Eke-ukwu owerri—one of the biggest and busiest market in Imo State—was locked. The governor has ordered that the market be shut for the coming of his Excellency the President! All buying and selling must wait till the President of Nigeria comes and goes and till Ikedi Ohakim completes his carpet-crossing. If you are aggrieved then go to court!
The deal was not done yet. As I veered towards the Airport I was met by a huge security set-up made up of the Police and the military. All vehicles heading towards the Airport were required to stop 2 miles away from the airport, whether you are traveling or seeing a relation off. We were forced to alight and walk all the way to the airport. Being sick and having lots of luggage, it was not a good experience. I had the courage to accost one of the military men to enquire what was going on, why should we stop so far away from the Airport just because the president will land at the Airport. His reply “I was sent from Abuja and I am doing my duty” my reply “why should our leaders treat us this way?” “I don’t know” came the reply. Well, Yaradua has sent me on a forced walkathon and I had to comply. After all, he is the commander-in-chief. The route of my walkathon was lined up by primary school students on uniform with paper-made Nigerian flags waiting to wave at the president. What! It is a Saturday morning and school children are dressed because of the president coming for a carpet-crossing!
Our flight was scheduled for 11:30 am. The flight was to arrive from Lagos and pick up the Imo passengers back to Lagos. The high point of the drama then came when the in-coming Chachangi Airplane was seen hovering around the Airport, reason, it was not allowed to land since the President was at the airport waving like an imbecile(eme onye ara conductor….). I learnt later that it was not only Chachangi that was not permitted to land, Arik Airplane was also being delayed just because the president was waving at his retinues. Well, since I started traveling and listening to the news, I only heard that flights were advised not to land because of bad weather or accidental situations but not because the president landed.
While aboard I had to vent my anger on one of the crew, he clearly told me that I saw that they were not allowed to land and again, they had to take-off late from Lagos since it was a clean-up day. Well, the clean –up seems a better but ridiculous excuse. We managed to land at the Lagos Airport around 2pm. I clearly knew that I have missed my flight bound for Qatar by 2.40pm. However, I got myself down to Murtala Mohamed International Airport, having wasted some minutes for baggage waiting and paying for Throlley! Well, the flight was at the tarmac and ready to take-off. You can blame me for not being in Lagos a day or two before my departure, at least I have a valid excuse, having being sick and having re-booked my ticket thrice, I had to travel less my ticket becomes invalid.
Yaradua having forced me to a walkathon now made me pay the sum of hundred and thirty-nine dollars of no-show. That is the Nigeria we are living in. The Nigeria of Vision 2020 and 7-points agenda!