Tuesday, October 30, 2007
AIRPORTS AND OTHER STORIES I
The nature of my job involves a lot of traveling. I'm usually out of Lagos at least once in a month. Most of these journeys are made by air. In the last 6 months, I have been able to visit all the airports in the East - Benin, Owerri, Enugu, PH (NAF Base).
It is said that the airport is the easiest place to meet up with executives that you would not ordinarily have access to. You get to queue up with them, rub shoulders with them, even sit down beside them and strike up conversations with them. These "big men" would regard the fact that you are on their flight as a sign that you have achieved some form of personal success. A list of some of the "popular folks " I've flown with would include - Olisa Agbakoba,Senators Olorunnimbe Mamora and Ganiyu Solomon, Alhaji Arisekola Alao, Tunji Otegbeye, Sunny Nneji, Jumobi (RMD), Wild Child and Ibinabo Fiberesima
Air travel is regarded as the exclusive preserve of the rich in this country. It is supposed to confer an air of superiority on those who can afford it. It sets you apart from the rest of 'them' who only make do with seeing planes while they are in the skies. The ambience of the Airport Arrival and Departure lounges usually sets the stage for the 'Airport Mentality'. The scene begins as you alight from your vehicle, get your luggage from your boot and trolley your load into the departure lounge. Looking around serves as a form of education for the uninitiated. A quick walk into the departure section for the foreign airlines would reveal various innate characteristics of Nigerians. You get to see the community members who have put together money to send their beloved son for further studies abroad. This set of people can easily be identified by the large display of ethnic attires and endless torrent of prayers and advice for the (un)fortunate traveler. Another set you would see is that of young boys and girls who have come to see off their 'homeboy' whom the Gods have blessed with a visiting visa to some foreign country. This homeboy has probably been on the visa application thing for ages. He has tried under various guises - student, refugee, visitor, at last, an act of omission or commission at the foreign embassy leads to him getting a Visa. Another set could be that of the boyfriend who is going on a foreign trip escorted hand in hand by his girlfriend. They look like a scene out of a romantic movie as they push the trolley slowly on the check in queue.
A common denominator in all these groups is the penchant for individuals to respond to phone calls with "I'm at the International Airport/ Mo wa ni Airport bayii" as a replacement for the "Hello" Word.
A comedian once said the place you can see Nigerians put up their best behavior is at a Foreign embassy in Nigeria and on arrival at a Foreign Airport. These are places where you can give the Nigerian a good slap and he would delightfully turn the other cheek.
I have had various interesting flight experiences that I would like to share.
Something I've noticed about Nigerians on local flights is their penchant for sharing their experiences on foreign flights and comparing both of them. I was once on an Arik Air flight to Benin that was as turbulent as it could be. On that particular day, Arik Air was the only airline that operated from the Domestic Airport. Other airlines cancelled their flights. The Lagos - Benin flight usually takes 25mins, however we were onboard this flight for almost an hour. Terrible rain and lightning made us stay onboard the aircraft for about an hour before the plane could take off. During this period, the pilot was busy turning the plane around and "searching for network". At this stage, I was extremely disturbed. We later took off and headed towards Benin. On approaching the Benin Airport, all the elements of the weather came out in their full glory. The plane ride suddenly became as smooth as a bus ride on Ikotun-Ijegun road. The flight pattern changed to that of a sinusoidal wave. In the midst of the turbulence, some Tokunbo Nigerian behind me was running commentaries on how his flights from Texas to wherever were often bumpy. He kept yapping about how his flight from Madrid to wherever was also rough. Meanwhile, I was in front of him confessing all my wrongdoings from my time to the time of my great-grandfathers. The guy kept blabbing. The next thing was that the pilot announced that he had tried to land but couldn't see the runway and he would make another attempt. he also mentioned that in the event that his second attempt at landing was unsuccessful, we would return to Lagos. I was already shouting in my mind - My guy bone this thing, make we go back. I discovered at this point that Mr. Texas/Madrid behind me had gone quiet. I think he realised that heaven did not discriminate in its admission list. Your chances of surviving a plane crash have nothing to do with the extent of your travels. I almost lost hope when the chap beside me started singing hymns. We landed safely.
Something else I usually notice at the airports is the way rich/elite mothers and their kids relate. It is becoming commonplace to see Middle aged women, hippily dressed with low-neckline blouses revealing cleavages (better still remains of cleavages) strutting their stuff across the airport lounges. Not so far behind are their foreign looking kids who speak some gibberish that resembles the English language. The kids often come with exotic names like Isabella, Donatella, MichaelAngelo, Tarzan and Damendra. Imagine this conversation b/w the mother of such kids and her close family friend who she meets at the airport
Mother: Ah, Aunty Yetunde, E ka san , O to jo meta, Oju yin ree
Family Friend: Ijo kan pelu bawo ni
Mother: Hey, Kids , come and meet Aunty Yetty
Kids: Hi Aunty Yetty
Family Friend: Bawo ni o , Se dada lewa, Ah E ranti Aunty yi to n gbe ni Agege
kids: Mummy, Mummy, Where is Agaygay? Is Agaygay in Nigeria?
Mother: You know these kids, They really don't understand Yoruba, they only come
for vacation. Getting a Yoruba Teacher for them is so hard. All they know is
Family Friend: So what are your names?
Kids: My name is Tarzan, My name is Damendra
Family Friend: Iro Oruko Anjonu wo niyen, Jide and Dayo la ma pe awon omoyi keto ko won losi
...to be continued