It was an unusual decision. Travelling and Tripping by road in Nigeria is not just a nightmare but an experience in self understanding. One cannot over emphasize the notion that the problem with Nigeria is mirrored in how we do the small things and react to it.
The New kid on the block, when it comes to Road travel is the God is Good Motors (GIGM). They have brought some innovations about road tripping, that has caught the attention of frequent travellers as myself. Before today, I have used them twice, mostly trips from Aba to Lagos, mainly because I wasn’t in a hurry and it would just drop me off in front of my house. This would help me cut the cost of the airport taxi and the long unusual traffic from the airport.
However, this Lagos to Aba trip as far as it goes is not a comfy trip, nor dose it go anywhere near the huge hype about the efficiency of the company. I went on Sunday to inquire about getting a ticket, and was told by a rather quirky girl behind the counter, that I can only book online… Making online sound as a kind of lottery where a million awaits who so ever dose that. Well, I tried the online booking and lo and behold, I was impressed by what I was seeing. First if you open a free account, you get a rebate each time you buy. Then you are given a choice of seats, and a choice between being picked up or joining the bus from the station.
I picked my seat, declined from being picked and bought my ticket. Well, that was easy I figured and looked forward to the exciting journey. My job, is both to make the trip, report on what my experiences are and at the same time introduce others to the company. I am 7 hours into a trip I usually make in my own car for about 5 or 6 hours and am no where near my destination.
The bus is announced for 7am. And check in ends 30 minutes to the time. Fair enough. For a country that hates efficiency, that ticked the right box for me again. Living not too far from the station, I figured I would be there before the close of check in. But I came in by 6:40 and I was told I am late. Not just late, but that they thought I wasn’t going to be there. Seriously? Has the bus gone? No the reply came, we are still loading. Ok. On further inquiry I found out my seat has been sold, reassigned and told to manage somewhere else. What? Manage?
Well this is Nigeria. Sparkle and darkness are twin brothers here. You dazzle with the hype and fail to deliver. That has been our story as a people and as a country and the consequences has been a collosal failure. I am now the one begging and pleading to have a place. The hurdle was a high one for me to jump. However I had to make the trip. Deadline calls. I joined other not too happy passengers as we wait, struggle and cajole to get seated and baggages loaded. The bus is an utility vehicle. Not built for heavy loads, but simply to convey people with light overnight baggages.
Before I got any cue or clues on what is happening, there were already boxes forced into the bus, under the seats, from the back and just about every where, with space. The chatter, arguments and insults started flying when it came to take our sets. People aren’t in control of where they would seat anymore. One passenger had her bag in one seat and sat elsewhere. Others wanted a place, anyplace, but not the back. This took like about 20 or so minutes beyond the departure time. Yet I was late by 10 minutes and got sent to beg to be taken. What’s the punishment for the company for defaulting by 20 minutes? I guess nothing.
After expending our early morning energies, we all filed in, and I was stuck at the back seat, on the alley way, purportedly to give me some leg room. I was about getting back my positive feelings about the company considering that they were going to send the languages I saw by waybill as they said, only to be shocked that the whole alleyways was filled with the baggages allowing for no leg room and creating an awkward situation where if there was any emergency, we all are stuck to our fate. And the way it is, we are surrounded by baggages and Windows stuck and locked. Emergency? Then we are caput.
The vehicles are advertised as airplanes on wheels. Fully equipped and fully air-conditioned. I am not sure what to believe anymore. All my previous trips with them I had always insisted and paid for the front seat. Probably the experience I am getting seating at the back, had been there all along without me noticing it. Well, at the back, stuck in a seat I hardly can move either my lower back or my legs, I have the added bonus of getting a bus the air-conditioning is poor and simply horrible. I picked the wrong time to make this trip I guess.
The driver is both rough and running as if nothing is at stake. The vehicle is in a bad shape. And like one elderly passenger commented, “I noticed that they tied one of the tyres with a rope, there’s no TV and no comfort “. This coming from someone, I figured had been a frequent traveller. The cabin is stuffy. A danger to the health of everyone.
The trip was simply a nightmare. Ending up in Aba very late at night and with no will to complain or reflect.