Heading South

Heading South.
Nigeria, as we know, is a very big country geographically and population wise. A country with thirty-six states and two hundred and fifty ethnic groups, the versatility in culture and language is expected.

For the sake of our international readers, I’ll explain a few things about Nigeria. We have six geopolitical zones in Nigeria; North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South, and South West. Each zone has about six to seven states under it and each state has their unique language, dialect, intonation, dressing, food etc.

I will be talking about my journey to the South-South; Akwa Ibom the land of promises.
May 2017, I was getting ready to go for my mandatory one year service of my fatherland and at the same time preparing to travel to Ekiti for my uncle’s wedding.

The latter I really wanted to go for because it had been ages since I’d seen my cousins and grandparents. So after sewing my aso-ebi and packing my bags, I got a mail from the clarion urging me to go serve my fatherland. I was a bit sad, but the clarion call was more important than going to my uncle’s wedding so I started to get ready.

Again for the sake of our international readers, I’ll explain what I am talking about. In Nigeria, after graduating from any tertiary institution, you are mandated to serve the country. The program is called National Youth Service Corps, NYSC for short. You are posted to another state different from the one you live in or originated from. It is more like joining the army but instead you get lodged in a camp with thousands of other people, then you do military drills and learn a skill for three weeks before you are appointed a place where you would work for a whole year.

According to my mom, the service year used to be fun and still is for some people. But with the recent security issues, we have been having in the country, people are usually scared to travel to some states for the fear of being kidnapped or massacred. That is why most people try to manipulate their posting to a more secure state and I am one of those people.

My mom and dad made sure they talked to people in high places to get me posted to Lagos like my older brother but all efforts proved abortive. So I headed south.

On the 21st of May 2017, I woke up at 4 am and got ready to catch the morning bus. My brother and mom drove I and two of my friends to Jibowu to board a God is Good bus heading to Akwa-Ibom. We got there 6:30 am because the bus was supposed to leave by 7 am, but we didn’t take off till 10 am. I had mixed feelings about traveling. it was going to be my first time traveling that far. I grew up in Lagos and I’d only traveled to all the states in the South West and one in the North West which I traveled to by air and spent just 24hrs.

We got on the road and started driving, the AC was on, I got acquainted with the other prospective corp members. I was a bit antsy because I didn’t get the window seat. We drove for about forty-five minutes before we took a right turn. I was confused at first because every time I have traveled, we drive straight until we get to Ibadan and that is where we start making turns. But my friend was kind enough to explain to me that we were on the right track and Ore is the road you take to get to our destination.

We got to a place in Ore – which I am told is in Ondo- and made a stop, it was a regular spot were all travelers stopped to use the toilet or eat, stretch their legs. The place had a lot of people trying to sell you different things; it also had a restaurant that had almost everything. They had all kinds of food and drink, traditional dish, continental dish, pastries and so on. Everyone got down from the bus, some went to pee, some to eat and some to shop. I made sure I did all three. When we were done, we got back into the bus to continued our journey which was supposed to take twelve hours. I slept through Benin so I don’t know exactly what it looked like but my friend woke me up to look at the Niger bridge when we got to Delta.

It wasn’t much of a sight to behold, but it was a bridge I’d heard so much about and it even had mentions in nursery rhymes so I was glad I was able to see it.

Next stop was Imo state. We had already passed Onistha and I was a bit upset that I didn’t get to see the famous Onitsha market but I got over it very quickly. The stop we made in Imo state was so the guys could pee.

Note; Ladies be sure not to load up on liquids when traveling long distances. Unlike men, we are not that privileged to pee comfortably anywhere.

The guys finished their business and we continued the journey. At this point, I had started to feel uneasy and claustrophobic. God is Good motors had a rule for their drivers not to go beyond 100 on the speedometer but it felt to me like this guy was driving on 20. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus and all the women on the bus including myself started to complain about finding a place to pee so we made a stop at Umuahia.

The driver advised us all to get all the pee out of our system because that was the last stop before our destination. The restaurant where we made a stop was too expensive and I had little money left on me so I just sat and watched the others eat.
We spent thirty minutes at the restaurant before continuing our journey, and by the time we got to Uyo it was dark and I was unable to see her beauty until three weeks later when I left camp. In (the camp which was located in Nsit Atai), I barely ate the kitchen food because most of the food they served was disgusting so I turned to mami market for my meals. And I had a lot of noodles, white soup, Atama soup, and Edikian kong.

As a Yoruba girl who loves pepper, the food was not that satisfying because of little pepper or the lack of it, so I always found myself chewing gum after every meal.

Three weeks later we left camp and I was posted to Uyo, it was a beautiful place to be. Not as crowded and as dirty as Lagos. Everyone was so respectful; once you enter public transport everyone in it will greet you.

They were also kind to non-indigenes and didn’t take advantage of our JJC status, but it is very expensive. I think it comes third in the most expensive place to live in Nigeria. Prices of accommodation were through the roof, I also saw them package four tomatoes for two hundred nairas.

Other places in Akwa-Ibom were not so expensive, but you see Uyo and Eket, those two places are crazily expensive. If I had been posted to places like Nsit-Atai, Nsit-Ibom, Oron, I would have survived. Uyo would have been a place I would love to live in if I could afford but I just couldn’t afford it so I packed my bag and ran back to Lagos to manage with my parents till I would get a job and gather enough money to return to Uyo.

So if you ever find yourself going South, make sure you take a plane if you can’t sit in a spot for more than five hours, and also take a lot of money.

Read Also: Mishi

Written by Alexandra Opeyemi

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