By: Samuel Oloyede Oriowo (Publisher/Editor-in-Chief)
Covering the activities of Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, South-South Zone for NATA News magazine on Thursday 21st June, 2018 was a pleasant assignment.
A phone call I put through to Comrade Boniface Chukwu, the ebullient NATA National Deputy General Secretary, who is based in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State capital on Monday 18th of June, 2018; the second day of Nigeria’s Public Holiday for the last Eid-El Fitri jolted me into actions.
Though the call was meant to ask for how our magazine NATA News was doing in the market in Rivers State, but as he informed me that NATA, South-South Zone would be holding its Second Zonal General Meeting in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, Nigeria on Thursday 21st June, 2018, I became a bit unease; for the simple reason that the date was close by.
As yours sincerely had earlier planned to move round the NATA six zones of North West, North East, North Central, South West, South-East and South-South; I grabbed the opportunity of the immediate meeting to make up my mind to be in Calabar for the meeting at all cost.
I quickly put another call to the NATA National Vice President for the South-South Zone, Comrade Simeon Edet Toms who confirmed same.
Therefore the following day (Tuesday), I put some things in order and booked ahead for a land-transportation to move on Wednesday 20th of June, 2018.
However, by 10 minutes past 5am that fateful Wednesday I arrived at Ojuelegba office of Akwa Ibom Transport Company Limited with which I headed for Calabar with other passengers by 7:00am.
It was a ‘blessed’ experience seeing the rich land mass of Nigeria; the cities along the route, towns and villages through Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Imo. Abia, Akwa Ibom and (finally) Cross River State.
The stop-over just before Benin City By-Pass (in Edo State) for our breakfast was a good time to taste cultural food from another area of Nigeria; different from the Yoruba stuff I had been used to. The food there was not as costly as the ‘rubbish’ sold in Lokoja (capital of Kogi State) for passengers traveling to Abuja enroute the Confluence City.
You spend at the mercy of the drivers that dump passengers at designated food outlets along the roads; where they were usually served free food.
The food in Benin was so delicious that one of the passengers with whom we were travelling to Calabar ate too much to his satisfaction that he later messed up the bus with heavy vomit.
The action brought to memory of journeys made with little kids and or women who could not bear the smell of petrol while commuting that they had to throw-up; severally.
The state of Nigerian bad Roads; most especially the Eastern Roads had its effect on the journey that would have lasted about 10 hours dragging to almost 14 hours before we reached Calabar.
Assignment completed on Thursday 21st June, 2018 I had to seize the opportunity of the visit to stay back on Friday to move round the city to acclimatize a little bit.
In all honesty, Calabar is a beautiful city to behold; with its well laid out tarred roads on both sides of which are planted tress that provided shades for the roads and passers-by.
You would first be confused if the city was not a village with bushes interloping very fine houses and enterprises. Countless churches and viewing centers; cum restaurants as well as hotels dominated the beautiful landscape.
However, cost of lodging and feeding were bearably moderate.
The activities of the Vehicle Inspection Officers and the Federal Road Safety Corps were noticed as they were in strategic places checking motorists and commercial cabs.
As for night security, one believes that the state government headed by Senator (Prof Ben Ayade) still needs to up its acts as a briefly visit to White House Club in the city center on Thursday Night was eventful; as sounds of gun shots awoken my senses of nearness to the Niger Delta district.
Alas, the gun shots were coming from the hard guys on the streets that attacked one of the brothers of NATA Cross River State Chapter Chairman, Comrade Archibong Udoh, who was coming to the club to join us.
Every one of us; NATA officials that were directed there for dinner had to hurriedly left for our hotels.
The football loving aspect of the people of Calabar was however witnessed when Nigeria played and trashed Ice-Land 2: 0 in an encounter at the ongoing World Cup Tournament in Russia.
During the tango, the whole roads were near empty of cars as everybody sat expectantly to see Nigeria win the game.
To be sincere, yours truly does not watch football games. When the duel started I was busy enjoying myself with a bottle of wine. But the loud shouts of ‘A Goal!!! After Nigeria scored its first goal propelled me to move inside the ‘joint’ to be part of the ‘historical’ moment.
The second goal was widely received with ecstasy and the final whistle by the Referee thrown the city to jubilant patriots; singing, dancing, hugging and sharing drinks of all brands.
Meanwhile, the trip to Calabar was purely for assignment and yours truly had to return to base (Lagos). But considering how tortuous and painstaking the journey to the city was, I had to opt for traveling back to base by air.
Armed with an Air Peace Airline ticket, I headed to Margaret Ekpo Airport at about 2:00 pm for the 2:50pm flight that could’t take off until 3:30pm.
To God’s glory and accolades for the young pilot, we landed safely at local wing of Muritala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos at exactly 4:00pm.
In all sincerity, it was an exciting trip to and from Calabar, capital of Cross River State where the six states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers State Chapters of Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association met in a move to move their association forward.
Will I wish to return to Calabar one of these days?
Many thanks to those friends that constantly chatted me up and those that phoned to ask after my welfare when I was in Mary Slessor’s liberated city.
Comrade Funso Amosu of Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, Ilasamaja Mechanics Village Unit, Lagos, you are highly appreciated!
God bless you all!
• Samuel Oloyede Oriowo is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of NATA News magazine; Executive Producer of NATA News TV; and the President of Automobiles And Road Safety Initiative. He can be reached on telephone: +2347083808902