DIARY

How I trekked from Uyo to Port-Harcourt (Pt. 2)

(Read Part 1 here before Part 2)

Tears from my eyes, I dey cry

Immediately my eyes were opened (read how this happened here), I started updating my WhatsApp family so that my people would know exactly where I was and what’s going on.

“This people must be joking, what do they mean by going back to where we came from?” said the woman behind me.

Passengers from other vehicles were leaving their cars/buses and forming minicircles for discussion. I was still sitting in the car with my head outside the window observing cos what can a girl do at this point?

Meanwhile, while at the Bridge, we (myself and other passengers in the Sienna) saw one rich looking man making a serious call that made his face contort and we settled for the fact that he was a big government guy. I noticed I’ve not seen his flashy car yet and pointed it out to others, so we started praying that the man’s arrival would cause them to open the tollgate of drums painted in yellow, blue, and green for us to pass.

The man came around 8 pm alongside a white coaster bus without plate numbers and two police escort vehicles. The driver of the white bus asked me before he parked if I was going to Port Harcourt and I affirmed. When he parked his bus, he came down to talk to me and said the Governor said that the border block would run for three days bla bla. Although the man was being really cool, I was really uninterested because I didn’t really know he was ten steps into PH heaven than I was not until I saw the white bus driver go back to the bus after few minutes and drive away… They had opened the toll gate for them. Yepa!

Fellow passengers felt I did not use my opportunity well or I would have followed the man out and all. The incident kept replaying in my head and truly, I wished I asked the man if I could join them and I regretted keeping my mouth shut.

People were still walking around the road, some like my driver went on towards the palm wine stand beside the tollgate to eat garri and white soup or to buy soft drinks, gala, and sweet. I continued to hold on to my faith that we would leave tonight. Meanwhile, I don’t know if its a psychological thing but I noticed that when the crowd started forming and people were basically rubbing bodies, my face started itching me seriously (maybe cos sitting beside the window gave me more time to imagine zombie apocalypse, I dunno).

My scalp is usually the place I have issues with but today, my nostrils, eyelids, forehead were all itchy so I decided I’ll not come down from the car for any reason at all so as to minimize touching any other surface and still touching my face with my hands again. Frankly speaking, in my head, I was in a scene from Chimamanda’s Half of a yellow sun because I could see a number of women walking around with their little children, I even saw one breastfeeding mother and I could only imagine how the battle against mosquitoes would be for her. At this point food, water and whatever was on sale had finished. Sighs

E don happen

Around 8pm, while I was still putting updates on my WhatsApp status, my seat partner who I had been gisting with made a statement about paying N3500 from Uyo to the end of Akwa-Ibom state and it made me laugh cos that was the truth. It actually also made me do some serious mathematics and I discovered we paid N35,000 in all for this journey and I told him so. This made him suggest we talk to the driver and plead with him to refund a little of our money by tomorrow if the soldiers still insisted on not letting us through and all in the car agreed.

On the arrival of the driver, he pleaded with the driver politely after rubbing it in that our situation at the moment was not the driver’s fault in any way but that since the majority of us didn’t have extra money thanks to the increased transport fare; the driver should help us with a little support for us to continue our journey on our own if need be.

The driver was angry and kept shrieking that if we had any problem we should call the phone numbers on our ticket and not disturb him as he was only given N3000 to fuel his car from the money. I smiled at the lie immediately it came because our vehicle was not company registered and also the driver did not part with money to any policeman on our way coming so I just had to dismiss him as drunk.

At this point, we had to look for another alternative, my seat partner was of the opinion that everyone in the bus that was interested should prepare to leave the bus by 5 am and walk to the other side of the road where the buses that planned on leaving PH for Uyo were at, his plan was that we would join any of them that decided to turn back to their transport park if the soldiers failed to let us through and since he had no hand luggage at all, he offered to help me cross over to the other side with one of my travel bags. I set my alarm for 5 am just in case.

The moment the second set of scales left my eyes

At 9.14 pm after asking my friends to minimize their calls to save my 12% battery, I noticed that a number of private vehicles were allowed to pass with some mothers, and their children from other buses were attached to these vehicles. Thank God (Only some of them had to leave their luggage’s behind in their buses with the hopes of getting it later when the buses finally arrive their parks).

It was certain that we’ll be sleeping on the road tonight as it was already 10 pm. I had to mentally tick sleeping on the road, sleeping with strange people and sleeping like a refined IDP camp member in the goal board of my head cos…I was actually very grateful that I had the luxury of sleeping in a Sienna as opposed to leaving a bus and sleeping on the road because of crowd stench or heat.

My seat partners were sitting outside the car so I had the opportunity of stretching on the seats to sleep. I wouldn’t really call that sleep cause my phone, laptop, cash were on my mind as they were just in bags under my seat. Not long afterward, one of them returned to sleep so I had to readjust to look for a little comfortable position. Amidst the continuous shifting and face scratching, I drifted off.

It was past 1 am when I woke up to the sound of revving engines and rowdy movements. I was wondering what was happening only to see big trucks conveying food items being allowed to pass. The driver claimed that if we had foodstuff in the boot we would pass too, it was later we found out it was a large quantity foodstuff and not one-man use and so the half bag of garri and a small keg of palm oil our hope was on was automatically disqualified. We didn’t have to mourn too long as the army men who were having period mood swing (maybe) changed their mind and insisted everyone settle down so all ignitions were turned off and we went back to sleep.

By 5 am, the noise was back as people were leaving their buses and walking to the other side of the road. I woke up to discover that my seat partner had long gone along with two other male passengers, someone said he had gone to join a bus at the other side so I decided to go check out what that other side looked like carrying one of my travel bags along. I convinced one of the girls on my bus, (let’s call her Bee) to accompany me.

When we got to the other side of the road, it was clear that the queue on the side of the road I came from was a joke compared to what I saw here cos this side was clearly over-packed with transport buses, private cars, market trucks, fuel/water tankers, etc. The place was swarming with people, such that there was no space to walk through without pushing and squeezing. I left my bag on the median strip (the space between the two sides of a highway) with Cee, another girl from our car who was already ready to go.

When shooting my shot turned me to a fish

We went back to our bus to pick my second travel bag and discovered our boot locked, by the time we found the driver, it was already past 6 am. The driver tried to convince us to stay that it would be resolved soon and we’ll be let to pass. He didn’t need to convince me further as a soldier thundered almost immediately;

“Everybody get into your cars, drivers turn on your ignition and stand in a queue”

Ohhh…what joy, people started running back to their various buses, even people that had moved to the other side of the road started coming back with their luggage and all. We were so happy, finally! At this point we were five left in the Sienna other than the driver; Bee, two other guys, the woman behind me and myself.

The driver reminded us that his last bus stop was at Oil Mill, this gave me so much hope cos I felt he would just abandon us and return to Uyo at some point but he reassured us that his family lives in PH and so he would not be going back to Uyo for any reason until after the Covid 19 border saga. I immediately started my calculations and since I didn’t want extra stress, I planned on using Bolt once I got to Oil mill to take me home and the ride fare was N2300 which was good seeing that I was already so tired (N2300 plus the N3500 I paid earlier just for a three-hour journey…it’s well).

All settled, I was thankful to God for having money left over when we realized our car engine has been steaming for about 30minutes and there were people moving around with cameras taking our pictures (journalists), my heart broke! These army people were using up to catch trips.

Other people noticed too and started leaving their buses angrily and moving again with their luggage, this time without fear even though it was already past 7 am. We also realized then that the soldiers were not allowing any car/bus to even reverse to where they were coming from so basically we were stuck. Those going to Uyo from PH started walking down the bridge with their luggage (they had better luck cos once they get down the bridge, there is a tendency for okadas to be around).

My dad called to check up on me at this point and since we were already stuck i.e no going back, no moving forward, I saw no sense in getting my parents to come pick me cos, first of all, this place was about an hour thirty minutes drive (give or take) from my house and I didn’t want to keep waiting and secondly, they’ll have to join the queue of the cars trying to leave PH and end up being stuck so I felt it was a not a reasonable move. I had to find a way out myself.

At past 8 am, the soldiers had started allowing other trucks, cars carrying a large quantity of foodstuffs to pass. The guy parked in front of our Sienna with a Hilux vehicle had just negotiated with two women returning from the market to help carry their smoked fish so they could all pass. I had sworn I was not going to allow soap to enter my eyes twice so I told the man that ‘me too, I be fish‘ and so I should be joining them.

The man laughed and agreed so when the women came back with two okadas carrying their racks of smoked fish, I helped them with arranging it in the boot. I went on to bring my luggage from the Sienna before the man told me that so as not to make the soldiers suspect anything, I’ll have to walk with my luggage to the other side of the Port Harcourt expressway where they’ll pick me from when they’ve long passed the checkpoint. He also told the women to go ahead and inform the soldiers that they had perishable foodstuff in the car so they can inspect and then let them pass.

Judas Iscariot

Just then, the only woman in the Sienna (that had been doing I-don’t-care) asked me to beg the Hilux driver on her behalf to put her half bag of garri too in the boot so she could join us. I did but the driver did not agree, he said he had space for only three at the back (for myself and the two other women) and he didn’t want anyone to sit in the front passenger’s. The driver of the Sienna even had to join me in begging before he accepted and kept the garri in his boot, stating that I’ll sit in front.

I started walking swiftly with the woman to the place where they said they’ll pick us from; which was a long walk from where our buses were stationed. I was carrying one travel bag, a totebag containing my laptop and my sling bag and I was also supposed to carry the other travel bag I dropped off earlier on the other side so I begged the woman to help me carry one bag (read as my laptop bag) since she only had a handbag on and I was struggling with four heavy bags but she refused so I had to pass over the one I kept earlier and continue walking.

Just then the Hilux driver passed us with the two other women inside and they told us to keep coming forward (the distance between where I left my bag and where I was had grown) and then I begged the woman again to help me with one bag so I could go and pick the other one I left behind up and mama didn’t respond to me but instead started running towards the Hilux (but we got there at the same time though), the driver was waiting for us and I pleaded he let me pick the bag I left on the road but he just said he couldn’t wait and drove off…

I honestly did not understand the kind of rage I felt, not for the driver but for the woman I had earlier helped, I was so bitter and in severe pains from my shoulders, hands, and legs aching but I just proceeded to go back and carry my other bag. When I got back, I just sat on the bags and stretched my legs out to the road. At this point, I was both tired and clueless; being miles away from my bus, I couldn’t go back and I didn’t have the strength to move forward either. My battery was at 7% and calls were still coming in, I was just lashing out at anyone that called.

Bee came by when I was picking up my bag and was surprised I had not gone yet, I told her what happened and she was also shocked and angry at the behaviour of the woman. Whilst still sitting on the road, I saw Bee and two other guys from our Sienna pass by with their luggage and we said our goodbyes and good luck. Tired of sitting and thinking, I decided to walk with them instead of just struggling on my own so I mustered all the strength I could and carried all four bags at once trolling behind them. (The four bags were no big of a deal but I was both exhausted/famished mentally and physically)

The saviour called the soldier

I saw them cross over the median strip to the other side of the road where cars leaving PH queued and they were putting their luggage in another Sienna. I practically started running to meet up with them, and asked the driver if there was still space for me. When he said yes, I dropped my luggage for him to arrange and jumped into the car. There was already one woman in it, alongside Bee, the two boys and another girl. The driver after packing in our luggage announced that he would be stopping at Eleme Junction and started collecting our transport fare of N1000 cash (no bank transfer), and told those that did not have up to 1k to come down.

The two guys with Bee came down, one of them was with N700 and the other did not have any cash on him at all (Bee even topped up his transport fee of N3500 with the hope that he’ll refund the money when in PH). The other girl begged that she had N800 when he reversed and zoomed off into Port Harcourt Expressway with the luggage of one of the guys still in his boot. We kept begging the driver to calm down and help the guy since he was still running after the car till he agreed and waited for the guy to get in and he got the N700 from him. We still muttering painfully about the other guy that was left behind on our way out.

After listening to Bee’s story about the other guy not having money at all, the driver parked by the road and asked if anyone had the guy’s phone number so we could get through to him and wait for him but unfortunately, no one did, not even Bee and so we had to sadly continue our journey. The driver and the woman were particularly pained, the driver because he initially thought the guy was lying and the woman because the guy just came down from the bus without even complaining or begging.

Along the expressway, the other girl pointed out to two other people that were both trekking and sweating profusely under the hot sun. She mentioned that both of them were on her bus and that they began their walk by 5am and it was already past 9am but they still haven’t walked halfway through the expressway which was both long and totally deserted save for police/army checkpoints. I cried mental tears after seeing the distance of the expressway cos even whilst trekking steadily, they wouldn’t still have gotten passed by 12 pm.

Someone else joined us along the way and it turned out that our new driver was a very nice man from Northern Nigeria who was also in the army. We were gisting about a lot of things on the way from army life to Buhari to Wike to Akwa-Ibom state to Uniuyo etc. He told us that he was on his way to pick a package in Eket; carrying a number of women traders who were going to the boundary to buy fish when he saw the queue and understood that the border closure was a real thing. After confirming from other soldiers, he was advised to reverse back since the queue was so long he could not maneuver it. Having informed the women of the condition, they decided to trek down into the Akwa-Ibom state boundary with exception to the woman that was still with us in the car.

All the time we were on that expressway, we did not meet another car and I could not help but imagine what our fate would have been if we didn’t have a soldier driving us that could holler “Nigerian Army” when stopped at the so many checkpoints.

The journey after leaving the expressway was smooth, we saw Cee across the road and we waved at her while the woman and the other girl alighted at Akpajo. When we got to Eleme junction which was our last junction, Bee alighted. It was just I and the N700 guy left. Not knowing my bearing from that Eleme junction, I asked our driver his next destination and he said he was returning to the barracks. I found out that the barracks he was referring to were at Rumuola too and so we begged him to stop us at Bori Camp in Rumuola since we were all going to the same place and he agreed.

We were at Port Harcourt pleasure pack by 9:57 am precisely and I couldn’t help smiling cos finally I had gotten to a place I could navigate with closed eyes. The army man/driver dropped us at Bori Camp just before he entered the barracks and we were full of plenty thanks and appreciation and we sure expressed the same. N700 guy offered to assist me with one of my bags while we go find a taxi going to my location since his dad was coming to pick him.

In less than 30 minutes, I was knocking at my gate and my siblings were practically screaming in excitement, my mum being as dramatic as ever even prostrated on the ground as appreciation to God for bringing me back safely… I was so happy to be back. While in the shower, I just took a few minutes to commit the guy without money and other people who were still stranded at the border for them to receive a miracle like I just did… Guys, this is how God saved my ass from trekking from Uyo border to Port Harcourt.

Me to Coronavirus, Wike and the soldiers

* * *

  • Port Harcourt is the capital of Rivers State.
  • Uyo is the capital of Akwa-Ibom state.
  • Uniuyo – University of Uyo. The school most of us attended.
  • Wike/Gov Nyesom Wike is the governor of Rivers State.
  • Covid 19/Corona virus is worldwide pandemic (See google for more info)
  • Akpajo, Rumuola, Oil Mill, Eleme Junction, Bori camp are locations in Port Harcourt.
  • Sienna, Hilux are types of cars for transport
  • Okadas. Plural form of Okada, a Nigerian name for a motorcycle.
  • IDP Camp is a camp for Internally Displaced Persons i.e victims of war, erosion, famine, etc
  • Garri- Processed cassava, a Nigerian staple food
  • Zombie Apocalypse – A movie on zombies
  • Half of a yellow sun – A novel by Chimamanda Adichie on the Nigerian Civil war.

If you managed to read till this point, I love you so much. Thanks for turning up for me on this day with your calls, SMS, chats, and even your comments on the first post. God bless you all and may he continuously bring people your way in your time of need.

In this era of the coronavirus pandemic, endeavour to wash your hands regularly and stay indoors but if you actually need to be out, maintain social distancing. Stay safe. You’ll be hearing from me soon!

Love,
Golibe❤

25 thoughts on “How I trekked from Uyo to Port-Harcourt (Pt. 2)”

  1. As always, your writing is simply captivating. Love how you gave the whole story a comedic flavour. It’s a beautiful end to the tale of two cities. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “You to Coronavirus, Wike and the Soldiers” 🤣🤣
    You’re the real winner dear! Your writing is also a win! ♥️
    This is so entertaining to read! Welcome home 😊🤝
    Please can you write some more?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Golibe 🤝🏾 premium gist. Your writing skills are top notch. I practically lived that day just by reading this. I’m so happy that you got home safely☺️.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just like your father would say, you have a way of making a joke out of bad situations and that’s why they like you.
    This was awesome!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was really glued to this story. Well described! Well navigated too, I’d say. Really sorry about that ugly experience, please keep the gist for your kids too.lol.

    I enjoy your write up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😂😂😂
      My children will definitely be tired of my history gist, I’ll give them back to back and I’ll make sure not to forget the year it happened so I can include that…lol. Thank you so much Gee, hope to see you and your lovely comment around some other time❤

      Like

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