When Writers Dined with African Time

By Abubakar Akote

She wasn't happy that I embarked on a journey that stretched into the night. I told her I wasn't the only one on the trip. She didn't care much about others. She didn't even know them. So why would she be concerned about them?

Nigerian roads are not safe, they get worse at nights, made so by the gaping potholes on them and the intrepid bandits that rule them at night, almost unchallenged. We had just passed through Lafia, the Nassarawa State Capital. "Is Makurdi as far as Lagos from Minna?" My fiancee asked. Because I had told her we would be leaving Minna early. Her worry was the abundance of insecurity on our roads. God was our saviour.

Awwal Evuti's phone was already off due to low battery, and I had poor network reception to check the kilometres we had left to cover on Google Maps. At a village called Daudu, Mallam Aminu Sheikh, who was on constant contact with me called again to locate us. Aminu Sheikh was already in Makurdi, so he jokingly told us to keep moving, that we were approaching our destination. That reminded me of the similar description a Taxi driver gave us in Ibadan in 2012. He wanted us to pay five thousand naira for him to direct us to the University of Ibadan. When we couldn’t pay, he simply told us to keep moving forward.

Before we got to Lafia, I remembered her earlier piece of advice. She had suggested that we find a town and pass the night to continue with the journey the next day. Minna to Makurdi shouldn't have exceeded a day’s trip, I thought to myself. I was scared at some point.  My fear wasn’t ignited by the insecure nature of our roads. There were multiple security checkpoints between Lafia, Nassarawa State and Makurdi, the Benue State capital that would have given one a sense of protection.

My fear was inflamed by the state of the bus we were traveling in. Soon after we left Minna, before Suleja, it started developing faults. The most fearful was the brake failure in Keffi, Nassaraw state.
I didn't want her to sense that I lied to her. I had earlier told her that we were leaving Minna by 7am or so. Some minutes after eight o’clock, she called to wish me a safe journey. Luckily, she didn't ask if we had taken off.

The next day, Friday, was the grand opening ceremony. I knew the game would be as usual, yet I took my bath early. The opening ceremony, earlier scheduled to commence by ten o’ clock couldn’t start until after 12 midday. Most of us who didn’t want to miss the Friday Jumu’at prayers had to give up listening to the Keynote speech by Professor Abdu Saleh of the Federal University, Gombe.

On Saturday, I was about taking my bath to dress up for Annual General Meeting (AGM) and election when scenes of the previous night flung back to my mind. I was coming out of J. S. Tarka Centre, Opposite IBB Square, Makurdi, where the convention play and Cultural Night took place. Aspirants for various positions were busy giving out campaign fliers. Their friends were helping some to distribute the fliers. My hands were already filled up with some. I didn't want to accept more, this I made clear to one campaigner who tried to dump more fliers on me. The young woman walking in front of me turned her face and smiled at me. She hailed my courage for saying that I had had enough fliers. She had wanted to say the same. Contestants would easily call you their opponent if you don’t collect their fliers. Everyone wanted to win. May the deserving ones see the light of the day, I had prayed!

Why should I even be wasting my hard-earned money attending this convention every year? You go to a convention of intellectuals and you would still be wondering what you returned home with.

The Convention play led us through the lens of the consequences of disunity, nepotism, greed, hate speeches and agitations for control of resources in Nigeria. These unjustifiable behaviors have caused us many damages - politically, socially, financially and even spiritually. What do we do to stop these problems? The answer is simple; quality leadership from the leaders and truthfulness on the part of the followers. We need to discount our selfish interests and let Nigeria live in her green and white splendour.
Quality leadership with the kind of followership we have? One the night we arrived Makurdi, while listening to Mr Becker Zegi's song performance at the arrival dinner, some thoughts flunged into my heart. I had already heard enough of noises from a group of chatty ladies seated beside me. But their issue wasn't my major concern. I was happy we arrived safely.

The performance was still ongoing; some delegates were carried away by the stylish dance of the  Tiv girls when the special adviser to the Benue states Governor, on Media and ICT, announced his personal donation of ten crates of beer to the delegates. Some fellows who were not friends to alcohol burst into laughter. I wondered what was so funny. Why am I in this convention? I couldn't think out the reason still - so tired with a headache.

With the aid of Google Maps, we were able to locate the Royal Choice Hotel some minutes past 8 o clock. We had anticipated a check in immediately. The ANA Vice President handling delegates’ accommodation wasn’t at the hotel to give us keys to our rooms. Why should we remain waiting for him? Shouldn’t he be assisted by other members of the excos?

I knew we would miss the main part of the arrival dinner. African time, I remembered. We would have arrived Makurdi earlier than we did.

While we were in Lafia, I asked Awwal Evuti if the Excos would wait for all members to arrive to start the arrival dinner? He wasn't sure.

Days before our departure from Minna to the convention, it was announced that we shall meet at the Niger State Book Agency by 6:30 am. But we couldn't leave Minna until after 12midday. Some members would not come out of their homes until after 10am. I left home early for Book Agency, the meeting point.

When I complained, I was told that I had to start living in Nigeria. I hate African time. I wonder why writers should not live by examples. They should be different humans with better behaviours.