Prior to NYSC, I had never been on a long road trip. My journeys ranged from fifty minutes to two hours; mostly from Ibadan to Ago Iwoye and occasionally to other states. I had always wanted to go on a long road trip ever since I read a story in an old English Language textbook of a Nigerian family that drove around Nigeria in their car. So when I got my posting letter and saw Sokoto on it, I was excited. Finally! My road trip was going to happen. I had read so many accounts of people who travelled across the country and watched the terrain gradually change. Now it was my turn! I also googled fun places to go in Sokoto and made a mental list to visit them when I got there.
I got my posting letter on Monday, April 16 and was to be in camp on Thursday. My dad told me that Sokoto was about a day’s journey by road and I most likely would be stressed and so gave me the option of flying. I was too excited at the prospects of a journey by road, so I turned down the option of a flight. My dad was amused when I said no over the phone. He thought I probably didn’t hear him well.
“Hello? Did you hear me? There’s a flight for Wednesday. Should I buy you a ticket?”
“Uh…no. I want to experience a long road journey.”
“Eh ehn? Are you sure? Okay o. I hope you will enjoy it o.”
When I booked my seat at a bus company and was told that my journey would be about 18 hours; I didn’t think much of it. However, by Tuesday, as I studied the map and saw how far Sokoto is from Ibadan, my excitement began to ebb. I delayed packing because I thought that way, Wednesday would never come and I would not have to leave home. I even told my mum I no longer wanted to serve. Sokoto was so far away and I could not always shuttle back and forth like I do between Ibadan and Ago Iwoye.
The arrows show my home down in Oyo state, and Sokoto state way up.
By nightfall, I knew I had to start packing if I wanted to get to the bus station early. As I packed everything I would need for one year away from home- because my parents said they don’t want me travelling so often- I got even sadder. I hugged my mum multiple times, because I knew I would not see her for a long time. She did most of the packing, arranging clothes and foodstuff and books in my bag as I handed them to her. When it was time to zip the bag up, it was too full and I had to sit on it for my mum to zip it up. 😝
We got to the bus station by 5:20 am because we had been told the bus would move by six. I didn’t leave Ibadan till ten, but that is a story for another day. Let me just summarize that for now and say, not every business that has an office and a staff is reliable. I booked my trip with this company because they had a office and could be tracked in case something happened; but they disappointed us in the end.
Now, to the jouney proper. Our driver, a man named Nuhu, was very fast, and we were in Osun in thirty nine minutes.
I don’t remember much of Osun because we passed by very quickly. But I do remember seeing hawkers selling the legendary Dodo Ikire and akara osu. When the akara was thrust into the bus through one of the windows, we were shocked. One of us asked in Yoruba, “What is this?” and the boy replied as he ran after the bus, “Akara osu!” as we all burst into laughter.
Akure is beautiful! I was enthralled by the sight of a long mountain range that looked like a very long table stretching across and reaching the skies. There were so many rocks apart from that one too. The major issue I had with Ondo was that there were too many speed breakers. Going from bump to bump gave me a slight headache and I was annoyed.
We stopped in Owo for some minutes for Nuhu to eat and to stretch our legs. He stressed it that everyone should eat and relieve themselves of whatever body wastes they wanted to because he would not stop for several more hours.
Edo state was funny. I saw fried yam being hawked. It was strange and hilarious. Again, as the hawkers crowded the bus and thrust in the round flat white things wrapped in clear nylon, we asked them, “What’s this?” and they replied, “Fried yam”. Some even had fried eggs too. We all laughed about eating stale eggs and getting a running stomach. We all knew that Nuhu would not stop for anyone because he was concentrated on covering a lot of distance while it was still daytime.
I have heard a lot of stuff about Edo people being fetish. Well, I saw it with my own eyes. We saw a long procession of men dressed in red and white outfits, brandishing cutlasses and chanting something in their dialect at some point on the side of the road. It was a spooky sight, I admit.
Once we got into Kogi, I got very excited at the prospect of seeing River Niger. I could not wait to get to Lokoja. I had only ever seen River Niger on TV and could not wait to see it live. The terrain started changing markedly in Kogi. Rocks vanished and all I kept seeing was a reddish, powdery outcrop that looked eroded. I asked my friend, Grace, who is a geology student about it, and she said it was sandstone with bands of ironstone.
When we finally got to River Niger, I was so excited I had a sheepish smile on my face. I craned my neck out of the window to see as much of the River as I could. The people who plied the route regularly said the river had shrunk due to the harmattan and would be fuller during the rains. Still, it looked very wide to me.
We got to Abuja at 6:28 pm. The road was really nice in Abuja, and I dozed for a bit. We stopped in Abuja to eat again and then continued the journey. We assumed we would soon reach Sokoto. I checked Google maps to confirm and was shocked when I saw that we still had about nine hours of travelling before us. I stopped making notes about the journey after we spent hours on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria express way. My back and legs were really cramped and I kept slipping in and out of sleep.
We stopped around midnight for Nuhu to take a nap. We were in a Northern state, but I didn’t know which one. We were shocked to see market stalls with fruits and other kinds of foodstuff left unattended with all the goods unsupervised. Such trust! That cannot happen in Ibadan. 😁 We soon resumed the journey, asking for directions from men sleeping by the road, and using Google maps as a guide when Nuhu seemed to get confused.
I remember waking up once around 3am and seeing that we were on a road with nothing but long stretches of sand on both sides. I gave up checking where we were and told myself we would get to the Nysc camp someday and went back to sleep. The bus’ movements jolted me out of sleep a few times and when I looked out, I still saw a sea of sand with waves on it as on water, on either side of the road. I muttered a prayer that we would not get lost in the desert.
Sometime in the morning, around 5:20am, we finally saw a board announcing that the camp was off a turning. A shout of joy went through the bus as we took the turning. Nuhu, who had been driving slowly due to fatigue, picked up speed, eager to get to the camp. However, we soon got pensive when we still didn’t see the camp in sight after driving for minutes. The only consolation we had was the blue dot on Google maps that showed us we were moving towards the camp.
We finally got to camp at 5:54 am. As I stepped down from the bus unto the sand, I smiled wearily and whispered, “Sokoto”. We took our luggage out of the bus and thanked Nuhu profusely for a smooth journey. I looked at the gates of the camp and a feeling I cannot totally articulate with words washed over me. Looking at other prospective corps members who had arrived earlier, as they queued to get water, the soldiers with their sticks and exaggerated stern faces, I had the urge to laugh even though I knew the three weeks ahead of me would not be so funny. We began to move towards the gate, each person huddling close to the next, uneager to be the first to go in. 😊The rest is history.
As for the places I noted down to visit? I have not been to one! I have been staying indoors most of the time, avoiding the sun like a wall gecko. The road trip was fun, but it was far more stressful than I imagined. I had never had to sit in one place for so long in my life. My body ached so much when we arrived in Sokoto but I had to ignore it and go through the arduous process of registration. I have had my taste of a road trip across Nigeria. Next time, I will gladly take a flight. 😜
Have you ever been on a road trip? How long was it? Was it stressful or fun? Let’s talk!
Thanks you for reading!