|Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam and Faith Oluchi|
By Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam
As I type this, my bum still hurts from the nine hours of torture Faith Oluchi and I had to endure from Port Harcourt (Rivers State) to Ikom (Cross Rivers State) while seated in a bus with the name, Ifeanyichukwu. (By the time you will be reading, this, I wouldn't need a massage anymore).
We wanted a bus that had a company name, and that we got. But as the day wore on we were reminded, in a really frustrating manner, that some companies are just too disorganised to be recognised.
Our Special Adviser on transport (to Ikom) affairs, Queen John, had advised us to be at the Ifeanyichukwu Park located at Rumuola between 6 to 6:30am so we could join the company's one and only Sienna, which normally leaves before any of their buses, based on her enquiries. The fare for the Sienna is 4000, while that of the bus is 3,500.
By 6:15 am, Faith and I were on ground, but it seemed like we were the only ones, and there was no Sienna. I asked the guy who was urging us to buy tickets about the Sienna, and he said it left yesterday.
But Faith exclaimed that it was a lie. She had made her little enquiry when she arrived and was told in confidence that there was no Sienna.
Just then it dawned on us that we would have to use the bus, which might take eternity to get full. We racked our brains for alternatives; should we go to Waterlines or not? What if we go there and we are left with the option of breaking the journey by going to Calabar first - we were avoiding that situation as well having heard of how stressful it would be.
In the end, we were stuck with Ifeancyichukwu or Ifeanyichukwu.
While we bought our tickets, Faith rued not having gone in search of other options before today. There were already six names on the manifest. Ours made it eight. Two more persons came, and by fifteen minutes past nine we were told to identify our luggage so that they could be loaded in the vehicle.
As soon as the man loading the vehicle lifted my luggage and said "bring N500", my quickest response was "for what?" And Faith just said I should leave her to handle the bargaining. She eventually paid them N150 using Igbo language as her tool (as per "my sister").
However, it turned out we were just seven passengers in the bus, meaning some of the names on that list was a scam.
As soon as the driver started to move the bus, it began to jerk. We thought it would stabilize with time, but the jerking became consistent and we had to return to the park to change the vehicle and the driver.
Our journey eventually began at about 10 am with two more passengers joining us. It was going on smooth until this new driver stopped at one abandoned petrol station after Aba. One of the passengers in front, a lady, wanted to throw up. The driver used that opportunity to change one of his back tyres that was going flat.
Afterwards, the driver stopped again at the Junction that leads into Okigwe road. Our Royal Highness in front wanted to buy food. Like seriously? "na only her waka come?" The driver did not even mention anything to anyone until he had stopped. And when we all questioned him as to why he was stopping again, it was then he told us that lady that had vomited earlier, needed to buy food.
This was a journey we already knew would take us about seven hours and we have already stopped twice. It was just the beginning. There had to be another stop, for the bladder-filled ones like myself.
We went past checkpoint after checkpoint. The driver sped past some, while he was respectful enough to greet some. Then we arrived at one checkpoint where this potbellied Police officer decided to try his delay tactics on us because according to him "our driver does not know how to talk".
He asked for the boot to be opened, then asked for one of the bags in the boot to be opened.
We were already in Ebonyi, while this was happening. The Policeman began to scan inside the bus with his eyes from outside. He saw my luggage which was not well arranged under the seat where Faith and I sat and asked for the owner to come and open it. It was a 14-seater bus. Faith and I sat on the seat before the last.
The Policeman insisted I bring out the luggage and open it, but I hesitated. Faith then tried to explain that we were journalists but before she could finish the man said "na im make I no go do my work?" In any case, we did not bring out the box and he let us go after one passenger who knew how to talk, begged him.
Then we got to the place where the driver stopped to pick his first set of passengers. It was a bend into a narrow road and a big truck, trying to reverse, almost hit us. We all screamed at our driver, who kept claiming that he did not stop to pick passengers, but we were joined by a man his wife and their little daughter.
This shouldn't be happening, considering it was a "company bus" and we were going on a long journey that can only get longer with too many stoppages. Faith spoke out even as she declared nothing would make her use an Ifeanyichukwu again.
Finally, we got to their park at Ugep where some persons alighted. We waited for the driver to exchange pleasantries with his colleagues before we took off again. At this point, we were supposed to be about two hours to our destination and we were hopeful that at least we should be in Ikom by 6pm.
Oh well, our annoyingly greedy driver had other plans. Soon after we left Ugep, his picking spree got worse. Faith's shouts fell on deaf ears. It didn't matter to him that we still had a seemingly never ending bad road to contend with. And then Faith and I wondered if the extra money he is making was for his pocket or it goes back to the management. But what do I know, maybe this was how they operate?
Before we got into the bad road zone, some passengers alighted at Obubra. Our driver decided to use that opportunity to literarily say "hello to the whole community. That was when Faith gave up on him.
As if we needed some side attractions for our frustrations, while our vehicle danced in and out of potholes, there was this shirtless guy who obviously just finished peeing, but decided to dangle his manhood as he smiled in our direction.
Yes, we laughed. But I first thought of him as a mad man, however, he wasn't looking dirty and had decent boxers on. And he also had friends around him that laughed and hailed him for his comic relief.
Anyways we finally saw the bridge. The one that had the young lady seating directly in front of Faith leaping for joy. We were relieved too because, we would be stopping at Lisbon hotel which was now just five minutes away. When we came down, I regretted that I had browsed the life out of my phone, so I couldn't get a photo of our nightmare. Faith's phone was off too.
Our host, Mr. Moses, met us in front of Lisbon Hotel and took us to another hotel called Citizens. This hotel had state Capitals as room names and we were checked into room Uyo.
We were later served Semo and Afang soup for all our troubles of the day. Faith can worry sha. She insisted that I write this tonight and I am glad I did.