The just concluded Workers Day weekend was filled with enough drama to last me the rest of my time on Earth…I exaggerate not. By the time I’m done with the telling you will certainly feel me and know that I lie not. I’m certain that enough people will also have tales to tell along the same lines or similar incidents of the local airspace here at home. However before I go any further I’m so happy to resume my weekly offerings and have no one else to blame, work might have a part to play, but the ultimate responsibility rests squarely on me and for this I ask forgiveness…
So I had to go to Abuja over the public holiday and with the fuel scarcity and transportation chaos that ensued, I made plans that got me there extra early. With the dire consequences ringing in my ears, I got to the local wing of Murtala Mohammed (MM) twenty minutes to six on Thursday morning. My Arik flight was scheduled for nine and I thought that three hours would be no sweat (of course I was fully armed with a book to ease the passage of time) in the scheme of things. Famous last words, as I would later find out along the way.
Thinking to make my boarding process easier, I joined the queue to do the necessary, only to be told at the counter (after close to thirty minutes on my feet) my flight was not yet opened. Taking it in stride I sat to watch early birds land and get processed somewhat easily. Some latecomers rushed in, others strolled, pushed boxes, shouldered carrier bags or marched at a quick pace to the check in counter. As is customary, announcements were made at intervals and glory I was able to actually understand (not the usual nasally twang muttering over the PA) and didn’t have to decipher whilst simultaneously trying to magically comprehend what was said!
Long story short, when the counter opened for my flight I filed in (I’m good like that) and commenced the crawl to the front. Lest I forget, in the course of things I was duly informed that take off had been moved to eleven. Interesting part was that this was not announced over the PA, intending passengers received a silent, ‘communication’ instead. It’s pretty normal for friction when people interact and with Nigerians inclined to the dramatic, I was primed for the first act.
‘No, no, no!’ ‘I will not take that.’ ‘This isn’t fair.’ ‘Why did she take my boarding pass and not return it?’ ‘You people have started again,’ these phrases were yelled by the milling crowd in front of Arik personnel. A woman with natural hair retro styled, vocally asserted her rights at decibels far above the rest, whilst a man shadowed a female airline staff in a bid to retrieve his boarding pass. Apparently these were Port Harcourt bound passengers travelling together; unfortunately a slight hitch in processing had turned their transition into a nightmare.
An intense ten to fifteen minutes of noise, frenetic activity and more ensued until every last one was duly processed. The resulting calm was anticlimactic as the vicinity quietened and was de-populated. Thankfully when it was my turn I was cleared and issued my pass. The only thing left was how long a wait still lay ahead. In the normal flow of things I shared noteworthy scenarios on Twitter and duly informed family and friends of my predicament and the unfolding saga.
This is when things became really interesting, as I was informed, ‘o sese bere pelu postponement.’ Apparently the only flight Arik seemed to get right is the first flight, all others scheduled hardly ever ran as planned. Aero Contractors were given as another example notorious for committing the same offence. At this stage in proceedings some of my travel companions had also turned up and together we kept vigil.
Around 13:45 the scheduled nine am flight to the Centre of Unity was ready to taxi down the runway. I leave you to fill in the blanks of what this meant for someone that did not have breakfast, slept fitfully the night before and rushed to make the airport, under less than ideal conditions. Folks, as I would discover, this leg of the trip was pretty tame but for the meantime, I was oblivious. The return to Lasgidi was more drama than an entire season of Keeping up with the Kardashians.