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One trauma too many

It was a 7a.m flight on a Saturday… how hectic could that be. Besides at that time of the morning it will take me ten minutes to get to the airport so I thought to myself ten to six would be a good time to leave my house thus allowing for check-in etc.

How presumptuous of me. Approaching the airport from Bank Anthony way it became obvious that many of us had the same idea. The traffic even at that time of the morning was pretty impressive.

Okay so I’m there sitting in traffic, shitting bricks – I cannot afford to miss my flight, and I’m driving myself so there’s no ditching the car to make a mad dash via okada or any other mode of transportation that can navigate the gridlock… what to do?

Then it occurs to me just before I’m about to circumvent the round-about that leads to MM2; I was booked onto Arik, which terminal did they use again? Frantically, I dial my husband on the phone needing to confirm that information before committing myself, the queue of cars crawling their way to MM2 looking endless and the clock was ticking. Finally,he picks up the phone and he confirms what I had suspected – it was the old terminal I needed to be heading for. I heave a sigh of relief quickly circumvent the round-about and head up for the old terminal.

Traffic is light and within a few minutes I had secured an overnight parking space and some parking attendant seeing my haste had helped grabbed my bag and we were rushing towards the tent – tent? – that is now the old terminal. And for once in my life I was happy for a tout to grab my bag and fight his way through the madness. Plus business class travellers plus coach – we were all being jostled about like pigs in a pen

. It cost me one thousand naira – money well spent – because left alone to me I would have missed that flight surely. By the time he was done and handed my boarding pass my hands were shaking literally from the experience.

The last time I was so traumatized was in 1977 when my family returned finally from the USA. The airport then was bedlam. I could not believe the sheer press of people…and the din. I couldn’t believe that this was an airport! My impression then was that I had been dropped in the middle of a cattle market.

People,scurrying about, haphazard lines, – nothing, that had rhyme or reason. You can imagine the impression that chaos had on an 11-year old mind… till this day I still believe my parents conned me.

Having lived in the US for several years my father felt it was time to come home, settle down, and put down some roots. My Mom on the other hand wasn’t ready to go. She had not completed her education having spent most of the preceding years supporting the family. So I was given a choice – do I want to remain in America with my mom, or will I return to Nigeria with my Dad?

I will never forget my innocent question – “what is Nigeria like?” then my father showed me a magazine cover of some impressive building situated on lush land that could rival any building in the States. “Is that what Nigeria is like?” I bounced up and down excitedly. “Yes! Yes! I want to go”. You CANNOT imagine my shock and utter disappointment upon arrival… I don’t think I am over it till this day.

Ehn!! Is this what air travel has become?? Like Dugbe market at Christmas (before the economy went south)and more to that what is Arik’s insistence on remaining at the old terminal? I vaguely remember some brouhaha between them and the AirportAuthorities at the time the new terminal was complete and ready for occupation. I can’t remember their reason for not wanting to move.

Do they think that remaining there confers on them some sort of exclusivity? No, it doesn’t. it didn’t then when the structure was dilapidated and it most  certainly doesn’t now that there is no structure whatsoever to speak of. The old terminal should be shut down period; till construction is done. As it is it is a high risk zone, both a health and safety hazard especially given the state of the nation. No civilised people should be put through that.

Frankly, the entire process is barbaric and underscores the fact that in this country, people just don’t count. We are the last to be considered and catered for in any equation. We treat ourselves with such disdain. If the decision makers in Arik applied any thought to their processes they would know that nobody should be subjected to such treatment least of all a paying customer.Frankly, this is just one trauma too many.

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