I am back to Lagos for a third time but I swear it feels like the fourth. I had to check my passport and I am only seeing 3 Visas so far. Mhhhh … Maybe I used a visa twice another time. Nway, you know what they say about your third time – it’s always lucky and sometimes your best shot. If my third try so far is anything to go by, the coming days will be awesome.
My last couple of weeks have been hectic because of expanding my company and taking up new staff to train. I feel that it’s my responsibility to live by example so I am putting in extra hours and completing work in time—why in the past week I’ve been waking up at 6 a.m. and sleeping as late as 3 a.m.
Back track to last Friday morning flying to Lagos. I get to the airport right on time about 6 a.m. fatigued and sleepy AF. The Kenya Airways hostesses are so chatty and nice but I am not in the mood. I have decided not to eat or talk to anyone but sleep all through the flight. I have so many hours of sleep debt to repay and I am also saving myself for a good nice first Nigerian meal prepared by Mama Abi – Boiled Plantain, Coconut Rice, Spicy Vegetable Curry and Pepper Chicken. I alert the Nigerian men sitting next to me (it’s a 3-seater and I am in the middle) that I won’t require anything so no disturbance. One of them gets it but the other Naija Man doesn’t. First of all, in the 4-hour long flight, the man probably uses the toilet 4 times! Why he wakes me up at least every hour to pass through the aisle. Like – really – dude!? What are you eating?
When I am in the no-talk-no-disturbance mood in the plane, I usually carry a big shawl to cover my head and face. It’s odd I know, but it’s what I have to do to avoid strangers forcing to talk to me. Not even the big Maasai shuka I’d put on my head would stop the Naija Man from forcing to converse with me. “Where are you from?” I answer – “Nairobi.” In my mind – where else? Are we not coming from Nairobi? “So why won’t you eat? Are you watching your shape? Where in Nigeria are you going to be staying?” My response: “I am asleep will talk to you later.” If I had told him where I was from and why I didn’t have breakfast, what difference would it have made?
On arrival in Lagos around 11.30 a.m., I am surprised that the airport is so chill – if you arrive in the afternoon or evening, the heat and crowds will always exhaust you.
I only remember that I have forgotten my Yellow Fever Card in Nairobi when I am at the Health Check Desk so I decide that I won’t even lie or pretend. An officer prods – “Yellow Fever Card, Madam?” I respond, “I don’t have it. Sorry, I just remembered now that I forgot it.” The officer looks at me in shock. “What do you mean Madam? So what do you want me to do?” Surprisingly, I am not panicking because I know Nigerians are the least strict individuals in comparison to Kenyan officials who BTW should stop terrorizing Nigerians on arrival at the Kenyan Immigrations Control. “I am sorry I forgot it,” I bluntly mutter. But I am – truly – sorry to be caught in such a stupid mistake. The officer smiles at me and then moves closer to whisper, “Ok – you will buy me lunch today.” I respond, “Ok” expecting him to signal me away, but the man is adamant. “Buy me lunch now …” I ask, “Now?” Adding, “I don’t have any Nairas or Dollars but I could give you Kenya Shillings.” The man is so annoyed at the mention of Shillings – he just waves me off, “Go! Go away! Go!”
The officer at customs has got Runtown’s Mad Over You on replay. At Baggage Claim, I am standing right next to someone who looks so familiar. Unbeknownst to me – it is Awilo Longomba. I can’t immediately figure it out because:
- I have never seen or met Awilo in person
- He looks way younger and cooler in person than in videos and pictures
- I didn’t know that at the time Awilo was leaving Kenya and would be in Lagos so I am unable to place his semblance to a place in time
I keep staring at him, wondering why he looks so familiar. After grabbing my luggage, another officer escorts me to another department to get my visa on arrival. As we stroll across the airport, I am awed by it’s morning sanity. There are no ladies hawking things or calling out travelers to follow them to sample “The best African food!” The air conditioners seem to be working well. I see my Nigerian mum (Abi’s mama) coming to hug me, she’s come to pick me 🙂 As we all walk away, I hear ladies at the back screaming, “Awilo!! Awilo!! Awilo!!” I look back and see the man walking out of the airport, warmly smiling and waving goodbye before disappearing like celebs do. In the pandemonium comes my eureka moment— it was Awilo!
“Damn! I could have talked to him or stolen a picture! He was standing right next to me,” I tell the Nigerian officer, who surprises me by not knowing who Awilo Longomba is. He laughs at me and shrugs it off sheepishly.