Remember how I slept? I woke up cold, tired, and very angry. I was mentally exhausted from calculating all through the night how cold the room needed to be to stop me from being eaten alive by mosquitoes. And then, calculating how covered I needed to be to not freeze to death. Mind you, the air conditioning had no remote so I was standing up intermittently to turn it on and off.
A little note about the mosquitoes. They were massive. As in, really big. Not the “not seen but heard” type some of us endure everywhere else, these ones were massive. Like ‘I am a mosquito and I am here to suck (or drain) your blood’ size mosquitoes. I mean the insecticide of choice here is Rambo! Not Mortein, not Raid, not even Baygon. Rambo! Gosh! Meaning of course that except the room was icy, they were fully operational on the one human in the room – me.
By the time it was morning, I was sneezing uncontrollably, my eyes were puffy, and I had a headache the size of Africa. Did I mention that even though I asked (and very nicely) the hotel staff ended up not spraying any insecticide in my room? So I had bites all over as well. I swear I was a sorry sight.
Time check? 9am. We were at Government House, waiting for the Governor’s delegation so we could drive to Bama together. I remember being a little irritated that we’d been hurried out of our hotel in the name of “we’re leaving early” only to come here to wait. Plus, I was hungry.
Breakfast was digestive biscuits, a coke and some medicine I was given to ease my symptoms. I remember telling my best friend Wunmi I had been given a pink pill by someone on the team who was feeling sorry for me. I didn’t know what it was, and I was in too much distress to care to be honest. And it helped! Better yet, God had mercy on me.
An hour, some biscuits (thank you Alkayy) and a super cold coke after, we were ready to head out. I’d been on the phone with my dad and the deal was I would keep talking /chatting with him till we got out of service area and then message as soon as I could. Momma was in San Antonio at the time for my favourite cousin’s wedding and the general consensus was to not tell her I was not only around the North East but I was headed to the heart of the conflict and devastation.
We set off and the 3-hour drive (should be 90 minutes but the road is treacherous) was rife with the most reckless, dare-devil driving I’ve seen in my life! Gosh! There were about 32 cars inclusive of an armoured tank, a gun-carrier, trucks overflowing with civilian JTF armed to the teeth, soldiers, and then the Governor’s people. Everyone wanted to be closest to any vehicle with the armed guys. Alas! There was a very real danger of getting ambushed by Boko Haram so the racing was doubly inspired. At some point, I was more concerned about cars colliding about a tire bursting or falling off, or generally harming ourselves more than anything we were afraid of.
We were in a Toyota Hiace Bus, brand new and our driver was a veteran on that route. I imagine he had seen and heard enough to not want us to be a part of the number attacked by Boko Haram so he was as reckless as the others maybe even a bit more reckless than most.
Our route went from Maiduguri to Dalori, past Konduga, and then to Bama town, where IDP camp is located. From the minute we left the centre of Maiduguri town, it was an eyesore. Stretches of wantons’ destruction, nothing was spared. Banks, local government buildings, upturned cars. I saw a cap inside one of them and wondered about the thoughts were before the car turned over. Some buildings had massive holes like sequins adorning a dress. I must have asked a thousand times “what do these people want so bad they are willing to cause this much devastation to achieve?” God forbid.
Some photos. They’re all watermarked. Message me if you need a version that’s not watermarked.
We got to Bama safely (somehow my heart hadn’t left my body) and after some government talk, we went into the IDP camp. That’s a different story literally.