Day 185: I Have A Really Good Business Idea, Let’s Be Cops And Force People To Give Us Money With Our Guns! -Nigeria

I arrived in Limbe, a port town north of Douala, near the very small town of Ideaneau, where on the following day, I would hire a boat to take me to Nigeria.

I will admit to you that I felt empty.

Spiritually, I was at odds.

My passion to complete my quest, flickering.

I felt like a grad student about to cut off his ponytail.

And work for his dad.

Hi my name is Jason, are you are you prepared financially, for retirement?

Please hold.

Daaaad, we got one on line 3!

I found myself laying in front of a beautiful pool in Limbe, listing to children play in the water, while watching a distant storm swallow a particularly enchanting sunset.

To the soundtrack of my deep breathing.

Eventually one of the small boys stood over me.

Come play with me and my brother” he insisted.

I laughed.

I can’t” I said.

Why?” He asked suspiciously.

I have a stomach ache because I drank too much pop with my dinner.

He nodded, as if my affliction was common place.

Later?” He asked.

For sure” I lied.

I did have a stomach ache.

Why am I drinking two large sodas with dinner?

But the reason I didn’t want to play was more news related.

A few days before, a boat, attempting the exact same task I was planning for the following day, capsized, killing a man.

I couldn’t illustrate to a child that my fuddy duddy demeanor was due to the morbid considerations, that I was subjecting myself to danger, again.

It’s this again, that has me locked in a state of macabre, as of late.

I fully understood that my getting to Morocco from Ethiopia would be difficult.

Its actually because of this difficulty, that I’m here.

This is not a holiday for me.

Nor is it a relaxing get away.

Despite some assertions to the contrary.

This is a test.

My test.

As of now, it’s a test I’m barely passing, true to form.

I am sunk here.

Wading in the fray, to my brow.

Moving forward from today, the likely hood of my survival is converting to a percentage that I’m hesitant to acknowledge, much less accept.

I could perish.

People die here.

I could die here.

It’s precisely because of this risk that I feel euphoric when I don’t.

Y’know, die.

When I escape.

But now, on the cusp of Nigeria.

I was not focused.

I was something else entirely.

I was scared.

At 5 am I walked to a nearby taxi park.

After introducing myself to the strangers in the shadows.

One offered to drive me to Idenau for seven thousand francs.

“Ok” I said.

Bring it.

Anticipating where I was headed by reputation alone, I took special care to appreciate the sun rising behind Mt Cameroon.

It was a beautiful drive.

A quiet drive.

Once I arrived, the small domestic inlet port was teeming with action.

Money changers.

Police.

Military.

A white dude?

Porters.

Livestock.

And, lots of desperate people.

The Idenau port, as was explained to me by the man negotiating my passage with the local police, was more crowded than usual because of the war unfolding not far north from Idenau.

A war between sovereign minded anglophones and, well, Cameroons military.

“People are dying there everyday” he said.

Making the land border of Ekok far too likely for violence.

Not toward me specifically, per se.

I took a single picture of the Idenau port.

Worried my camera would be confiscated.

It felt like everyone was doing something illegal and my presence there was shining a light on it.

People were reacting accordingly.

Sketch city.

Once I boarded the boat, I clandestinely took this photo.

If you look really close, you can see satan laughing at me.

Soon I would be wearing an over inflated bicycle tire, at the instructive pantomime of a very concerned, decorated onlooker.

Initially, I found the tube to be aggressively uncomfortable, but after two hours of being rhythmically bounced off the glassy sea, I relaxed enough to lay down.

The sound of a chainsaw being put into water, directly behind me seemed to fade.

Add a warm rising sun to that order and I was one Tyco song away from falling asleep.

That was until the boat slowed and coasted sideways toward my first Nigerian gun ship.

At the helm of this particular gun ship was a machine gun on a tripod, fortified by a large steel shield with a rectangular groove cut into the center.

Meant to protect the operator of the gun from, what I can only assume would be similar looking arsenal.

They demanded money from my quiet, seemingly complacent captain.

Then they focused on me.

I got the inferred bribe package.

Inferred!? What kind of gun ship pirates are you?

“Nothing for me?” The guy with the Men In Black Ray Bans asked,

No gifts?” The shirtless leader added.

Ahhhhhehhhhh?” I sounded off awkwardly.

“Give me your passport!” Agent J. yelled.

“Ah, you’re the police” I said, laying on a bag of rice wearing a bicycle tube.

Classy like.

The shirtless gun touting tribe, standing around a nearly empty green whisky bottle at ten in the morning, were in fact, Nigerian police.

Africas alpha.

We passed through three such “check points

The bribes the captain was paying to transport this rice, were getting noticeably bigger.

When once he was complacent, he was now objection laced.

From Dalhi Lama reticent to a Che Guevara resolve, all in under twenty painful minutes.

There was a moment of brief yelling during what would be the last shake down.

It was here, after three hours on the sea that the Nigerian pirate police told me to get off the boat, that my boat was being confiscated because the captain refused to pay dash (bribe).

Hello, my name’s Bobby, I’m being used as leverage by a Nigerian gun ship to extort money from a poor fisherman.

What’s your name?

Eventually, sadly, the old captain conceded and threw money at the Nigerian gun ship

He looked more upset than angry.

Like “The fuck am I doing this for, I could still go to law school”.

I climbed back abord my boat.

Ahoy.

No laughs to be found here, just a bitter old man and odd looking white dude filming everything.

When he dropped me off at Oron. I asked him “how much did you make after all those bribes?”

“Tax” He said.

Then he politely motioned for me to get off his boat.

Reminding me, it would be impolite to visit a chemo therapy clinic and ask the people there, “How much cancer do you have?

Sometimes my curiosity will have to go hungry, I accepted.

Into the eager clutches of a waiting Nigerian authority, I went.

Despite the Nigerian gun ship preamble, the immigration personnel in Oron were polite, courteous and mainly confused.

This is dangerous” they reminded me.

People can snatch you” he said.

Then he held up both hands, palms out and closed them into fists dramatically.

Point made.

“Well I’m here bro! And the only shady biz I saw on the ocean was from drunk cops” I thought, while pretending to be shocked at the news.

“Really!?” I said, like someone just told me wrestling was fake.

No!

Not Nigeria!

After I received an entry stamp, I was told that to get to Calabar, Nigerias second largest city, next of course, to the behemoth that is Lagos, I had to take another boat.

Within an hour I was sitting in another, similar looking boat, with twenty others.

I felt uneasy as the preacher got on board prior to departure and began a dramatic exorcism of the small boats demons and various other maleficent juju, barnacled to the Yamaha rudder.

He planted a fear seed so deep in the mind of one woman, that she begged the captain to take her and her small son back to Oron, ten minuties after we left.

He complied.

No tip for that preacher.

For any preacher.

Unless of course, he can get the pope to sign my Lamborghini.

Seriously, what was this guy thinking!?

If you or someone you know can’t read and you’re curious how I’m doing here, in mama Africa?

This Video should do the trick.

But bro, learn to read, there’s no excuse for illiteracy in 2019.

https://vimeo.com/375144498

Day 179: The Viperous Road To Yaounde.

After casually walking around the black and white border pole into dust bowl Kye Ossi, from Equatorial Guinea, I took a bike taxi to the only bus station in town, Elegance.

Elegance was not a good time.

To say I’d rather have taken a donkey wagon for six days instead, would be succinctly

accurate.

I very rarely put my backpack on top of busses.

Or under for that matter.

Because my bag gives me every crucial comfort necessary to exist in the manner I’m fitted for, I almost always err on the side of keeping it within eyeshot.

I’ll gladly have it on my lap for seventeen hours while crammed into a hot people box, before I let Blade the driver hand bomb it into a menagerie of wicker baskets and Chinese made carry-ons, wrapped in dirty plastic bags.

Despite his insistence, which can, at times, seem suspicious.

Ooo, Bobby’s sassy today, right?

Miss thang.

(I suppose I’m sassy because I’m on a bus right now dealing with similar strife, my heavy bag bouncing off my knees, as the bus shakes me senseless.

And I have to pee)

The elegance bus was packed to the hilt with passengers when I arrived.

I actually looked in and said, “Nooope.”

Cueing Blade the driver, to talk me into liquifing into an amorphous blob capable of entering the Elegance sauna.

Because it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to bring my bag inside with me, I reluctantly put it on the roof and covered it lazily, with the communal tarp.

Let’s hit it!

Kye Ossi to Yaoundé!

We arrived at the first police stop, within 15 min.

Special police, who smile as you comply with their demented instructions.

Him: Pick your butt now.

Me: ok?

Him: Smell your finger.

Me:Whaa, why?

Him: SMELL YOUR FINGER!

Nodding all the while, like jigsaw watching his victims enter a game.

He made everyone get out of Elegance.

Which was a feat on its own.

He checked ID cards, starting with mine.

For those unlucky souls who were without ID cards, he was especially dickish.

Asking irrelevant questions like, “Do you have a husband?” Intimidating the soft spoken and the shy.

Then he made the driver retrieve and return all the plastic wrapped Chinese carry-ons from the roof, where each was emptied onto the road.

This particular process lasted for over an hour.

We had been driving for less than 15 min

Their were so many police checks, I started hiding when cops made their way to the windows.

Putting my head down or looking away.

Anything not to be the white guy.

That’s how painful each stop was.

We were stopped a lot.

I counted twenty three, from Kye Ossi to Yaoundé.

There would have been more, if it had been daylight and not raining in fantastic fashion.

Even still, on three occasions I was forced off Elegance, taken to a shack and told to pay two thousand francs.

I refused, obviously.

When I re entered the van, I told everyone “they wanted money from me”

Lots of kissy teeth sounds.

That made me feel good.

Like I was one of the gang.

Right guys!

These cops right!

We’re all in this together!

Right!?

Except we weren’t in this together.

I had to suffer this alone.

Me and the three pigs, standing in the rain, flashlights pointed in my face, negotiating a bribe all the way down to zero.

As Elegance waited.

It was terrible.

The most painful.

But, like all things, they pass.

If patience was easy, it wouldn’t be a virtue, I’ve read somewhere.

After seven hours of night driving to Yaoundé in an unsafe mini van, by a man who no doubt considers himself an immortal vampire race car driver, I arrived in Yaoundé.

At the difficult hour of ten.

Difficult because, well, Yaoundé is the capital of Cameroon.

Meaning it’s huge.

When I eventually arrived, I had no sense of local cost and no idea where I was, in relationship to anything.

Making me the perfect cherry to be picked.

It’s a Bobby, yum.

Add to this, it’s raining mercilessly and the driver of my taxi bike can’t find the hotel I’ve chosen, referenced in my nine year old guidebook.

Not as a tactic to con money from me either, as was almost always the case in Brazzaville

A difficult hour indeed.

I surrendered to the only hotel in Yaoundé my driver seemed to know.

The Ideal hotel.

In name only, I assure you.

Ideal is not how I would describe my stay there.

It’s a rent by the hour kind of place.

The sounds of hungry cockroaches pushing their way through all the plastic garbage I dispatched when I arrived, was the sense cement that strengthened my infuriating insomnia.

Preventing me from getting any sleep.

In the early morning I relocated to a church on the hill.

The proprietor, a woman named Mary Joesph (swear to god) was a stickler for her imposed, nine o’clock curfew.

Which suited me and my reason for my being in Yaoundé, just fine.

My reason?

To secure a Nigerian visa, of course.

I won’t bore you with monotony.

What I had to do to get the Nigerian visa was tedious.

Fulfilling bureaucratic tasks, like a neglected street dog at a Brazilian BBQ, or like a withered alcoholic sifting through dumpsters looking for wine bottles.

All of which is to say, I was focused and desperate.

Back and forth from the Nigerian embassy to the Hilton hotel, where the business center became my own personal office.

My mission: Deceive the Nigerians using the internet.

Inspiring me, I guess, to become a real Nigerian prince.

Prince Muzungu Mustafa.

I didn’t want to go north to Chad then cross into Niger, just to go around Nigeria, nor did I want to rely on a boat, again.

The Nigerian embassy, after throughly testing my resolve, succumbed, after a fairly one sided negotiation, to issuing me a seven day visa.

On the condition that I wire fifty eight thousand francs from a seedy bank I’ve never heard of, to a twelve digit account number, with absolutely zero official affiliation with any Nigerian office.

Think of it as your final test, I told myself.

Me being Po, to Nigerias, Master Shifu.

This bizarre stipulation excited my imagination which then prompted me to modify the limitations of my MasterCard, shortly after.

Sorry kids, MasterCard has to come inside for dinner.

In the morning he’s going to military school.

Days and days worth of clandestine hubbub, all for a seven day Nigerian visa.

Dear Nigeria, please eat a dick.

The task wish list the Nigerians wanted me to complete, was doable.

Annoying yes, time consuming fuck yeah, but doable.

Securing a strand of white hair from the Aga Khan, taming a unruly garbage rat or making a fake bus ticket to Benin from Lagos, all, made no difference to me, I was happy to get dirty.

A task is a challenge, where as “Frontier Ferme” is just a colossal waste of my effort.

Let it go Bobby.

By adding a severe time constraint to my time in Nigeria, a place I was already anxious about visiting, I was hyper aware concerning possible set backs.

Problems that were virtually invisible, were now, on my radar.

Problems I was already thinking about as I tip toed across the churches wet lawn at five in the morning, toward my waiting taxi.

Feeling Mary Joseph staring at me from the veranda.

Wishing me good luck.