A popular phrase says ‘travel is a form of education’. This is because it is not only in the classroom that knowledge can be acquired. Travel provides field experience. I remember my first visit to Jos, Plateau State in 1980 to spend part of my long term vacation with my uncle who resides in the coal town. My older sister and I traveled by train. We boarded a train from Ibadan around 9 pm and reached Jos at dawn on the third day. During the course of the trip, I remember traveling with an exercise book where I wrote down the names of all the towns and villages that we passed along the way. It was my first trip by train and it was an exciting and unforgettable experience. From that moment on, I don’t have to be informed how cold Jos is. In addition, I had the opportunity to visit places of interest in the ancient city.

Since 1998, I have been a development worker or better still a staff member of a non-governmental organization and later a consultant. One thing I like about the job, which has no job security, is the opportunity to travel. My work in the development sector has given me the opportunity to visit 33 of the 36 states in Nigeria, with the exception of Kebbi, Taraba and Yobe states. It was in 2002 when I got the first opportunity to travel by air when my old workplace hosted an Abuja out of office program and we had to fly to Lagos for the workshop. My trips abroad to Geneva, Switzerland, the United States of America, Ghana, Egypt and Uganda were made possible by my work. They were trips with all expenses paid. Therefore, all the foreign tourist sites I have visited were made possible by my official assignments abroad.

Unfortunately, insecurity has made travel a nightmare, particularly in Nigeria. Last week I traveled to Kaduna and Jos and the experience was very unpleasant. My colleagues and I have a two-day workshop in Kaduna scheduled for this past week. Monday Y Tuesday. As is customary when planning an event of this type, the arrival of the participants from out of town is one day before the workshop. Due to the prevailing insecurity, especially in Kaduna, the organizer of the program decided to take me and some other colleagues to Lagos to connect another flight to Kaduna. By the way, I reside in Abuja and Kaduna is less than three hours away. However, due to the terrifying activities of bandits who attacked the train and kidnapped dozens of people last year, going to Kaduna by train was ruled out. In addition, many kidnappings have occurred on the highway linking the Federal Capital Territory with the old city; therefore it was also considered unsafe to travel by road. So we had to do that Israeli trip to Lagos first and connect to Kaduna by plane.

The flight out of Abuja was at 6:20 am on Sunday, January 8, 2023. In order to get to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport early enough to meet my flight schedule, I had to leave my house at 5 am. That is a profane hour for me considering the prevailing insecurity. However, an arrangement was made for a taxi driver to pick me up at home, so I reluctantly agreed to the early morning ride. Arriving at the airport, the airline was delayed because its Internet server was down, so its officials were unable to register the passengers for some time. Meanwhile, our connecting flight to Kaduna was at 9:30 am by another airline. We were on our toes because missing the connecting flight would mean not being able to make it to Kaduna that day, except we flew back to Abuja or Kano and made an hours drive to Kaduna, which was what we were trying to avoid. ab initio. Fortunately, we finally reached Lagos at around 8:45 am and were able to board the flight to Kaduna. When we arrived in Kaduna that fateful Sunday morning, I was not at peace because, if you remember, on Saturday, March 26, 2022, unidentified gunmen attacked the Kaduna airport, killing an official from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency. , identified as Shehu Na’. Allah, on the track. Although security at the airport has been tightened, I still felt uncomfortable.

Well we arrived safely at our hotel and checked in. The event was held successfully and we had to leave Kaduna at the end. Wednesday for Jos. It’s supposed to be about five hours by road. However, due to the frequent kidnappings and murders that take place around the southern axis of Kaduna, which is the gateway to Jos, we had to fly to Lagos to connect another flight to Jos. We reached Kaduna airport on time, but the plane did not arrive. . Unfortunately, there is only one airline plying that route at the moment. We had to wait for more than six hours before the flight finally arrived. What was the excuse given by the airline? Operational reason! When we arrived in Lagos that night, our connecting flight to Jos had left, therefore we had to stay overnight in Lagos, which was not planned. We stayed at a hotel in Ikeja because the alternate flight we could take to Jos was scheduled for 8am the next day. Knowing Lagos for its notorious traffic we decided to stay in a hotel not far from the airport. I was exhausted and very tired when I fell asleep. Wednesday night. Our plan was to leave the hotel for the airport at 6 am.

That was not to be. At about 5am my colleague, who we traveled with together, knocked on my door with the shocking news that our 8am flight to Jos had been cancelled. Meanwhile, that Thursday it was the first day of the workshop in Jos and we should have been on the ground the Wednesday. Luckily, the organization had sent an advance team to Jos on Wednesday to prepare the ground. So what do we do? I asked my colleague who he was traveling with. He Said we needed to be on our way to the airport immediately to see if there was an early morning flight out of Abuja that we could get on and make the rest of our trip to Jos by road! Holy Moses! Road trip to Jos from Abuja? What choice do we have?

Anyway, I quickly took a shower and soon we were at the airport. Luckily there was a 6:30 am flight to Abuja by the same airline. So the airline helped us to redirect our tickets to Abuja instead of Jos. We had a safe flight to Abuja and had to rent a car to take the two of us on that trip to Jos. We finally arrived in Jos around 2:30 pm and I managed to check into my hotel room, shower and get dressed to go to the room where the workshop would take place. I was eventually the last presenter for the day but luckily it all worked out. Leaving Jos for Abuja via 3:20pm flight last Friday was hassle free, otherwise we might have had to sleep in Jos again and made our trip to Abuja by road.

That week! What adventurous trips! The lessons here are multiple. Never travel without extra money for any eventuality. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Always have a plan B and even C. Looking back on the series of unpleasant events encountered last week, would it have been better to opt for the virtual presentation of my works? Well, that’s one option, but it should be a last resort. The virtual presentation is devoid of eye contact and body language. There will be no networking with other specialists and participants and, most importantly, no updates on the realities on the ground at the location where the training, conference or seminar is taking place.

Twitter: @jideojong