The “God” of the travelling Nigerian.

Friday, July 29, 2016

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This week, I flew another Nigerian airline.

No. This is neither about my fight with its attendants, nor a rant against poor Customer Service.

(Although; this airline gave me its fair share of disappointment, per canceled flight. “The economy”, they whined. “Scarcity of aviation fuel”, they justified. I had to do some “Ajala-the-traveler” waka to get to my destination)

But this is not about the airline. Or the Economy. 

This is about the return journey.


Everyone settled into their seats. Wore their seat belts….

The attendants did their emergency demonstrations, which no one really pays attention to, but everyone really needs to pay attention to.

The Pilot mumbled something; we could not hear the words. But he had a nice voice.

(I suspect he knows this).

We were all set to fly. The flight attendants took their seats. We took off…

And then; we flew straight into the worst air turbulence I had encountered in a long. long time.

I am certain we were not all Christians on the plane. I daresay we were not all theists on that plane.

But at some point, everyone was chanting; speaking in tongues and screaming “Amen!” at the top of their lungs in response to the fire-brand prayers led by a breast-feeding mother.

If I was not too busy taking deep-breaths and counting one-to-ten to calm my nerves, I probably would have joined in the prayerful vituperation.

(I had read somewhere that in most cases, it is the shock in accidents which kills people first, even before the impact)

For a second, as I closed my eyes, I felt transported…as though I was in a “luxurious” bus, on an eight-hour long journey, from one part of the country to another.

Prayers at the beginning of such journeys are a staple. The odds that one would encounter a mishap on the Nigerian roads was high. If it was not the bad roads resulting in busted tyres, it could be deadly robbers lying in wait. Or tankers laden with petrol, with bad brakes and near-drunken drivers. And the myriad of endless checkpoints, stacked with “law enforcement officials”, who were more interested in obtaining your worldly possessions than enforcing any laws.

The odds are too high that many things … that everything could go wrong on a journey by road in Nigeria. Thus, the Nigerian road traveler is typically a humble traveler, and would quite readily submit her/himself to prayers offered to the prevalent deity of the area.

Their "God" is a loud God.

This is not exactly the case with air travelers.

Watch the passengers boarding a flight within Nigeria. Watch their countenance prior to take-off, during the flight and after landing. They who constitute the struggling middle-class, and upper class wannabes.

Yes, while the casualties of any incidences via flights are usually higher than in road mishaps, the occurrences are lower. The odds are lower. The air travelers can afford to be their non-humble selves. 

Their God is a private, quiet God. Asides individual prayers quietly said, there are no general prayers offered in the aircraft, unlike during travel by road. 

But this day, in the midst of this turbulence, there was no middle class. There was no upper class wannabe. There were mere mortals, aware of the fact that there was something, some force bigger than man, which could sweep life away in one second, without any regard as to social class or religious inclination.

In that moment, there was no lawyer, or architect. No politician. No doctor. No prostitute. No saint. No painter. No chef.

We were all humans, praying to survive. Hoping that whatever force was out there would not unleash its/her/his anger against us, and snuff us all out in a second.

People screamed “Amen!”, without hearing the preceding prayers. Hands were lifted up…eyes were closed. Even the flight attendants joined in as prayer warriors. That fear was real.

The height of the consciousness of our vulnerability was evident in the unity with which the plane erupted in an applause, upon safe landing at our destination.

Those smiles exchanged. The genuine laughter shared. The handshakes and shoulder-slaps; sans the haughtiness that the awareness of differences in social class, religion and ethnicity brings.

In that moment of the applause, I wondered: why can’t humans generally be this way? Realising that we are all just really existing in just this time and space and trying to survive; that there is something bigger out there which we may never fathom; that life is transient; that in a blink of an eye, life as we know it could disappear. That there is no need for the continuous and unnecessary hate and unkindness and greed and worry we as a race have learnt to trade in.

In that moment, I wished we could destroy the needless boxes that separate us, the self-inflicted chains that enshackle us, and be a united people. 

I wished we could perpetually exhibit such unity as we formed in that plane, without it having to be summoned in the face of fear and sudden realization that there just might be a God out there in whom our fate lies. Not in the hustle and bustle our daily lives, or in the number of degrees we have acquired, or in the positions we have attained. But in that above-human phenomenon, which we can neither control and nor fathom.

But you know what they say about wishes… and how beggars would be eating pounded yam with ofe nsala, ‘round-about’ and shaki as their breakfast.

And lunch.

And dinner.



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  1. Fear is one hell of a 'unifier'. Nice story, brilliant slant.

  2. Haahaahhahaaaaa.....fear of the unknown. ..This lady eeeh

  3. Humility is the key..God bless you more

  4. As breakfast, and lunch and then dinner too....who does that.....ohhh Jk of course.

    Nice write up Sis.

    1. Oh my!!! Jk, do you see what they've done to you??

  5. As breakfast, and lunch and then dinner too....who does that.....ohhh Jk of course.

    Nice write up Sis.

  6. First thing, thank God for life. It's really crazy how we embark on trips, saying bye bye to our families and not knowing if we will return or not. Hope! That's the only thing we possess.

    I don't want to loose anyone to accidents because I always term it "carelessness".

    About unity, humans need to learn. It's really funny though how danger and fear unites us. What happened to "love on a normal day".

    Nice piece dear. This got me thinking.

    Lastly, thank God for life!

  7. Nice piece. I really do love the way you write you know.

  8. Chy you are so brilliant.Very creative! I love your use of stylistics.Your diction is superb!

    1. Thank you so much.

      You can follow the G+ Follow button under my profile, so as to get first read the moment I post.

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  10. Lowkey, we are dernly more terrified of death now than in medieval times. It is the one aspect of life, civilization has not improved.

    Death is unifying. You ever wondered why during burial ceremonies, people gather to sympathise wheather they have good intentions or not, genuine intentions or not, they still gather because of the fear that one day it would inevitably come knocking at them.

    Humanity would be a better place like you said if we can learn a lesson from this piece and be united regardless of our tribe, religion, race or colour.

    Another fantastic piece, mama Schinnel.

  11. Awwww! Bless you.

    Yes. I wish we would better unite in life. Than in death.