Super Eagles Diary Day 4: They say I am an oil bunkerer

We had driven from Port Harcourt to Asaba, then to Ndoki Abia and were now heading back to Asaba, all in one weekend.

I remember the last time i made a similar trip like this was sometime in 2005 when i finished news one Friday morning on Rhythm 93.7 then headed to Calabar to watch the game between Pelican Stars and Rivers Angels. The next day was Saturday and I returned to Port Harcourt then headed to the airport to fly to Abuja for the Super Eagles that evening. In the morning I headed to Gombe to watch Gombe United v Dolphins and then on Monday morning I joined the Dolphins' club bus to Abuja where I alighted to head to the airport. By Monday evening I was at work and my colleagues did not believe that in one weekend I had left Port Harcourt to Calabar, then Abuja and Gombe and was able to return to work on Monday.

That was me, back in the day but I hadn't done that much traveling in one weekend since then.

We had planned to leave Obohia Ndoki at 7 am in order to get to Asaba on time, get a good rest before going to the Stadium for the Super Eagles v Egypt friendly match, but our host, Osteen Ejiasa had asked us the previous day to extend our departure by an hour so he could get at least ten liters of palm wine for us.

The folk back in Asaba were even expecting us to come with some, so it was a good idea to wait for it.

In the extra one hour wait, breakfast was served. The caterer from the previous day's events stayed back to make us sandwiches and tea/ coffee, depending on what each person wanted.

At 7.45 am, the palm wine person came to the house to get a gallon and then he departed promising to be back in no time and that was how his phone lines refused to connect any more.

Tired of waiting and wanting to keep us company, Ejiasa took us on a tour of his estate. His country home sits over a small pond and he told us he had particularly purchased that land because of the view.

At 9 am we had to leave (even without the palm wine) because no one could reach the fellow and we did not want to spend the whole morning at Ndoki when there was a mission in Asaba for us.

As we got into the car, some of us with long faces, Osteen Ejiasa tried to engage us in-jokes and other wisecracks just to delay our departure. Then he pleaded with us that it would not make sense that ten litres of palm wine brought in for us would arrive in our absence.

He pleaded for added time of ten minutes and we obliged him. The palm wine came and we turned it into smaller bottles and then departed for Asaba.

In the vehicle were Sanipe, Chuma Nnoli, Sammy Wejinya, and two ladies from the event, Ella and Queen, one alighting at Azumini and the other at Owerri. Azumini would be less than thirty minutes away from Obohia.

We are Oil Bunkerers? How?

As soon as we got into Azumini, still on the high way, three men, each holding two metres long pieces of wood with nails sticking out of it. They blocked the road. I told Sanipe to stop and hear them out.

As soon as the car stopped, they placed the wood by the front tires of the car and then Sanipe wound down his window to ask them what the issue was.

One of them said he wanted to search our boot and the answer from all the men in the car, almost in unison was, Why? And we also wanted to know who they were.

The leader of the trio said they were revenue collection officers. Our response was that they should search for commercial taxis and not our car.

One of them then said they got a piece of information that we were oil bunkerers and we were carrying illicitly produced petrol in our boot and they must search it since they were told it was our car. Wow! Every time I travel on nigerian highways, i hear a new one.

Then we all started arguing at the same time, but a vital question Sanipe asked was if they were told specifically that the car we were driving had bunkered oil in it. The man then said they were told a car looking like ours. I thought he just said it specifically that it was our car carrying illicitly produced petrol?

In the ensuing melee, Queen, sitting at the back asked us to stop talking. She was from Azumini. She reached out to another guy who had just joined the other three accusing us and went in her language, “Don't you know me? And she explained who her mother was in the community. The man recognised her and then chided the other three for not recognising a great daughter of the land who was in the vehicle.

It was at that point the one who said he had information that we were bunkerers then told one of his mates, “I am not even perceiving the smell of the oil in the car. Let them go.”

They pointed us to a particular direction and Sanipe negotiated the round about. I was about to ask him while he didn't go around it but inside it but I just didn't bother anymore. It was so early in the day and I was already tired.

Suddenly we noticed two men on a motorcycle chasing us and beckoning that we stop. Haha! Sanipe sighted a police check point, slowed down but said he would not stop until we got to the check point which we did.

As we all alighted from the vehicle angrily asking them why they were chasing us while the lone policeman in the checkpoint came to join in.

One of the bikers said he was a mobile policeman and that we were driving a suspicious vehicle that illegally negotiated a round about. Oh! No! Not again.

We argued for a bit and when the mobile police man knew he could do nothing, he told us to go. Suddenly, the policeman who had joined us from the checkpoint looked my way and said, “But since these people don carry motorcycle chase una na, make una just give them something for transport. If looks could kill, the one I gave him could have made me guilty of murder.

We got into our car and continued the journey to Owerrinta, then Owerri, through Onitsha.

Queen got off at Ogbor hill, while Ella, a student of the Polytechnic at Nekede alighted at Owerri. The rest of us continued on our journey to Asaba.

The Nigerian Olympic football team was a delight to watch
This team played well. Imama flanked by Osimhen and Okechukwu

The only poor thing about the game was the empty stands. People were either not interested or they were busy at work, or maybe they couldn't afford it, but the game in itself was a delight to watch.

I had boycotted National Team Post Match Conferences since the incident in Uyo two years earlier but I told myself that I would not miss this. Imama was my friend and he had made me and many others proud by the display on the day. There is hope in Nigerian football.

We stayed out a bit late that night and on our return stopped by a corner shop to get some drinks. I wanted to pay with my card via P.O.S. But he took some time searching for the machine so I got out some cash and paid.

As we got to the hotel, the receptionist was waiting for me to pay my bills.

I asked for a P.O.S. Machine and then got out my wallet to hand over my debit card. I couldn't find it. I searched all over my pockets and then my car and it still wasn't there.

Then I realised that I did not retrieve the card from the corner shop salesman after I decided to pay cash a few minutes ago.

It was too late to go back so I decided I would do it in the morning.

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