The plane arrived in Lagos at 5:30 AM on a rainy Saturday morning. My seat on the plane, though a window seat, was right on top of the plane’s right wing, blocking my view of the town. I considered that a blessing, as in the past when I had good views of the town flying in, the sight was very dismal. And, with the rain being a torrential rain, I feared what the town would look like when we finally landed.
Suddenly, I began to feel hot, as I noticed smoke filling the mid-section of the plane. Someone on my far left made a stifling noise and fainted. Passengers and crew members rushed over to help. I could not see much from where I was seated, but from the chatter, someone had suffered a heat stroke. After a while, the temperature in the plane started to cool down and everything returned to normal.
The extra leg-length seat, which I had paid for, turned out not to be what I had paid for. One large metal box and a smaller one blocked the space under the seat in front of me, preventing me from stretching. I complained to the airline after I arrived but received no response.
I was looking forward to this visit after two years of being away, but the horrible rain should have been a sign of what was in store for me. We landed and were advised to remain seated with our seat belts on until further notice. I wondered whether the pilot was waiting for the rain to abate before moving on to the hangar and letting us out.
Thirty minutes after landing, the plane rocked gently as it taxied toward the hangar. The engines turned off, and we all quickly jumped out of our seats. When the overhead luggage compartments popped open, the entire plane became as rowdy as a tourist marketplace in summertime.
Arriving in Lagos on a Saturday, I knew that my connection to the outside world would be on hold until the following Monday, but I still sent my assistant ahead to see whether or not, by some strange stroke of luck, my phone could be reactivated over the weekend. But I would have no such luck – that business office was closed.
When I left Lagos two years ago, I had loaded my phone with enough credit to last the period of time I would be away, in hopes that the next time I returned, my phone would still be active. But, NO! Things don’t work that way in Nigeria. My phone had been disconnected and my number reissued to someone else, so, I needed a new number entirely.
On Monday, the stressful journey to get me connected to the world began. Once again, I sent my assistant to the office of the phone company, but it seemed the phone company has something against assistants. My presence was required instead.
My first visit to the phone company went well. I cruised the bad Lagos roads, with no traffic to and from the phone company’s office. The technicians reconnected my phone, I paid for the WIFI for my laptop, we tested everything, and everything worked, so I left for home. By the time I arrived back at home, my phone and WIFI were dead. Using my assistant’s phone, I called the phone company again to complain, and was told to return with my laptop. By the time I had finished the call with them, it was too late to get there in time before they closed, so, I waited until the next day.
Four days had long past since I landed in Lagos, and still no phone service and no WIFI to operate my computer. I got up early the next morning to make the trek back to the phone company. Just as before, everything worked fine while I was in the phone company’s office, but when I got home, again nothing worked. At that point, I’d had enough! I lost it! I called the phone company, shouting and threatening a lawsuit for putting me through such misery. If only people were made to suffer consequences for their incompetence, perhaps, things would work better in the world.
After ranting and swearing for ten minutes, a gentleman came on the line and calmly asked me to explain the problem.
“I can receive calls, but I can’t make calls,” I shouted back at him.
“Is this your number?” he continued calmly, unfazed by the anger in my voice.
“Is that a trick question?” I asked in exasperation.
“I mean, what’s your number?” The calm in his voice grated my nerves.
I rummaged through my bag to find the new number I had been assigned. When I could not find it fast enough, I yelled out to my assistant.
“Charles, could you tell me my new phone number, please?” Charles obliged. Silence ensued and then the calm voice on the line began to speak again.
“I’m going to give you another number and I’d like you to try calling me on that number from your phone.”
I dialed the number and that time the call connected.
“And would you try your laptop, as well?”
“Give me a minute to power it up,” I replied.
“Ma’am, is your internet working?”
“I have connected the modem to the laptop, but the internet is still not working.”
“Are there two green lights on your modem?”
“No, there’s only one green light and one red light showing.”
“Remove the modem from your computer, shut it off, wait a few minutes and power it back on, then, connect it to your laptop again.”
I followed his instructions and a few minutes later, my WIFI came to life.
“Thank you, Lord! I’m in now!” I exclaimed.
“Good! Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Nothing at all and thank you so much,” I replied, this time in a calmer tone that matched his.
After my trying experience, I started wondering why I had to go through so much stress to get something so simple done. Why couldn’t they have done this by phone in the first place? Why did I have to almost suffer a heart attack before these things were done correctly? Why do people who are in the position to make things easier for others, always seem to take delight in making things harder?
For instance, on that rainy day that I landed in Lagos, with all of the broken roads and potholes in the streets that should have been fixed long ago, it took me six hours to get from the airport to my house – a journey that usually took only one hour. Six hours was the same amount of time it had taken me to fly from London to Lagos.
There are so many ways in which we can make life easier for others – for those providing and those using services. We could use our phones and computers more productively, instead of everyone getting out on the roads all at the same time. If we let our fingers do the walking more online and we drove our cars less, I feel that things would be so much better in Lagos. But these situations can only be improved with effective leadership, and right now, that is what Nigeria is missing … a leader! Someone who knows what to do and how to get it done.
In a town like Lagos where traffic congestion can last for many hours, life would be so much easier if there were as few people as possible on the roads at any given time. Do people really work in Lagos? When it takes hours to get to work, and then hours to get back home, I doubt it. This is the recipe for a dead country, and Nigeria is quickly spiraling down that path.
May God help us!