By Arthur Brooks
Revised: April 26 2012
CHAPTER ONE: ARRIVAL
The early dawn light drifted in through the Boeing 707’s oval windows, raising me from sleepless stupor to something vaguely resembling consciousness, I looked into the cold yellowed jaundiced eye of a large and grubby vulture, perched on the leading edge of the 707’s port wing.
He peered back with a look that seemed to have more than a little propriatorial interest in me!
…… “Excuse me, where are we?” I asked the passing Nigerian lady Flight Attendant, she called over her shoulder “In Kano where else?” – As if to an ignorant child! “Where is Kano?” I persevered, and asked in complete ignorance and honesty, “In Nigeria of course!” was her haughty reply!
For truly, I did not know where Kano was …… Little did I know that twelve years on I would begin a sojourn of over twenty years in that ancient and destroyed city!, that however will wait another twelve years for the towns of Enugu and then Jos would be experienced, before Kano would rise out of the sands of the Sahara.
Having finally established exactly where Kano was, we disembarked for a short transit stop before proceeding to Lagos to change planes for Enugu and Eastern Nigeria so recently recovered from a violent Civil war, only 18 months before.
A bottle of Coca Cola cost me sixpence and the toilet porcelain was Armitage Shanks – why I should remember details like that, I do not know.
This was my first journey to black Africa, my memories are of the toilets in the airport for my first African pee – the stench was overpowering even the infamous toilets of the famous Cavern Club in hometown Liverpool, could not compete with this!, accompanied by the attendant waving sheets of individualised toilet paper and shouting “Only a penny a sheet!”
Two hours later, our jet peeled languidly of the dusty tarmac of Kano Airport runway into the hot dusty air, my fuzzy and jetlagged brain soon in complete harmony with the low drone of the Boeing 707’s twin jet engines, as we climbed higher into the hot blue African skies onwards and then turned southbound for Lagos and the great unknown.
Just over an hour later, as we prepared for our final decent into Lagos, the Nigerian Airways Captain announced that the landing would be delayed because of “Presidential movements”, I imagined the Nigerian Head of State’s bowel movements causing confusion to the capital’s air traffic- and was much amused by this utterly ludicrous thought, to be able to laugh at one’s predicament – is essential for survival - as I would soon discover in Africa.
This apparently referred not to President (‘Jack’) Yakubu Gowon’s bowel movements but to the landings and takings off of his private Presidential jet – whenever the president is in the air no other plane can fly for supposed security reasons, this means that dozens of planes with or without sufficient fuel to remain aloft, have to circle for up to an hour, before being able to land, and thus throwing into utter confusion, the nation’s busiest airport and completely cocking up flight schedules and connections!
Eventually we touched down at Lagos International Airport, the doors opened and it was the smell of Lagos that first permeated the cabin, even before I noticed the heat! - Not the heat of warm summer days in England, but a heat so intense and so humid you felt it should be sliced up into pieces an inch square and sent to cold England to warm the cold bones of the cold grey people living there!
After that, you get a hit of the aroma or rather a smell that hits you in the face like a slap with a dozen ripe kippers! – it stinks of everything from shit to the animals to the lush green jungle, this is a smell that will forever be the essence of Africa and Nigeria and will bring back all kinds of memories, like a very rare and expensive perfume!.
After we touched down at Lagos Airport, the airline desk informed me that the flights to Enugu for the day had all gone, and I should come back tomorrow – “tomorrow! Where the fuck was I? Where would I stay?? At that juncture I met an English lady married to a Nigerian lecturer at The University of Nigeria Enugu Campus – wonderful fellow travellers!!! Her name was I think Anne, his – Dan Egbon!
My fellow travellers offered advice, be firm with the airline as you have missed your flight they must pay for a room – you are an international traveller!.
So it was to be the old Lagos Airport Hotel – with a bit of pushing I got Nigeria Airways to agree to pay for a room.
So armed with an airline voucher, I made my way to the hotel, but by now it was dark and Lagos was experiencing one of its regular electricity blackouts, the whole city seemed to be illuminated only by candles, what had I come to …..Oh my God!!
However, the best was yet to come, fortunately, the hotel generator was working and after checking in, I went in search of a beer and some good old Nigerian Chop (food).
It was then that I remembered that my old doctor in Liverpool had told me that I must be aware of malaria!! and that when I arrive I must take 4 chloroquine tablets followed by 2 more every two hours (little did I know this was the curative dose, not the prophylactic dose!)
So not knowing better I dutifully followed doc’s advice, found the bar drank three bottles of (very strong Nigerian ‘Star’ beer) ate a plate of peppered (very hot) chicken and promptly lost consciousness, was carried to my room the stewards, assuming wrongly I was drunk, just lay me out on the bed, I woke with a sod of a hangover the next morning, but with the chloroquine poisoning alleviated.
I did remember waking up sometime in the night to find it oppressively hot, remembered some advice from a doctor colleague (Professor Parry of Liverpool University Anatomy Dept.) who had been a medical officer in Colonial India and on the West Coast of Africa, many years before.
He told me that air conditioners (which must have seemed like space technology in his day) consumed vast amounts of electricity and should not in any circumstance be switched on for more than a few minutes at a time.
Not wanting to anger the hotel authorities I tentatively switched the beast on and left it for five minutes, once I could feel the room cooling, then switched it off.
After doing this five or six times I thought, this can’t go on all night, why don’t I open the windows?.
Having opened all the windows and “slightly” cooling the room, I returned to bed only to wake a few seconds later to a burly black man (the hotel night guard) at my window shouting that “Master should close de window or de thieves will enter” so duly chastened I closed the window and thought to myself well “fuck it” let’s leave the air conditioner on all night and bugger the expense!
The next day duly refreshed, albeit with my first Nigerian hangover, I met up with the Egbon’s who were also staying at the Airport Hotel and me made our way to the airport for the Enugu flight – well sure enough …the President had moved his bowels again and once more flight schedules were in disarray.
We queued and waited and waited and queued and Oh Yes!! Nigerian airways called us all in for lunch (unheard of these days) and we were served Heinz baked beans, egg and chips.
Finally at 2.00 pm we were told to make our way to the plane – an ancient F27 Fokker Friendship that looked like it had served in the Second World War.
Sitting at the window seat, which to me seemed huge after the Boeing 707 windows, I looked in abject horror as the propellers started to turn, they seemed only inches away from me!, the noise was horrendous and after a brief taxi, we where hurtling down the runway and up into the warm humid African air.
Soon Lagos appeared like a toy town with the distinctive red rusty tin roofs, getting smaller and smaller, as we turned and turned and turned and eventually turned due eastward, over creeks and forests of palm trees to the land of the Ibos.
One and half hours later, we circled a tiny airport in the middle of lush green savannah…Enugu airport (now Akanu Ibiam Airport) near Emene, Enugu.
CHAPTER TWO:WELCOME TO ENUGU
Now the adventure would start, I would be taken out to the medical faculty no doubt set in the lush green forest; my house would be a modest mud affair deep in the verdant jungle, with the sound of cicadas and the animals serenading me to sleep every night.
In the morning I would have my breakfast served to me under a palm tree by my handsome and very efficient African steward, who would greet my with the Igbo equivalent of “Jambo Bwana!” maybe would serve coconuts and paw paws that would occasionally fall from the trees and land on my breakfast table
I would have pet monkeys, an antelope or two and I would while the hours practising on my guitar, dreaming and writing songs about Africa and my memoirs, occasionally shooting award winning films and photographs of the wild animals and the natives cavorting in traditional attires ......in your dreams pal!!.
After clearing the tiny airport, a battered old Peugeot 404 station wagon emblazoned with the badly lettered logo of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, (UNTH) blared its horn at me
A Nigerian guy with a French suit (much loved by the Tonton Macoute in Haiti) folded himself out and yelled "Mr Borokes" we have waited two days for you, where you dey?”, “why for you no phone us?, why for you know go telex us?”,… why for you no send telegram ?.”
Having explained that I could find neither telex, or telegram nor a working phone in Lagos, he said are “Ahhh.. but this is normal in Nigeria!!” (– something I found very true….. for the next 39 years!)
We rattled over the one time graded red laterite road, throwing stones out in every direction, the place looked baked in red laterite, the cars, the people and the trees all seemed coated in layer of red laterite, the smell of the soil combined with the smell of diesel and lorry exhaust, was the smell of the Eastern Nigeria, never again to be forgotten!.
After an interminable time but probably only 40 minutes, we were in the suburbs of a town, the roads became tarmac, but full of potholes, it was thankfully cleaner looking than Lagos, but poorer looking, at that time The Biafran Civil War had ended only months before, the Federal soldiers had looted everything they could carry at the end of the war and had destroyed what they could not carry.
The Nigerian Civil War the war to end all wars, the Ibos had stood up to the rest of Nigeria they had lost the war but they also had found out more about themselves.
Two years before the war a young Ibo army officer name of Aguiyi Ironsi had led a group of disenchanted officers mostly Ibo, but by no means all and using the excuse that the government of Sir Ahmadu Bello had become corrupt, marched on Kaduna and his residence early one morning and machine gunned him to death in his bed.
After the first Ibo coup had collapsed the Northern Muslims preached that the largely Christian Ibos were out to kill them, Ironsi was overthrown and assassinated, Ibos where attacked in the towns and villages in the North.
It is said that a train full of fleeing Ibos was attacked and all, men women and children killed and the train driven into Enugu full of the dead bodies.
Then one year later another young Ibo army officer named Emeka Ojukwu announced that from now on the Ibos had a nation and its name is “Biafra”.
The rest is history, the butchered villages the starving and dying children are now history, and the millions that died belong to a tragic past.
Two years later the Ibos surrendered, Nigerian leader General Yakubu Gowon himself a Northern Christian, made his famous speech about “No victors and no vanquished” and Biafra disappeared into history...at least for a while!.
Against that backdrop I started my own Nigerian adventure!!!
The University Of Nigeria Faculty of Medicine is located at Enugu 80 kilometres south of the main University of Nigeria campus at Nsukka. And located within the Enugu Teaching Hospital complex.
Enugu was and still is, a centre for coal mining, built by the British in 1902; it follows a grid pattern and is situated in a valley surrounded by gentle green hills.
The Faculty buildings located in the teaching hospital, some newly built, many going back 30 or more years.
I was shown a room off the main operating theatre, an old and dilapidated building sorely in need of demolition, I was greeted by a family of scrawny local chickens, and from this tiny room we started the Medical Illustration Unit.
Later I met Mike Nwamoh, a 30 year old Medical Technician, , whom I was apparently to train as a Medical Illustrator, the first staff of the Unit, Mike was a Igbo from Umuahia, a good looking chap married with two kids, very bright, very intense and a born again Christian.
Mike taught me most of what I know about the Ibos their customs and history.
After Mike, came Gabriel Nwabah, Cajetan Okeke, Celestine Okoro, Richard Duncan and the all others who formed the foundation staff of the Unit over the next six years.
Medical Illustration is a service that provides medical education with photographs and graphic illustrations of medical disorders, and conditions this means taking a lot of photographs in the wards, clinics, and operating theatres of the hospital.
For this you need a strong stomach.
A new rile was developing then for Medical Illustration Units to more closely integrate into teaching, by working closely with teachers and educators, to provide multi-media learning resources that are constructed to create a guided learning resource that takes the individual student along a pre-determined path of learning.
Even in those days the use of computers was much discussed so that learning could be much more structured so that the learner could interact with the learning process.
Fortunately after four years doing similar work at the department of Human Anatomy, at the Liverpool University Medical School I did indeed have a strong stomach, especially after going through an initiation where I was nailed into a coffin shared by a very dead little old lady, and regularly eating lunch in the mortuary.
First and foremost was where to live, for the first three days I spent on a tiny bare room on a bare iron army cot at the University “Guest House” with the only other item of furniture was a Chinese electric fan.
My first car then was Japanese Daihatsu it had a 600cc engine and was two-stroke, i.e. you filled the petrol tank with both petrol and oil.
..it cost the sum of 600 Nigerian pounds.
Two years later after paying off the car loan I was able to get another loan to buy a Renault 12, a brand new model then and I could choose the colour! – I wanted a red one, but had to wait another three weeks till “Red ones” arrived, this cost all of 3,200 Nigerian Naira! I still have the receipt
During the time I was at Enugu, there was a number of firsts in medicine, in 1976 I met the then Professor Magdi Yacub, (later Sir Magdi Yacub) an Egyptian born cardiothoracic surgeon from the Harefield Hospital in the UK, then and now probably foremost heart hospital in the world.
Magdi had come over with the invitation of the Faculty of Medicine and the College of West African Surgeons, which had planned to carry out two open heart surgery operations during the annual conference of the College, which was at the timer being hosted by the University of Nigeria, at Enugu campus.
This was to be the first open heart surgery in black Africa!
Open heart surgery is where the heart is stopped, during the operation allowing surgery to take place whilst the entire patient’s blood supply is transferred through a machine fulfilling the job of the patients’ heart. After the operation...Hopefully, the blood is transferred back into the heart and the heart wakes up to its normal rhythm.
The two patients selected for the operation were a young girl and guy, both of whom had severe heart defects that could only be corrected by radical surgery.
Both operations were a complete success, despite severe conditions in the hospital, the local power supply had broken down and we had to rely on an antiquated generator, there was an acute water shortage, so much so I had to get buckets and go down to the local river to fetch water for processing the colour transparency films on which I photographed the surgical operations.
At one point Magdi Yacub started ‘Tut Tutting’ and looking up at the ceiling, I followed his gaze to see sawdust falling onto the operating table as a result of woodworm action..the operating theatre had only just been commissioned.
I and my crew got to know the two patients well during their surgery and during the post operative care afterwards, they made a complete recovery.
I and my Unit staff filmed and photographed the entire procedures in both of the first operations, and subsequent operations carried out after Magdi Yacoub left, unfortunately, the most of the subsequent operations failed and we lost the patients during the procedure.
An interesting side note occurred when the young man who was operated on recovered and came back to visit us at the hospital, he called me aside and asked if there was a possiblity of him finding employment at the hospital, since he recovered he was unable to find a job.
I had a quick word with Professor Fabian Udekwu, then head of Surgery, who immediately employed him as a messenger.
Fabian Udekwu was a great character, when we first met at the medical faculty, he was kicking two of my audiovisual staff out of a lecture theatre that we had set up for another lecturer, this led me into an altercation with Fabian, later we became firm friends and he was a lot of help to me personally, he was (I heard he passed away a few years ago in his eighties) at first sight a big bully and bear of a man, but when you got to know him he had a heart of gold.
Fabian's wife was European, from ? Can't recall her name, but they had nine children, all I think went into medicine and I believe excelled themselves, I saw one quote that stated; "The Udekwu family had so many in medicine that they could have staffed an entire hospital!"
The lad was very grateful for this help and sometime later he called in to my office, he asked if someone was causing me problems, I replied that ‘many people caused me problems.
He then with a serious face told me that someone in particular was causing me problems, but, on a special day to me, that someone will be dealt with!.. strange to relate ’someone’ who was causing me a lot of problems, and was trying to get me out of my job, was found dead in bed some weeks later, on the morning of my 25th birthday... a birthday present??. I hope not!
It was in Enugu over a “Star” Beer at the University staff club, that I met Alan Elliot, Professor of Pharmacology originally from South Africa, but gained nationality of first United Kingdom and now finally Canada, Alan was semi retired in his early seventies.
Alan was an active wiry grey bearded chap, with unorthodox views on most things, he didn’t believe in a god, but had formed his own semi religious commune in Canada, he didn’t believe in marriage but was living in with three women, he was he claimed the man who invented the aspirin alternative paracetamol.
However it was over thirty years later that I discovered he was actually acclaimed as the father of a branch of biochemistry associated with the effects of various drugs on the brain. Allan died at the age of 83 in 1986 in Montreal, Canada.
It was Alan who one morning said to me “Arthur you are accompanying me on a tour of Northern Nigeria” I said ‘Oh am I?’…when”, ‘why ..tomorrow’, despite my plee that I would have to ask permission from the Dean of Medicine, Professor Nwokolo, who was away on faculty business, he said he would clear the trip with the Dean on his return.
So off we set in Alan’s VW Beetle, north for Kainji Dam, where Nigeria’s electricity is generated, on the way we stopped at Ankpa in Benue State, close to the Benue River.
In Ankpa we met a Canadian Volunteer (CUSO) named Elizabeth….. She lived in a bungalow on the school compound where she taught, her sole companion a mangy looking Patas monkey.
We took off to get to the ferry on the Niger at Shintaku…. And as the ferry only goes three or four times a day we must meet the deadline or wait till next day.
We reached the banks of the River to be met by a long queue of vehicles – cars, taxis, Lorries and trailers for a little flat bed ferry, powered by an asthmatic sounding engine.
It was surprising how many managed to climb on to the ferry with the ferry staff manoeuvring each vehicle with considerable skills, learned only by years of experience.
We did not get on as the ferry was full by the time we got to the gangplank, however we were assured that this one would be back within an hour.
It turned out to be two and a half hours; in the meantime Prof and I ensconced ourselves in a local riverside bush bar, with a supply of warm “Star” Beer, and waited for the ferry to return, and our journey to our next stop at Lokoja across river.
At Lokoja we continued to a French Canadian Catholic Mission just a few miles from the town, here we found a tiny church and compound under a French Canadian Reverend Father.
As we entered the church compound in our Beetle, we saw the French priest looking up with shock at what remained of the west wall and roof of the church.
We then saw why he looked so anguished, fore he had just cut a giant tree down, but he had miscalculated it’s fall path, it had come down on the corner of the church, damaging the walls and roof.
With a Gallic shrug he turned to greet us in French accented English, “Oh Sheet ...I Av destroyed my church”!
However apart from that inconspicuous beginning we had a pleasant night in the mission.
I slept in a Nuns bed” fortunately (or unfortunately) she was on leave in Canada at the time.
So I slept in a very simple room under rosary beads and an enormous cross on the wall.
In the morning I stepped out onto the narrow veranda to get some fresh air.
As I stretched and enjoyed the cool morning breeze I was suprised to se about 20 small children, who all shouted in unison when they saw me “Bless me father” I tried to explain that I wasn’t a priest, but they would not be put off so easily, “Bless Me Father” was repeated and repeated until I gave up and gave a quick genuflection in their direction and hurried off to find breakfast.
Breakfast was homemade French baguettes and coffee after which we set of for New Bussa and the Kainji Dam on the great Niger River, where at that time 90% of Nigeria’s electricity was produced by hydro electricity from Kainji.
New Bussa replaced the “Old” Bussa that had been flooded in the construction and flooding of the dam, the old Bussa was where the explorer Mungo Park made his last stop before foundering on the Niger River rapids and his assumed death.
New Bussa was an African new town, all concrete and new roads, the residents looked as perplexed at all this
Newness as did we coming from our trip through old Africa, tiny villages made of mud.
The main mosque and little mosque were all modern concrete monstrosities, the huts were of concrete.
We met a VSO named Mike, who was a teacher at one of the “New” concrete schools, and seemed a jovial character, but apparently every few weeks would disappear into the old town to visit one of the “town girls” return apparently legless and not turn up for three or four days and with a bad hangover and empty pockets.
He claimed he was very pally with the Emir of Bussa, a great grandson of the Emir who was the last to meet Mungo Park in fact he had Mungo’s gold ring, it was wondered if Mungo had given the Emir his ring willingly or not!
Some years later at a gathering of Northern Nigerian Royals many years later in Katsina I met the now elderly Emir who confirmed the story of his friend the teacher and the story of his great great grandfather and Mungo Park’s ring which he still wore and showed me, but would not be drawn on the way his forbear had obtained the ring.
Incidentally at the same gathering in Katsina, surrounded by the richest and royalest men in Northern Nigeria my pocket was picked and N5,000 Naira was removed, which says a lot for the rich and famous in any country.
On the way back we passed through Idah, and went to see the Idah cliffs on the River Niger, these had been illustrated by Mungo Park on his travels.
Late one afternoon at the Teaching Hospital in Enugu a British expatriate couple, whom I knew came to see me in my office, their 10 years old daughter had been admitted with pains in the abdomen.
I went over to the Admissions department to check her out the resident doctors on duty both said it was stomach gripe, I saked "What about appendicitis?" they said "Oh no, not likely"
Later I called at Professor Fabian Udekwu's home behind my house on the University Campus.
After telling him the story, he said "Go down to the hospital I will follow you in my car"
On reaching the hospital Fabian questioned his two medical housemen, when they gave the same diagnosis as they gave me, he physically booted them up the backside and out of the department.
He then turned to me and said "Arthur, we are going in get Matron to prepare theatre"
I replied "What do you mean WE are going in?"
"I mean you are assisting me" "But but I am not a surgeon I retorted" "This is Nigeria!" he replied.
So I duly assisted in the operation , me Theatre Matron and the great Professor Udekwu.
He got me to cut the appendix off after he had tied a ligature around the organ, and did very nice and almost keyhole surgery.
The little girl only remembered me as "Uncle Arthur who took my knickers off!!!"
By 1976 I was also illustrating Macmillan Publishing, school books for Nigeria, and got to know a guy named Chris Harrison, who was Macmillan’s representative and got to know him and his wife Megan quite well on their frequent visits to Enugu.
They asked me to cover a coffee table book on Nigeria for the upcoming FESTAC 77 the World 2nd Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture that Nigeria would be hosting in 1977.
Unfortunately my work with the University of Nigeria did not give me the time to spend on that project.
I regret that I did not find the time it was a great opportunity.
Later that year the founder of Macmillan Publishing Harold Macmillan would be paying a visit to Nigeria.
Macmillan was a popular figure with the anti aparthied movement, as he was the first Western leader to state publicly at a speech in South Africa when was Prime Minister of the UK in the nineteen sixties, that “Winds of Change are sweeping across Africa” in other words independence for the black African nations.
And with this famous speech, a warning that the then Apartheid state of South Africa should recognise that things are a’ changing in Africa.
Anyway I was asked to provide photographic coverage for his visit to Enugu.
The time came around and I gathered a team of photographers, we duly covered the events from the airport and then Government House to meet Akpabi Asika the then Governor, the British Council and later to the Presidential hotel, for a cocktail party.
At this stage Chris Harrison appeared in a bright green suit with white piping and a loud green dickey bow, he saw my look and explained he had forgotten to pack a suit from UK so had to borrow one and this was the only one he could find!!
Chris later told me that he felt and looked like a circus ringmaster and he was worried that his prize act “Harold Macmillan” might just drop dead on him and he would be the one to carry the body and the responsibility back to Blighty!
I enjoyed the few short conversations I had with “Mac” and thought then and still today, that he was an exceptional man and leader.
Another guy I got to know then was a light skinned Ibo man, about my age, Eddy Iroh, who when I first came to Enugu was the British Council Librarian.
I remember a night at the Hotel Presidential cinema hall, that was only one of a couple of places where one could watch imported films, a group of young Nigerian guys were making a lot of noise and I couldn’t hear the sound track and I told them so, they were not amused by this white man telling them what to do and told me they were going to beat me up after the film show.
As I left the cinema I ran into Eddie also leaving the hall, and the guys, who I told off, approached and said they were going to beat me up, so Eddie said OK then you will have to take me on as well, one swung a punch at Eddie who deftly side stepped and knocked he guy down from behind this was enough for the guys and they made off with their proverbial tails between their legs.
Which taught me another lesson about my new found countrymen, Nigerians are great at showing off, but coming to any tough action they often melt away.
Eddy went on to Edit Chic Afrique magazine in UK, he also wrote a number of successful fiction books, including ‘The Toads of War’ and ‘Sixty Four Guns for the General’; these two based on his experiences of the Biafran War
I met Eddy some thirty odd years later when he became Director General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (Nigeria’s BBC radio service), and had some interesting conversations in his penthouse office at the FRCN headquarters in Abuja.
We still occasionally exchange e-mails.
I designed, produced and printed their 2003 wall calendar. just before President Olusegun Obasanjo banned the printing of calendars in all Federal Ministries and government organisations.
I had great friends amongst the British Council Directors who came and went during my years at Enugu none more than Peter Cavaye who had a wife most feared amongst the British Council wives, one look from Dorothy Cavaye could turn your blood to ice.
I remember one evening after a long and boozy party at the at another expatriates residence I think it was Bill Slater the General Manager of Turners Asbestos, Enugu, residence.
Some of my friends including my VSO housemate Bill Mackay, and a few other dodgy characters, decided to embark on a quest, one that so far had not succeeded that of stealing the British Coat of Arms, that previously adorned the walls of the British High Commission residence in Enugu, before the Biafran War.
Apparently a number of drunken British expats had tried previously but had failed.
So in a lull in the party we blacked up from the barbecue charcoal, crept around the back of the residence, and across the grass lawn on our bellies, climbed the fence into the British Council garden next door.
We climbed the drain pipe and climbed over the balustrade, as we were creeping along a first floor corridor we encountered Dorothy Cavaye coming unexpectedly out from a bedroom door she roared “what the hell are you people up to? “ we froze in our tracks, “ We were only looking for the High Commission coat of Arms” we replied sheepishly
“Out Out Out” she cried so with our tails between our legs we climbed back over the balcony.
Another VSO at that time was Tina Wiseman, Tina was a medical technician, specialising in Microbiology.
Tina was very beautiful, with blue eyes and short almost boyish auburn hair - Tina was everybody’s heartthrob! . no less mine.
With Tina and other VSO’s and expatriates we visited many places in south East Nigeria, none better than Obudu Hill Station Hotel, near Obudu Town in what is now Cross River State.
Tina also befriended the then State Civilian Administrator (Governor) Ukpabi Asika, I have no doubt that her relationship with the Governor was platonic.
but I was probably unreasonably jealous!, one evening as we sat at her house having a few drinks, a Rolls Royce car, property of the Governor’s office came and left empty no less than three times to collect her but she refused
The Governor wanted her to attend a party to celebrate the visit of the President of Sudan, Numeri, and Nigeria’s President Gowon.
For some reason Tina did not want to be seen at this party and I encouraged her to go saying “Just think, you can tell your grandchildren that you were screwed by two African president’s in one night!” for that I got a resounding slap across my face!.
She wouldn’t speak to me for days afterwards ..Can’t think why?
Another character in those days was Professor Anezi Okoro, who was head of Dermatology.
I took many medical photographs for Anezi and we made a tape slide programme on Leprosy.
The other thing with Anezi was that he was a writer of children's books, several I still have annotated by him including Dr. Amadi's Posting, which I helped to illustrate.
Lagos to Southampton, a Voyage on the M.V. Aureol
CHAPTER THREE:OUT OF AFRICA, VOYAGE TO BLIGHTY
In August 1974 I stepped on board the MV. Aureol at Apapa Docks Lagos, on my first home leave in two long years. The ship’s public address system played “Rule Britannia” as we headed out alongside the Marina and Lagos Lagoon, many old coasters onboard, reminiscing no doubt of an earlier colonial era.
A month before I had checked up my employment contract with the University of Nigeria, and noted that it stipulated that, expatriate staff could travel at the University’s expense on economy class air travel, or first class sea travel.
‘Aha’ I thought what about a nice cruise home! so I went to see the University’s Passages Officer, and asked if I could travel by sea, he stated that nobody had done so for years, but as it is in the contract, then no problem, however he further stated that if I wanted to go by sea then I would have to do the booking myself.
So I jumped on the next Nigeria Airways F27 Fokker plane to Lagos and made a booking, got an invoice from the Elder Dempster offices, located on the Marina and returned to present the bill which was duly paid.
The ship was the largest I have ever been on, previously, the biggest I ever saw was the Liverpool ferry across the Mersey, and the Isle of Man boats.
This was something else, it had a cinema on board that could seat 300 people, a huge first class lounge, as well as second class lounge, (I assume that there was a third class steerage lounge), a swimming pool.
As I was a first class passenger I did not need to meet with the lower classes!!! the entire crew was from Liverpool (in fact only a couple of years earlier in 1972 had the ship stopped making Liverpool as it’s home destination, and was now headed for Southampton).
The chief steward had gone to my school; the Captain (Campbell I think) was a Crosby man.
My fellow passengers were a motley crew; a lot of the whites were ‘Old Coasters’ as West Africa expatriates used to be called.
There was one regal and elderly Nigerian lady, who I understood was an English “Dame” also on board, was Thurston Shaw, the English Professor who was well known for his research into Nigerian and Igbo antiquities. I would later photograph the entire “Igbo Uku” collection at the Nigerian National Museum for a Book by the New Zealand born Nigerian historian; Professor Elizabeth Isichai.
Elizabeth wanted some pictures of the collection to feature in her new book ‘ History of the Igbo People’ She asked me to design the cover and incorporate a picture of one particular bronze bowl in the cover design and also to take a number of other pictures for the book.
On the next trip to Lagos, armed with a letter from Elizabeth I walked into the National Museum’s Curators office, most surprisingly he readily gave permission, as it was rather dark inside the museum building.
As I had not brought any lights, I asked further if I may photograph the collection on the museum lawn, again permission was readily granted to my astonishment.
I had in my possession probably, in its entirety one of the most important collections of Nigerian antiquities to myself and no one was even guarding them, I could have made off with them all!
On board the Aureol most of the passengers at that time were white and mostly British, a lot of bankers and teachers, going back to UK for leave or many just leaving Nigeria, the voyage home giving them one lingering look back at their life in West Africa.
I discovered recently that a brother to an Italian friend in Kaduna and still living in Lagos was on board the same voyage.
I actually got on better with the African passengers most of whom were younger people going to UK for their education.
I wish I had made a diary of the trip, I didn’t even take many photographs, can’t think why not, as I usually took lots of pictures when travelling!
I actually found most of the passengers quite boring most were older than myself, and the teachers had little conversation to offer, the bankers and other business people were rather arrogant puffed up and mostly quite racist in the their attitude to Africans.
I had a cabin to myself, not very big but enough space for a bunk, a chair, coffee table a desk and chair and a wash hand basin.
The bathroom was down the corridor and was shared by 5 or 6 cabins I think?, the bathroom had a big old fashioned bath with lots of pipes and taps which when turned on emitted an incredibly powerful gush of water (salt sea water at that) that if you weren’t careful would flow over at the other end of the huge bath, such was the force.
Life began with breakfast, this consisted of anything you wished for, bacon eggs, liver, chips, several choices of sausages, bread, toast, an array of cereals, coffee, tea, ovaltine, many many juices, kippers, African foods, yam, semovita etc.
In fact breakfast could last you all day.
The steward would encourage you to take more; it was quite a battle to avoid overeating.
It was often reminiscent of the Monty Python film, “The Meaning of Life” where the character of a hugely overweight man, after a gargantuan meal is offered by the waiter an after eight chocolate mint, with the waiter saying “only one small little chocky”
The fat man says, if “If I eat this, I’ll burst!” after succumbing to this temptation there as a loud explosion and he duly bursts!
Aboard Aureol, at almost every meal the steward would implore you to “have some more, there’s plenty”.
I remember when sailing through the Bay of Biscay in fairly rough seas that the breakfast lounge was virtually empty, and only the few foolhardy ones, like me, were able to brave the lurching decks.
And having a fairly strong stomach, I hadn’t succumbed to sea sickness; the waiter would implore you to eat some more, ‘have a kipper!’ ‘Have more bacon!’ ‘have more sausages!’
After breakfast it was games time; quoits on the deck or deck tennis, sometimes they organised a greasy pole contest with a slippery pole over the swimming pool, where two people would try and sit astride the pole while slapping each other with a pillow.
Lunch or brunch; brunch on the swimming pool deck, or formal lunch in the dining lounge. usually following a few beers at the bar, actually drinks were the only thing you had to pay for and it was relatively cheap as duty was not paid in alcohol at sea.
The first class dining room was dominated at the end by the captain’s table which seated about 9 or ten persons, first class passengers were given a turn to sit at the captains or the chief engineers table once on the voyage.
I seem to remember when my turn came it as guest at the Chief Engineer’s table (who was of course a fellow Scouser).
In fact I got the impression that sitting with the Captain was not such a great experience, as he was a gruff mostly silent fellow in public, and apparently this trip and the final trip was to be his last before retirement, and he was not too happy about the fact!
After a fairly heavy lunch plus a few jars, it was time for a siesta in one’s cabin, I recall during one siesta, passing along the coast with Morocco, the ship took a violent starboard lurch, which would have thrown me off a normal bed, but being a bunk, the higher sides kept me in. Things however fell off tables.
Later in the bar my schoolmate the Chief Steward told me what happened, the Captain, came up to the bridge a little worse for wear having imbibed a little too much drink, peered and ahead saw a fishing boat a long way off, and ordered an immediate hard turn to starboard.
The startled helmsman fearing the master’s wrath immediately complied, causing the ship to lurch over at a violent angle. The Chief Steward told me that they lost twenty bottles of assorted spirits that fell off the bar shelves.
The Purser was quite a character as well, another Scouser of course, he had to double as Purser and Entertainments Manager, organising events, discotheques, quiz nights, fancy dress parties etc.
I was one evening coerced into the fancy dress competition which I went as an Arabic Sheik.
What I didn’t realise till I was pushed on stage, was that each person in the competition had to go on stage solo and sing a song or do a funny stand-up act, I thought we would just all stand on the stage together and the audience would judge us.
I was positively terrified standing on stage in my long gown and dish dash head turban, while desperately thinking what the hell to say or sings , so I just did a quick “Salaam Malaikum” in my best scouse accent and ran off as quick as possible – needless to say I didn’t win any prizes!
The first place on the voyage we reached was Takoradi in Ghana, but we arrived late at night with only time to dash to nearest African bar for a warm beer or two, and ogle the local ladies.
Although I did have time to buy Ghanaian embroidered shirt which I still have to this day. Then we were back onto the ship before sailing for Freetown Sierra Leone.
Freetown we hit mid – afternoon, and spent time not only in the bars but climbing partly up the lion shaped rock that gives Sierra Leone the country (Lion Mountain-it’s name in Spanish ...or is it Portuguese). and taking a stroll around the old part of the town.
From Sierra Leone we sailed to Monrovia, Liberia, where once again we spent the little time we got in the bars, but did manage to see quite a bit of the town, which then had no high buildings, and not many tarred roads.
After Monrovia we headed out in the Atlantic Ocean to Las Palmas, the largest of the Canary Islands, but yet again spent only a few hours ashore instead of the full days we expected, it was however very interesting to see somewhere so European and Spanish so close to Africa, but then Spain is only a few miles from Morocco anyway.
Leaving Las Palmas, heading for Europe I was amazed at the Porpoises swimming in the sea, diving under the ship as though the Aureol was just one of their play mates.
In the evenings it was dinner at eight (of course!), always in formal dress, usually someone playing on the grand piano whilst food was served and superb food it always was, I assume they must stock up with food in UK for the two trips back and forth, as I don’t think much of the food was stocked up in Nigeria.
Then dancing or cinema or some other entertainment programme till supper, yes supper, it a hard life on board with breakfast, brunch and, lunch , high tea, (always in the library) dinner and supper, although supper usually consider of sandwiches or meat pies, I put on about three stone over the two weeks at sea.
I remember the Captain staggering into the bar during a meat pie supper, and shoving a young girl out of the way with his ample backside to the words” move ye arse luv” not very captain- like I thought!
Five days later we berthed at Southampton, and I was back to old cold grey England, far away from my sunny and colourful Africa.
I continued to work and live in Enugu up to January 1979, until Professor Gilbert Onuguluchi, now the first Vice Chancellor of University of Jos, who incidentally was the person I first met at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and who first invited me out to work in Enugu in 1970.
CHAPTER FOUR: HIGH IN THE PLATEAU 1979
1979 City of Jos Plateau State Nigeria, 6,000 feet up in the Jos Plateau.
It is the 7th of January, I am freezing cold! I am staying in a tiny room at the Puje Hotel, the temperature is +1oC, instead of going to the nearest bar for a drink, I wrap myself up in all the bed covers I can find; and I am still cold!!
Tomorrow, the first thing is to find an electric heater!!
I was to spend seven happy years in Jos; the climate was invigorating after the sultry heat and high humidity of southern Nigeria.
The high mountains of the Jos Plateau evoked a feeling of magnificent awe in my mind, and I never tired of climbing and walking in the hills and valleys, exploring the rivers & lakes.
In those days, the University were willing to give staff, interest free loans to buy a car (new cars!!) I finally decided to retire my ancient Renault 12 Saloon and invest in a brand new Fiat designed Russian Lada Niva 4-Wheel Drive Jeep at the princely sum of 4,200 Naira. (This was a lot of money then)
Lada jeeps were good vehicles, with a few shortcomings, such as the aluminium oil sump the cracked at first contact with a rock in the bush. Also the infamous passenger seat that had plastic studs with holes in the middle, for fitting the accessory headrest. The Niva being a two door vehicle.
When a passenger enters the back, he has to push the front passenger seat back forward to get in, this results in the plastic studs connecting with the windscreen which sooner or later causes the hallmark crack in the windscreen.
Seen on almost all Lada Niva Jeeps at that time!.
The Medical Faculty was just starting in those days, and the first medical doctors had not yet graduated.
The Dean of Medicine was Professor Fred Ikeme, a brilliant Igbo doctor with a wealth of experience and publications behind him.
I personally found him very easy to get on with, he was always helpful, and full of simple advice, on a few occasions when it was reported I had lost my temper with another staff, he would tut tut! and say “when I get annoyed I just count down from ten, and usually I am calm by the time I reach 7”.
We had a motley crew at the Medical Faculty; Professor Wilfred Weber, a fiery Briton of German extraction, Professor Humphrey Olisa, an equally fiery Igbo man, trained in Germany, for some reason they did not get on well at all.
At times these two middle aged guys would go at it hammer and claw, Olisa also spoke fluent German and the two of them would curse and abuse each other in high German, often in the middle of the faculty car park, with University staff and passers-by looking on with surprise!.
Wilfred and his wife Dorothy lived on the University staff campus, and were always gracious hosts.
Wilfred was a man of principals and when he found out that one of the University staff was receiving kick backs from a contractor working on buildings in the faculty, he sacked the contractor (he was chairman of the faculty building committee)
This made him enemies in the faculty, and one time when in UK on University business, someone reported to Nigeria Immigration that Professor Weber was a South African spy, and he was banned from coming back.
He wrote to me to ask that the food and drink in the house be shared with his friends, this we did, only to find 200 bottles of wine 150 bottles of spirits, six whole cheeses, five turkeys, and uncountable tins of food, looked like they were expecting to endure a long siege.
Any ways we had several parties drinking to their good health.
The Medical Faculty sorely missed a good colleague.
Brian Cowlishaw was another colleague, Head of the faculty Biochemistry Department but smitten by depression and an over liking for good whiskey, after one long bout of depression he was found lifeless in his bed with indications a drug overdose.
Brian was buried at St Pirans Churchyard in Jos, a venue of many good friends final resting place.
A strange tale accompanies this story, the night before we found him dead, I was reading late into the night and suddenly had this feeling that someone I know has just died, and it was not I felt, a close relative but someone I knew. It was so compelling that I wrote it in my diary.
Imagine my surprise when at 6am Brian’s Departmental Chief Technician, Lanre, was banging on my door, when I opened it he told me he found Brian dead in his bed, I brought my diary and showed him the entry, he was shocked.
I grew to love the Plateau, and would spend long weekends with friends camping in the bush, or climbing the many hills and mountains, or sailing in the tin mine lakes that scattered across the Jos Plateau from the tin mining days.
Sometimes I would go off on my own in the Lada Niva with my oil painting gear and canvas, and just spend hours painting the scenery.
Two of my good friends in those days was Chris and Chris, a young British couple that worked as lecturers in Sociology at Unijos, male Chris (Saunders) had an old wooden sailing boat that was made by an Irish Priest, everything was wood even the main mast, and it weighed a “ton”.
We spent many weekend at Rayfield Lake near Jos or at Kurra Falls, off the Road to Panyam, about 75 km away.
Kurra Falls consisted of three lakes each was higher than the other and was reached by a road that climbed up the plateau until one reached the topmost lake.
All went well with our timbered sailing boat until the day we took it to Kurra falls.
The Chris’s towed the boat with their short wheel base Toyota Land cruiser, with me coming up behind in my Lada jeep, and as we passed along a tree shaded bush road, In saw it!!! A huge mango tree with very large very low branches, easy for the Land cruiser to pass under but the boat was above the cabin!! As sickening crunch and the boat was on its back on the road...in pieces!!!!
The lakes were and still are part of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Company, a largely British owned hydro-electric company, which supplied hydro-electricity to Plateau State.
In those days it, supplied all the electrical needs of Plateau state, but in 1980 the Federal owned Nigerian Electricity Power Authority. (NEPA) stated that only it had the right to supply electricity to the city of Jos.
Previously Jos had virtually uninterrupted power supply, and any time that NESCO had a problem that involved a few hours power interruption they would put postcard under your days stating the electricity will be off from so time to so time, and often it would come back before the stated time.
But from then on Jos descended into an epileptic power supply most of the time plunged into darkness for days.
NEPA had been the bane of Nigeria’s development, right from independence and today it is the worst!! Successive Nigerian government make lofty promises of consistent electrical power but deliver precisely nothing!
But I am digressing, Kurra Falls top lake, is a very pleasant place and was the venue of the annual Sailing Boat Regatta, which at that time attracted sailing boats and dinghies from Jos, Kano, Kaduna and even Lagos.
The Chris’s and I, Bob Dransfield, David Whitehead and others used to go there both for the Regatta and at weekends for camping barbecues and sailing.
Although the lake was only about 3km long by half a km wide, there was enough room to have a good time sailing with a flotilla of yachts.
Much later when I moved to Kano I bought a “Laser” Dinghy from friend Gary Dennis in for 100 Naira, and went sailing on my own, the boat is still at Kafin Chiri Dam near Wudil, but I have not been there for ten years.
There was a Party at Tony Mill’s House –
I had some drunken argument with friend Paul – caused entirely by me I add, in annoyance I poured my beer over the carpet and stalked out , so pissed I didn’t remember we were at Tony’s house or indeed where Tony’s house was.
I climbed over the wall after failing to find the gate!! And stood in an unfamiliar lonely road with not a person or car in site.
With tail between legs I climbed back over to the house and had to go back and apologise for my crass behaviour.
Well that was the starter for ten!
One Saturday night we all decided to visit the Havana Night Club the seediest joint that Jos can offer.
Home to a bevy of Nigerian ladies of the night!
After a drunken evening with some dancing I remember we all left, me last as I reversed out I “touched” a cigarette vendors stall, he was annoyed, some others even more so.
As I got out to apologise I saw a guy with a broken Rock beer bottle in hand, just then a young Lebanese guy came up to me and said “You should leave!!” “Why I said”... “because you have just had a bottle of Star broken over your head” “What” I said, “no he was only threatening me....”
.....And then I saw the blood all over my shirt bleeding from the head!
So I left, following his car and bade farewell at Paul’s flat at Dogon Dutse, I walked in to find them all staring at me in horror. Fortunately Chidi the Igbo doctor, whose Rumanian wife was also a doctor in the hospital, was there and patched me up, I lost my specs somehow in the event.... which I don’t even remember how.
After this night we set off from Jos Railway Station by train to Abeokuta intending to go on to Badagry.
We had all our respective Nigerian stewards down with mops and buckets and soap, to clean out our compartments.
The journey by rail was something else again as we travelled through down the foothills of the Jos Plateau escarpment, on the narrow gauge Nigerian Railway, stopping at every station, buying food from the numerous food sellers, that met the train at each station.
It is Christmas day 3.30 in the morning we are sitting in Abeokuta railway station 1st Class VIP waiting room.
On our way from Jos to Badagry Beach with Paul Creighton & Sue, Graham Patterson & Andrea and me.
Sitting is probably a wrong term, lounging more appropriate – Graham is draped across the sofa as only Graham can, Paul is lying across the carpet as only Paul can! Sue is sitting in arm armchair looking bored by the whole affair. Andrea is also on the floor trying her best to sleep, until the dawn when we can get a taxi to Badagry.
We arrive by taxi into Badagry, and make our way to the beach; we are looking for a hotel to stay.
We found a reasonably clean one, all bamboo and a grass roof, we asked how much and are asked in reply “how many hours?” – this is clearly a “knocking Shop” Paul doesn’t mind at all – Paul had seen more knocking shops than has had hot dinners! We once had to “rescue” Paul from a certain “Madam Fulani’s establishment in Rampam Street Jos.
He had gone there to be entertained by two Nigerian ladies..... only problem was Paul was broke (as usual), and when it was time to go home the girls said “no way” pay up or we keep you here minus your clothes!”
After two days he managed to call quietly to a small boy who was passing, without waking up the ladies to go to my house or another friend to raise alarm.
Eventually I and one other friend arrived and managed to give the girls some amount of money and effect his release!!
Out of Africa
At that time although, University salaries were not that fantastic, they were enough coupled with a small financial top up from the British Government’s Ministry of Overseas Development, enough to travel to other countries, in the year between the University paid leave home, began with Europe during my Enugu years, to France and Italy, but the travel bug got me, and I started travelling further afield, both within Africa, Canada and to the Far East.
CHAPTER FIVE: ORIENTAL TRAVELS
So it was in August 1983 I found myself in Malaysia. visiting Brian and Mei Carroll in Kuala Lumpur.
My old friend Brian Carroll, from Enugu days, was an Architect, working for Mbanefo Associate, an Igbo owned architectural practice, based in Enugu, Brian later moved to Kaduna, where feeling lonely he wrote to his childhood pen pal, a Malay Chinese girl named Mei, asking herb to visit him in Nigeria, she jumped at the chance wanting to see the world and joined him in Kaduna.
One romantic month later, they married in the Kaduna Marriage Registry office which also doubled as the Motor Vehicle Registration Office.
However according to Kaduna State law, as they were both under thirty year old, they would require their parent’s permission.
With both sets of parents thousands of miles away and communications to and from Nigeria in those days erratic, they were eventually granted a “Temporary Marriage Certificate” – as far as I know it is still temporary forty years later!
At their invitation I travelled by Soviet Aeroflot Airlines Illuysin 50 from London Heathrow, why Aeroflot? - also known affectionately as “Aeroflop”
Well ...my brother Alan received instructions from me to book me on the “Cheapest” bucket shop ticket return to KL, only when I was at the airport did I discover that for the princely sum of one extra pound I could have flown Cathay Pacific.
A much better airline better service, better food, better seats, but as we will see later maybe not as exiting!.
At Heathrow airport I boarded a Russian Ilyushin airliner, I noted the decor’ was mostly battleship grey from the wall panels to the seats and the curtains, even to the potato faced and shaped cabin crew “girls”, whose lack of English and lack of tact was famous.
The first leg was from London to Moscow, where we disembarked for refuelling to the Transit lounge of Sheremetyevo International Airport.
I have never seen such a lifeless and miserable airport in my life, although quite modern only having been opened the year before, for the Moscow Olympics, but dead, the staff never smiled and served drinks with a scowl on their faces.
After a couple of hours we re-boarded our aircraft for our next leg to Tashkent in the Soviet Union, we arrived at about 2am in the morning, local time, this time the airport looked like something out of the nineteen thirties, with statues and paintings depicting the heroes of the Soviet Union and communism.
The only people I noticed were the babushkas(Russian grandmothers) that seemed to be the airport cleaners they were even more glum that the staff at Moscow.
Back on board for our next leg to New Delhi in India, we appeared to acquire more passengers, mostly Indians heading home, they now filled every square inch of seat place and I could no longer stretch out along the row.
Food on board seemed to consist of a limited menu of black Russian bread rice and chicken.
At one point in the flight a litre bottle of perfume smelling of rotten apples fell down in the toilet cubicle near my seat permeating the plane with its disgusting odour for the next ten hours.
New Delhi was fascinating, more so if I had seen further than the international transit lounge.
Finally after another five hours of Aeroflop “Luxury” we touched down at Subang International Airport Kuala Lumpur, and emerged into the steamy afternoon heat of Malaysia.
My friends Brian and Mei and their four year old son, Sean met me outside the arrivals hall.
Soon we were in down town K.L. for lunch of Chinese / Malay food (superb) the next morning we set out for the East coast of the country , during the month I three weeks I spent in Malaysia I visited the Hindu palaces of Batu.
At Rantau Abang, I slept on the sandy beach to see at 4am in the morning Giant Leatherback turtles coming ashore to hatch their eggs.
The huge female Leatherback turtle only laid her eggs after a 6,000 mile journey under the ocean.
It was a magical experience
By August 31st we were on the island of Penang, where I celebrated my 35th birthday, For the final ten days I travelled alone from Penang by ferry, then by rail from Fort Butterworth via the River Kwai, and upward to Bangkok by rail.
It was in Penang that we heard that the Soviet Air Force had shot down a South Korean airliner, that the claimed had strayed into restricted Soviet Airsaoce.
All the passengers perished in a ball of fire when the plane hit the ground at full speed. The international condemnation of the Soviets action was total.
I didn’t think much of it at the time nor the fact that I was flying back to UK courtesy of the Russian national airline.
Three days later I emerged from Bangkok railway station (Hualamphong station) , spending another three days in the city, before travelling by bus to Changmai to look for a tour guide to take me up to Changrai and into Burma.
We headed out on the back of a pick-up myself an American guy, three or four more Dutch and Canadians, whose names I have forgotten, three French people two guys and one girl, who were frankly a pain in the butt, they couldn’t take the heat we walked to fast for them..why did they go on the trip?.
I got on well with the American guy we seemed to share the same crazy sense of humour, his name may have been Chuck... but can’t recall, I have a picture of him taking a bath in a river somewhere in Burma, with all the local ladies looking on.
We walked about 30 – 40 kilometres a day, broken up into early morning 7 until 9, then breakfast at a local village, then 10 to 1pm stopping for long lunch and rest from the tropical heat, then 3pm to 6pm or dark to stay in a village hut.
Most of the huts consisted of big room with a bamboo floor, that had sunken rectangular sections all of bamboo, that created a kind of private sunken bed, being made of bamboo, they had a natural airflow, I never remember feeling the heat.
Smoking Opium was recommended by the tour guides on long treks, they said it gives you better endurance, for academic interest, I decided to find out about this piece of Oriental culture so for a few days I gave it a try! .. it certainly worked !.
I was actually able to walk much further than the other tourists and many times joined the guides who raced ahead to organise the next camp.
The only problem with opium is that it makes you feel itchy all over and for the first few days there is a constant feeling of wanting to vomit.
The immediate effect is a mild high like marijuana.
The whole culture of Opium smoking is very Oriental, each village has its Opium dens (rather like we have pubs!) they have inside the huts cubicles equipped with a bamboo bed.
An old guy comes in with a long clay pipe and a pouch of pea size lumps of opium, he works it into the pipe bowl then lights it for you, it is normal to smoke several in the course of one hour, I managed to smoke ten on several occasions, which invoked deep respect in the eyes of my Thai guides.
However the strongest effect is felt when you’re asleep, you have the most amazing psychedelic dreams, and I can recall those days over twenty years later!
One of our guides was a young Thai guy named Usa, he was my source for information on Thai and Burmese customs, and he also knew the opium dens in all the Burmese villages!
After three days the group split into two the other half heading for Cambodia, while we continued into Burma for another three days, unfortunately my mate Chuck was bound for Cambodia, but even worse the appalling French trio was on my trip... and only me and them!!
However it was not so bad as Usa was still our tour guide, so I was more or less able to ignore the ‘froggies’, and get into Burmese culture with Usa and his younger brother leading the way.
As we were illegally in Burma (Burma was a closed military run country in those days) we were advised to leave our passports at our hotels, as I understood it, if the Burmese authorities caught up with us they couldn’t confiscate a passport if you didn’t have one...that was the theory, fortunately we avoided the Burmese military authorities, so we didn’t put the theory to the test.
Four days later we were back in Changmai, bidding fond farewells to fellow travellers before boarding an overnight bus back to Bangkok.
Bangkok is a fascinating city built on canals like Venice, the city a seething mass of traffic and humanity, the contrast with solitude in the Buddhist temples was amazing.
I stayed at the Malaysia Hotel near the Phat Pong blue light district, I later discovered that the Malaysia Hotel was the haunt of probably Asia’s most evil murderer (name I must remember) he picked up and murdered many young tourists there, buying them drinks spiked with sleeping pills, then carrying them out to his car stealing their possessions and killing them.
While I was in Bangkok I tried to reconfirm my flight from Kuala Lumpur at the Aeroflot office, but was told that many countries (including Britain) had banned Aeroflot or any Russian aircraft from landing in their counties as a protest against the shooting down of the South Korean Airliner.
Later that day I watched a news item on the hotel TV stating that a hand grenade had been thrown into the same Aeroflot office only an hour after I had left! presumably as a protest against the shooting down?
After a few days of Bangkok I returned to Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur by rail, to be met at the station by
my good friends Brian and Mei.
We spent the remaining days visiting some of the various Chinese Buddhist temples dotted around KL including several temples where snakes wound the ways around shrines and alters, we partook of excellent Malay and Chinese food, and visited as many bars as we could find in the city.
Now came the problem, how do I get back to UK with the ban on Soviet aircraft in UK? Aeroflot Malaysia advised I fly from KL to Moscow (at that time Malaysia did not enforce a ban on flights to and from the Soviet Union (although they did a few days later)they thought they could get me on flights from Moscow to other European destinations that still accepted Soviet air traffic.
So off I went and boarded the Aeroflot Airlines Illuysin 50, and did the outward journey in reverse to Moscow.
Upon reaching Moscow and ensconced in the International departures lounge, I could get no solid information, by this time I got to know a number of other Brits in the same predicament.
After four or five hours I got quite annoyed with the situation, now where is the Aeroflot main office at Sheremetyevo International Airport? I searched high and low, asked everyone who spoke English.
Eventually reached an office with a reception desk with no signs, but was assured this was indeed Aeroflot’s Airport main office.
The homely looking lady in an Aeroflot uniform, met me with a smile, taking my passport and ticket from my hand, ‘what could she do for me?’ she asked.
‘How about getting me to the UK first please’ I replied, ‘But I don’t know, your people over there don’t want us to land in your country’ she replied, ‘Our country does not shoot down innocent airliners!’ was my not too diplomatic reply.
At this point she placed my ticket and passport on a shelf under her desk, I saw this as device to hold my documents in exchange for my cooperation.
I remembered the only word of Russian I knew ‘Nyet’..NO! and so I climbed over the desk to retrieve my passport and ticket, having done so, and as I stood up I saw a tall security officer, looking like he was just out of the KGB, except he looked about 16 years old;
He asked me in accented English if I wanted to cause any trouble, with his right hand lightly placed on the hilt of his holstered handgun. I replied ‘Not if you get me to UK’
We then had similar conversation to the one I had had with the lady receptionist including the bit about we British do not kill innocent airline passengers, he gave me a look which said he would very much ..like to kill this particular airline passenger ..namely me!
At that point a strange apparition appeared that was ... the only beautiful Aeroflot lady staff I have ever seen, and really beautiful as well! she said’ I hope you are going to be a nice person to me, I said ‘Sure get me to London’ she then turned and said ‘Please wait I won’t be long’.
She returned in ten minutes flourishing a handful of tickets, ‘I got you booked Business class on a flight to Vienna with Austrian Airlines, and Business class on British Airways to London Heathrow. the flight leaves in twenty minutes’, ‘Wow! shouted, and off I went back to the departures hall, with tickets and passport in hand, to be greeted by the same group of stranded Brit passengers I had befriended earlier.
‘Where are you going?’ they questioned me, ‘To UK where else’ I cried, ‘How come’ they enquired, ‘they have told us we may have to stay here for a week they said ‘What did you do to get tickets?’’‘Oh by causing a bit of trouble at the Aeroflot office up there on the second floor’, as I looked back a party of about ten Brits was headed up the stairs..I never saw them on my flight Maybe they ended up in some Staleg in Siberia!
My friend Jeremy Portch in UK asked if could get him some Aeroflot cutlery as he collects different airline eating irons, on the outward bound flights I had purloined a few items.
Now as I prepared to pass through security control I noticed they were searching baggage very thoroughly, thinking that it would be unwise to be found in possession of stolen items I too might find myself in some forgotten Gulag, I surreptitiously dropped the utensils into several waste baskets one at a time.
As I passed through passport control noticed that they had placed a measurement device on the wall behind passengers so that they could easily check the height stated in the passport, as they looked down at my details I scrunched down thereby lessening my height on the wall, as they looked up, they again looked down at the passport and I straightened up, as they looked back they gave me a very severe look as if to say ‘Don’t fuck with us smart arse!’ I was also holding prominently a copy of Newsweek Magazine I bought in Kuala Lumpur, on the front cover was the banner headline ‘Soviet Union shoots down South Korean Airliner in Cold Blood!’ The passport officer glared at me!
At that point I thought; I have really gone too far now! The official pointed at my News Week magazine and indicated that he wanted it, I hesitated, but thought what the heck! and handed it over.
Something was said in Russian, then the whole line of passport inspection booths about five in number if I recall suddenly stopped checking the long line of passengers and their passports.
All the passport officers converged in the booth in front of me, crowding into the tiny space to peer over my officer’s shoulders at the magazine, after ten minutes of intense reading and chattering, they smiled at me as a group, handed me back the magazine and allowed me to proceed through to departure.
I drew a long breath of relief!
CHAPTER SIX: THE BIRTH OF NOLLYWOOD
My stay in Jos coincided with what is considered the birth of the Nigerian home video industry or Nollywood as it is now called
As I got involved in activities outside the medical faculty I began to meet people in the arts and other creative areas, one was Sonny Oti, then head of the Theatre Arts Department of the University of Jos.
Sonny was a man with a wide range of skills from singing to acting; he wanted help in putting together a promotional video for a music album he was recording, the name of the album was “Nigeria Go Survive”, a feel good response to the economic woes in Nigeria at the time.
After listening to the tracks, I scripted about five songs for video coverage.
They ranged from a girl in grass skirts hallooing her way over a local hillside singing about an old lady who liked to eat insects, to a girl on top of a rock singing about her wrestling boyfriends feats of strength accompanied by a group of Students dressed as if for “Come Dancing” to a song about a business woman overcome by the Nigerian oil boom and killed in her expensive Mercedes Benz Sports car (we shot it using a large Mazda saloon with a Mercedes logo painted on!- we couldn’t borrow or afford a Mercedes!)
My Lada Niva Jeep also featured in the video driven by Oil Boom Madam and her Alhaji Boyfriend, everyone in Jos subsequently recognised the vehicle, as I drove around the streets of Jos, accompanied by kids shouting “Oil Boom Madam” after me!!
This was also accompanied by similar “Come Dancing” group, dancing in formation in a long abandoned open air dance hall at the Naraguta Country Club, complete with arches and views across the Shere Hills range of mountains.
This song also included my old friend the American Actor and lecturer, Alan Cook, who at the time taught together with his wife Suzanne, Theatre Arts at the University of Jos. he played a crooked American money changer counting dollars into “Oil Boom Madam’s” hands.
Alan and Suzanne became close friends, going on many trips around Nigeria, including a trip to Arochukwu; Sonny Oti’s home town, where we met with Sonny and his elderly parents, the King of the Aros and visited the groves and caves of the Long Juju of Arochukwu a place famous for its witchcraft and as an oracle rather like Delphi, in historic Greece.
The birth of Nollywood!... 1980’s Jos
At Jos I also taught Television Directing to students of the Theatre Arts Department at the University, then headed by Sonny Oti, whom I previously mentioned. Another person there at the time was Onyero Mbejume, an Igbo, who was also a lecturer in the Theatre Arts Department.
In 1982 he asked me if I could direct a film for him, that he intended to produce.
It had provisional title “Nigerian Hospitality” the story of two brothers who one of whom is well off and successful and the other not doing well in his life, the wealthy brother lends the other a brother a plot of land, but he refuses to give it back after the agreed period, and here the scheming wife of the poorer one finds a way through a crooked lawyer to get the land from the rich brother.
To cut the story short we have court cases, a passionate hotel bedroom scene, a murder scene, an escaped from prison and all the ingredients needed for a good Nigerian Home Video story; what we now know as Nollywood!, back then in Jos, myself and others were the founders of the genre’ of the movie business as it is today.
As Director and cameraman, I was assisted by my colleagues Emmanuel Yakubu, an Igbira from Kwara State and Richard Duncan, an Igbo from Arochukwu, together with the caste who were all students of Theatre Arts, we shot the video film over four weeks, working mostly at night and weekends, of the caste the performances of Charity Pever and Joseph Abel were quite outstanding for that time.
I encouraged then in trying out new ideas in TV production such as the close up and extreme close ups of the actors eyes or lips, most of the state television stations appeared to prefer medium close up shots of actors and never go in close, in fact quite a few TV stations appeared to only feature long shots, a s though they only possessed one camera, this was a bit like the early films in the 1900’s in the United States, where they thought that the cinema film should look like a stage play; with only one viewpoint!.
Another area that needed some attention was sound, even today, one of the hallmarks of the Nigerian Home Movie business (the so called “Nollywood”) is the lousy sound tracks, often only using the on - camera microphone, that results in a cacophony of sound, as the actors near the camera scream out lines at full volume while those further away are completely lost in a sea of raucous and conflicting sounds.
I early one started using boom mikes (directional microphones on poles) and small mikes that could be clipped out of sight on/ in clothing (unfortunately we didn’t have access to radio mikes, so that actors had to trail cables everywhere they walked!).
Another problem we had was rolling titles and credits at the start and end of the film, this is where the lettered names of the actors and film production, post production crew appear to move down the screen. Normally this was generated by special electronic titling equipment, and which nowadays is normally carried out using professional editing soft ware incorporating such facilities, and you can do lots of other effects such as “crawl” where the letters travel along the bottom of top of the screen
From left to right or vice-versa, in any colour or typeface you can dream of!
But in the 1980’s and for us it was a problem, however we had something called “Letraset Instant Lettering”, for those who have never used it, it consisted of sheets of a film that are coated with individual letters that can be transferred to paper or card by gently running a stick or pen across the lettering, the letter being stuck to the paper or card with a slightly sticky coating that is already on the film.
However they were not cheap and you where limited to the typefaces and sizes that where stocked by the store you bought them from, and once you used them they couldn’t be used again.
they were popular for making labels, for creating graphics for the printing industry and the white ones for making television graphics, when stuck to usually black card, you could using a vision mixer to superimpose over another cameras output.
With a bit of jiggery pokery to reverse the white to black or create different colours. However to make moving credits or titles you needed to transfer the Letraset to long sheets of black paper or card, in our case lots and lots of cards glued together to make long cards, and lots and lots of time placing each and every letter of the words individually.
After which we would pin the card to the ceiling down the wall and across the floor, in what one hopes is a perfect smooth curve , then place the camera on a good tripod with a professional geared pan and tilt head, in a position equidistant from the card, and tilt the camera from the ceiling to the floor as slowly and smoothly as you can.
Now all this is this fine if you wish to have the rolling credits/titles on their own, or superimposed over live action from another camera using a vision mixer (we could only afford one cheap Sony two channel vision mixer) what to do if you have already shot footage on videotape, especially when you do not have
CHAPTER SEVEN: LIFE IN JOS, ARMED ROBBERS
About a year or two later, a few days before I was to move to Kano, I was at my home “House on the Hill”, Tudun Wada, Jos.
About 2.00 am in the morning I heard thumps and the sound of breaking glass.
I raced outside unlocking the kitchen door, door to the vestibule outside the kitchen and finally the steel door to the outside.
Running around to the back I perceived objects I thought were bats flying past my ears and breaking against the windows and walls of my lounge.
I then realised with a sudden dawning that these are rocks not birds, and they are aimed at me...ooops!! So I race back locking all doors and into my bedroom, retreating under the bed with the landline telephone (before the days of cell phones of course).
Then I heard the unmistakable sound of axe against steel, then axe against wood ....oh fuck! My axe the one I stupidly left out after cutting firewood.
Eventually the sound reached my bedroom door, by then I knew my life was over, I was about to be brutally murdered, I hoped it would be quick! I reviewed my life so far and wished I had done more.
I shouted out to the intruders, what do you want...”Money!” was the reply, I didn’t know how much, and how good that word sounded to me ‘I had a chance to survive!!
Next moment five guys, wearing handkerchiefs over their faces were in the room I was ordered by the leader, a burly guy, but I couldn’t see his features, to lie down and face the floor, I said “NO” I would face the wall, for that I received a slap around the chops, but I persevered I said “If I lie down you might kill me, and I want a chance to fight if you do” they said “OK but make you no look at us”
They went through the house collecting my camera collection, my money, my leather jacket, and clothes.
Then they disappeared, I carefully ventured out from the bedroom, to see the damage and the losses, strangely I found my two 35mm cameras behind the lounge door and only my large format Minolta camera missing.
...with all its lenses and accessories, only much later did somebody remind me that one of my staff at the Faculty had expressed an interest in this very camera and asked that I should give it to him when I left Jos!!!
CHAPTER EIGHT: CHARACTERS
Another character in Jos was Patrick McCahey, an Irishman in the construction business, Patrick worked for a Nigerian company called Microwave Associates, they specialised in erecting radio and satellite masts.
Patrick liked his drink and for that reason never climbed a mast; he would give instructions to his Nigerian workforce from the nearest bar armed with a good set of binoculars and a two way radio.
Patrick had a series of very beautiful Nigerian girlfriends, one named Princess, was the apple of his eye, ...if anyone so much as looked at her they were in big trouble, Pat had a double barrelled shotgun and was not afraid to use it.
He claimed however that he used to share her with the State Governor, the Governor had her Monday to Thursday and he had her for the weekends, starting Friday.
Once I was staying with them over a very drunken weekend, and in the middle of the night I discovered this very beautiful and very naked young lady in the bed with me, my delight was short lived when I finally realised who this was, expecting a shotgun cartridge to come crashing through the door... I said “Better not Princess!”
Later on in Kano, Patrick was staying with me, and he saw I had a colonial Solar Tope hat the kind they used to wear in the old days, when they thought that a white man should not be exposed to the sun’s rays, also an old walking stick.
When he learned that my old friend Nuhu Sanusi (now the Emir of Dutse in Jigawa State) was staying with Sunny the Sikh, he raced round to Sonny’s place, he knew Nuhu from the old days.
On reaching Sonny’s lounge the future Emir surrounded by his bodyguards, was shocked to see this white man dressed up in colonial garb march in and shout “Who allowed this black man in the house!”) and start poking him with the walking stick shouting “hey boy what the hell are you doing here” fortunately Nuhu has a great sense of humour, and burst out laughing, his body guards unfortunately did not find this as funny as we did!.
I later covered Nuhu’s turbanning and coronation as Emir in Dutse, where he was officially installed as the new Emir of Dutse, following the death of his father.
I was intrigued by his mace and sword in a scabbard really genuine items manufactured by Gillette the razor company who used to, and still do, make ceremonial swords and other regalia of high office for kings, princes and traditional rulers, using real gold and silver finishing, with a price to match the quality ...in Pounds Sterling!!!.
The Last time I visited him in his palace I asked how to address him, he replied “Your Royal Highness ...if anyone is watching or listening!....call me Nuhu if they are not!”
He once complained to me that that his Royal Guards “The Dogo” who shout and sing words of praise wherever he goes, together with an orchestra of trumpets and drums, does get a bit tedious when all he wants to do is visit the Loo!
CHAPTER NINE: KANO 1982
October 1983 found me in Kano working for a dubious Indian (Sikh) gentlemen name of Jasmer Singh (Sunny) Narag, a bull of a man complete with a long turban covering a mane of hair.
When I first met Sunny he seemed to be a really good guy, intelligent, well read, in the same field as myself, the media, and a degree from a U.S.
University (Ohio State I believe)
We discussed what the company will do, media, television, his intention with other Sikh friends in UK to buy out Time Out Magazine, where I was to be picture editor, how he was to go into Indian Television Soap Operas, (which had not taken off like they have today) with
me as production advisor, all seemed fantastic, the future rosy, only one problem this was never going to happen. Someone later dubbed him “Never Never Narag!” - this turned out to be the reality.
The Sunny business model it appeared consisted of getting 75% (or more) down payment from a client and then just not executing the job.
CHAPTER TEN: GEORGE WALKER
It was while working for Sunny that I was reunited with a character from my childhood, a family friend and distant relation George Walker, George went to Nigeria before me
George lived in Liverpool, and his parents knew my Mother and Father well, his father often drinking at the pub where my father (Jimmy Brooks to all his friends) was the licensee and we all lived (The Royal Hotel known as the “Arkles” on Anfield Road, very near to Liverpool FC Football Club Ground).
Which reminds me of an incident when a teenager coming home from College one December afternoon with Eddy Holmes my mate from school who lived near my house, the then Manager of Liverpool, Football Club, Bill Shankley was driving out of the gate of the ground.
As he saw us he stopped (he often greeted us as he left the ground, and I admit we tried to be there at the time he might leave) on this occasion instead of just greeting us he called us over and whispered “have ye heard lads they’ve shot the American President, we were dumbstruck, and only reaching our homes did we watch on the telly the unfurling story that shook the world!.
My Dad’s “pub” was a favourite of the Liverpool football players, very often after training sessions some would pop in for a pint, and often Bill Shankley would also pop in and order the lads out, another occasional visitor was Arthur Askey who was once a famous Liverpool comedian
My Dad (Jimmy Brooks) had another friend who we often visited in Chester, which is over the other side of the Mersey river in an area known as the Wirral.
In a square close to Chester’s famous Cathedral, stands a pub whose name I have forgotten, owned by another famous character – Dixie Dean a onetime Everton Footballer, incidentally my godfather, my Dad even named our dog a Yorkshire Terrier Dixie after him.
Coming back to George, he came out as I understood to Nigeria, to teach Printing Technology, at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, but then unwisely put in some money with two Sikhs (he should have known better) and lost it all, then he apparently sold chickens for an Igbo lady married to a British guy in advertising (Peter and Mary Jeffs).
It was around this time when Merlin Rogers joined the company as copywriter, Merlin was usually inebriated and had a fondness for the’ ladies of the night” whom he used to romance with candlelit dinners.
Merlin had a chequered history in advertising, he claimed to have worked for Ogilvy and Mather, and internationally renowned international Ad Agency.
Whilst working on a brief for British Rail under its legendary Chairman, Dr. Beaching he arrived at the Chairman’s office pissed as a fart, forgot his brief and when asked by the great man what is the new slogan, Merlin retorted “It’s not so shitty by Inter City” needless to say the agency lost that particular account.
He also claimed to be in the same group of friends as Mandy Rice-Davis and David Hockney.
On a holiday in Spain they went to watch the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Merlin having imbibed a large quantity of Spanish wine, decided to have a go!
The unfortunate result was a horn in the belly and a month in a Spanish hospital, the local newspaper carried the new and a picture with headline (Translated) “This Foolish Englishman Paid the Penalty for his Stupidity in his Own Blood”- this was apparently true as he showed me a copy of the newspaper.
Merlin quickly got the measure of Sunny, branding him as a complete crook and in a paper he circulated in Kano after he departed after being literally carried out by Sunny and dumped in a plane to Lagos, he labelled Sunny as “Never Never Narag”
I remember one afternoon in the press standing with George Walker, next to the plates for a job for a major Indian company based in Nigeria it had been one year since we took on the job, I had finished the design, photography and printing plates, they had paid 75% up front they were clamouring every day “where are our brochures” Sunny would dismiss them as he did all his fellow Indians as “Dingdongs”.
Anyway George and I started singing “Happy Birthday” to the plates, as Sunny walked passed he retorted what the fucks going on? We just commented on the plate’s birthday – Sunny was not amused and he flew into a rage at us.
The other time I saw his rage was when I commented on the fact that a new expatriate staff who had not yet joined the company, had mysteriously won first prize; a return air ticket Nigeria – UK in a raffle in Kano under the Rotary Club, and guess who personally organised the raffle??.
Saturday night started well. I arrived in Jos from Kano ostensibly to get George Walker on the move with printing calendars proofs for BCCI Bank, but my real mission was to suss out what kind of Christmas I could organise with my old friends in Jos.
George Walker, or “Walkie Talkie” as we nicknamed him, was quite a character; unfortunately George had a “fondness” for the beer, and at any excuse would be down at the nearest bar for a few bottles of Star Beer.
It was later I realised the George was a very nervous person, and at the first sign of any pressure on him, whether work or personal life he would resort to a few beers to reclaim his balance, of course one drink leads to others and finally one is in no position to be capable of carrying out any useful functions, so I had as his manager the job of seeing that George had the minimum of pressure, while ensuring he imbibed the minimum of star beers.
But as soon as I was not around Sunny would put the pressure on to get whatever work was passing through the press accelerated and George would either disappear the nearest bar or explode with anger.
One of my memories of George, was early mornings at the compound at 13 Dawaki Road, Kano, George was usually standing on the veranda of his house clad only in a pair of boxer shorts scratching his ample beer belly, ”Fancy a beer” was his usually early morning catchphrase, I would reply “Not this early George”!!
George left our company in 1986, after another row with Sunny, in fact Sunny manhandled George into a car and drove him to Kano airport and put him on a flight to Lagos.
My last memory of George was when I took him and myself to Yankari Game Reserve, during a public holiday, and where I was trying to get some wildlife video shots for a documentary film about Nigeria we were hoping to sell to British Caledonian airlines for in flight entertainment.
George was fascinated to be among wild animals and to be able to swim in crystal clear streams.
We visited Jos on the way back and we stayed at the house of my good friend John Barker, who at that time lived in and managed a fish farm.
I remember being awakened at 3.30 am to find George asleep and snoring in John’s living room, surrounded by dozens of empty bottles of star beer, with the hi-fi blaring out Beatles music at full volume, the Beatles being from our home town of Liverpool, evoked childhood memories for us both.
I first knew George in Liverpool when I was a kid, he was distantly related to us from my Grandmothers side, he was a regular customer in my Father’s pub, the Arkles, and on New Year’s Eve, George would appear in the pub just before midnight with bagpipes and wearing a kilt.
When I was close to leaving school, aged 16, my father one Sunday afternoon sent me to see George, as I had my dreams of becoming a photographer and George was then teaching the photographic side of the printing industry at the Liverpool College of Printing. Although this was not the career I had intended I was nonetheless fascinated by the technicalities and the way George got the facts across.
I totally lost track of time ..finally my father tuned up to find out what had happened to me.. it was 4 am in the morning.
George could talk…and talk and talk (this is why we nicknamed him “Walkie Talkie”) he actually had a very good memory and recite just about everything and anything, his knowledge about sometimes rare and unusual knowledge was downright startling. I often think had George lived to the present time, with the internet he would have loved the way knowledge could so easily be obtained.
I tried to trace George over the next few months to no avail, I had one lead that put him working at a printing press in Ibadan, but he could not leave the drink alone and was forced to leave.
It was some years later in early 1987 that I received a letter from my mother, in which she had put a cutting from the obituary column of the Liverpool Echo newspaper, in which it stated that George Walker had died of cerebral malaria in Ibadan on New Year Eve 1986.
I later heard the story from a visiting Irish Catholic Priest , who had found George lying on the floor of a bar in Ibadan.
The bar owner had thought him drunk and left him there, the priest realised that he was sick had called some colleagues who got George to a Mission Hospital, where they realised he had an severe case of Cerebral Malaria, a disease which untreated is inevitably fatal, despite their efforts and medications George passed away just before midnight and was buried in a grave at the nearby Catholic Church.
Some months later I was passing Ibadan and went in search of the church and churchyard, eventually I spotted his lonely grave with just a piece of tinplate with George’s name on it.
I still have a photograph of the grave and the memory of a guy who could be very frustrating, annoying, but was a friend and had a heart of gold!
CHAPTER ELEVEN: JANUARY 8 1988, AMINU KANO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, KANO
I am waiting on the tarmac of Kano Airport with several cameras around my neck, for Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first and very controversial Prime Minister to land on her Kano stretch of her visit to Nigeria, and for me to get her into my viewfinder.
The Harmattan dust, common in Northern Nigeria, during the dry season, coupled with a strong wind made visibility almost zero.
The day before she was greeted by protesters in Lagos, demonstrating against her refusal to involve Britain in the clamour for sanctions, against the white apartheid regime in South Africa.
I was a card carrying member of the Nigerian Press Corp, having just disembarked from one of two Ministry of Information buses that carried us around the visit venues.
I saw the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, magnificent, serious and resplendent in the full length cloak, turban, robes, and staff of office, his Palace guards (Dogo) at his side, this was to be my first photograph of the day.
We could not see the Royal Air Force, Vickers VC-10 of the Queens Flight land but we could hear it’s engine pitch change as the plane landed in the thick Harmattan haze onto the runway at Kano; Aminu Kano, International Airport.
Shortly out of the dusty mist came the outline of the aircraft, with the Nigerian and British Union flag flying from the cockpit windows.
The steps were wheeled in and Margaret and Dennis Thatcher, along with her own personal media circus, descended to the tarmac of Kano.
From a dais accompanied by the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Thatcher took a salute from the military Forces of Nigeria present.
The Nigerian Military leader Ibrahim Babangida did not join her on the Kano leg of the visit.
Maggie was a curious figure to many Nigerians, in a society where women take second place, here was a woman from their old colonial country, who ruled over the men, indeed where another woman was the Queen, they could not know the level of suspicion that both women had for each other.
The crowd was very excited to see the “Iron Lady” at close quarters and it took the Nigerian Police a lot of effort to keep the crowds under control. At this point having taken quite a lot of shots, I realised that the buses that conveyed us to the airport, were not there anymore and had most likely gone off to the Emir’s Place the next step on the scheduled visit.
As I looked around for transport, I noticed another white man looking around in a confused manner , he immediately asked if I was British and with the UK press, I told him I was not but with the Nigerian Press Corp, he introduced himself as Robin Oakley Political Editor of the London Times.
Having done our “Doctor Livingstone I assume” introduction, I looked around for suitable transport, spotting a Nigerian Police pick-up truck, I jumped in front of the vehicle and announced to the startled driver, “Can you take us to the Emirs Palace please ?” to which he surprisingly readily agreed without further discussion.
As I leaped in the back, I was a bit disconcerted to find a heap of ceremonial spears, all pointing at me, piled in the back of the pick-up, narrowly avoiding disembowelling , I made space for myself and Robin in the back, years later when I wrote to him, he recalled this incident with much amusement.
Upon reaching the Emir’s Palace I deposited Robin with what looked like a group belonging to Thatcher’s “Media Circus”, making their way to the Palace balcony.
I enquired whether I might join the group, on my Nigerian press Card, I was referred first to some pretty young ladies, then to a large somewhat grumpy middle aged white man, who I later found out was Bernard Inghams (later “Sir”); Margaret’s Press Secretary who retorted “most certainly not!!; stay with the Nigerian press lot”, - he was quite an objectionable character I later found out!
The Emir was hosting a “Durbar” this is a kind of mini carnival were horses and camels gallop around in parade with Hausa riders, in all their finery, accompanied with drums and long horns to the accompaniment of loud and startling ancient explosions from “Dane “ guns firing gunpowder.
Milling around with the crowd and other press men, I could see Margaret and Dennis accompanied by the Emir, about to climb the steps up to the Durbar viewing gallery, on the roof of the palace.
Quickly positioning myself just under the steps, where I could see the VIP’s ascending the steps, I also realised I was getting a clearer view of the Prime Ministers legs under her blue two tone dress, would I also get a first?, a photographer’s glimpse of the fabled Conservative blue knickers as well??.. alas this was not to be, as His Royal Highness the Emir of Kano flung his cloak across my camera lens, thus saving the dignity of the Prime Minister of Great Britain from this upstart paparazzi.
Having got myself up to the viewing platform on the palace roof, I started looking around for possible shots to take, there was Margaret and Dennis sitting in the seats near the rail looking over the Durbar ground, but they could see little with the ever present harmattan, only the sounds and smells of the parade.
I moved nearer to get a close up of the couple, whose demeanour, seemed to indicate throughout the entire visit that they had perceived some particularly obnoxious smell!
I observed a tiny Nigerian lady...a girl it seemed, staring at me as I approached, and started taking pictures, as I got closer she raised her hand in a sign to say “no further”, I indicated “what if I went closer?”, she turned away from the Margaret and opened her jacket to reveal to me, a rather large pistol, I gave her a helpless gesture that indicated my acquiescence.
Next I wandered across the roof to where I saw a group of white guys in dark suits, one was holding a large black brief case – was this the fabled briefcase from which a British Prime Minister can initiate an atomic war from?? – I was not to find out, as immediately a large Brit, also in a dark suit with suspicious looking bulges under the right breast, blocked my path and uttered the words “Fuck Off”...I replied “Fair Enough” and scampered of in search of other prey.
...Which I found in the persons of BBC World Service correspondents; Liz Blunt and John Simpson, who were looking across the view of old Kano city (now a little more visible as the harmattan haze was at last lifting) and discussing the role of Hausa women in Kano, with Liz asking if these women have much freedom from their husbands, to which Simpson replied “No they cannot go beyond their husband’s house”
I sidled over and commented “Excuse me but these women have a lot of freedom, most run their own businesses, be it little or big, the husbands allow this providing it doesn’t compromise their role as wives”, “Nonsense” cried J.S. “you don’t know them I have reported from here for years!”, ”Sorry” I said I live here!” “Hrumpp” said J.S. who turned away, Liz Blunt hover gave me a little knowing smile, as if to say “don’t take him too seriously!”
Then it was off to Government house the then the Military Governor of Kano’s residence for a reception, on route I got acquainted with Sergey the then TASS (Russian State Press Agency )Nigeria representative, he was in search of an exclusive interview with Margaret Thatcher, not quite sure to this date what his interview was to be about, we also ran into the UK Independent Newspaper reporter, who because his newspaper was not toadying Margaret’s line, could not get onto the plane with the rest of the media circus.
Together we tied to get an interview with Thatcher but Bernard Ingham would have none of it, finally after the reception had gone on for an hour one of Bernard’s pretty girls, came out to us waiting hopefuls and stated that one photographer from each publication will be allowed in for a ten minute photo session, so I duly trooped in and took my pictures.
As the media circus was leaving Government house, and I was still inside the compound, I took shots of Dennis and Margaret leaving the reception, as I was shooting Dennis he walked right into my Nikon 300mm zoom lens, with a “Sorry old chap..where’s the dam car? ...”Over there Mr. Thatcher” I replied, scratching my slightly bruised nose.
I wondered if there was something else in the jug of fruit juice Dennis was drinking during the photo shoot at the Governor’s high table (there was!; I was told later by British High Commission staff – Gin and Lime!).
I also learned later that Bernard Inghams got a policeman’s rifle rammed in his stomach as he imperiously demanded to be let up the stairs to the roof of the Emir’s Palace, good job I was not there, I would have been tempted to cry pointing at Bernhard, “Hey! Watch that man he looks like a terrorist”... just as well!
I later met up with Sergey who asked me if I could get him to a Telex machine so he could send a report back to Moscow, we had one in the office at the time so I helped him send it...the message “British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher refuses to talk to Soviet Press” – I hope Maggie and Ronald Reagan never found out, Arthur Brooks was assisting the Soviets!!.
CHAPTER TWELVE: 1994 SOKOTO , ON LOCATION
Am in the bush in Sokoto State, having slept in a Fulani Camp overnight, we are 39 kilometres from Shinkafi and our guest house.
We are shooting a feature film, and we have been here for two days getting a couple of scenes in the can, but the lack of money to pay the Fulani extras did not make them very cooperative. We have been living on a diet of rice and Fulani buttermilk (Ghee) the village chief insisting we should share our huts with the Fulani girls, but the combined smells of milk rancid butter and shit did not exactly entice me.
The feature film has the provisional title; “The Life and Times of Usman Dan Fodio, then film is apparently financed by the Sokoto State Government, we have been on location for just over two weeks.
This is my second spell of two weeks and I am the deputy Director, Director is Yusuf Mohammed a well known Director and film maker in Nigeria, I relieve him on location every two weeks, I might add we have not yet been paid for our efforts, hardly even given travel and living expenses.
The project began two months ago, with an invitation to a meeting to discuss the making of a feature film, I was asked to estimate the costs as I understood to produce a feature film on 60mm film stock using a hired Panavision film camera, based on enough film stock for a two hour epic including processing and printing to final show print.
The costs shocked them, we then descended down to 35mm films and camera and finally to videotape using a Professional Sony Betacam camera.
This was doable! next we had to look at the script and what else, there was at least one battle scene that called for 600 camels/horses, we eventually cut it down to 30 camels/horses (finally on set it was 7 think?)
The film is about the life of Usman Dan Fodio, who was a charismatic Fulani warrior, religious leader and scholar, who came to what is now Sokoto in Nigeria around 1812.
He re-organised Islam in what is now Nigeria, sweeping down with his warriors, from Sokoto to Kano, Zaria and as far as Ilorin near the Niger river, evicting the corrupt Moslem leaders and Emirs and establishing his own Sultanate based on equality, religious observance and fairness to all, he was at the time a welcome change to the Hausa states and people who had suffered under corrupt and greedy leaders.
The final scene to be filmed took place in a tiny village, some kilometres from Shinkafi, where we planned to film, at night a village being razed to the ground by fire, by marauding tribesmen.
We had paid ten or fifteen villagers to burn off their thatched roofs, we had the warriors, the horses, the flaming torches, we had the roofs prepared with some petrol, and to ensure a good and spectacular burn we had a 30 Kva generator for the lights.
Just as I was about to announce “Roll Camera.. Action!” the generator ran out of diesel fuel, for the useless operator had not checked the fuel level, now the damn thing had sucked air and would need to be bled of air until the system was full of diesel.
So for next hour Sam Ojo my driver and I worked on the generator. Eventually we got it working, this time just as I am ready once again to call “Camera Roll..Action!” the heavens opened up and instantly a deluge of rainwater totally soaked the thatch roofs making the burning impossible!
We had to give up for the night, next morning the Producer announced that money had run out and that we should all go home until fresh funds were found to finish the film…I never returned, I never saw the shots I directed and as far as I know the film was never finished!
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE GOVERNOR’S LADY
One of the ladies I knew in Jos was Christobel Bentu, who at the time was a trainee television director at Plateau Television.
The then Station Manager was Dr. Girgis Salama, who was the first to equip a Nigerian TV station for colour in the early 1970’s.
Girgis although an Egyptian, loved Nigeria and Nigerians, and was tireless in his attempts to improve the TV station, he got to know me from the medical television programmes we produced at the University and frequently aired on his station and others.
One day he introduced me to Christobel, and asked me to take her under my wing and train her in TV production. This I did and worked with her on several projects, including the first time I directed a live TV programme in Nigeria.
The series was “Medical Magazine” the first of the series was to be live, subsequent ones I insisted should be recorded in advance using a more documentary approach; however they wanted the programme to start right away.
So on the Tuesday afternoon at 4.50 pm we were assembled in the studio, with my script, three cameramen, one vision mixer, one sound mixer, studio manager, interviewer and one guest doctor, to talk about childhood diseases, the script was approved, I even managed to get the lighting I wanted despite the opposition to moving lights on the grounds that they had to be set that way for the news - so you can’t move them!
... Move them I did! I wanted the studio to be in darkness with only the back silhouette of the participants lit in a blue spot light showing, and then as the music faded and before the interviewer started his introduction the front white lights would fade up.
at 15 seconds to going live I asked the cameramen to nod their camera’s (the usual way without talking, to notify their presence) by the time I asked for camera three –no response, “where’s cameraman three “I shout from the directors seat ..”He go for shit sir!” came the reply from the vision mixer.
“Oh Fuck” I shout, as I race down the stairs, two steps at a time to the studio floor below, to man camera number three, leaving Christobel to direct on her own, as I wasn’t able to direct my fancy lighting start.
It didn’t happen, and I vowed to direct no more live programmes in future!. After that we adopted more documentary approach to the series, with film shots taken in hospitals, edited together with professional voice over artists, historical stills, and microscopical photographs diseases, and very little “Talking Heads” as I like to call television studio produced programmes.
In the Nigerian Television environment live studio panel presentations are a cheap and lazy way to put programmes together, actually getting out into the environment, carrying out intensive research looking for visual materials that can not only make the programme more attractive but add to the interest, and understanding of the subject in question, is in my mind the only way to present subjects such as medical information programmes viable and acceptable.
I believe that my contribution in this genre, is what prompted the DG of NTA to visit my studio, and to express his surprise that interesting television can be generated with little in the way of sophisticated equipment, but requiring a lot in the way of creative thinking.
It was only fairly recently that Nigerian Television has freed itself from boring studio talking with little creative input, to getting out and about.
I remember collaborating with an old friend Eddie Iroh, a well educated light skinned Igbo man then in his late twenties in the 1970’s.
Eddy was a reporter with then East Central State Television Service (ECNS)in Enugu when we tried filming ordinary people’s lives on the streets, with their stories, on the air at prime time, I remember filming a Kola Nut seller and his life in the streets, ....this did not go down well with the Station management, who wanted VIP’s like the State Governor, or his Permanent Secretaries, in the studio on air; that to them was far more important (also far more boring!).
My prime job in Jos was the developing of the Medical Instructional Technology Unit at the Teaching Hospital in Jos.
Where we prepared teaching materials for the teaching of undergraduate and post graduate Medical Students, and to assist medical teachers in improving their teaching skills by guiding them in pre-assessment and post -assessment of students, the setting of teaching and learning objectives.
It was at this time I undertook a two year (partly in Nigeria and partly in UK) a Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Technology and Teacher Training, at what is now Plymouth University.
Ray my tutor persuaded me to work further on my thesis and to take Masters Degree, unfortunately the University of Jos decided I had spent enough time on my higher education and needed to spend more time in running my department.
For that time using analogue television and little other equipment we did a lot of pioneering stuff.
We hard wired the entire teaching hospital for cabled television, so that live medical operations, could be viewed in the student lecture theatres the teaching staff common rooms and in a number of Learning Resource Rooms we established in the hospital and the Faculty of Medical Sciences.(equipped with learning carrels - individual student desks, each equipped with a slide projector with a small viewing screen, a television monitor, audio and video tape players. The TV monitors each had a channel dedicated to a special video/audio input originating from my Medical (MITU) Unit , all hard wired around the hospital and Medical Sciences Faculty.
I also started broadcasting a weekly medical programme from our studio, usually presented by one of the Faculty lecturers, usually showing video tapes sent to me by my brother Alan in UK.
These showing the latest pioneering work in Medicine or occasionally other related technological fields.
You have to remember before the days of satellite television or the internet, students and lecturers or scientists had little access to what was happening around the world.
It was quite a job maintaining the connections especially during the rainy seasons.
I met several eminent people through my work, including former Nigerian Head State Yakubu Gowon, whom I had met many years ago in Enugu when he visited the University.
When I met him many years later at Bank of the North’s tenth year anniversary at the Hilton Hotel in Abuja, and asked if he remembered me, he stated he did and without any prompt, and not only that he recalled the medical Illustration department that I headed at the time – I was truly amazed at that!
You can see that moment in the photograph featured here.
Going back to Christobel by the 1990’s she was “friendly” with a man who was to become the Governor of Plateau state, and he needed help with image making for the upcoming Governorship elections.
I was brought in as his media advisor, and for the next year and a half travelled around with him on campaigns, getting photographs and printing banners and flyers promoting his candidature.
I was with him in Kaduna during the annual Trade Fair, we were on route to the Plateau State Pavilion, when the Military Governor of Kano State, swept past us in his entourage of 4 wheel drive jeeps, splashing water from puddles, as there had been an unusually early rains in Kaduna, as we were drenched with muddy water, He remarked “When I am Governor of Plateau State, this will never happen!”, I thought; “I bet it will”, and I was right!.
Even after he became governor, I continued to get media work mostly printing, including the Year 2,000 State calendar and diary, for which I spent months travelling around Plateau State taking photographs of towns, villages and scenic views of beautiful Plateau State.
On one occasion on a visit to Jos, the Governor came to visit me in my hotel room late one night and fell asleep in the chair, I had to prod him awake, while outside my hotel room six guys with pistols and machine guns stood guarding the room, while I was prodding his Excellency awake!
One time in Jos the Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority came to visit my department as he had seen some of the medical programmes (Medical Magazine) that I produced and had been aired nationally by NTA, and was impressed by the quality and pace of the programmes.
When he saw my little studio and my two camera mixer, he asked how come I was able to make programmes with such limited facilities when his own people at NTA can’t produce quality programmes, when they have outside broadcast vans five or six cameras on one location, twenty channel vision and audio mixers , I replied that Television is 1% technical facilities and 99% brainwork and creativity. He left a very confused Director General!
I remember visiting the Director of the Nigerian Television Station in Kano on one occasion, and while waiting for him to finish a telephone conversation I was idly looking at framed pictures around his office walls, it began to dawn on me that all were still photographs I had taken of scenes around Nigeria.
I scratched my head, and when he put down the phone, I asked ’Where did you get all these photographs?’ ‘;From Bank of the North and Tropical Commercial Bank calendars I so like the pictures, then I remembered they were pictures I had taken for these two banks
CHAPTER FOURTEEN:KADUNA 2002
In March 2002 we moved the company to Kaduna, one acquaintance, Patrick McGeogh, a crazy Irishman, with a Nigerian wife, Nkechi, with whom I shared the house, but they were mostly in Lagos where Patrick had a pre-press printing company called Macgraphics.
Patrick wanted to establish a branch in Kaduna, and enlisted my help.
Unfortunately Patrick and her, both had violent streaks, and one afternoon I met them grappling on the floor of the lounge, Nkechi with a carving knife in hand which she had just used on Patrick’s arm, with her shouting “see I cut him, like he cut my breasts last year “....a decidedly odd couple!
I managed to avoid getting cut, and remove the knife from her hands; I then collected all the knives and locked them in my room.
Later Patrick took her to a local police station and left her locked up for three days.
When I found him explaining to his two small sons, that Mummy has been naughty so I put her in the prison for a few days I exploded at him, “What the F***k are you telling your children, you are both mad, get her out of the Police Station before you make your kids as mad you both are!”.
August 2005 .. Rising Moon
My old friend Akume Akume, a Nigerian actor I had got to know well, asked if I was willing to appear in a new Nigerian film eventually titled “Rising Moon” Akume knows my origins in Nigerian film and drama in Jos and wanted to know if I could act as well as direct.
I told him that my only experience in acting, was with Sonny Oti in Jos, in a drama group called the “Black Thespians” which was mainly full of University staff members and not all black. We produced only one play “Why Old Men Grow Old” in which I was cast as an elderly Fulani Man.
The experience was most interesting, and working with a man such as Sonny Oti, himself the doyen of Nigerian stage and screen way back in the sixties a great experience, Sonny Regretfully died in the late eighties, he was I admit, a very good teacher of drama and will be remembered fondly by all who knew him.
Incidentally my co-actor in that production was Martin Wilmot Bennett, a young English guy, who at the time was an English teacher at St. Johns Catholic College in Jos.
Martin was another of my good old friends in Jos, he also wrote the script for an intended documentary on “Mammy Wagons” a film I have never got round to shooting ...yet!.
Part of which you can find on my website under “African Stories” called not surprisingly “Mammy Wagons”
Martin wrote a number of stories that were broadcast by the BBC World Service, there was one involving a journey by sea in an African canoe, from Calabar to Victoria in the Cameroons, about a religious ring and another story called “The Machiavellian Mechanics” about that curse of motorists in Nigeria; Motor Mechanics! – Martin when I last communicated with him, was lecturing in English at the University of Padua in Italy.
Unfortunately apart from one dress rehearsal and one performance we did not continue, the actors did not get one well.
I eventually agreed and asked for script, which never appeared, all I knew was that I was playing in the role of Father Benedict an Irish priest in South Eastern Nigeria in the 1880’s, Akume played the part of a grown up version of a priest taken under the wing by Father Benedict as a child.
After an 8 hour road journey from Kaduna we arrived in the bush near Nsukka to find the film in full production with cameramen, directors lighting engineers and a sound crew.
I met with the Director Andy Nwakolor and the leading lady the famed actress and singer Onyeka Onwenu, whom I had met over twenty years earlier in 1983, when involved in the Nigeria end of a BBC-Nigerian Television documentary “on corruption ....Nigeria ..A Squandering of Riches, directed by Richard Taylor of the BBC.
Onyeka is a terrific lady and a darling to act with, but can be very strong willed, one day she refused to act the whole day, because the fried yam at breakfast was not cooked well enough for her liking!.
Ads we arrived at the location village I met with Andy Nwakolor the director, who handed me a script, a glanced through at my lines and asked how long before rehearsals, “what rehearsals” he replied, “oh I see” I said, and then “when is the first take of my scenes?” “in ten minutes Andy replied” I gasped, this was not like when I directed films, “Don’t worry” he said, “the first scene is with Onyeka...she is very supportive” there I was the first scene of my acting career with one of Nigeria’s best actresses, and I am going to sink like a lead weight!
In the end they advised just get the drift of what you’re talking about from the script, and just put it into your own words, not easy , still but I bumbled and mumbled along and everyone thought it was fine...that is except me!
This included a scene in a village school with a crowd of small children I had to speak in Igbo; a language I had never mastered!, so I had to cut the lines into very short segments and record over many takes, the final edit had a lot of cutaways, to hide the fact that I was reading directly from the script on many occasions!
Another great actor and great character, is Justice Esiri, who apart from acting is a keen golfer, and whenever he was not acting on set would put a few golf balls around the location where we were filming.
He also likes a tipple or two and I discovered that the walking cane he usually carries is hollow inside, usually filled with whiskey, and we often shared a couple of shots (between shots!).
In one scene shot on the banks of the Anambra river (in a heavy rainstorm, dressed in my undersized priests vestments), I had to bid a tearful farewell to a teenage Esiru (the name of the priest that Akume would later play as a grown up) they expected me to cry ... but I couldn’t!
The crew were laughing and shouting “Cry Oyibo” (Igbo language for white man) so I thought of my Mum who’d died just three years before and managed to get a few tears out. It’s not easy to turn on the taps as you want...although I noticed most of the other actors could do it without even thinking.
Even Akume was crying, as I passed away in my death scene, the tears were falling on my face, but I couldn’t stop laughing, even when they covered my face with a bed sheet.
Akume kept punching me in the ribs and whispering “shut up you’re supposed to be dead!”
It took the make- up artist three hours to turn me into a very old man dying of TB, we started make up at 11pm and started filming at 2 am.
There was a mirror in my line of sight lying in the bed, I just had to ask them to move it as I could see my face in it, also one of the production TV monitors was in view, so I had it covered with a bed sheet.
The room was in the hotel we were staying at and quite by chance the owners had had some of the bedroom walls covered in extremely ‘tacky’ wall paper, which was perfect for the 1800’s, therefore we managed to avoid the cost of building a special set for the scene.
I don’t know where the costume department found the dressing gown I wore, but it was a dead ringer for one my grandfather had.
Kaduna January 11 2012
Wednesday January 11th, 2012 - Kaduna.
It is the 3rd day of the National Strike over the Nigerian government’s removal of oil subsidy resulting in over 100% fuel increase.
We have been under 24 hour’s lockdown curfew announced by the state Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa at 9pm last night. Don’t really know why we have the curfew, it seemed a fairly peaceful demonstration yesterday.
I went out in the car about 1.00 pm yesterday, with my Nikon camera in the car, but decided not to use it as I cannot predict the reaction by police or demonstrators, as I don't want to become part of the problem!
However all was relatively peaceful, the demonstrators were boisterous but good humoured, and I was greeted warmly by both demonstrator’s police and armed forces.
The real reasons behind the protests are that most Nigerians don't trust the government, as the subsidy removed previously from kerosene and diesel has not improved the country.
Also the petrol subsidy was the only advantage that they ever saw from the billions of dollars accrued from the oil fields in Nigeria.
Particularly as we see erratic power supply, water supply, we see the neglect and destruction of government medical facilities, schools and universities, poor roads, lack of jobs, and yet we see the few rich politicians, bankers, stealing billions of Naira, and if ever brought to book getting off “Scot free”.
This is the real reason why Nigerians are getting pissed off. The oil subsidy removal may become the straw that broke the camel’s back!
“CHAPTER FIFTEEN: BLOODY SUNDAY” EASTER, APRIL 8TH, 2B DALA ROAD, KADUNA.
Quiet Easter Sunday peace broken by the sound of a large explosion , rattled the windows and doors, later heard that a suicide bomb was triggered outside Assemblies of God Church at Junction road.
Many buildings in the area seriously damaged.
The bomb inside of fancy 4WD vehicles, the engine of which was found half of a kilometre away and for sure the work of Boko Haram terrorist group.
Reports say 24 people mainly kids were killed in the blast, most were street hawkers, beggars and motorcycle taxi riders (Okadas)
Arthur Brooks, April 2012
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