The following morning, I was met in the foyer of the hotel by Godwin and another young man, Ajagbe Haffeez, an emissary from the Nigerian Trade Hub who would be able to answer all of my questions about Nigerian coffee.
Godwin was apologetic that they had arrived late to collect me. During the drive from his home to the hotel, he had been caught in traffic once again, and thieves had stolen the tyres – not the wheels, just the tyres – from his vehicle, forcing him to drive the final 28 kilometres on rapidly deteriorating alloy rims. It was, frankly, a miracle that he arrived at all.
To facilitate the lengthy drive to the far north east of the country, where I had been assured by my hurried and – frankly, quite cursory – research back home would be the source of this elusive coffee bean, Godwin had enlisted the help of six young men. They had dutifully, and diligently, stolen an entire vehicle from a commuter as he slept in traffic. I plucked up the courage to ask what had happened to the owner of the purloined vehicle.
“He is currently asleep in the passenger seat of a truck laden with fruits and vegetables,” beamed Godwin. “When he wakes, he will have plenty to eat and not be so upset that his car is gone.”
“The same thing happened to my uncle, a Nigerian Prince,” Ajagbe added, nodding in solidarity. “Except he woke up on a small boat in Lagos Lagoon, and someone had also borrowed his Nike sneakers. Also, someone had cut off one of his hands. It was not a good day for him.”
Our new vehicle was a late model Mercedes sedan, with reclining leather seats that reminded me poignantly of my heavenly pod of luxury aboard the Emirates flight that had carried me here. It also featured a powerful, yet economical, six-cylinder engine, capable of motivating our vehicle to an electronically-governed top speed of 210kph, while achieving a paltry 7.8 litres per 100km in fuel consumption. Rapid, and economical. Just the thing for travelling in style through Africa. We clambered into the car, and immediately pulled out of the hotel driveway into a traffic jam.
Inside the car, I spotted a number of luxury appointments that I suspected would help make this a far more comfortable drive than I first thought. The car boasted an 8-speaker Bose stereo system, customisable climate control – which would soon prove to come in handy – and enough space in the trunk to accommodate my luggage, and two unconscious Nigerians… which would also soon to prove quite handy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I asked how far we needed to drive today.
“It is barely 1600km, sir,” cackled Godwin. “Once we are clear of this traffic, it should only take about 20 hours. Please, sit back and relax. I have put the air conditioning on. Is it working in the back?”
I nodded, and stared out the window. Several times, while we were still stationary, the locals appeared like ghostly apparitions, tools of trade in hand and ready to redistribute the wealth of the vehicle in which I was travelling. It was at these points that Ajagbe proved his worth, perched upon the bonnet of our Mercedes and armed with a machete to ward off any interlopers who might approach our vehicle with bad intent.
Without warning, the traffic began to clear. As Ajagbe clambered back into the car via the fully-electronic sunroof, and the front of a nearby shop was neatly excised in a massive explosion – “Happy Wednesday!,” crowed Godwin – we were finally en route to the pinnacle of my adventure.
Tomorrow – “Just Drive”