Christmas is almost here. In spite of the economic conditions, Nigerians will soon begin migration to the hinterlands to reconnect and celebrate with their kith and kin. As a follow-up to my travelogue on Lagos-Onitsha route, I have painstakingly distilled my experience into 18 advisories for those planning to head Eastwards this season. Stick to them for your good traveling experience:
1. Make sure your vehicle is in top shape. Check out all the mechanical and electrical essentials.
2. You must set forth at dawn; apologies to Prof. Wole Soyinka. As early as 4:00a.m. Don’t be afraid of the time for the security men will be on duty then.
3. You must exercise utmost patience and forbearance as there are no fewer than 60 security checkpoints between Lagos and Onitsha alone. You get angry at your peril.
4. If you will be traveling in a private vehicle recently purchased, make sure that appropriate duties were paid on the vehicle. In fact you must travel with ALL the purchase and clearing documents because the over ELEVEN Customs checkpoints on Lagos-Onitsha route will ask for them.
5. Make sure that your vehicle registration papers are current with a valid driver’s license. Ensure that the VIN, Chassis and Engine numbers tally with the ones on the papers.
6. Confirm that your CMR and Certificate of Road Worthiness are not fake.
7. If your vehicle has tinted glasses, make sure your permit is from the Police and it has your photograph on it.
8. If you will be traveling with an SUV or Pick-Up, make sure it has speed limit device on it.
9. Make sure you have the right size of fire extinguisher, C – Caution, first aid kit, good spare tyre, working Jack and Wheel Spanner, Waste basket, Valid Local Government Stickers for Pick-Ups. The not-less-than SEVEN FRSC checkpoints are on the lookout for these.
10. Don’t make the mistake of carrying a grain or bag of rice, foreign or local. You will regret it if you do.
11. If you are a young man, don’t make the mistake of traveling with your laptop. Your dressing must not in any way look like a hippie.
12. As you approach any of the over 60 Checkpoints, make sure nobody in your vehicle is making or answering a phone call.
13. If you are a member of diaspora community returning home, please play the fool. Don’t show your foreign passport, Green Card or Driver’s license as a means of identification at any point. Be as local as you can be. No foreign accents or arrogant display of your knowledge of UN’s Charter on Human Rights.
14. No matter the hassle, always wear a smile on your face or pretend to. Just remember Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s ‘Suffering and Smiling’.
15. Buy some loaves of bread, water and soft drinks in plastic bottles. After all it is Christmas season; it is not a bad idea if you do some charity along the way for our men in uniform who are working to ensure our safety.
16. Take along lots of crisp notes in N100 and N200 denominations. In fact hold your ATM cards; they could be useful at some points.
17. If you can afford it, hire a police escort for your journey. They help to promote espirit de corps.
18. Finally, before you leave Lagos, commit your journey unto the hands of God Almighty.
•Tony Onyima is a former Commissioner for Information in Anambra State.