By Adede Hawi Nyodero
Published January 19, 2014
The number of people thronging the airport left me momentarily dazed. Not that I had a phobia for being around people but I was, unlike that army, a novice; it was going to be my first time to board an airplane.
When equally excited members of my delegation—seven children and nine adults—arrived and checked in, we made our way into the waiting room to wait for our flight to Lagos, Nigeria. I was carried away to a far off land of thoughts. I sat there, in wonderland, looking like a casualty arrested with a minor epileptic attack.
“Kenya Airways Flight KQ 533 is ready for boarding. Please make your way to the plane,” a voice rudely interrupted my thoughts. The rhythmic succession of my heartbeats rapidly made me weaker and weaker.
The thought of my elder sister, like seven others who had been denied this opportunity by academic priorities, saddened me. I was angered for some time but this feeling was replaced by anxiety as we approached the plane.
In a neat file, people snaked their way into the plane whose majesty made my mouth slack in utter shock.
In less than ten minutes everyone had sat comfortably, buckled their seat-belts in preparation for take-off. I sank in my seat as the impact of the word ‘departure’ registered in my confused mind. After five long and tiring hours of traveling, we finally arrived at our destination, the sprawling Nigerian commercial capital, Lagos.
Immediately we disembarked and walked out of Murtala Mohamed Airport in Lagos, an uncomfortable feeling surrounded me. The place was so hot and humid unlike what I was used to in the cooler Nairobi.
Two vans arrived to pick the 15-member Kenyan delegation and take us to Eco Hotel and Suites on Victoria Island. The drive appeared long but it wasn’t boring because of the spectacular view we had of the country’s roads and landscape. As we were lost in the admiration of the eye-catching view, we reached Eco Hotel, which was bound to be our abode for the coming three days.
The sheer size of the room left me in a state of wonder. Everything about it was perfect. The air was much cooler, a huge television set, nice comfy beds, who would ask for more? With a vague imagination of how my stay here would be, I put my luggage in perfect order. I then lay to the comfort of the bed after acquainting myself with how everything worked. Before I knew it, I had drifted into a deep, heavy sleep, obviously because I was too tired.
When I woke up; apparently half an hour later, the sun was sinking very fast in the west welcoming darkness that was threatening to envelope the city. I decided to join my fellow directors, six other children from Lola Kenya Screen, all in a bid to get wind of what was to happen. Needless to say, hunger was digging deep into us threateningly and we all needed something to eat.
We were taken to a restaurant where I filled my plate to my satisfaction; an action I later regretted deeply. All the food was spiced up, leaving a burning taste in my mouth. It was rather agonizing to find out that every other food was spiced up with ‘pepe’ as they called it. How annoying it felt.
Now sure that we had to cope with the burningly hot ‘pepe’ pepper for the rest of our stay in Lagos, we returned to Eco Hotel. Hours melted together into days and on the third day of our stay in Lagos, we set out for Port Harcourt en-route to Yenagoa, where the 5th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) would be held.
The flight to Port Harcourt took 50 minutes. On our arrival, we were happy to find out that the climate was quite cool, better than it was in Lagos. By then, a delegation from Uganda had joined us. In Yenagoa, we met people from Ghana, South Africa, and Nigeria who had already arrived for the AMA Awards.
The journey by road to Bayelsa would take approximately three hours. Since many people were to travel, about eight vans were assigned to take us there. Two vehicles of full of armed soldiers escorted us, one behind, the other leading the convoy.
For a moment I felt like a maximum security prisoner being escorted to jail by siren-blaring police vehicles. The military police were like bull dogs sniffing out trouble. They seemed built of rock, made never to smile. After endless questions as to why the security had to be so tight for foreigners, I was informed that the rate of kidnap in the Niger Delta had increased to dangerous levels. It was therefore very risky to travel alone.
The seriousness of the matter was defined when a rogue driver’s lorry stood askew, blocking the way for the caravan. One of the gun-wielding stone-faced military men angrily stopped the convoy and stepped out to deal with the driver who had turned arrogant. He at first tried to ignore the fuming military officer but he was snapped back to reality by the barrel of a cocked gun. From then, the journey continued without a hitch.
On arrival in Yenagoa, we went to yet another hotel, La Tik. We all checked in and rushed to our respective rooms, hungry for entertainment. We dropped our bags and rushed to the computer. It was to our rude and utter shock to find out that it was not working. We cursed out bitterly. What type of hotel is this? Was the computer out there just for decoration? Yet another demerit was added to our stay in Nigeria.
After spending two nights in La Tik, sleeping on hard, uncomfortable beds and surviving on bread and juice (that was the only option since all food had ‘pepe’), the day we had been waiting for had arrived. This was the sole purpose for our visit to Nigeria, attending the 5th annual AMA Awards. We were not only happy to attend the occasion but also delighted to get away from La Tik Hotel.
We streamed into Gloryland Cultural Centre, the venue of the awards ceremony, in a neat file. The best thing was that we had the pleasure to walk on the red carpet. How delighted I was. I felt like a celebrity, a very important person in the world. As countless cameras clicked on us, I gave a broad smile, as I was very delighted.
On entering the building, I marveled at its solitary shape and rising majesty. It extended up into the sky in what seemed to be endless miles of glass and concrete. It was truly a beauty that drew all eyes to it. Inside the building, everyone was illuminated by glowing ember lights. There was also plenty of entertainment before the main show began.
Oh! The elegance! The pride of Africans, the great actors and film practitioners all gathered with politicians, investors and consumers. These were the great men and women who had shaped Africa to what it is today. After everyone had settled down, we stood up to pay tribute to the legends of African cinema who had recently passed on. The ceremony took about four hours in which time many awards were presented.
Though our own films—LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS, MANANI OGRES, and CHEPRONO—did not get the Best Short Animation award for which they had been nominated leaving us children rather crest-fallen, it was towards the end of the award giving ceremony that the people of the Kenya suddenly snapped into a celebratory mood: We had managed to scoop the highest number of awards—6 out of 23—thanks to Wanuri Kahiu’s FROM A WHISPER docu-drama on the terrorist bombing of the embassy of USA in Nairobi in 1998. Also winning an award, the sixth one, was Judy Kibinge’s COMING OF AGE that was declared the Best Short Documentary.
After the ceremony was over, the gaiety of the evening did not fade away because all the nominees for the AMA Awards were taken to an all night party. It was at five in the morning that we left for La Tik Hotel to check out.
We reached Port Harcourt International Airport at 9am, expecting to take just a few minutes before boarding. However, minutes turned into hours. Then we heard that the flight was overbooked and we were to wait for three more hours. I hated the way Nigerians operated their airports. The thought that this was an international airport increased my anger.
Another plane arrived. It was, again, overbooked. But we had to board it since it was specifically for the AMAA nominees.
In Lagos, we stayed in Elomaz Hotel, which was as good as Eco Hotel & Suites. This would be our abode for one more night before we returned to Kenya, our sweet home.
Adede Hawi was one of 15 children aged 6-14 years whose three films were nominated for the Best Short Animation Award during the 5th Africa Movie Academy Awards. The films—LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS, MANANI OGRES, and CHEPRONO—were produced by Lola Kenya Children’s Screen. Hawi, then aged 13, filed this report on her return to Kenya from Nigeria.