Back in Nigeria, October 2012
From Fraser Ottanelli:
Traveling to Asaba is never routine. This time, changes began when Delta cancelled its non-stop flight to Lagos and re-routed us through Paris. This added several hours (and many miles) to our trip. However the change in itinerary also offered us spectacular views of the Sahara desert.
At Murtala Muhamed airport, we were met by our friend Ify Uraih, who took us off to the hotel and arranged dinner as guests at the annual meeting of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, which was being held in a hall nearby. We were able to meet with dignitaries, business people, and academics, and explain to them about our university and its global reach. Some talked about partnerships in the future!
The next morning we negotiated the familiar (and always exciting) hustle and bustle of the domestic flights terminal. While we had hoped to hop on the flight to Asaba at the last moment we were booked on a plane to Benin City. After a four-hour delay we finally settled down for a 30-minute flight. At the airport a driver met us with a large truck. Once out of Benin we traveled the 100+ miles to Asaba on a well-maintained road. To our surprise, gone were the multiple police and military road block we had experienced in the past. The only moment of concern came when our driver spotted three cars behind us flashing their lights as if they wanted us to stop. To be on the safe side he sped up and, after several miles, pulled up in front of a police station to let them go by and put a safe distance between us. We were relieved and impressed.
Arriving in Asaba means coming back to familiar sites. The only change we noticed was the new luxury car dealership on the road to Onitsha – in all likelihood the product of the new wealth coming into town since it became state capital. The big shock, however, came when we first came into view of the River Niger. During all our previous trips we had looked down from the tall bank to a slow moving, brownish body of water with scores of small islands–some large enough to sustain crops—separating us from the opposite bank. Now instead the river is in flood stage; the strong current and the high water have covered over the islands and swept away scores of buildings in low-lying areas along the town’s waterfront. We hear accounts of significant devastation further down river in the Delta. I look outside and it is still raining.
While we were hoping to add video here, it seems that the speed of our connection won’t allow it, so we’re including a couple of photos taken from about the same spot — one showing the river as we saw it in May, and another showing it in flood today.