First travel out of Nigeria
My first trip out of Nigeria was in 1977. The universities were closed and my dear father and I thought I should just go to England and find a school. In my excitement, I bought the ticket, packed my stuff and forgot to get a visa. When we got to London, I was stopped and interrogated for hours. Then the kind Immigration officer discovered it was my birthday. He gave me the visa “on behalf of the Queen” as my birthday present. To this day, each time I get to Heathrow Airport, more than forty years after, I keep looking out for that officer.
My favourite city is Chicago. It is split into two like Lagos. The black side where I worked and the white side where I stayed. The black artistes I was working with loved me until they discovered I was living on the white side. Thank God, all we have in Lagos is Mainland and Island.
Favourite neighbourhood or street
My favourite neighbourhood is Tobago. Everyone looked familiar. Something kept telling me they were my lost cousins, aunties and uncles who had come as slaves. You can imagine how I felt when the owner of the small hotel where we stayed said that she knew General Ibrahim Babangida. I almost claimed him as my uncle.
Favourite meal abroad
My favourite meal abroad is a Chinese meal my dear friend Tony Abulu introduced to me in New York. It is called “General Jah!” Being a Chinese food lover, I felt I was travelling the length and breath of China. The large white plate is served with a little bit of all my favourite Chinese meals.
Lesson from travels
Buy all your prescribed drugs from Nigeria. What you buy at MedPlus easily may need the Surgeon General’s approval to buy abroad.
Sao Paulo, in Brazil. Go during Carnival time. The beef-eating joints are heavenly.
Ideal travel companion
My wife. She transforms into someone else when she is out of the country. She even wears knickers. Can you imagine? It’s a thrill to watch her shop in Gold Souk in Dubai.
Unforgettable moment abroad
In Los Angeles. We had arrived with the National Troupe from Rome on our way to a festival in San Francisco. Amongst the props we bought for the show were wet horse whisks for the “Obitun dance”. But our luggage was much. And the Airport Security dogs had sniffed the wet meat. I was arrested, while my group was cleared, angry, thinking I was shopping. I remember that I was sweating in the ice-cold weather. At the end of the search, after the dog had pulled out the right bag, the dog got a slap, and I received an apology. I came out only to find out that my artistes had planned an uprising right at the airport, while I was roasting inside. They wanted more Estacode. I just calmly brought out my Estacode envelope, gave it to them and ordered them to join the line for our plane to San Francisco.
The wait in Moscow en-route Pyongyang in North Korea. We were going to North Korea and Russia, two countries with a great friendly policy with America. We were there at the airport for twelve hours. The Russians wanted only ruble. We starved until a plane arrived the next day. I regretted not thinking and planning the trip properly.
One: Don’t make yourself too conspicuous. I had an artiste once who wore “bathroom rubber slippers” for a trip to Germany. Of course, he was arrested, and so was I for bringing him in a Lufthansa flight without proper shoes to Frankfurt.
Two: Don’t ever leave home without money. Nigerians abroad can be stingy, er, no, careful.
The Sheraton Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. I arrived late from London, lost a night during the British Airways flight and was so hungry that when the “Club Sandwich” came, it was so large with hot fries. I took Chapman and slept on the bed with all my clothes and shoes on. Everything on the bed was made of soft feathers. I slept like a log. The next day, I was told my bag had been arrested.
Favourite activity abroad
Shopping for myself. It takes me thirty minutes to buy everything I need. Then I wait for my wife to make up her mind for the next one week on what to buy for herself.
My favourite personality abroad is Mister Lu, our funny Chinese Interpreter, who promptly advised me to buy second hand old Chinese soldiers uniform before climbing the Great China Wall. We looked like stuffed mannequins. Then he took us for dinner in a wonderful restaurant where we ate fried frogs, it was delicious with hot fried rice, shrimps and lobsters. After the meal, we discovered what we had eaten. Mister Lu consoled us by saying we ate American frogs, not Chinese ones––as if there was a difference. Poor us!
Favourite pastime abroad
Writing my plays. I am far away from Nigeria, food and snacks are easy for me, and “NEPA” is steady. I just work.