In an extraordinary feat of determination and adventure, Superintendent of Customs, Akpevwe Ogboru, takes us behind the handlebars, revealing the ups and downs of her historic journey across 12 African countries on a bike. Covering an impressive distance of over 8,000 kilometers, Ogboru shares her experiences, encounters, and the myriad of discoveries that defined her remarkable tour of the region.
Ferdinand Ekechukwu of thisdaylive.com, captures the essence of this trailblazing journey as Ogboru recounts the challenges that accompanied her ambitious endeavor. From navigating diverse terrains to overcoming logistical hurdles, the story unfolds as a testament to the resilience and spirit of adventure that fueled Ogboru’s epic bike odyssey.
Why did you embark on such trip; is it adventure or what?
It was a tour. I have always loved travelling and I feel that the only way we would able to appreciate life and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation is to travel and see how other people live. I know a lot of people have asked me questions like how did you get fuel to buy? And I’m like these are countries, not villages. They have fuel stations and all that. So, it’s like a lot of Nigerians feel like we are the only ones that have fuel and all that stuff.
According to reports, you travelled for 23 days, covering 8,000 kilometers since November 10, when you left Abuja, can you confirm this?
Total number of 23 days, total number of countries 12, starting from Abuja Nigeria, travelling through Benin, Togo, Ghana, Coted’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria. I did not leave Abuja November 10th. I crossed Seme border on November 10th. Total number of kilometres covered 8, 205.2km.
Can you share your routine as you travelled through the 12 countries?
My routine basically is when I arrive at the country I look for a hotel that I’m going to spend the night. Some countries, some people that I know will help me to get hotel. Then I sleep and prepare for the next day. I talk to my people at home and let them know about my day and trip. The next day I continue.
What was the motivation beyond your love for travelling?
I have always loved travelling. And I have told myself that any opportunity I have – public holiday, weekends, any opportunity I have – I would maximise it. Because I just realised that a lot of us in Nigeria just work, work, work, and before you know it you have worked for 60 years and you are going on retirement and you have not really done anything. At least people should try this work-life balance. So you work, and then you play. And then you work, and you play. It makes life easier. You can’t just be working till death. So, like I said, I have always loved travelling and when I collected my annual leave, I just decided that ‘you know what? Just do this’.
How would you describe the experience travelling through these countries?
It was wholesome. Yeah. I just think like I said (elsewhere) we operate almost the same way; the same behavior, just anything you think about that is happening in Nigeria, is the same thing in all those places. The difference is the language in some of the places. For instance, they may be speaking French, while we speak English; they also have their own local language. But bad behavior, good behaviour, everything is the same.
How interconnected are the borders of these countries?
As Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), I expected that the borders are supposed to be connected. I’m not even supposed to be stamping my passport. If I can show my passport or ID card that I’m from Nigeria, I’m supposed to just move in. But they stamped my passport. Okay no problem with that, but you have to pay money and if you are not paying, they would delay you.
That appears to be some form of challenge?
It was a big challenge. I am from Nigeria, and from an ECOWAS member-country. If you stamp my passport, I shouldn’t be delayed any further. But not to be asked questions and asked to drop money for stamp. If it’s a virgin passport you have to bring money.
But you didn’t encounter this in all the countries?
I don’t just want to call names. But most of the countries I passed through.
How about challenges in terms of security, the roads, weather?
Before I went on this trip I had ridden across all 36 states in Nigeria, this helped me prepare for the long trip. So there were some roads I travelled through and I’m like ‘this is Abia State’, you understand. The roads were not really strange. Except for the distances which where longer considering that it was major roads. So thank God I did that before this. So it didn’t make it look too difficult. Basically, none of the challenges, experiences were strange.
What do you intend to impact with the exposure and experience traveling these countries?
That should be that ECOWAS we need to do better. We need to do better in terms of promoting tourism. ECOWAS member states we need to encourage people to travel within the region to do business. Like somebody called me that “I would like to come and invest in your country.” Please what do you think I can do? He’s been talking about it and if they are going to be having such bottlenecks and soft threat, people would not want to travel. I think ECOWAS should make it open for ECOWAS members to be able to travel around and they can startup businesses you know. It will help. And we have a lot of beautiful places in West Africa that people could visit instead of spending money travelling to Europe and the rest.
Is it something you would want to embark upon again in the future?
Yes, I want to embark upon it in the future but minus the stress at the borders. If I get to a border and I give you my passport, you stamp it and I walk away. What I expect from you is ‘welcome to my country. I hope you have a good time. These are places I want you to visit’. That’s what the immigration is supposed to be saying to you at the border not paying for stamp. They are supposed to be selling their countries such that even if I did not know where to go, it’s them that are supposed to tell me where to go. That’s what I think.
What do you have to say to other women who may wish to embark on such journey like this; Is it something you would encourage them to do?
I want to encourage women: If there’s something you want to do that is not sin against God, you are not disobeying the state, you are not disobeying any authority, you are not doing anything that is going to put anybody in danger, please go ahead and do it.
Because the truth is that they always tell women ‘no you can’t do it you are a woman’. But at the end of the day, we women will wait. And then we wait for husband the husband comes, and then when you now get married you now realise that there are many things that I should have been able to do in life, but now with this partner, you can’t even do it. And these are things I think bring resentment.
Talking about marriage, can you talk about your family, background?
No, I’m not married. I wouldn’t want to talk about family, background. No. I have not even completed the trip. The trip is supposed to end in Abuja, but I’m in Lagos. So, I’m still going to continue to Abuja on Friday (December 8).
From your experience through this journey are there recommendations regarding joint border patrol you would want to make having travelled through these countries which are within the same region of the continent?
Yes, I have recommendations but for now I wouldn’t want to talk about it.