Lagos is something else. Much like Marmite – you either love it or hate it.
On the plus side: it’s lively, everything is happening there and you can buy anything you want (with the right money) or see anything you want.
The downsides are that the traffic makes London’s Hyde Park Corner at 5pm on a Friday evening seem positively serene, everyone is operating at a speed and volume not seen elsewhere in Nigeria (except of course the traffic), aggression seems to be constantly bubbling under the surface because of stress levels and frankly, it’s noisy and dirty and there aint that much to see.
Having left our bulging rucksacks at her house, we quickly visited her tiny HIV/AIDS NGO based in two rooms on the first floor of a small commercial building, before she dropped us off at the hectic junction of Ayang Ibar from where we caught a bus to Badagry, the centre of Nigeria’s former Atlantic slave trade, situated about half way between Lagos and Benin.
It was at this point that the captives would catch their last glimpse of their homeland. Today, tourists can take the walk themselves to the monument and only imagine what it must have been like as you cross the clean white sands of the beautiful palm-fringed beach.
Returning to the house, we were offered another dinner by the maid, Margaret, which we regretfully turned down (since we were full of beer and pizza) but asked if our outfits could be pressed in preparation for the highlight of the trip - the wedding!
We met up with my friends Esther and Peace from Kagoro at 06:30 on Saturday morning as we waited for the buses to take us to Festac along with the 40 or so guests that had travelled from both Kagoro and Calabar for the event.
The bride's family was not quite ready for us when we arrived, so the cultural dance group that had been bussed in from Kagoro for the event started performing outside on the street as the ladies joined them in the traditional Kagoro 'samba' dance.
Laurie and Dori pose with our very good friend and neighbour Mrs Aka'ahs or 'mummy', and Dori snaps whilst Laurie and I pose with 'daddy'.
The vocal MC (who, we were frequently told, has been doing this job since 1978) loudly instructs the bride to thank her parents for everything they have done to bring her to this point. Her expectant fiance waits as she embraces tenderly with her mother whilst her father wipes the tears from his eyes.
Next the bride is covered and presented to her husband who seems relieved that they got the right girl. Next she is asked to select a gift from those presented by the groom's family. She selects the Bible. Good girl and clearly a wise choice. Her family then announce that the cheque for the bride price will be given in full to the happy couple.
The grooms' men look on coolly as the Kagoro samba group once more do their thang in Lagos surrounded by village people. You can take Kagorians out of the village but you can't take the village out of Kagorians!
Then it's back in the buses to the reception which takes place at a resort on the edge of Festac Town. It appeared that members of the public had filled up the tables under the marquee so many of the wedding party headed for the public areas, where, for the price of a beer, we watched the stretch limo draw up from which emerged the newly wedded couple who danced up the aisle to set off the celebrations.
More than 12 hours after we had left that morning, the Kagorians were dropped back at their residences on Ikoyi Island. Exhilirated but too tired to even take advantage of the satellite TV, a hot shower and sleep beckoned quickly although earplugs to drown out the sound of the samba group that had started up again next door.
Finally our day was rounded off by a visit to a former VSO, now working for an NGO based in the Niger Delta. As a poor evacuee from her former home of Port Harcourt, she is being housed in the 'guest house' of one of the oil companies that supports her organisation. We sympathised with her as we ate fresh baguettes, brie, liver pate and downed any drink we could think of alongside the crystal blue pool in the centre of a manicured lawn fringed by frangipani trees on Victoria Island. However the good news is that the oil company concerned has just been taken over and she's going to have to find some permanent accommodation so she won't be an evacuee any more.
Monday was travel day and we quickly accepted Jones' generous offer to drive us to the Cross Country motorpark at 6 the next morning. Clearly, driving to public motor parks is not something that senior public officials do very often so unfortunately, after several U-turns and double-backs around the Jabba district of Lagos, we arrived at the terminus after the first Abuja bus was filled.
As we drove up from Abuja on Tuesday morning, the first sight of Kagoro Mountain in the distance as we came over the brow of the hill just outside Kwoi, brought a huge smile to my face.