Kemmiiii's Blog

Ajasa’s Tales (7): Chez nous au Togo!

Posted on: November 12, 2013

Lome here I come!
These assimilated French people will never cease to amuse and amaze me with their lay-back attitude!
Despite the fact that Lome has expanded structurally, the people remained the same slow and sluggish in their mien even at these jet and computer ages! I remember in 1977 as a school boy, our guide, a french national on internship at the French Embassy in Lagos told us we were being too smart for the environment. The Summer Vacation camp of 1977 organised by the French Embassy for deserving students left an indelible memory and some of the exploits actually shaped my life. One enduring memorabilia of the camp, a rare school bag on which is written “chez nous au Togo”, meaning Togo, our Fatherland or Home, still hangs somewhere in my room to date. The phrase expressed the pride and faith of the Togolese in their country which they hold dearly. You dear not mention the name of the then maximum ruler anyhow without being challenged. We were opportuned to witness the reverence they have for their ruler and country as demonstrated nationwide on the 30th August(Trente Aout)-it was a rare carnival-like display of loyalty better witnessed than imagined!

Lome, in 1977, was a little better than a big village with Hotel de la Paix, said to be owned by our own General Gowon, being the most remarkable edifice around. The whole country could not boast of any University. The highest institution of learning then was Ecole D’Agriculture, Tove in the northern part of the country. About that time, Lycee de Toquin, a well established secondary school with facilities comparable to those of missionary schools in Nigeria, was being upgraded to what now stands as L’Universite du Benin.
It was in Togo that I cut my teeth in the art of partying and “toasting”. It was there I noticed that there’s a marked difference in the social outlook of the English and French speaking West African countries! While the English exhibit some restraint, the french throw caution into the wind in enjoying themselves.

Today, the story is different and levels have changed significantly. Gigantic buildings now dot the city of Lome with unimpressive skyline. Sadly, the hitherto magnificent Hotel de la Paix is now completely run down reminiscent of Hotel Bobby before the take over by LASG. Of note is the wisdom the authority to preserve their waterfront/shoreline for impressive hotels and resorts comparable to what obtains in Mombassa Kenya! Trust Nigeria where places like that have given way to new estates and city projects- it is all about money and blind-folding corruption with no thought of value added to quality life.
Social activities especially the night life seem to have been overtaken by the Naija experience. Commercial activities are booming with significant patronage from Big Brother Nigeria-a reversal of the situation of the 70s.
Unlike what obtained then, most billboards now advertise one product or service rather than eulogising the president.

Going to Lome posed the challenge of choice of means of transportation. With going by sea ruled out, one is left to choose between road and Air.
I chose to go by air. All the overtures made by my friends to convince me to change my mind would not work- once beaten, twice shy! Unargueably,
Lome to Lagos is not as distant as Ilorin to Lagos but the impediment created by the international border agents can be nauseating as much as they can be frustrating making nonsense of what should be an enjoyable Atlantic coastal drive with lots of sight seeing! In 1977 we had a good time driving through the borders with our brown West African passports affixed with ‘lessez passez’. Our various guides did not allow us to know what trouble they were going through and what level of corruption was being engaged in to secure our passage! In 1993, I went to Ghana in my VW 1600 with a lot of hassles at the various borders. Aflao border posed a special challenge as it was closed due to a diplomatic rift between Togo and Ghana. After some wads of naira and franc cfa notes changed hands, a border agent led us through a cultivated farmland to get to Ghana. As my beetle was tossing up and down over the ridges, my car caught fire under my father-in- law sitting at the “owners” corner. The battery terminals were bridged by the seat meshwork. As ‘you can’t kill the beetle’, I rushed to do the needful and the adventure resumed.
My recent experiences gathered in the course of our Cotonou sojourn sealed my aversion for road trip along West African coast. The travails of passengers at the boarders are getting worse by the day and are dictated by the level of corruption in existence.

Air travel, the safest but most dreaded means of transport, the Nigerian experience, to Lome may seem uninteresting because no sooner you take off and the aircraft stabilizes you’ll start descent into Lome, but you will appreciate the trouble you’re saved of when you hear the expected tale of woes from road travelers. My colleagues were not spared despite the ‘indept knowledge’ of the terrain by Adeagbo, their driver!
It would not be a bad idea afterall to see the skyline of another neighbour if only for comparison or to approach the city by air haven made previous visits by road.

The 9th West Africa Project Fair, the main reason for our going to Lome, from the onset showed the laid back ways of the francophone west africans. I could appreciate the frustration of Auntie Bas in getting us accommodation. At this age and time, their hotels are not internet registered such that it was impossible to do any form of electronic fund transfer. It then became cash and carry and first come first served!

More frustrating was the need to pay the registration fee at the conference venue only in local currency of cfa francs with non availability of bureau de change in the vicinity.
The conference bag is just another one containing the usual stuff but this time around, the conference brochure left so much to desire. Most annoying is the blurred picture of our District Governor.

Gbagada missed the cocktail of Friday evening with something more important to the bargain of compensation. Our meeting with RC Lome Zenith which took place at the prestigious and magnificent Sarakawa Hotel was highly successful to be modest. The club took twining to a very serious and well defined level. One cannot but appreciate this with the constant reverberation of the success of our Global Grant project at Cotonou, a project worthy of emulation and a biproduct of our twining with RC Cotonou Palmier. It was gratifying and most satisfying to hear the project being cited as an example at this fair with both clubs becoming reference clubs.

On the whole, the fair was a huge success despite the hiccups encountered here and there. The international partners came in large numbers as compared with what obtained last year. Can you blame them? When gold rusts, what will iron do? When Nigerians don’t feel safe in their own country, what do you expect of foreigners? Here in Lome, everybody feels at home! And you know what! Here at Hotel Copa Cabana, life is so good, no power cut!
An outing to the beach became almost irresistible as we are close to the Atlantic. At the beach it is all fun and no body is worried about how to get back home.

Right now, we are enjoying Lome and we are looking forward to that day when we’ll be proud to shout loudly “chez nous au Nigeria”

Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Etisalat. Enjoy high speed mobile broadband on our easyblaze and plans for BlackBerry. Visit for details.


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