About 10 years ago, I was the Line Producer for the prestigious KORA All Africa Music Awards and that year the awards was taking place in Burkina Faso.
I shuffled between Burkina Faso, South Africa, Benin Republic and Nigeria a lot and catching flights was like part of my job description. This is not about being late for my flights as I had protocol officers at the airport waiting to take me in at any time; as a matter of fact there are times the protocol officer at the presidential lounge of the airport will call me and say “don’t come yet, I will call you to start coming when they are done boarding ordinary travellers (now you can understand why I am potentially late for every flight).
On this particular trip, my boss had asked me to travel to Cotonou to help him bring a brief case to Burkina Faso, I got to Cotonou, spent one night, picked up the brief case and headed towards the airport when my phone rang “Good day madam, please do not come to the airport till I tell you to come, it is important that you do not go through regular pre-boarding screening for this flight”….Haaaaa! my imaginations ran wild, what is in the box that I am carrying? I called my friend who had CIA skills, we reasoned together and everything that came to mind was scary. I called my elder sister “break that box Victoria, you need to know the content, trust no one”, I called my gossip partner and she was even more hysterical…anyway I eventually went to the airport and on arrival the protocol guy just said the flight is about to take off, hurry. We ran through all the security machines and only stopped to stamp my passport, the box was not screened at any point till I boarded. Only in Africa!
Throughout the flight, one question remained constant on my mind: Victoria what are you carrying? Hard Drugs? Contraband? Or even human head??? “blood of Jesus” I screamed unconsciously at the thought of the fact that I maybe transporting human head…an air hostess came to me and asked if everything was fine, not at all…sorry yes, everything is fine.
A few minutes later, the captain started an announcement “thank you all for using Air Burkina, shortly we will be commencing decent into Burkina Faso, for passengers continuing to Senegal, remain seated till…till…, loud screams as the plane dropped dramatically with screams of “Jesus” everywhere; before we knew what was going on, the plane started shaking violently, the overhead lockers opened and things started dropping on us (God forgive my sins, I am sure that whatever I am carrying in this box is terrible, it was not my plan Lord, I am innocently doing my job), I kept praying as the Captain announced an emergency landing and we “DROPPED” into Burkina Faso…alive (of course, I am alive, I am the one telling my story…lol)
We all hurried to get off the plane, people had vomited everywhere and a few people were in shock. I hurried out thanking God for saving my life, determined to find out what was in the small box while vowing to NEVER board a plane again in my entire life.
I walked out, ignored the person holding my name and a placard and walked straight out to my driver, “take me straight home” I said, ignoring my bosses instruction to go straight to the office on arrival. I cried a river that evening and eventually went to see my boss and told him what happened, he explained to me that there had been a terrible desert storm which had brought down houses and trees and we must have been caught in that storm. He took his mystery box from me and proceeded to open it, I was watching like my life depended on that box….neatly arranged bundles of euros in
different denominations…God why did I not board the plane to a different country and buy myself a yatch or something?
Two days later, PSQUARE was supposed to leave Burkina Faso for Nigeria and I was to take them, the president of Burkina Faso had promised us a private jet and voila, there I was on my way to board an aircraft again barely 48 hours after that horrible flight, this time a military aircraft. Every bump or minor decent felt like an impending crash already, no one could understand why I kept squeezing Jude Okoyes hand so tightly all through the flight. We flew to Cotonou, the SUVs my logistics manager had arranged were waiting for them and they left to Lagos by road. I had to walk back to my waiting military aircraft; I was now the only passenger on board with 4 military men as captain and cabin crew flying the plane like the renowned Lagos danfo drivers drive their buses.
BLACKOUT….I woke up to a first aid box by my side. PERIOD