Nigeria - Travel Warning
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Nigeria. Violent crime, practiced by persons in police and military uniforms, as well as by ordinary criminals, is an acute problem. Harassment and shake-downs of foreigners and Nigerians alike by uniformed personnel and others occur frequently throughout the country.
Nigerian airlines have aging fleets and limited technical capabilities and face serious financial difficulties. The U.S. Embassy is concerned that maintenance and operational procedures for Nigerian airlines may be inadequate to ensure passenger safety.
Who won the match?
"Years spent in the arms of another man's wife"
We pulled up in front of the stockade gates at the entrance to National Stadium in Kaduna, 500 miles north of Lagos Nigeria in the heart of Africa. There were 500 people outside the gates hoping to get in to see the wrestling matches but the soccer arena was already sold out. As the gates swung open, I cringed as the guards beat the fans back with clubs so that our car could enter the stadium.
It was an hour before the first match and the stadium was full. There were lots of ringside but since they were reserved seats, there were still many empty chairs. I noticed a group of children, twelve or thirteen years old in what resembled boy scout uniforms carrying small horse whips. They were watching the fans in the bleachers. All of a sudden a fan bolted from the bleachers running in an effort to get to the ringside seats. In an instant the kids went into action. twenty five kids were chasing this man all over the soccer field, swarming after him and swatting him with their whips. After a good chase, he blew up and stopped surrounded by the kids. Then a uniformed police officer walked up to him, clubbed him with a blackjack and hauled him off to the gate. I imagined if you want a ringside seat here, you better pay for it.
I changed into my wrestling gear and came out to survey the working conditions for the night. In the center of the field was an old boxing ring with no pads, canvas only covered the floor boards. The ropes were just that, ropes tied to the corner posts and sagging terribly in between. The biggest shock of all was the ring light. I swear it was six one hundred watt light bulbs hanging from an old coke case. I seriously doubt that the fans in the bleachers could see the matches at all and they dare not move forward for fear of the crew of teenaged scouts.
This was the last night of a nine day tour of Nigeria working for the local wrestling promoter of questionable ethics, Power Mike. I had already been hustled at Lagos Airport by unscrupulous immigration officials, slept in a room with guards on the front porch armed with poison bows and arrows, come through roadblocks looking down the barrel of machine guns, discovered after eating it that bush meat was, "bar-b-que rat," seen the dead left to lay along the roadside, and heard stories of witchcraft and cannibalism being practiced in the area.
I was wrestling Carlos Colon for the WWC world championship two out of three falls with a one hour time limit. There was a late night, 10:30pm Nigerian Airlines plane back to Lagos that night that would connect to British Airways to London that would connect to Braniff to Dallas, Texas. I pulled all the strings I could to get our match on next to last so we could have a chance to make the 10:30pm flight to Lagos.
As the match ended and I was leaving the ring I wasn't sure the fans had even seen us wrestle. (Only six light bulbs above the ring) I could see the promoter, Power Mike stuffing plastic garbage bags full of cash (Nira) into the back of his station wagon. Even though I was cut and bleeding over the right eye, I pulled on a pair of pants over my wrestling gear, stuck a band aid on my head and we left for the airport. It was 10:30pm but all airplanes run late in Nigeria.
As we arrived at the airport, I could see the Nigerian Airlines Boeing 727 still on the ground. There was a huge line of people, maybe 300 or more on the tarmac waiting to board the airplane. I knew they often sell more tickets for a flight than they have seats and we wouldn't have a chance in hell to get on that plane if we didn't do something.
The idea came to me. With tape and blood on my head, I looked at Carlos and said, "Help me.!!" I draped one arm around him and he helped me as we walked past three hundred locals to the steps of the airplane. As we approached the steps, the stewardess met us and said, "You cannot board this airplane. I just collapsed on the ramp and she said, "Oh dear!!" as she and Carlos helped me up the steps and into the first seat on the plane. As soon as we were seated, the only two on the plane, I said, "Oh Miss, could we have some rum and coke?" They served us both.
On to Lagos International Airport, as we went through immigration, the official just kept talking to us about wrestling until I gave him a fifty dollar bill and he said, "Have a safe trip," and waved us on. A British Airways 747 took us to London where I said good-by and thanks for the trip to Carlos. He was headed to Puerto Rico. I had just a short time to catch Brannif on to Dallas.
As I got off the plane in Dallas and was cleared an honest customs agent I walked toward Continental Airlines for the last leg home. I was just looking for a Texas friend to tell my experiences to. I stopped at the row of telephones and dialed the familiar number I had called so many time before when in need of love and affection, it was the number of another mans wife.
As she answered the phone, I began talking about my wrestling shoes that I was still wearing that had the brown dust of Kaduna Africa on them, the tape on my head, the armed roadblocks, six one hundred watt light bulbs, the thieving promoter Power Mike, corrupt immigration agents, getting a seat in the 10:30pm Nigerian Airline, bush meat, drooping ring ropes and six one hundred watt light bulbs.
She responded, "Who won the match."
I said, "I was in the middle of deepest darkest Africa, the only white man for five hundred miles where they practice witchcraft and cannibalism in the area, "Mom, who do you think won the match?"
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They call it the "River of Tears," the Niger River flows through the center of Nigeria where two hundred years ago families were divided as the slave traders loaded ships to sell human beings to America. It was with some concern that I traveled to Nigeria, however even though the country is rife with corruption, I couldn't have been treated better by the common people. I am thankful and wish them well.