Monday, January 31, 2011


Dad and I took a trip to Nigeria to visit Dan.

Here's some pictures

Dad already made lots of notes and I figure - why re-invent the wheel... So here's dad's notes pretty much in full though I did edit some stuff out. (I should have probably asked for permission first... :)


1. TRAVEL:   
Dates:  January 6, 2011 to January 22, 2011.
DELTA from Portland to Atlanta to Accra, Ghana to Abuja, Nigeria
From Abuja to Accra, Ghana to Atlanta to Salt Lake City to Portland (36 hours!)
Dan provided first class/business class tickets using his accumulated miles.  At each major stop I was able to use Delta’s clubroom.
DKL spent $1100, mostly on hotels at Yankari National Park and in Kano, and for golf in Abuja, as well as $100 tip to Absalom the driver.                                        
Inside Nigeria traveled by means of Dan’s work vehicle driven by his driver Absalom.  I took Oregon salt-water taffy and small jars of jam as gifts for Dan’s office staff.
The Abuja check-in process to come home was unique, which included two scanning operations, a personal pat down, body imaging, baggage search, and clearing their customs and “emigration” folks.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been in any kind of order or sequence.  Dan was not allowed to come into the area, but there was an upstairs viewing area where people could stand and he shouted instructions to me to help me figure out the process.

Ben arrived on the following Tuesday, January 11th.  The best aspect of the trip was being able to spend the time with both Dan and Ben.  They took real good care of me.

Accra, Ghana:  UN airplanes, Mormon missionaries and old, trashed and abandoned airplane and helicopter carcasses.
Abuja (same comment about airplanes]*
New Bussa
Wawa (foolishness)
Birnin Kudu
Gusau*  [motel compound,  Bakura Farm operation center,  Wurno dam project]
Kaduna (meaning Crocodile)

Asterisks are towns where Dan has lived.
Miles driven   approximately 2000
Roads in some places were 50% potholes; particularly from
Abuja to New Bussa—we weaved all over the road to avoid the potholes.  Heavy truck traffic, also weaving all over the road .  Made for slow driving, and interesting meetings with on-coming traffic.
This is the Sahel part of Africa (sub-Saharan dessert).  It was mostly what they call wooded savannah.  Jos & Bauchi are in an area they call the “plateau,” which is a higher altitude.
This is also winter there.  At night or early morning a sweatshirt was desirable.  The Nigerians dressed like it was a winter in Oregon.

Cites missed that I would like to have seen included Dennin Kebbi (where Dan started, and close to the famous Argunga fishing festival of which we have pictures), and Makurdi in Benue state where Dan is now spending most of his working time.


Kanji Lake National Park in the state of Niger [Oli River] [borders the country of Benin]  [some fires burning—here and at Yankara.  At this time of year foliage very dry, but interestingly the fires do not burn wildly, but basically slowly on the ground.  Made for smelly air, and coupled with the Harmattan it was very dirty.  Here we had an armed guard for the lions, but we never saw any.  This park is not very developed nor is it visited much.  The facilities here  were poor, poorly staffed—a comment generally applicable to the Nigerian tourist sites.  The safari road was in bad condition.  Many times we had to make our own road to get around fallen trees.  Once the left front truck wheel broke through a concrete culvert pipe that ran under the road & we had to push it out.  The Park boasts many snakes, which we did not see, but we did see paths in the dirt, and skins at the Museum noted below]
Kanji Lake National Park Museum  (sparse, not well maintained, but interesting).
Kanji Dam  [on Niger River]
Mungo Park Cenotaph.  Did not actually see it, but drove in the area.  Tourist attractions are not marked with signage, and the Nigerians don’t seem to understand the interest.    [Park was one of Africa’s first European explorers—he died in area now covered by the Kanji reservoir under suspicious circumstances, either drowned or killed].

Yankari National Park [Gaji River]
Wikki Camp.  This camp was quite nice, although still somewhat in disrepair.  The Baboons were everywhere, and you had to keep your windows and doors locked because they knew how to open them.
Wikki Hot Springs:  These flow out of a big vertical wall rock.  Quite a large volume at a luke warm ++ temperature.  We swam in them at night when no one else was there.  The sky was full of  stars, it was beautiful.
Marshall Caves:  Caves of unknown origin.  Some believe they were hiding places during the slave trading days.
No armed guards here, although we saw a lion rather close up.  We did not see elephants, but we saw a lot of footprints and dung.  Our safari guard wore a New York hat and Oakland Firefighters Sweatshirt.   Our Safari vehicle broke down on two of our trips, necessitating waiting for several hours [once in the pitch dark] to be rescued.

Kurmi Market [2000 years plus old].  This place smelled badly,  but was very interesting.  It was a maze of alleyways and small shops.   We had a guide, as is recommended.   Danny took a picture of me standing by a Taureg tribesman, who when he figured out what we were doing  was very unhappy about it.  A fellow kept following me around saying things like “welcome your Excellency’” etc.   Danny paid him 100 Naira to go away.  I thought he should have paid him to continue!
Kufar Mata Dye Pits [oldest in Africa].  The pits are bout 30 feet deep.  Once they prepare one for use they use it for about a year.  The dye is made up of water,  ash, potassium [urine] and indigo plants.  Dan and Ben bought blankets, including a Bride’s blanket for Chris and Holly—I am not sure about the dye, and worry it will run.
Dola Hill [historically significant}
Gida Makaman Museum  [again, not well maintained, somewhat sparse, but interesting].
Emirs Palace [drive by]

Sokoto Caliphate Palace [drive by]

Abuja IBB Golf Course: This is actually a pretty nice golf course.  We played it three times.  I did not do well, scoring 103, 100 and 97, so at least I was on an improving trend.  There were crocodiles in the water hazard next to the 10th hole green, and in the water hazard along the 17th fairway.  I saw a not so nice golf course in Kano with oiled sand greens.

National Mosque and National Christian Chapel in Abuja.  The National Christian Chapel is non-denominational, as I suppose is the National Mosque.  In this country must keep both side happy.
Abuja Hilton Hotel and British Consulate (smile)


Mourning dove
Guinea fowl
Groundhorn Bill
Saddlebill Stork
Golliath Heron
Cattle Egret
Secretary Bird
Bee Eaters

Grimm’s Duikers
Roan Antelopes
Western Hartebeest
Monkeys many varieties
Monitor Lizards
Red flanked Duikers

Major rivers:  the Niger, Oli [Kaniji National Park], Sokoto (Wurno Dam Project] and Gaji River [Yankari National Park].

Trees:  The African Baobab.  Dan believes the fruit of this tree will be the next big thing like acacia.  

I also saw Yam and Cassava fields, sugar cane fields, rice fields, onion and carrot fields.  In the open air market places were abundant quantities of red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, pineapples and other fresh fruits and vegetables.

Wood is used for cooking probably by most of the people; so wood gathering was a big deal.  As you drove you saw people gathering wood just about everywhere we went, and piling it along the road for sale.  Unfortunately I did not get a good picture of this activity.


150 million people (1/2 the total US population) located in an area roughly the size of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  Always around, even when you thought you were essentially in the middle of nowhere some one would show up.

Coca-cola is available everywhere.

Exchange rate is 152 Naira to $1US dollar.  Or 1000 Naira equaled about $6.666.  We changed our money with some Hausa money traders in a run-down office in Abuja.  Danny commented that there was probably a $1Million US in the place.  Anyway,  $1000 US gives you a whole packet of money; actually tow packets of about 1” thick each!

Outside of Abuja there was not much variety in the food.  Part of this was that I was not being very adventurous in hopes of not getting ill. Food was:
Rice and chicken or beef
Spaghetti and chicken or beef
French fries were available most everywhere.
“Biscuits,” being a holdover from the British:  essentially crackers and cookies of various packaged varieties.
Suya, which is barbecued chicken or beef with a coating of a sauce made from peppers and peanut oil.  Often accompanied by a salad of plain chopped cabbage and onions.  The onions over there are great incidentally.
Eggs, scrambled or in omelets (onion), usually without cheese.
“Stew”, a sauce made up of peppers and tomatoes sauce, sometimes with some meat remnant in it provided the “sauce” for everything, particularly the spaghetti.
Roadside you could buy dates, peanuts, bananas, sugar cane, plantains, oranges, and tomatoes.
You can also buy packaged fruit juices most everywhere.
The pepper in salt and pepper is red pepper.

Rest stops were taken at roadside—took a little getting used to doing your thing while traffic roars by.  In a general comment about people being everywhere and being friendly, once I was taking care of business when a guy raised up about 100 yards out in the field and whistles to catch my attention, he then waves, I wave back and he goes back to his work and I finish my work.

The people generally were very friendly, breaking into big smiles when spoken to.  They speak English as the national language, but often it was hard to understand them, and obviously hard for them to understand me.   Respectful of us old folks.  Particularly in the remoter villages I would go into a shop to get a coke and they would call me the “daddy” or the “papa.”    Sometimes they seem rude, but I think it is just their way of dealing with a lot of people.  Spatially they will get right close to you just because again I suppose the number of people.   I was impressed that with that many people they seemed to get along pretty well, and take for granted the crowding and pushing that occurs, or close misses with other cars.

We travelled mostly in the North.  This was also the period they call the “harmattan,” which is when winds blow dust from the Sahara desert over most all of west Africa.  The air was dirty—some days you could not see a ½ mile, and it made for dirt everywhere.   Also, some parts of the North do not seem to have progressed as much, which enhances the feeling of dirtiness.  Even freshly washed towels or clothes smelled of dirt.

For the most part garbage is not collected, and often there are no sewer systems.  So garbage has accumulated.  Big piles of it—remember the older cities are over 2000 years old.  Plastic bags and other containers are everywhere.   And you need to watch where you step as human waste can be found in a lot of places.

Electricity was always an issue.    Generators exist everywhere to kick-in when the delivery system fails, even in the capital city of Abuja.   In some areas you only get electricity during certain hours.  For example Yankari National park the electricity went out at midnight—makes it very dark.  In town some of the connections off of the power poles were very interesting with maybe 50 wires leading of the pole.  The National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) is the entity responsible for generation and distribution of electric power in Nigeria.  People says its acronym, NEPA, stands for “no electric power again.”

On the other hand, the Internet and wireless phone system is extensively developed, with most of Nigeria being 4G.

Roads between major cities are usually pretty good.  Roads elsewhere could almost be more potholes than pavement.  The storm water drains, where they exist, are a little scary.  Usually a concrete ditch about 2 ½ to 3 feet deep along the edge of the road with no barrier or warning.

There are a lot of half-completed, or even completed projects, that have been abandoned for one-reason or another.  It is like a project gets planned, done and then abandoned to move on to the next project without completing, operating or maintaining the first project.  A lot of economic waste.

I enjoyed their colorful clothes, particularly in contrast to the dirty surroundings.  The found the full dress of the Muslim ladies with the bright colors attractive.

The far North is mostly Muslim.   The Sokoto caliphate is the head of Islam in Nigeria.  They start calling for prayer at 4 in the morning.   We came across a few circumstances where everyone (almost) was participating in prayer.  All over there are small concrete pads lined up to face Mecca where people would pray.   Even these are called Mosques.  The five pillars of Islam are:  Faith, Prayer, Fasting, Charity, and the Hajj to Mecca.

We visited the town of Jos where the Muslims and Christians have been actively killing each other last year and this year.  The town was mostly abandoned with a fair military presence keeping order.  We saw the burned out bus where the Christians burned up, allegedly, the Muslim wedding party, and we saw the burned out van where the Muslims reportedly reciprocated.   We had lunch in a diner operated by a British person—let’s see, I think I had chicken and fries.

It was interesting watching Danny dealing with the Nigerians.   Because of language issues and cultural differences (I think) it seems necessary to repeatedly ask the same question and to test the answers to make sure you were all on the same page.   Whenever we went to a hotel he made them show us the rooms, and quizzed them repeatedly about the electricity and hot water, and made them demonstrate they worked, before we would stay.  He joked often with them about black and white issues, like at Kainji where they have a “foreigners” tax, which Danny razed them about being a tax on white people.  Or at the golf course when the caddies asked if he had ever visited Benin city, and he said no because they kidnap white people there.  They seemed to get a kick out of his comments.

Lots of abandoned gas stations.  I understand that in order to be allowed to transport gas in gas truck, you need gas stations.  So they open the stations, but never operate them, taking the load of gas North and selling it on the market in neighboring Niger or Burkina Faso.  In addition to housing owned by Dan’s company, we stayed in hotels at Kaniji National Park, Yankari National Park and in Kano.  At the to two national park facilities the water was cold, and the showers were of the “bucket” type.   The hotel at Kano was quite nice with the room being about the size of our living room and dining room combined, and it even had warm water!  

For one reason or another there were a lot of “road blocks” or at least obstructions on the road that made you have to slow down and weave through them. I saw a car coming at us at a high rate of speed try to go through one, and end up flying in the air, turning over and crashing.  There were like 10 people in the car and no one was hurt—because I suppose they were packed in so tight they couldn’t get hurt.  Never did find out why they were trying to go so fast through the blockade.

They say they want to promote tourism but they make it very hard from getting a visa to visit, to no signage, to nobody trained to deal with and promote the visitors they do get.   It was almost like you had the beg waiters or waitresses to wait on you, and they have no flexibility.  In other words forget about saying hold the mayo and onions, because they don’t get it, or can’t seem to be able to deviate from the set process or menu in this example.  The women waitresses seem very reluctant to talk to you or deal with you—which is strange given why you are there and why they are there.  Danny says this is because of the culture where they can be physically and/or mentally abused if they offend a male patron.

When we went to Kainji National Park, which is the largest National Park they have, in the nearest towns (New Bussa and Wawa) several of the people did not even know what we were talking about, and we could not find any signage, although on the way out we saw a diminutive, half hidden sign.  We finally found a hotel that seemed ok, and said they could get us a guide to the Park.  Luckily such a fellow showed up just as we were moving into our rooms, and we discovered that the main headquarters of the Park was still about 100 kilometers away (half on public road, and half on the road inside the Park), and that there was a hotel in the Park at the main headquarters.  We checked out of the hotel, with a nice tip [they call it a “dash”] and went to stay in the Park.  If we had not we would have wasted half the next day getting there.  Close by the Park was a big reservoir on which they advertised boat rides, but nobody could tell us how to get there. This is also why we never found the Mungo Park Cenotaph, which they advertise in certain tourism websites, but nobody we talked to knew where it was.  The National Park fees were interesting:  there is an entrance fee, a fee for each camera, a foreigner’s fee, and of course separate charges for hotel, food and guides.

However, the Yankari National park was a little better in this regard, and the guide at the Kano Dye pits gave a tour and explanation that was great.

People everywhere wore old US clothes, like athletic team clothes, or as mentioned earlier, fire department t-shirts and New York hats.  Danny made the observation that this was good.  We should rather have them identifying with us rather than for example, wearing a Beijing China fire department sweatshirt.

Lots of beggars, usually old men or old women, or physically impaired persons or too often young kids who run around with a beggars bowl.  I told Dan and Ben that if I had known this, I would have put them to work as youngsters.  Dan almost always gives to the old ladies, but not the others.  He says most of them may have been the 3rd or 4th wife who got nothing when the husband died.

Roadside vendors were amazing.  Around Abuja in places where cars were congested, like intersections, they  (literally 40- to 50 vendors at a time) would walk between the cars peddling their wares.  You could have bought socks, shirts, pants, all kinds of foods—fresh and packaged, clocks, knives, etc.

The Sokoto Caliphate (Muslim Fulanis) once ruled an empire stretching from Sudan on the East to Senegal on the West, and is still the religious center/leader of Islam in Nigeria.  

In the areas we travelled the people are mostly Fulani or Hausa.  The Fulanis are traditional pastoralists, and you see them all over driving herds of cattle.  The Hausa were farmers and traders.    Lots of people are still afraid of the Fulanis.

Seemed to be one fast food chain called Mr. Biggs where like here you could be assured of a certain level of cleanliness, and a pretty standard menu.

Nigeria seems to be divided between the really wealthy and the quite poor.  I am sure there is probably a small middle class, but mostly we saw how the poor lived.  Almost all houses are gated or behind walled gated communities.  From the streets you could see some huge houses.

They are working hard to create a national identity as “Nigerians” rather than having people just identity with their religion or with their tribes.    This is why Abuja was created in part, as a brand new planned city in the center of the country not belonging to any one tribe or religion, but attempting to represent all groups and Nigeria as a whole.   Somewhat like what Brazil did when it created Brasilia.    Abuja is a modern city with good roads, and other urban amenities.  


Jerry Cunningham age approx. 58 is the “boss.”  He is related to Dick Shepard, age approx 65.  He is other original partner.  Scott Shepard is Dick’s son, and was owner of the Headliner CafĂ© in Corvallis where Dan worked at college and how he got hooked up with this crew.

They have projects all over Nigeria roughly from Benue River North.  They have pending 5 new government contracts, one of which alone involves 14 different sprinkler projects.  In addition they may get contract to repair washed out Wurnu dam project.  They believe they are in a good position as they are the only company that does what they do (sprinkler irrigation and related agricultural services/products), and Nigeria has set a goal of self-sufficiency for food production by 2020.  They have also been asked to consider projects in other West African countries, such as Ghana where oil was also recently discovered.

They have various properties and facilities all over.  We visited the Wurnu dam project (washed out by flood last fall); the Bakura farm operations center (2 centers close by) where equipment is stored, repaired, etc.   The have many houses.  The Wurno project was a rehabilitation of an existing dam and gravity irrigation system that stored water for the irrigation of thousands of hectares.  Last year they had record rainfall and a big dam further North burst sending a cascade of water down the river, which then smashed through the Wurno dam, causing a lot of damage and even death.  The government has done nothing to fix the problem, but is starting to get worried about the fact there is not water storage, etc., and next rainy season is forth coming.

We stayed in company houses in Abuja, Sokoto, and Gusau.   The Sokoto house, which Dan originally found and leased, is a 4-wife house, with separate quarters for each.    Gusau has a large compound, which is motel like with many separate buildings with 2 to 4 units in each building.   Lots of employees live at this compound with family and others.  I kidded Scott about whether he really had any idea how many people were living there.  This was the project Danny originally went to Africa to manage, but government never followed through with funding.  Scott lives here.  Dick lives in Sokoto.  Dan and Jerry live in Abuja

Scott and Dick are on the ground running Sokoto and Zamfra states.  Danny is developing new projects and government relationships in Bauchi and Benue states, which I did not get to see.   He also does business development and strategic planning for Sokoto, Kebbi, Bauchi, Kware, Adamawa, Kano states, and they are considering moving into Edo, Cross River and Borno states.  Danny sees his job as essentially government relations, marketing and finance.     Shepards with Jerry work operations.  Jerry works the importation of the equipment they work.  They have several US citizens working for them, as well as many Nigerians.

Note, one of the curiosities is that when an employer hires someone, at least for some jobs, the employer also provides the housing.  For example, at Abuja they house Danny’s driver, a gate guard, a housekeeper and a laundry person, albeit the housing is small.

We met and had our picture taken with Senator Yarima (Alhaji Sani Ahmed Yarima) who is the former governor of Zamfara State, and is now the Senator from Zamfara State, and minority leader in the Senate.  He was the first governor to institute sharia law in his state, and according to Dan is one of the most powerful and popular politicians in Nigeria.   He is also a shareholder in at least one the WM companies,   WM Environmental Solutions I believe.  He was very gracious.  He is a Muslim.   Danny and Jerry both said he is a rock star in Nigeria.    Dan had a golf bag with this name on it—and all the caddies knew who he was and were curious about why Dan had the bag.  Dan told them he won it off of the Senator in a golf match.   In truth they bought the bag for the Senator but never gave it to him for some reason.  The Senator has purchased two of the Tundra trucks Dan shipped to Africa.    The first one was evidently “destroyed” by the crowds in the current election campaign, so while I was there the Senator bought the second one.

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