It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.
Let’s start with my trip to the Gani festival in Nikki, which included stops in Parakou, Dassa and other places north of Cotonou. And when I say my trip, I mean the Ambassador’s trip, with me being part of the cast.
The Gani Festival is a week-long event where the kings of neighboring Bariba kingdoms, some from northern Nigeria, come to Nikki where the most powerful and esteemed king in the region resides. There are horse demonstrations, ceremonial gift giving and showing of respect, and lots of eating and drinking.
We stayed in a little hotel which only opens for Gani. Positives: the AC worked and the staff was friendly. Negatives: No hot water, beds were a thin foam mattress over a platform with no covers (not even a sheet), bar next store which blasted music until 5am.
But, we’re not there for the hotel, we’re there for the festival. But first, there are things we (again, meaning the Ambassador) need to do. Like visit the mayor. But you see, the mayor is a politician, and there’s a Presidential election coming up, and the Mayor supports the incumbent, President Yayi. So a campaign rally broke out.
Then I got lost. After Yayi was done speaking he grabbed the Ambassador and the rest of us to join him in his motorcade to the King’s house. The Ambassador was in the front car, I was in the follow car. I saw the Ambassador get into his car and headed back to the follow car. Then we drove down to the king’s house, but when we got there, everybody but me wasn’t in their cars. It turned out the President changed his mind and decided to walk down the street, and nobody went back to get me. So I missed parading down the street with Yayi, the Ambassador and the rest of our party. By the time I found them, they were having lunch back at the Mayor’s house. Which brings us to why it took so long to figure that out.
Nikki is a big village. When the festival takes place, it swells to four or five times its normal population, but there’s no more cell phone capacity, so everything locks up. Even text messages were taking as long as an hour to get through, which is why it took so long to figure out what was happening. Amazingly, my wireless internet worked fine, so I could have Skyped people easier than using a cell phone.
After lunch, the horsemen took center stage. Representatives of different regions and different kings competed to show off the most.
Then the Kings gave ceremonial gifts, heralded by trumpets that looked a lot like oversized vuvuzelas from the World Cup.
This is taking longer than I thought, so I’ll get back with more later.