My Traumatic Experience At AMAA Awards 2013 - Ameyaw Debrah

Although the AMAA was on Saturday, as an invited member for some of the panel discussions at the Bayelsa Book Fair ahead of the awards, I had to travel on Wednesday. It seemed that my trip to Nigeria was cursed right from the moment I set off from the Kotoka International Airport. My flight was delayed for one hour in Monrovia, Liberia before coming to Accra. And when we boarded, it was delayed for one extra hour due to a special ceremony in the VIP area for the Iranian president who was leaving Ghana after a visit. Well, finally we were allowed to fly off to Lagos. When we got to the Lagos International Airport, my journalist buddy, Kester and I made our way out to find our contact person (s). After wandering about and making a few calls, we found our AMAA chaperons. We also met Qudus and Herve who came in from Paris to attend the book fair, and all together we were taken to the Ibis Hotel. It was refreshing to note that I wasn’t the only hungry one in the group, when we got to the hotel. We found out whether we could eat dinner and what the feeding arrangement in the hotel was. Sadly our chaperon didn’t have much information and we left the counter with the understanding that the hotel would only provide us breakfast, after we checked in. I was paired in a room with Kester and as I settled in, Kester made his way downstairs to familiarize himself with the vicinity. He came back with news that he had noticed a cool and more affordable place we could eat. I had changed some few dollars earlier at the airport and so I joined him and went to Sizzler’s, where we decided to try some local Nigerian food. I opted for eba and a variety of sources that were available, and I must say it tasted good (though my tummy later wasn’t too impressed with the change in diet). After the meal we made our way back to a room where I showered and immediately tried to catch up on some work. Well, there was wi-fi internet so I was happy, however the connection in my room was terrible and I struggled to make my first post with pictures I took from the Iranian president’s farewell at the Kotoka International Airport. Well the story was same for any other post I tried to make on the night, so I got frustrated and worried about work piling up (and of course losing my Google Adsense revenue). I gave up and resorted to strolling down the streets outside of the hotel just to ease my mind. When I got tired, I went back to my hotel room to catch some sleep. In the morning we had breakfast together with Qudus and Herve, waiting to hear details on our flight to Bayelsa but nothing was forthcoming. We made our way to the pool side where we had a healthy conversation about African films and well, Ghana’s cultural export, Azonto and how the Nigerians are ‘stealing’ it. While at the poolside I received a BlackBerry message from the editor of FAB magazine, Sinem that she was also lodged in the hotel and that she was at the lounge having some drinks with her hubby, Suby. I joined them and since it was the first time we were meeting in person outside of social media and email correspondence, we had a lot to catch up on. At about 2 pm, when we weren’t hearing anything from anyone concerning our trip to Bayelsa I decided to excuse myself and try to get some work done and money made. Well, I wasn’t any luckier with the internet in my room but at least got in one or two posts. As I sat in my room not knowing whether to go out and meet friends and fellow bloggers or to chase after some business in Lagos, I saw another day going to waste and still there was no word on Bayelsa. All I needed to hear was whether we would or would not be going to Bayelsa ,so that I could plan my day but there was absolutely no communication. Well, I returned to Sizzler’s for a late lunch with Kester and I had some rice (just to please my tummy this time around). When I got back to the hotel I tried to do some work again but it was the same story with the internet so I took a nap instead. Later in the evening, I went out for my routine pointless stroll down the road. This time I stopped by a pub to gulp down some stout and on my way back, I grabbed some ‘Suya’ for myself and Kester to munch on. I later tried to do some work again, and yes, the story was still the same – I was able to do very little as the internet kept tripping. I stepped down and headed to the lobby to see if I could get something to drink or nibble on and I saw Sinem and Suby so I decided to join them. They seemed to be making use of the wi-fi so I figured that perhaps the connection in the lobby was better than that in my room. I dashed upstairs to grab my notebook to come try my luck. Well, as I suspected, the connection was much stable in the lobby so I went straight into ‘posting mode’, replying emails and occasional updates on twitter and facebook. One interesting update was of course the one about a hotel guest who was having a bargain with two very unattractive prostitutes. Seriously those mamas have to retire for the young girls to do the job (LOL). Anyway, I continued with work as I watched on. Later, Qudus and Herve came back from town, and it seemed they had made use of the day seeing more of Lagos and meeting film makers for their upcoming Hollywood Week in Paris. Hmm, I said to myself, if only I knew!!! After getting some work in, I excused myself and went up to sleep. In the morning, we went for breakfast as usual and now with a solution to my internet wahala, I was looking forward to the day -whether we would finally hear news about Bayelsa or not, it was the last day of the book fair and one day to the AMAA ceremony. I planned to get down to the lobby and do some work later and also set up a business meeting at the hotel for 12. Little did I know that Bayelsa would happen that day, at 11am! Just as I got into the lobby to check if there was space for me to sit and work, to my surprise, I saw many of the other guests (by this time a lot more had arrived from their various countries) that were meant to head to Bayelsa checked out and ready to the head to the airport. I immediately turned back to the room and got ready together with Kester. When I checked out, I realized that indeed our accommodation included lunch and supper and thus we could have eaten during our stay. Needless to say, I cursed my stars!!! We got onto the bus and made our way to the domestic airport. Here, we were met with uncertainty as plenty more guests including many of the stars were all waiting for their flight. With no one telling us anything, people became uneasy and soon there was a rush for boarding passes after we had written our names on some lists. Fortunately, one of my buddies was among those handling the passes so I was among the first to get my boarding pass. I made my way to check in and headed to the boarding gate. I waited for the others to come and when they had all trickled in, it was time to go to Port Harcourt. Read about my chartered flight with the stars here. When we got to Port Harcourt, we split into several buses and made our way to Bayelsa. After some 3 hours, we had arrived in Yenogoa city, host city for the AMAA at around 8:30pm. We were taken to the tourism centre where we had some food and immediately went hunting for accommodation. There was no structured flow of information regarding the hotel allocation and anytime we saw any group gathered we had to move there to find out what was happening. Suddenly all the smiles that I saw on the faces of Banky W, P-Square and others when we arrived at the Port Harcourt Airport, had turned into frowns. At a point I heard the Jude Okoye, manager of P-Square screaming ‘Get Us out Of Here’ on top of his voice. Well after pacing up and down, and a little more pressure from the side of Kester, we finally were allocated a room at around 10.30 pm. Kester, Niyi (producer of the AMAA nominated movie, Turning Point), and I (later to be known as the 3 musketeers) made sure we stuck together during the allocation. We were driven to the Alice Dee Hotel, where we cleverly grabbed two rooms for ourselves. Again, I paired with Kester while Niyi had the other room to himself. After settling in, we stepped down for some drinks and chicken and this time we made double sure to check if food was complimentary. Well, sadly it wasn’t! We had a chat about Kwame Nkrumah, Biafra War and more (obviously Kester and Niyi have been reading too many books); and walked down the road to see the neighborhood before going to bed. When we woke up we tried getting breakfast but we found out a bus was coming for us to the Tourism centre for breakfast, so we waited for the bus. The bus took us to the centre where we had breakfast. I met the main Ghana group comprising the actors and media practitioners. After the food, buses were allocated to take us to the lakeside where there was a boat regatta and some wrestling bouts. From the lakeside, we then got on the bus to head back to our hotels but found out that it was already lunch time so we went to the centre again for lunch before heading to our hotel. By this time, we had identified a bus coordinator for our hotel, so moving around became easier for us. We got to our hotel around 3 pm but were told that buses would start commuting people to the venue for the AMAA around 5pm. So I was a bit restless and couldn’t or didn’t want to sleep. At about 5 pm I showered and dressed up for the occasion, as usual very casual in my style; after all I wasn't going to walk on the red carpet. However, I played the style guru in helping Niyi decide between two traditional attires for the red carpet, and I think I did a good job. We got down to the lobby and waited for our pick up bus. The bus took us to the venue and since none of us had been given our passes for the event, we went through security as a group with our coordinator and made our way into the auditorium. Once seated I decided not to come out again, just in case some security man high on brawns and low on brains decided to stress my out regarding my pass. I stayed inside and sacrificed my intended coverage of the red carpet. Anyway, after waiting for over two hours, the show kicked off. Read about the event HERE. The ceremony ended around 4 am on Sunday with the announcement of an after party and dinner at the Bayelsa Government House. We got on our bus, tired, sleepy, and also hungry, so we decided to pass through the after party. But when we got to the government house there was massive traffic and security checks leading into the house so we decided to just leave and go sleep; but not without some drama. Some people in the bus wanted to wait and eat and some wanted to go to the hotel and sleep. So we voted and those who wanted to sleep won. Which group did I belong to? Well, take a guess! Anyway we got to our hotel around 5 am and I went straight to bed. Well I battled to have some rest as there was church service with a PA system going on right on the hotel premises, since it was Sunday morning. At around 8am Niyi came knocking on our door that the bus was in to take us to the Tourism Centre for us to connect to the Port Harcourt Airport. I woke up and dressed up without showering or brushing my teeth, and immediately packed my luggage. We made our way on the bus and went off to the centre where we had breakfast before getting on a bigger bus and heading to Port Harcourt.