Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Across the deserts, Komolafe leads 300 Europeans, Africans to Lagos on motor rally

Chief Omotunde Komolafe during his last your.

Twice within a period of ten years, Hungary-based Chief Omotunde Komolafe has travelled between two continents, crossing many countries on each tour.
 Next, in June 2018, Komolafe, a performing artiste, will lead other 300 co-travellers from Europe to Africa with Lagos, specifically, Lekki. as destination.
 Cross-continents tour is not new to Nigerians. From mid 20th century to 1970s through 1980s, Moshood Olabisi Ajala (circa 1930s -1999) was known for travelling all over the world. And in the 21st century, Newton Jibunor headed for the deserts enroute Europe to and fro. In fact, Ajala's tour was truly the real globetrotting yet unbeaten: he was said to have visited India, former USSR, Jordan, Iran, Israel and Australia. all on a motorcycle brand known as Vespa.
 In contemporary period, Komolafe has chosen to turn his own passion
of travelling into an auto rally. Whoever has interest in embarking on such journey or like to learn something about travelling across the derests from one continent to another needs to read Komolafe's story and mission. He spoke to select guests, hosted by Prince Yemisi Shyllon at OYASAF, Maryland, Lagos recently.
 Excerpts:

 Immigration challenges across borders.
"I have European passport, which I got in Spain and my Nigerian passport. But I  didn’t get to African countries with my Nigerian passport.
To go through, I thought of waiting for Nigerian passport in Spain for three or six months. But that makes more sense if you live in Spain; I don’t. I was just passing through, so I didn’t need to wait for three months. I had to use my Hungarian passport. My Hungarian passport was free to Morocco and Mauritania. The only place where I needed my Nigerian passport was Mali. So when I got there, I had to prove to them that I am from West Africa. I was given a stamp on my Hungarian passport with a note on it to get to Mali. When I got to Mali, I went straight to the Nigerian Embassy. I met the Ambassador and told him my mission. He said: 'you know what? The two Nigerians that have gone so far are Ajala and Jibunor'. He said I’m the third and the younger generation to these two people. The Ambassador assured me that if I needed anything from his ministry, he was going to support me. I told him that I will be coming with bigger rally in June 2018 because the whole thing connect Diaspora and the non Nigerians to Nigeria. It is also a way to put Nigerians on the rally sport tourism map because a lot of money can be made from this.
 Since the government is talking about diversifying from petroleum income for Nigeria  into tourism, I thought this is one of the best ways that we can bring in people to see our beautiful country.
The roads are very beautiful, very interesting, all the way from Tangier, in Morocco to Lagos, the roads are good, fantastic.
Wild, amazing Sahara Desert.
  "We passed through the Sahara, despite the sandstorm that covers the roads.
When you are coming from the Sahara desert, you get into Burkina faso, and enter Benin Republic; you are already in Nigeria. You could pass through the north of Nigeria, but that place is very volatile now given the trouble going on there, particularly Boko Haram. Normally, it could have been from Algeria, where you put the car on a boat. After, you start driving down to Sokoto from Niger. But that place is a no go area because you could get killed and robbed. Even parts of Senegal, Mali and Gambia are also very volatile. Recently, before we started the rally, some tourists were robbed of their cars. We avoided that part of the West Africa.
 From Tangier city of Morocco, the road are fantastic, till you get to Datlasthat, which is the last city. There,  the roads are like that of Spain. Even the landscape is like that of Spain. In fact, it's like being in Spain and the people are fantastic.
 On this journey, I learnt a lot because 10 years ago was different from this.  I was paying about six times for fuel for my car in all these countries. My co-pilot was shocked when we got to Lagos: full tank is 6000 Naira and that same fuel cost me 72 Euro up to Burkina Faso.
 I like to give back to the society where I was born. That is one of the reasons that is making me to bring a bigger rally to Nigeria, June this year".

The June rally as a carnival.
"We will be coming from central Europe to Algaeda in Spain to Lekki. When we arrive, there could be a big carnival, welcome party with some partners in Lekki. It is more than just a rally, also an investment because most of these drivers basically are company owners in Europe who are looking for place of opportunity. For them, Nigeria is fantastic, Lagos is good for business. Lekki is basically the right place probably because of the infrastructure. I will say it looks like where they are coming from. In Gambia, the investors are buying up hotels there.  But Gambia is a very small country. If they come to Lagos, a lot can be done and also encouraging Nigerians in Diaspora to come home.
 About 200 to 300 people are taking part in the rally from Budapest. Some people are coming to join us in Spain, others from U.K. Before crossing, we meet in Algaeda, the cross city of Spain.
Indigenous auto brand for the rally.
We are looking at the best offer for now. There is an indigineous car producer in Nigeria, which we should promote as our own. I organised Adire Festival which put people together and promoted made in Nigeria for export. We decide where to get better offer because at the end of the day, this is a very expensive project. It is not cheap because we are working with gps security. We will have doctors and mechanics with us on this trip.

Security for participants in Lagos.
 "Mexico, South Africa are not safe and people still go there for holiday. Colombia is terrible. I was telling my co-pilot that I was scared for him and he said: 'your country is very safe, I have been to Mexico, people got robbed daylight, Brazil is a useless place to go'.
  "I was robbed in Spain, not Africa. I loss a bag that had my passport, money, card and everything. Now my European card is not here, I can’t even transfer money.

Challenge of logistics.
The drivers involved fund themselves, so I don’t have to pay for their trucks. They buy their trucks, fix them, change tyres and sometimes they even change their engine to diesel because diesel car is more economical to drive on long distance. So, i advised them on what kind of car to use and we get them everything: jacks, injections, among other things. We also train them some few African languages on the way and how to be very careful.
 "In fact some people are coming on bicycles and they will meet me before I go back.
Working with Lagos State Government
We are going to work with the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism because all the tourist sites like where we are now will be in our itinary for the rally".
 - African Arts with Taj.

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