Friday, April 18, 2008

Mission Accomplished

We made it, through tarred and dusty roads in eleven countries. We drove day and sometimes at night across 12,000kilometers from Lagos to London through the dreaded yet glorious Sahara.

We set out on our Trans Saharan - cross continental expedition of March 9th. The objective of this voyage was to drive from Lagos to London to raise awareness on desert encroachment and desertification. In five weeks, we have traveled through 12, 000kilometers of tarred and dusty roads, through eleven countries in Africa and Europe and across the glorious but dreaded Sahara.

We lived in hamlets and villages with people whose lives are directly affected by the desert’s menace. We also met with Ministers of environment and Mayors of cities who make state decisions on how to tame the world’s largest desert. Throughout ourr journey, we have called for a concerted force of all African states to fight the desert’s menacing march.

On Saturday April 12th, we arrived victorious at our final destination London at 7.30a.m. Whilst this is Captain Newton Jibunoh’s third expedition, it was a first for the other five members of the team.

It has been a great honour to go on this mission with Captain Jibunoh; a first class orator, the rare detribalised Nigerian and a man who is not afraid to ask for directions. And my teammates- Kelechi, Titi, Joshua, Afam, I wouldn't trade them for the world.


This journey began for me long before March 9th when we left Lagos for the green desert expedition.

It started in October 2007 when I interviewed Chief Newton Jibunoh for the travel section of True Love Magazine. I knew of his two previous solo expeditions and his many trips across the world. I recall asking him how many countries in the world he had visited and his response: “It might be easier for you to ask me how many countries I haven’t visited.” During the interview he told me he was rearing to embark on his third trans Saharan expedition across thirteen countries in Africa and Europe. My immediate reaction was clear and unshakeable- I was most definitely going along.

At the time, Chief Jibunoh (soon to become- Captain) had only two other team mates- Afam Ugah- Press photographer and IT man, and an auto mechanic- Joshua Adegbaju. So I offered to come as the mission’s correspondent to local and international press.

Even then, Captain didn’t quite take me seriously. But out of fear that I was indeed serious, he did all he could to dissuade me. When his warnings didn’t work, he gave me his book- ‘Me, My Desert and I’ which was replete with accounts of abductions, bouts of hallucinations, endless border delays, attacks by bandits, and photos of dead bodies sprawling the Sahara. I read the book in one day and became to Captain a shackle that wouldn’t break. I bombarded him with fresh ideas and a new perspective for the expedition and quickly became fundraiser, designer for desert wear, project manager and immigration protocol officer for the team.

My official protocol duties started in December when I made our applications for Moroccan and Algerian in Abuja. I got into Abuja late afternoon on December 16 and went straight into a meeting. After the meeting a Dutch friend of a friend’s offered to drive my friend and I home and we gladly accepted. I stacked my luggage in the trunk of her jeep and whilst attempting to climb into the back seat, an old friend who seemed at the time, excited to see me, rushed up behind me and hustled me into the car. But as soon as I felt his cold gun on my arm, I knew he was no friend of fine.

He was not alone. There was a second assailant who had attacked my friend’s friend whilst she was behind the wheel. He snatched her handbag and got into the driver’s seat. Thankfully Friends’ friend made away but regrettably had started the car and in fact turned on some music before her brilliant escape.

So there I was in the back seat with a young, frightened armed robber whose shaky fingers could decide whether I would live or die. His partner, also afraid but clearly more experienced got behind the wheel and took me with them on the longest ten-minute ride of my life. The air conditioner was on and eerie Spanish classical music played in the background. In between wiping the sweat off their faces and looking back to check who was at our tail, they engaged me in small talk.

“What is your name?” “What does that woman do?” “Where is the money?”

All very interesting, very valid questions but none of which I had the answers to, at least not the true answers.

To get to know me better, my personal assailant grabbed my bag, sorry his bag -(it ceased to be mine the moment I saw his gun) and poured out its contents, phones, house keys, chequebook, notebook, everything including my passport and the team member’s passports into the backseat.

They assured me that I wouldn’t get hurt, and in fact would drop me off on the road if I didn’t scream.

I didn’t scream.

Whilst they were driving, I asked myself, if this was the test for whether or not I had what it took to go on the expedition. Or the first of other experiences I would have during the expedition….A healthy fear had seized my mind and I remember praying to God that if he did spare my life, I would never again be afraid to live.

The noble men with guns kept their word and dropped me off on the road somewhere in Wuse. I hailed a taxi and had him drive me back home where my friends had been waiting, hoping that no ill had become of me.

That night, I didn’t sleep, I plotted a new time graph for how I would get new passports and start the visa application process all over again.

I was definitely going across the Sahara.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Grafitti, the language of the living in Spain.

Nigeria is landlocked by Francophone countries, yet we (Nigerians) don’t explore these countries or take the French language seriously.

Cameroon is in the South East, Niger and Chad in the North and Benin Republic to the West of Nigeria. We cannot get out of Nigeria by road without crossing Francophone territory.

I studied French at University and even I often forget it, but this trip has reminded me of an urgent need to buff my French until it shines.

My mother (and Professor Mabogunje who encouraged me to study the language) will be happy to learn that my smattering French helped me, and the group on this trip from Benin Republic to Morocco and now France.

However, when we were in Spain I vanished into Babellion. Save for agua, gracias and adios, I know no Spanish. I foolishly asked a lady in a pastry store if she spoke English and I deserved the subtle dagger looks she gave me: "What country are you in stupid?"

Spaniard lips moved and the harder I looked the less I understood and the crippling feeling of 'lost in translation' made me deliberate on adding Spanish to the languages I need to learn.

The only inscriptions I understood were the brilliant inscriptions of graffiti that colored Spain from Algeciras to Irun. After two days in Madrid, we set out again gliding through high and low altitudes of the Spanish Mountains.

From 825m-5m above mean sea level, my ears finally popped when we approached a derelict toll both and the toll collector said words that I understood “Il a paye!” Captain NJ had paid for our toll and I was now in France. Those words had me bouncing around in my seat as I drove into France like French was my mother tongue or that I had never heard French spoken.

French signs warn me of imminent danger; signs that may have been in Spain as well but that I couldn’t understand.

We drive into Pau and lodge in Hotel Mercura, and behind our table, an English woman with a curious German accent soothes the ache in my ears with her crisp soft English words. M. Joshua, Titi and I speak Yoruba and border on being rude, just to remind ourselves that we can speak our delicious language. French, English and Yoruba; these languages are the balm for my homesickness.

First fussless signs of Welcome into France from Spain.

Spanish Bull.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The New Earth.

Genesis 1: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…And God said let there be light: and there was light...”

On the first night in Morocco was Dakhla where 500 kilometers weighed my eyelids down. The night was the sixth day and God held my hand and I flew with him.

I watched as God made earth.

Clouds of dust became mountains, and smoke balls became hills and flatlands. He made the sky a blue solution to my eye’s sore and his breath became the clouds. He made the clouds close to the earth and the clouds and the sand played together.

God held my hand and we glided over the hills and sat under a dome of sky. And then God sneezed and made the waters of the earth and everything was good.

Then God made fauna and flora and then he made man and covered him with caramel.

After God made man, man made technology and the waters and the deserts fought for prominence. Then man plundered the earth with his modern toys and said he would live in the sea instead.

So man parted the seas and moved the waters to where the land once was. Then God’s great creatures covered themselves in blankets of sand and became the Atlas Mountains. Then the mountains lived under the new sea and man plundered the new earth, which was the sea and decided to part the new waters again.

And God was displeased with man. So that when man wanted to part the waters again God sent a great flood to overcome the earth and man and animals.

After ten days, the floods dried up and the great creatures rose from their sleep. They shoke off the sands on their skins and emerged from under the mountains and became the new man. The great creatures listened to God and kept the sea where the sea should be and the lands and deserts where they should be.

The great creatures were the new man and new fauna and flora emerged from the earth.

The great creatures who was the new man was filled with fear and bowed down to the earth in worship when he spoke to God.

God said this is the earth as I have created it and the evening and the morning were the seventh day.

Flora at Guelmim: The Gate of the Sahara in Morocco.

Winding through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

The desert and the sea at war.

Sand Snow in Morocco.

Haughty camels in Nouadibou, Mauritania.

A desert encroached lake in Noudabibou, Mauritania.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Moments: Encounters

Mopti, Mali

We recruited our guide- Mohammed Amin from Tamale. He speaks French, English as well as eight local languages spoken between Ghana and Mauritania. The night we employed him we camped in Mopti, Mali, next to the safety of a security post. In less than five minutes a team of men, women and children from the village had surrounded our vehicles. Mohammed shooed them away fanatically but with moonlit vision I made out apparitions of children who were not there but reappeared.

A man remained from the dispersed crowd; he wore a white shirt and unkempt afro. He stayed without invitation even after Mohammed had gone into town with two members of the team. He watched from a distance whilst I cooked and gave himself the task of shooing away our regenerated spectators.

Once our modest meal of noodles and Kilichi was prepared, I offered him a plate. He accepted and ate with us. No words were exchanged, no moneys traded but we communicated on the currencies of human need and curiosity. As I prepared to retire into my tent, he beckoned me with the clearing of his throat, then he stretched out his palm and gave me a sweet.

Wataga, Mali.

After ten hours of driving, it was time to stop for the night and rest in the village that would have us. There was no index for our decision; our village would be the next one we saw. We saw the sign Wataga and pulled into a small cluster of huts 600kilometers from Bamako. Mohammed was our emissary to the Chief . From the road we saw a row of huts, but once we were in, we saw a clan of about 120 people led by five brothers. We saw a primary school with the previous days’ lessons on the board. We saw a bakery, a well, a farmhouse of cattle, donkeys, horses and goats. The people of Wataga gave us their homes, security, food, and an orchestra of ululating children who sang to us under the moonlit sky.

Wataga's Bakery.

An elder in Wataga.

Wataga's primary school.

Camping under the stars.

Keur Gahl, Senegal

Majestic gazelle of the Sahel, she stands heads over her peers. We sight her, striding towards our broken down vehicle with water for sale for our parched throats. Kelechi is keen to get a shot of her, but once they sight his photo machine, the group scrambles off a distance and returns to us. I go to them with my smattering of French but they throw my words back at me; they speak Wollof. I take a shot with my less intimidating camera and show them my images. Our preferred subject is amused and stands still for more shots by the rest of the group. She is probably 18years old, she is expecting a child and after we spend twenty minutes shooting her alone, her friends thrust her infant in her arms. At the end of our shoot she hurriedly tells her friend her phone number and he writes it for us.

Dame en Keur Gahl

Momo: Dakar, Senegal.

Momo runs a hotel along the coast in Dakar. His job also includes showing visitors the sights in the State Capital. He has seen many people pass through Dakar and in spite of the Paris- Dakar traffic, he has never heard of anyone who drove to Dakar from Nigeria enroute to London. He is fascinated and insists on showing us the vibrant nightlife in Dakar. Like many Dakarians he dedicates time to exercise and grooming but feigns oblivion to his own charm. He is disarmingly flirtatious and meets my eye in a conversation.

“I like you” he says after showing the same interest to another member of the team.

“Thank you”, I responded.

“You don’t have to give me thanks” he continued in patchy English.

“What should I give you then?” I retorted.

“Nothing” he said.

It is 1.30 a.m and I writing a blog post at the hotel lobby but he insists on conversing nonetheless.

“I like you because of this amazing trip you are making” he explains.

“You must like my Captain three times more then because this is his third trip”.

“But your Captain is a man. I admire him, but I don’t like men” he said casually.

He pauses and soon after I continue to write when he speaks again:

“Would you like something to drink; I want to go out to get some drinks.”

It’s 2a.m and I imagine that stores must be closed. I tell him I don’t want anything. He insists and I suggest that he buys anything. He is unsatisfied and insists that I name what I want. Finally, I say “I don’t know”, then he says:

“You are driving from Lagos to London, you have to know.”

I did know. I was hungry and asked for potato chips and water and five minutes later, he returned with my request.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Moments: Sights

Outstretched arms from Baobab trees make supplication for the Sahel. Clouds noose mountain peaks at sundown en route Kumasi. Tamale, Ghana’s bicycle town of dim lights, guinea fowls and cats keep us for a night. The road spurrs us on as our tyres ignite flames of dust from pebbled roads in Burkina Fasso. Lands flat as the eye can see conscript me to prostrate in worship. Glorious sun rises over infinity; blares down with undivided attention at noon and makes one last check before dusk.The moon resumes its shift at nightfall and illuminates stars and sky. Donkey carts, stallions and bright yellow cabs. And in the ornate state of Senegal, spiraling streetlights line the streets and they mark their horses apart with tassels and eyeshades.

On y va au Mauritania.

Sunset is Senegal.

Malian cabs.

Cotton Clouds and Dry Tree Branches

A young Baobab: Life Giver in the Sahel.

First sights of life in Malis' desert encroached farmland.

Humble mules transporting barrels of fuel.

Ghana- Burkina Fasso border.

Rocky splendour on Malian hinterlands.

Rock on.

Moments: Departure

My dam breaks as I sight loved ones wearing faces of pride, love and anxiety. The many calls from Mama bidding me farewell. I recall the warnings from S.B that I was or would be afraid; the fear that she was or could be correct.

Separation from my sanctuary, my church, my car. Memories of the arduous task of preparation flood my mind. Warnings of potential dangers from Zakariah at the Algherian embassy: “The South of Algeria is very vast and we cannot assure your safety. There are bandits there who live under the sand; and they can thief (verb) you. You know the story of the French men? You know the Dakar Rally? You know why they cancel it? Know this, this delay is for your own safety. We cannot give you visa to die.”

Hands interlocked in prayer for the team as we set out across the Sahara. Final doubts. Have I read enough? Do I know enough? Will this journey change my life? How will this change my life? Will my thirst for travel be finally quenched after this trip? Will I now be still? Seme Palms bend westward and whistle their welcome to Benin Republic.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Forty Winks at the Wheels

Titi Laoye, Kelechi Amadi-Obi and moi- Ebun Olatoye.

So I sort of bit of more than I could chew when I promised to blog everyday. My reports have been going out and you can read them under the news section of our website But the more informal details have been far more difficult to manage with me driving during the day and writing news articles at night.

We’ve been on the road for two weeks now and have been through Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Fasso, Mali and now in Dakar, Senegal.

Whilst I knew that this wasn’t a Safari, my modest projections for the excitement, enlightenment and the hardship ahead did not quite prepare me for this intensity of this trip.

Much as I love driving who knew for instance that I would be flipping coins a week later to determine ‘who would drive today’. Kidding.
It’s not that bad, but seriously, the bulk of my driving experience has been in Lagos on mostly port-holed roads, with lawless fellow road users, (self inclusive), negotiating jaywalking pedestrians and buzzing okadas. Be alert at the wheel or die, in Lagos.
I got my last taste of it in Okokomaiko where the final stronghold from Lagos traffic held us at its grip and then finally spewed us onto the finer roads of Benin Republic.

From then on, save for a few patches, the roads snaked hitchlessly throughout the sub region from Benin- Togo- Ghana, which had by far the most impressive roads, to Burkina Fasso, up to Mali.

Fine as these roads are, I no longer have a reason to be alert. There are no okadas to amuse me, no blaring horns to entertain me, no pedestrians to infuriate me, what reason did I have to stay alert and more importantly, awake.
Driving now requires heightened alertness which I have no experience of.

With good roads come sleep and I find myself nodding off, not to Angelique Kidjo, who by now is at top volume in her futile effort to keep me conscious, but my acquiescence to sweet slumber.

My posse- Titi and Kelechi notice that my nods are not in sync with Anglelique’s rhythm and thankfully, spare all our lives and take the wheel.
We march onwards to the Sahara.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Introducing group Captain Newton Jibunoh

He is a soil mechanics expert, founder of FADE- Fight Against Desert Encroachment, a Chief in his local government Oshimili North in Akwukwu, Delta State, he holds an OON- Officer of the Order of the Niger and the African Tourism Human Treasure Award from the British Museum in London and he was CEO of Costain West Africa for fourteen years. Yet Newton Jibunoh is known mostly as the explorer who crossed the world’s largest desert alone- twice. Jibunoh undertook his first Sahara crossing as a youthful adventurer and his second journey as an environmental crusader. Chief Newton Jibunoh turned seventy as the clock struck midnight on January 1st 2008, yet his age is far from his mind as he celebrates his birthday with a small group of friends on New Year’s Day. Newton Jibunoh is consumed with plans to embark upon a third expedition from Lagos to London across the dreaded Sahara. However, this time he is traveling with a journalist, a film maker an auto mechanic and an IT specialist. In spite of reservations from family, the abortion of the 2008 Dakar rally over terrorist threats, and the natural death of fellow adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary, Newton Jibunoh holds a firm resolve to heed the call of the scorching yet breathtaking Sahara. He tells Ebun Olatoye why.

What inspired you to undertake your first expedition from London to Lagos across the Sahara in 1967?

What is known today as the modern global world started over forty years ago. The world started becoming a global village in the 60s with the race to the moon and space, civil rights movements, women’s rights and liberation and the trial and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. As a student in London whilst these revolutions took place, I was 27years old but I wanted to be part of that era and the best available option known to me at that time was trying some of the impossibles that were known at that time.

How did you prepare for the trip?

The first thing I did was write to almost all the embassies of the twelve countries I was passing through and I started getting replies from some of the embassies on how possible or impossible it was to make the expedition. I also spoke to people with a bit of experience on traveling on similar expeditions.

Which were the most helpful embassies?

The Moroccan and Spanish embassies were very helpful because they provided me with documentation on other people who had attempted the same feat and failed and died and why they failed or died. They also told me of people who went half way and came back and why they came back. People like Mark Thatcher- son of Margaret Thatcher who was rescued in the desert by the Royal Air Force after getting lost, stranded and ran out of supplies. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t Prime Minister then but she was a very prominent Parliamentarian and was able to call in the Air Force to save him.

Did news of these failures scare or deter you?

Yes, they scared me. But the more scared I was the more prepared I became. Because I was attempting the impossible, the fear generated into more determination. The fear also made me go back to see how to recalculate the risk that I was about to undertake. Underneath the fear there was also the vision of the final outcome and the fact that I was going to be one of the very few in the world who not only attempted but succeeded in doing the impossible.

What inspired the second expedition?

The issue of climate change and global warming was just becoming topical in 2000. Before then I had tried to deliver a number of lectures, write papers but because of our (Nigeria/Africa) low level of participation in global issues, we needed to have such information connected with global warming and climate change come from other sources via the satellite. At that time 35years had passed since my first Sahara crossing. I knew that I was better equipped because I had the advantage of a physical and scientific knowledge of over the West who had distant satellite information. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure how well equipped I was. Secondly, the pictures that were painted by the global community about global warming and climate change were so frightening, yet most of the African countries needed to be aware and I felt that I was a better instrument, being an African, for spreading this awareness. So I wanted to use that second expedition to see how much research I could conduct which would enable me proffer solutions to the whole subject of desert encroachment, desertification, global warming and climate change.

Considering that you were 27years during your first and 62 during your second expedition, which was harder, the first or the second expedition?

It’s difficult to tell because I undertake the first expedition under a lot of ignorance and youthful exuberance. I took everything in its stride. During the second expedition, I had more support and more machinery yet I was much older so age was against me. Each expedition had its own pluses and minuses. Maybe after the third one I will be in a better position to do the arithmetic of which was harder. But right now, I still can’t figure it out.

What were the most fiddicult parts of the trip for you?

Moments when I questioned my own sanity. Being alone and the grueling experience fuelled that. Also I had to stop listening to the radio because it made me aware of how far away I was. It was then that I truly realized I was depriving myself and it was like living outside of the world as I knew it. I wondered why I had brought that upon myself. A lot of times I was close to tears listening to events on the radio. It added to my hallucinations and the things that I saw and heard that were not there. There were also the difficulties with logistics, battery going flat, tyres going burst, but those were expected and one was able to attend to them. But the other challenges like hallucination, nothing prepares you for that.

What were the most memorable moments of the trip?

Watching the sunrise and set everyday. The absolute peace and cleanliness of an environment devoid of all the trappings of these cities. And the fact that I would be able to use information I acquired in the process to impact on people and future adventurers.

For the benefit of people who haven’t experienced the desert, what is it about the Sahara that makes it so “impossible”?

The Sahara desert is the largest desert in the world and one of the few that has a combination of the horror and the beauty. Steve Fossett is a world renowned and incredibly wealthy adventurer. Yet he went missing in the Nevada desert which is one is one of the smallest deserts in the world so you can imagine if a thing like that happens on one of the largest deserts in the world.

Were there moments during the trip when you wished you had not undertaken the mission?

So many times, because most of the arguments people used to dissuade me against going on the expedition, I saw all of them and more. This was the case in both expeditions.

“The Sahara is a potent, evocative reality. It is one of the world’s great brands. No one name so completely epitomizes an environment. Oceans can be Atlantic or Pacific or Indian, mountains can be Himalayas or Andes or Alps, but if you want to convey desert, you only have to say ‘Sahara’. It embodies scale and mystery, the thin line between survival and destruction, the power to take life or to transform it. A self-contained, homogenous, identifiable world, uncompromising and irreducible. In other words, a challenge. And by no means an easy one.”(Quoted from the book Sahara by Michael Palin.)

Why the Sahara of all other possible expeditions?

It was and still remains the most challenging. It’s one of the wonders of the World and remains a very intriguing subject for any scientist and any human being. Even as I speak, getting ready for my third expedition I still don’t know if the issues surrounding the Sahara can be conquered in this century. Also conquering the desert will bring a solution to many of the environmental disasters that afflict Africans and the global community.

How do we conquer the desert?

Simply by greening it. If I had never crossed the Sahara the first time, I would never have been pulled to go a second time, and I would never have started my NGO- FADE (Fight Against Desert Encroachment). My initial instinct after the second expedition was that I would write and deliver lecturers and try to proffer solutions to desertification. And I have been doing that. It was during one of my lectures in New York that I met one of the Vice Presidents of the World Bank who told me that if there was anyone in the world in the position to proffer solutions to the desertification challenge, it was me, but that I needed to go to Israel to the Negev desert to see what they were doing with their desert there. I had seven professors working with me and I was there for three months, studying, researching, and learning. At the end of the fellowship I was excited and looking forward to the possibilities of change that we could make through FADE first in Nigeria and later to the rest of Africa.

How has your Ngo FADE- Fight Against Desert Encroachment made a difference in the desertification challenge?

We’ve done a lot of work to raise awareness about desertification. We have created a great deal of awareness not just in this country but globally as well. And we’ve impacted on a number of villages and hamlets and towns where we’ve started our wall of tree projects to stop desert encroachment, which led to migration. We trained and involved the various communities we were in the tree planting projects by planting fruits and cash crops, which would be economically beneficial to the communities. We planted Nim trees which can be processed into Nim oil, detergent and soap and the mangoes and oranges processed into juice and syrups. More recently, we held a peaceful vigil in Bourdillon in Ikoyi to protest the felling of 5000tress which Julius Berger had marked for cutting to make way for road construction. Those trees have been protecting our environment and giving us oxygen for hundreds of years. All over the world people are planting trees and here we are cutting ours down. As a result of our protest, the Lagos State Government wrote to us this week to say that it is now illegal in Lagos State to cut down trees. Not only that, the arbitrary cutting of trees will attract a N50, 000. 00 in Lagos State. This is a major step in the right direction, and one, which we hope other states will emulate.

How does desertification affect the urban man who is so far removed from the desert andthe immediate threat of desert encroachment?

Everything that goes up must come down. That’s the law of motion propounded by Sir, Isaac Newton. We all breathe the same air and the desertification and the environment is all about the air we breathe. We all drink the same water, which is also controlled by the environment. And we all eat the same food that must be produced by the same soil. These are the three major ingredients of life;water, air and soil. So whether you live on Banana Island in Lagos, or Makoda in Kano State we all have to eat, live and breathe and it is the earth and the environment that produce the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. So it behooves all of us to preserve that environment. Also there’s migration. People who are driven by desert encroachment have no other place to go but urban areas. They put more pressure on limited infrastructure, cause security risk form the inevitable clashes between the desert and urban dwellers.

Africans blame the West for producing most of the green house gases causing environmental degradation yet countries like- America and China failed to endorse the crusade by signing the Kyoto Protocol, so why should Africans care?

If you look at New Orleans, Tsunami, you never know where the fallout will be because the next Tsunami could be here in Africa. That’s why we are all saying it’s a global concern. We can’t point fingers and say we won’t do anything because there’s only one planet and this is where we all live. What happens in one part of the globe affects all other parts so there’s no escaping climate change no matter where we are. This is why we must all work together to preserve our planet.

Nobel Peace Prize winner- Al Gore has received a lot of criticism for flying around the world in private jets which give more than four times the carbon fuel than a regular plane. You are also making this expedition with petrol cars. How do you justify the amount of carbon you will be emitting into the atmosphere with the three vehicles you’re taking on this trip?

This is bound to happen. Look at all the good things Al Gore has done and all the awareness he’s created. It’s like spending money to make money. We are burning fuel with the cars we’re taking, but I have been working with ExxonMobil who are one of our sponsors, to create a light lubricant, which will emit less carbon. It is expeditions like these that will aid research which will help further a partnership programme to help produce lubricants that can reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.

How did your family react when you announced that you would be going?

As can be expected, they are concerned for my safety and welfare but they are supportive nonetheless. We are all working together because they know that there is no way they can stop me. So we are looking for the best way of diluting their fears and getting their full support. Somewhere down the line, we will find a middle ground.

How are you preparing physically and spiritually for this journey?

I am fortunate this time to have other adventurers to go on this expedition with me and I have managed to transfer to them the knowledge that I have acquired. All of us are now putting our heads together and we are preparing ourselves, emotionally, physically and mentally. Physically my health is as good as it was eight years ago and I can say, knock on wood, that its still good enough for an expedition like this. Spiritually I have taken myself through a spiritual routine of fasting, abstaining and meditation, cleansing my spiritual being before my departure and cleansing myself to a point where all have been forgiven so that I can approach the journey with a clean body and soul. You have to have a clean body and soul so you are better focused on dealing with the exceptionally difficult situation you are bound to encounter on an expedition like this.

Have any of your children ever shown any interest in going along?

They are interested but they haven’t shown any concrete interest, but I think that this is because my wife has worked very hard to make sure that we don’t have two adventurers in the family. (laughs)

What safety measures are you taking and how will you stay in touch with civilization whilst you are on the trip?

Well, we’re going through thirteen countries Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Fasso, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium and finally the United Kingdon so we will see a lot of civilization on our way. However, we have gotten a lot of support from different companies who are making sure we stay in touch with our mission control base especially during the desert crossing. Companies like International Energy, our main sponsors who have take care of our insurance, Thuraya and Danisat who have provided us with satellite phones and tracking devices on our vehicles, The Alitheia Capital taking care of our sustenance during the trip, Mediabloc catering to the unforseens, Virgin Nigeria who are flying us back to Nigeria after the trip. Also the journalist in our team-(Ebun Olatoye) will document the daily events of the expedition and send articles to our website as well as to Nigerian and international newspapers so that Nigerians and the global community can get a daily report of the journey. Kelechi Amadi- Obi is going to be making images which will become a photo journal, Elizabeth Titi Laoye, our film maker is coming along as well so we will send footage of the expedition back to local and international television stations. Joshua Adegbaju will be at hand to repair the vehicles and Afam Ugah will be there for IT assistance while I lead the mission. Other precautions are security sensitive but suffice to say we’re taking every precaution for our safety.

What’s next after this expedition?

We’re making a documentary of the expedition, which will be aired all over Africa. Also. I’ve begun talking to Cassava Republic Press about publishing a book about the experience after our return. Also, I am hoping that I would have inspired the people who are coming along on this trip, so that they will carry on this crusade after me.

In your book- Me, My Desert and I you said you would never embark on an expedition across the desert again, yet you are now rearing to go on your third. Is this really your last?

I’ve learnt from that saying ‘Never say never’. There are a number of factors that will determine whether or not this will be my last crossing. This expedition is important to me because I realize the fruits of my vision and labour will not be realized in my lifetime. So there is a pressing need to pass the crusade baton on to a younger generation and the best way to do it is school them through the crossing of the desert. So you can call it my last expedition, but I can never say ‘never’.

Newton Jibunoh’s expedition sets off from Lagos on Sunday March 9, 2008 and will last sixty days. His expedition team members are Afam Ugah- IT specialist, Joshua Adegbaju- Auto Mechanic, Ebun Olatoye- Journalist, Kelechi Amadi- Obi- Photographer and Titi Laoye- Film Maker.

The Route

Our initial route was Nigeria- Benin- Togo- Ghana- Burkina Fasso- Mali- Algeria- Morocco. From Tangier, Morocco cross the Mediteranean Sea into Spain- Germany- France- Belgium- United Kingdom as testimony to the inescably overhanging colonialists.

However since the border between Algeria and Morocco is closed (has been for almost fifteen years) and the Algerians refused us a visa "It is not safe, the desert is very vast and very harsh" our course has changed thus:

Nigeria- Benin- Togo- Ghana- Burkina Fasso- Mali- Senegal- Mauritania- Morocco- Spain-Germany- France- Belgium- United Kingdom.