By Fred Iwenjora
Engr. Jacob Imade Iyamu has been living in Germany since the early 80s although he left the shores of Nigeria in the late 70s. But unlike many people living in Europe and Americas, he could count the number of times he has won suits just as he has never won jeans in his life no matter how cold it is in winter or how warm in summer.
The Edo state Nigeria born brewing engineer is the Brew Master at Binding, one of Germany’s largest breweries based in Frankfurt where he has worked for many years. In this chat, the President of Edo state Union in state of Hessen, Germany speaks about his odyssey to Europe and his challenges and achievements so far plus his unflinching love for Nigeria
Coming to Europe
I left Nigeria a long time ago..in 1979 to be precise. I first went to Israel in 1979 before setting foot in Germany in 1981. I studied Brewery Technology at Munich, Germany as well as Micro electronics and Information Tech.
Before then I had taught at a secondary school after leaving secondary school in 1975. I then went to work with Barclays Bank, Benin where I encountered several expatriates from Ireland, Germany and other countries who were working with the Guinness Breweries in Benin at that time.
They often came to the bank to remit their salaries back to their countries. Some of these people were fond of me inviting me to social gatherings in their clubs after work. I won’t forget Mr. Zimmermann who worked with Guinness who often warned me not to die in the banking hall.
He told me to go to school and improve on my life. Then in 1977, graduate bankers were earning N204 monthly while we took home N256. In every society, bankers are well paid so I was apparently enjoying the work until Mr Zimmermann started his inspiration. I won’t also forget one Mrs. Akpata, one of our customers then. She also told me that she would even contribute to my education if I got admission. Mrs. Akpata went further to give me the address of a school in Cyprus. I applied to study at the Cyprus College of Technology and was given admission two months after.
Off to Cyprus
I had bought a return air ticket for N606 for the trip. Several of my friends gave me support to travel. The Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion also bought me the travel box with which I traveled. One was permitted to travel with N1000 BTA. I went to the Italian Embassy to get a Visa. Even Turkey also granted me visa so I traveled with Zambian Airlines to Cyprus. At Cyprus, I discovered that it was not the kind of place I wanted to be so I started to think of changing base. Turkey and Israel came to my mind until I made up my mind on Israel.
Adventures in Israel
My brother, it was in Israel that I dropped my Bible. I use to be a member of the Scripture Union in those days but my stay in Israel was all that changed my views. I had left Cyprus with two Nigerians I had met, Moses and Benjamin. It was a twelve hour sail from Cyprus to Haifa where we landed early in the morning. We then journeyed to Jerusalem.
My aged mum would tease us as kids by saying ‘If you ran from Jerusalem to Jericho, I will find you’ so I wished to see those places that my mother would always yell about. We stayed for a while in Jerusalem, then visited Jericho, Sea of Galilee and Bethlehem, My account was fast depleting as my two friends were basically under my care. We headed to Tel Aviv where I met face to face with Jews who showed the biggest discrimination I have ever seen in my life time. You are either born a Jew or not.
We heard of the Kibut while exploring Golan and Tel Kasia and volunteered to join. It was a group that helped students with info and jobs and other forms of assistance. We were shocked that at a Christmas party they did not invite us even when we were members of same grouping. We were the only blacks . It was another movement to Tel Aviv where I met one Bini man like me, Whyte Eguakum who was then working in a restaurant in Tel Aviv. We decided to trail further into the Red Sea regions of Elat where the sea enters Egypt.
We got a job at Neptune Hotels then moved to Red Rock. After about a month, or two, I started with the Jewish language because communication is key. Yet it was too difficult to work and school in Israel. My two other friends returned to Cyprus and Turkey but I slugged it out in Israel for the next two years before returning to Nigeria to replenish my account by my parents to move again. I got $1000. About this time, I had given my world wide ticket to one Igbinovia and he flew with it to the US.
During that return to Nigeria, I started having other views. I had agreed with my friends Godwin and Fred that we would travel to Germany so I returned to Israel. I went to the German Embassy to seek advice and they linked me up with the Goethe Institute.
Landing in Germany
I felt a different aura in Germany as compared with all the other countries I had visited. I landed in Munich and asked myself what I had been doing perambulating in Israel, Turkey and Cyprus. It was on April 1981 that I landed but by May, 1, I had started language course which took a period of six months. I was also seeking answers about my career but saw no one to ask my questions. I knew I was a science student. Then someone advised I attend a brewery school so I did enter Munich Akademy Grefenfing, a teaching and research institute where I did six months of practical work while also doing theories. I completed the studies in 1984.
Change of mind
After the course, I started feeling a bit indifferent about brewing and making beer. Again, I didn’t want to return to Nigeria yet or marry a German wife so I enrolled again to do Micro electronics after which I went to work in IT for Siemens at Karlsurhe. From Siemens, I moved on to Osborne Computers which then promised heaven on earth but later closed down. It was then I dusted up my brew tech certificates and went to work for Sparten Breweries, then to Hassia und Luisen, the water and soft drinks manufacturer. They bottle Pepsi and many other brands of juices.
Me and my work
It was in February, 1992 that I wrote an application and posted that I wanted to work for the Radebager Group with two breweries in Frankfurt. They replied and called me for an interview which was done in the evening on the day. And since the last 24 years since 1992, I have never been late to work except only once neither have I reported sick. As Brewmeister at Binding Breweries, my work is general quality control to taste, bottling and all for the brewery that bottles over 31 products with seven machines each corking 80,000 bottles in one hour.
Nigerian to the bone
I feel sad when I hear bad stories about my country Nigeria. I love my country Nigeria to the bone. It is my beloved country. Despite all I have seen worldwide, I have not seen a country like Naija. I have never felt like changing my identity and my nationality. I don’t carry a German passport even though several people like me do. I see myself as a good Nigerian living in Germany. I sing Sonny Okosuns all the time; Nigeria…. My Papa’s land. It is this deep sense of patriotism that compelled me whenever I was on leave while working for Hassia, to spend it in Nigeria. I would go to Bendel Breweries to seek to work for free but they won’t allow me in. They were producing Crystal and Henningar then. It was disappointing though. I still spend my leave in Nigeria every year.
We must get something good out of our country no matter what. I have been wearing agbada and other forms of traditional wears since I left Nigeria in 1979 whether it is summer or winter. It gives me the identity of whom I am and where I am coming from. Few times I have won suits. I could make a count of the times I have won suits and it was mainly those days at the bank when it was a requirement for work. I have never won jeans in my life.