“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear;
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more;
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting;
I almost made it home this year. I have yet to set sight of Nigeria physically in 31 years. I hardly believe it myself, where the years go and why I had not gone home previously. Honestly, it was not my intention to stay away this long. It just happened: had children, built a career, my siblings came over and my parents visited almost yearly. To me, Nigeria was no longer a physical place but more to me a spiritual home, one that I carry with me where ever I am.
Some years the pull to go, reignited by the yearnings and then, it just fizzles out. My son told me, long ago: that home is where your family is. This year, the universe almost aligned that I could feel the reality of physically stepping on the soul of Nigeria. In my head- this time I was going to make It.
My folks aren’t getting younger and my father had thrown down the gauntlet: that I come home or he won’t come to the UK.
So, this year, I got time off work, arranged to purchase the tickets for myself and my daughter. This was also going to be her homecoming too, the very first of many. I was going to make it a surprise, didn’t tell my folks or my daughter. My brother and I planned that I was going to get home, he will pick me up and I was going to surprise my folks. In my head I could feel it coming together, seeing so many unrecognizable faces to whom, they have heard my name but I have become an urban legend.
There was a small hurdle: I needed a visa to travel to Nigeria. Didn’t think it was a problem. My brother, implored me to contact the high commission ASAP and book an appointment to apply for a visa. That was where, my plans began to unravel.
Called the high commission, the phone rang and rang and rang. I called again, the. Same thing, so they were right, the high commission don’t pick up their phone. Tried them online, no joy. I was given the run around and a slight panic set in.
This was not going to be easy but I persevered. After all, it is a small price to pay to see the joy on the faces of my parents.
Got an idea, I know someone who knows someone, who has connection in the commission, can advise me on how to get my visa. They got back to me: call this person he will give you advice. I called this person. I told him I haven’t been home for three decades, can he signpost me to how I can apply for a Nigerian passport?
He said £350, for what? He said £350! For one person but we are two! That is £700 for two. Then I must pay £198 a piece on arrival: entry visa. So, I played along. I said OK. He said all I need is to send in our passports at the high commission and I am to pay the amount he said, and he can proceed to process my passport. I told him l need to buy my ticket then I will get back to him. I dropped the phone. I was staggered, feeling that old corruptible arm of Nigeria after all these years and I have not left for home yet! It left a bitter taste in my mouth. Reminded me why I never went home in the first place.
Called my brother and then my friend they both advised that I leave for the high commission post haste, which was not far away. Panic is now setting in. I can still taste my dream so I got all my documents together and I wore a green and white top,just because. Got to the commission in good time. The doors were locked and arrows indicating the door round the corner. I spotted a Nigerian-looking man; I greeted him and asked where I could apply for a visa. He then directed me to a man smoking by the door. The young bearded man dragged on his cigarette as if he needed to get the last tar in to his lungs.
He looked in my direction, pointed to the sign, which stated that: for visa, I must go to the Fleet Street office. Told me what I needed to take with me; passports, letter of invitation, proof that I have enough means to support me while in Nigeria. Oh, and I would need a letter of invite from someone in Nigeria! Ok, it is doable.
He looked at me and said it would have been better if I was a Nigerian. I told him I was Nigerian! He looked in shock, he said “but you don’t look Nigerian”!. What! Is there a Nigerian look and no one told me, there was a Nigerian look. I didn’t know if I should take it as a compliment or an insult.
He came closer, he said he couldn’t tell, but he advises me that if I had a Nigerian passport, then that I should use it. Told him I had one issued in 1982. He said, that I should renew my Nigerian passport, that it would be cheaper. And as for my daughter, she needed one too. And I would need permission from my daughter’s father allowing her to travel. Anything else? Invitation from a Nigerian and bank details to show that I can look after myself while in Nigeria. I thought I was going home. He saw the look on my face. He said, Nigeria is very lenient compared to what the British demands for travelling.
He told me that I had a small window to renew my passport; the commission closes for the holidays on the 21st.
I thanked him, as I was leaving my dream of surprising my folks was becoming a dream, a pipe dream. I was disappointed. I felt like the great unwashed, feeling sad and resigned.. One thing for sure I was not going to go home this year. I needed to face that first.
As I got home, the hustlers had called and left me a message: He can cut me a deal: far less than he initially asked for. I didn’t go to Nigeria but the practice of Nigeria came to me. I came clean to my daughter and my folks: I almost made it home this year.
My dad was philosophical: You are an Animasaun, you don’t bribe to come home. You will make it home when you are meant to.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. – Desmond Tutu
These Hallowed Halls
The lawmakers, believed to be those of the Peoples Democratic Party, booed him as he explained the various achievements in the country. They chorused ‘No!’ at each mention of an achievement.
Miffed by the continuous booing, the All Progressives Congress lawmakers attacked their counterparts in the PDP, leading to exchange of blows while the president went ahead with his budget proposal.
Trouble started after some APC lawmakers seized the placards which some of their PDP colleagues planned to use in protesting against the president.
Our lawmakers are at it again, exchanging abuse and fisticuffs in the hallowed halls has become a common event, hardly anyone bats an eyelid. These hoodlums in fine clothing are over paid, have over inflated egos and are under educated.
Nigerians are definitely not getting value for their money
Last year, the same disgraceful display of thuggery I wrote about in: THIS HOUSE OF DISREPUTE, NOVEMBER 23, 2014:”those that seek evidence that our highest Hallowed House in the land have badly behaved, must have seen on TV and read in the newspapers how uncouth and disgraceful they are. Those that still are not convinced, I have nothing more to say to them as they have obviously lost their moral compass.
What we saw were grown men behaving like rent a mob and scaling the fence to force their way into the inner sanctum of the House”. And again JULY 21, 2013 IN DIRTY, ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, similarly there was rancour in the River state assembly. I wrote: “They should hang their heads in shame and accept that what happened on the floor of the assembly was truly despicable, period.
If grown men, and I mean, grown men behaved in such thuggish manner, waving the mace and using it as a weapon, what example are they displaying to the young ones. No wonder Nigeria is going to the dogs! On July 9th, Bipi led his rent a mob then attempted to take over the assembly chambers. Where he proceeded to make himself the speaker of the House in River State, with no assailable majority, they refused to abide by the rules when faced with dissent it was a free for all and fists and blow all round as they engage in battle to beat up some principal officers of the house”.