By Adetunji Adeniran
The first part of this story went more viral than I thought. It gathered more than 5,000 impressions on Twitter, got published on some media outlets (Vanguard and two others).
I would not have considered a Part Two to this story if not for the overwhelming comments and feedback from the readers. So, based on popular demand, I have decided to pen down the concluding part of the story and make a few videos on YouTube to help anyone interested in applying for such conferences and getting sponsorship for their trips.
A week after Lufthansa airline granted me the free flight tickets, I embarked on the journey to Germany with only N30,000 (€75 at the time). The flight left Nigeria in the midnight at about 11pm and we got to Frankfurt in the early hours of the following day.
Even though I had experienced racism before in France (my first trip out of Nigeria), the experience at arrival point in Germany is one that I will remember for a long time.
I arrived in Frankfurt airport at about 7am, waited in line like everyone else waiting to be checked by Police and immigration. Then, the unexpected happened. A Police officer pulled me aside and instructed that I follow him to the office. I did not think I had done anything wrong, so I was not afraid. I followed the officer as instructed with confidence. I met one another young black dude who was probably from a francophone country.
I tried to engage in conversation, but due to language barriers, we could not make meaningful conversation. The officer kept us for 10 minutes without a word on what we did or what was next line of action.
Apart from the fact that this was highly disrespectful to a young man who had done nothing wrong but only honoring invitation of a German University to attend a university conference; I was almost going to miss my train from Frankfurt to Cologne.
Remember that I went to Germany with a free air and train ticket provided by Lufthansa airline. I stood up, walked to the counter, and demanded to see the most senior officer on duty. The guy looked at me like I was drunk but I remained resolute and sternly stated my request again. When I realised that I was not being heard, I took to the person I judged as the most senior officer and said in a loud voice, enough to be heard.
“Excuse me sir, I am from Nigeria and the German government through the university of Cologne invited for a conference which is to start tonight. I am on a one-time ticket to Cologne and if by virtue of my delay here, I miss the train, I would report to the highest authority that your men caused the delay.”
The officer looked around for the officer-in-charge and asked him to hand over my belongings and escort me to the train ticket counter. I took the train and arrived Cologne to meet other delegates from about 95 countries. We were lodged in the school hostel for the next few days.
The conference started well on Monday, but things took a sour turn on Tuesday morning. I forgot my bag (contained my passport, laptop, and other documents) at a tram mini station. I stopped at the next station and went back to look for the bag, but it was gone.
We reported to the information center, but no one had reported or located it. I called the same Frankfurt Airport Police to intimate them of the issue and if I could be allowed to travel back with a copy of my biodata page, but they declined and insisted I get a travel certificate from my embassy. At this point, I was confused and did not know what to do. The nearest Nigerian embassy is in Berlin which was more than 9hrs by train or 120 euros by flight. I came to Germany with only 75 euros.
The conference team was involved in all these, and they were helpful. I was given an opportunity to ‘pitch’ to the conference delegates to fundraise for a trip to Berlin (€30) and Travel Certificate, TC (€60). I gathered about 100 euros from donations.
One of the German delegates helped book a ride-sharing car from Cologne to Berlin. I traveled with unknown people from different parts of the country for more than 6hrs. I arrived in Berlin at around 4am and lodged in a hostel near the Nigerian embassy.
At the hostel, I met a lady from Imo state who also had something to do at the embassy. She was angry that I went through all that trouble for just a TC when I could just run away and seek asylum in Germany. That advice did not sit well with me because I had no reason to run. Besides the fact that I was going back home for my final year project, I already had a job offer from Procter and Gamble in Lagos.
The Nigerian embassy opened at 10am and I applied for the travel document. The embassy staff were professional and empathetic when I explained the situation. I got the document early enough to allow me travel back to Cologne.
The trip back to Cologne was booked for me on the same ride-sharing app. The driver was German and did not speak English. We were both mute throughout the trip. The round trip was the riskiest trip I had taken in my life because for what it was, I could have got lost in no man’s land. I got back to Cologne in the evening and joined the conference which was already half-way.
After the conference, I presented the travel certificate at the airport and boarded the next flight back to Nigeria. I came back to Nigeria and discussed the idea of a ride-sharing app with my friend Seun Ogunmole. We were just at research stage when the likes of Gomyway, jekalo launched in Lagos.
About two years later, both app closed shop and gave way for Uber and Taxify (Bolts).
Adetunji Adeniran is an entrepreneur and engineering graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University