I swallowed my pains and resolved to redouble my efforts, to ensure that my children and their own, and the generations to come, shall carry the passports of the land of my birth, by whatever name it might be called…
A few years ago, I was to visit Portugal, but the thing is, the Portuguese Embassy at the time would issue its Schengen Visa through the German Embassy in Lagos, and I was required to attend said embassy at Walter Carrington Crescent in Victoria Island. It remains until this day, the worst experience I have had at any foreign embassy in the world.
The German had a Shepherd at the entrance. The two legged variety to be certain, but he had nothing on the four legged species, who the truth be told, are by far more intelligent than the man shepherding the gate at the German embassy. The man, a Nigerian , is the rudest person I have ever come across in my life. He spoke to everyone exactly the same, and that included the Nigerian policemen deployed to the embassy’s entrance. He must have been hired to say to Nigerians, everything that the Germans would never dare, to say to us.
The man was pointedly and deliberately rude to everyone he had to process, and he did so with reckless abandon. I am sure you wouldn’t be requiring a soothsayer to know that I had a mighty row with him. He was the subject of a protest letter that I wrote to the German foreign minister at the time, as well as a public petition to the National Assembly. But he is just a backdrop for today’s sermon. He is not the sermon itself. And no. I received absolutely no response from the National Assembly, and the Germans probably couldn’t understand my English, as they were not arsed to respond.
I have wanted to holiday in America for some time. I have craved the anonymity that I have enjoyed in its wide open spaces, and the isolation that have eluded me on the Lagos streets of London. But my visa expired whilst I dithered, COVID-19 came, and I was caught up in the difficulties occasioned by American policy changes and Nigerian induced conditions. I heaved a sigh of relief when the Americans announced the return of the Dropbox Visa Renewal system, and I promptly applied for a date and was offered one this week. The experience was the German Embassy all over again, a well choreographed experience, designed to show Nigerians, just exactly how low we have fallen, and all by our own hands.
The appointment was for 10AM, and being a Lagos boy and understanding our ways, I was sure to be out of the house by 8AM, all for a journey of 23.1 KM that shouldn’t require more than 20-30 minutes in a sane country. I got to the embassy at 9:30AM, having had to run the gamut of traffic out of Lekki, all aggravated by the fuel scarcity precipitated by the Nigerian factor responsible for the importation of badly contaminated fuel. That was when the fun began, for beyond the Dropbox, there is also a dropped Achilles.
The gentlemen at what I remembered to be a reception area across the road from the embassy were as courteous and respectful as can be, and deferential treatments were given to old people, nursing mothers, and children. The lines were moving efficiently, and I found nothing to complain about as I shuffled from one foot to the other as the queue snaked slowly but surely towards the entrance. I was looking forward to getting inside, and taking the weight off my feet, as I would plunk on the chair.
I am completely flat footed. Relevance? I can never be conscripted into the armed forces. My situation is aggravated by the fact that my Achilles on the right foot has flattened completely, and I have difficulties with standing up for too long. Unfortunately, I had worsened matters by breaking into the occasional trot in place of the recommended quick walkies, and the heels are particularly painful. I walked into a cattle barn full of rows and rows of unwelcoming green chairs. Empty green chairs, by which stood rows of my country men and women.
I groaned audibly at cottoning on to the reality of my conscription into the army of idiots, for what else are we all, for setting the sterling standards, by which we are treated by the Americans, and everyone else, if not outright idiots? Are you angry yet? Idiots! In which of the parts of God’s earth, to which Nigerians routinely flee, have you found the Americans, treating their nationals, the way that they treat us, which is by far more equitable, than the ways in which we have consistently dealt with ourselves? Which of the countries that we have fled to are better endowed than Nigeria? How have we ended up despised by all and sundry? How did we become a reproach amongst nations?
I observed that the staff, all Nigerians, were extremely professional, courteous, and willing to help and answer questions patiently, and the commendable attention to geriatrics, and toddlers, that I had observed before my entry, continued inside the barn. Yep! Barn. The barn stunk to the heavens too. Nestled by the lagoon, the very same that daily receives tons of untreated human and industrial waste, and the tomb of unknown numbers of humanity. The fetid air is recycled continually by endless rows of ceiling fans, and the mandatory nose masks should be well advised for anyone who would attend the American embassy, long after the compulsion might have been ended. The damn place stinks. Just like every other parts of the Nigerian paradise. And if there was any American in that barn, he or she wasn’t white, the barn is exclusively Nigerian.
I pushed my luck. “Excuse me madame” I with a smile beckoned on one of the staff, and she responded politely. I gave her my medical history and asked if I might be allowed to sit my tired arse on just one of the many empty green chairs, given the fact that my tired legs and the swollen flat foot, were stridently demanding relief after an entire hour of standing on them. She remained as courteous and respectful as I found the entire staff to be, but she made clear that the seats were simply out of bounds to my tired arse. Embassy policy and protocol dictates that unless you are evidently a geriatric, a child, or visibly infirm, the chairs are not intended for tired Nigerian yanshes.
I couldn’t bring myself to complain about the inalienable rights of the American nation to decide how to run its embassy, and I swallowed my pains and resolved to redouble my efforts, to ensure that my children and their own, and the generations to come, shall carry the passports of the land of my birth, by whatever name it might be called, and would not be subjected to the treatment that we Nigerians have endured through my lifetime, not just from the German Embassy at the worst end of the spectrum, to the excellent people at the American Barn, but from the Nigerian state itself, and the evil rulers that have afflicted us.
One of my neighbors on the queue, a middle aged man, probably my age, piped up and would justifiably complain about the seeming senselessness of the empty chairs and our tired legs, but I couldn’t share his angst with the innocent Americans. If anything, I felt a sense of shame, of revulsion, and I got the American message loud and clear. It was so clear that it might as well have been Maami as I sat at her feet hearing the wisdom of the ancients, the ones that were, before we lost the capacity to use our senses. Bi Oni’gba ba se pe igba e, ni won a ba pe. The value that you place on yourself, is the measure of the society’s valuation of you.
Our day, shall dawn. And the apes, shall not always obey.