Chapter 1: Return To Nigeria
The KLM Royal Dutch airline touched down at Murtala Muhammad airport Lagos Nigeria at exactly 6:05 pm on Tuesday May 30, 2006.
The usual scrambling of who to go out of the aircraft first ensured. I picked up my hand luggage and stood in line behind a white dutch man.
We alighted from the Boeing jet through the tube and headed towards the arrival hall.
Two Nigerian police officers stood at the entrance of the hall and stopped whomever they wanted. It was their right.
The Nigerian Custom and one other organisation stood there too as we passed them. I wondered what they were all doing there.
The Nigerian Immigration were the last to meet.
They stooped me and checked my passport. It wasn’t convincing to the young Yoruba lady who took it from me. The tag on her blouse said her name was Miss Adenike. She asked me to follow her to a dirty office with two seats and a desk.
”Where did you make this Passport” she asked.
”Ado Ekiti” I answered, recalling what my elder brother had told me when he sent the passport to me in Lisbon.
She looked at the State code again and it was 308.
308 Was Minna and not Ado Ekiti.
It all meant that either my brother made a mistake by telling me it was made in Ado Ekiti or that the immigration officer who handled the project made the mistake. Whoever made the mistake had caused me a little delay. My only consolation was that I was in Nigeria.
”This Passport was made in Minna not Ado Ekiti” she said as she pointed to a paper placed on the wall behind her with the list and codes of every international passport center in Nigeria.
308 – Minna, was boldly written on it too. She was right but she had just made her first mistake.
If I could be able to fool German Police officers on numerous occasions, why not a Nigerian Immigration lady.
I knew that Minna was in Niger state and not Ekiti.
Instead of arguing, I decided to find a way to feign ignorance and uneducated. Nigerians are particularly very sympathetic to you if you admitted that they were better than you; a massive weak point that was worth exploring if you found yourself in an unfavourable condition.
There was no law in Nigeria that said everybody must know every state capital.
She made a phone call and moments later, a Police man came. He asked me to follow him.
They asked me to leave my hand lugage in the dirty office but I refused. They promised to keep the bag safe but I had hidden some €8000 in the bag, not even God could have convinced me to leave it behind.
I followed the police man to another office; a better one equipped with old air conditioner on the wall humming like a mosquito.
The Chief Immigration officer at the airport was seated behind a large mahogany desk. She was dealing with another Igbo man whom they believed also had a passport that was done in his absent. He had returned from Spain. His own case was different. His passport was done in his absent quite alright but the problem was that they did a very bad job. Eventually he was taken away to a place I didn’t know.
”Where did you say you made this Passport” she asked me.
”I made it in Ado Ekiti Niger State” I answered.
She was an Hausa woman. She asked what I was doing in Niger State at the time. I explained to her that I was a Business man who supplied used vehicle spare parts to that part of the Country.
She lectured me on the Nigerian States and their Capitals, constantly pointing out that the capital of Niger State was Minna and Not Ado Ekiti. I paid attention like a nursery school child, nodding occasionally in affirmative.
She never knew that I intentionally told her that Ado Ekiti was in Niger State. To her, I was just another illiterate Igbo man.
After her lecture and Advice, she made a call. The lady who had stopped me came. The immigration chief told her that she should release me.
I followed the young lady who arrested me to her small dirty office again. She told me that she wasn’t convinced that The passport was authentic but since she had been ordered to release me, I should give her $100.
I told her that I had no dollars with me and she demanded for €100. We eventually settled for €20 and I left the office.
I went to the baggage hall and picked up my two big bags which was the only ones rotating on the conveyor belt.
Okey my cousin was already waiting for me at the arrival hall. He said he was already worried whether I made the flight or not.
We took my bags to his ageing mercedes 190 and left the airport.
It was already getting dark. The atmosphere was very hot and there was no Air conditioner in the vehicle.
We drove to Cele Bus stop and diverted right towards Ikotun. He lived in an old estate called Jakande.
We got to his house before 8pm, and moved the bags upstairs. I opened one of the bags and brought out a bottle of Jack Daniels. It was time for celebrations.
Okey said he had bought enough petrol for the generator to last until morning since there was no light. I asked him the usual time when he put the generator off, he said around 12am.
”Then you will put the generator off around 12am” I had told him. I needed no extra attention.
His elder brother was in the flat as well. We all drank until some minutes past 11pm when I got tired. I left them and entered the room where my bags were kept. I removed my blue up&down Jean and slept on the bed.
Despite the fan at its highest speed, the temperature in the room was still too warm and uncomfortable for me. But I knew that it was only a matter of time before I adapted back to the Nigerian weather system.
Noises from the neighbouring residents woke me up before 5am.
”The industrious city of Lagos goes to sleep very late and wakes up very early”