by Christian Ken Aniche
On Wednesday, 15th August, India’s Independence from Britain will be celebrated all over the world. By lovers of India, by Indians in India and Indians in Diaspora. For this, I would love to pay tribute to Bharat, a country that I spent few days in. But to get there, I was dealt with in the hands of the officers of the Nigerian Immigration.
It’s no doubt everyone’s dream is to travel oversea and experience first-hand alien culture. Mine translated into reality not so long ago and it was a privilege.
It’s 19th November, 2011. I’m at the airport, waiting at the Ethiopian Airways counter for my ticket to be confirmed. I’m on my way to India.
I’m there early enough to avoid any form of lateness. After waiting for several hours, I’m asked to join the long queue again, which I did. It’s embarrassing how the lady at the counter ask, how much I’m travelling with and I refuse answering her and she leaves me unattended, till another staff confirms my ticket. Now, I get my boarding pass. There is a longer queue at the immigration counter for departure stamping. Being stuck there, I’m busy looking at the different faces on queue; especially this lady wearing a hot mini skirt showing off her natural endowments.
After what seems like eternity, I get to the stand where I will be stamping my passport. On seeing my passport, the immigration officer asks, “where are you travelling to?”
I say, reluctantly, “India.”
“What are you going there to do?” He asks.
I reply that I’m going to visit my sister living there. He hands over my passport to me and refers me to another counter. I get to the counter; see another immigration officer eating a plate of rice with a lone piece of meat on it.
“Good day I say to him,”
“Where are you going?” He asks.
I say India.
He collects the passport and keeps staring at it, after he asks me to go and meet the first immigration officer. Getting there, he asks, “what do you have for us?’ I totally ignore the question and keep waiting for my passport to be stamped. He calls another officer, gives him my passport without stamping and tells me to follow him. He enters an office and offers a seat. I get angry and tell him to give me my passport because I’m running late. He says, “How much are travelling with?” I bring out 3,000 rupees and show him. “I don’t understand this currency,” he angrily says to me.
“How much dollars you have?” He asks.
I tell him I don’t have any dollar because I know he wants to collect dollars from me. He rises from his seat sluggishly and I follow in like manner. I watch him bring a printed paper from a drawer and write on it, hands it to another immigration officer, equally short and tells me to follow him. He takes to another section of the office and presents the paper and my passport to a dark-skinned man. He gives me a form to fill. I fill the form and give it back to him. The immigration officer calls me for interrogation.
“Where are you going to?” He starts.
I say India.
“What are you going to do there?”
“To tour the country for a few days, then come back to prepare for our prestigious Africa International Film Festival coming up soon,” I reply.
“Where is your invitation letter?” He continues.
“I will not get my visa without tendering my invitation letter,” I tell him.
“So, how much do you have with you?” he asks further.
“I have dollars and rupees.”
His phone rings; I hear him answering the caller in Igbo. When he finishes with the call, I ask in Igbo language, “Dede, I bu onye Igbo?”
He pretends and keeps calm. I’m being referred to another office; I meet yet another immigration officer dresses in native attire. I sit and watch him go through my file. “What’s the problem?” He asks.
“I don’t know,” I reply happily.
He tells me that my file will be taken to their oga, but for him, there is no reason to deny me departure.
It’s time for my flight to depart, I scream!
Nobody responds to me. I miss my flight and have to spend another five hours to get my passport. At some minutes past six, I get my passport and they say, “You have been denied departure.” Yet, the same Immigration Officers let me travel the next day after I had given them some money. They let me go to India.
*Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.