By Aderemi Adegbite
My one minute film, ‘Ghetto Games’, was recently nominated for the ‘One Minutes Africa Awards’, in the ‘In My Backyard’ category.
My spirit was particularly high when I read in the email sent to me that the jury member for the category which my film was nominated, Toma Luntumbue, said that my “video was of high artistic quality and one of the top videos out of the submitted materials.” And as a result of that, I was invited for an all-expenses paid trip to Egypt to attend the One Minutes Africa awards ceremony which holds on Sunday, October 2nd at Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, Egypt.
But my happiness was truncated by the Egyptian Consulate in Lagos.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 was a rainy day. The streets of Lagos were flooded.
Passport office, Alagbon and suburban in Ikoyi were in disarray. But in the midst of this chaos, I found myself maneuvering the streets on an ‘okada’ from one business centre to another in order to print my documents.
10am: I got to the embassy.
10:30am: A gentleman came out and told the waiting applicants that the rain won’t allow the Consul to arrive on time today. He then collected our documents and ushered us in to the embassy.
On getting inside the embassy, I could not make a difference of the numerous business centres I had been to and the embassy. The photographs hung on the walls were appalling and the lousiness of the gentleman who collected our documents and his colleagues were nothing of diplomatic physiognomies.
The Consul arrived after two hours of waiting and he would not attend to the applicants until after another one hour.
At some minutes past 1pm, all applicants were lined up to the first floor where the clerk (the gentleman) started calling whom he pleases to see the Consul. After he had called three applicants who arrived at the embassy after me, I approached him and reminded him that I was the first applicant to arrive at the embassy before the rest of the applicants. He looked at me scornfully and left my presence to the Consul’s office without a statement, only to come back and ask me to come in. I went in and came out after a minute and some seconds.
The only thing the Consul asked me was the meaning of the title of my shortlisted photograph for the Etisalat/African Artists’ Foundation amateur photography competition: “Lagos on a Sane-day,” which was in my letter of introduction. And the next thing he said to me was “thank you for coming.” The clerk asked me to wait outside and he joined me in the next minute with my passport and told me that “the consul will not give you visa because you na small boy and you never go Egypt before….”
I became troubled with this development and I did not know what to do. Outside the premises were some people who wanted to know the reason why I was refused visa. I narrated the story to them and some of them asked if I had greased the clerk’s palm. I looked at them, completely amused. And they concluded that it was because of that I was not given visa.
The next step for me was to call my host in Egypt which is Townhouse Gallery and instructed my contact person to call the Egyptian embassy in Nigeria and explain my purpose of visit to the Consul.
I forwarded all the numbers I could get on the Internet from various sites to Devon Youngblood in Egypt, and she got back to me saying that none of the numbers worked. I ran back to the embassy on the same day to get the direct line to the embassy.
Luckily for me, I met the secretary to the Consul at the gate who told me that none of the lines worked, even the one on the application form, except the Consul’s direct line, which he refused give to me.
Now in a dilemma, I decided to explain the issue to a certain journalist who gave me the contact of one of the Diplomatic Editors in Abuja. Quickly, my case was reported to Deputy Head of Egyptian Mission in Nigeria and the Ambassador. The editor asked me to go back to the embassy with my documents and reapply.
So, I was at the embassy again on Tuesday 27th, September 2011.
On seeing me, the clerk said: “You don come back again?”
I made him understand that my case had been reported to their office in Abuja and I had been asked to reapply.
At the long last, I was made to see the Consul who asked me what film awards meant. This I explained to him patiently. Afterwards, he said he would prefer that the organisation (Townhouse Gallery) inviting me from Egypt write him a direct letter explaining my purpose of visit. I asked him for his email and he said that the letter should be forwarded to my email and I should bring the hardcopy to him.
I immediately called Devon in Egypt and explained the situation of things to her. In less than 30mins, the letter was sent to my email, which I printed and took to the embassy.
As usual, the clerk collected the letter and took it to the Consul office and then returned with my documents in minutes and said: “Oga say no. Make you go, come back in two weeks.”
I demanded to see the Consul, but no one ever spoke to me again.
I had submitted two passports. My old passport has a German visa, which I had travelled to Germany with in 2009 and an e-passport. I just didn’t understand the basis of the refusal.
Again, I am 29 years old and I don’t know how young I am.
My anger is that the embassy of Egypt has refused to respect art and has also made me lose the opportunity of meeting and networking with filmmakers from different parts of the world, had it been that I attended the awards night!