Happy New year to you all. Most of us are familiar with the practice of making New Year resolutions. In the spirit of new beginnings, one of my resolutions this year is to tell things as they are and encourage people to speak up about issues that affect them.
I wrote about my first visit to the Nigeria High Commission (NHC)in London, UK in October 2016. If you have time, please read the first piece here before you proceed any further.
That visit was stressful but seemingly productive, as I managed to submit my application for a new Nigerian passport in record time. I praised ( yes, praised!) the staff and the systems in place at the NHC on that day. But dear readers, if only I knew what was to come!
Thursday 28th Oct 2016: Visit to the NHC. Application made. Foolishly optimistic lady (i.e. me) even left a self-addressed envelope to have her new passport posted to her in Birmingham. This was to avoid having to take another day off work to travel to London from Birmingham to pick said passport.
1st -28thNovember 2016: No passport arrived in the post. I continued to hope for its arrival, despite being told by wiser and more experienced fellow Nigerians not to expect it as the NHC worked to its own timeline. I remained hopeful but started to waiver towards the third week of November. Prayer sessions commenced. Several sources suggested I apply for a travel certificate soon as I was very unlikely to get passport on time. Travel date to Nigeria was 6th December.
Tuesday 29th November 2016: Embarrassing conversation with my head of Department. I had to explain that I needed yet another day off work to visit the NHC to apply for a travel certificate (TC). Unfortunately, other colleagues were present and I had to explain what a travel certificate was. Some of their questions: Was I no longer a Nigerian?( I roll eyes) Answer: Of course I was still a Nigerian but the NHC had system problems (lie. Incompetence was the problem). Couldn’t I apply online for the TC and get it sent by post? No. Couldn’t I call to find out if it was ready? I already tried but the lines rang with no response. Prayers worked, though. HOD granted request, cover was found for my classes for next day.
Wednesday 30th November 2016: Another smelly coach trip. Was getting used to them. Submitted application for TC in the morning. Around 6pm, an officer brought out some TCs. Some of the people who got theirs had applied that morning, same as me. Waited patiently for my name to be called.
6.30pm: A few more got their TCs with 3 of us remaining. We were ever so casually asked to go home and come back the following day. Excuse me? I travelled 3 hours by coach, took my second day off work, was considered to be telling tales by colleagues and I was told to come back the next day like I lived on the next street. REALLY?
I didn’t know when tears started to fall down my face. I was speechless, angry and frustrated. I slapped all the remaining HNC staff several times. I abused them and their families and stopped short of cursing them. All in my mind, of course. Didn’t want to sleep in a police station no matter how angry I was.
Finally found my voice and all politeness and courtesy flew out of the window. I spoke to them the way they understood: I shouted (not proud of shouting at people but I was beyond angry) and berated the staff for being inconsiderate, inefficient and unhelpful. I also did what any self-respecting Naija woman would do: I refused to leave until something was done ( imaginary tying of headtie round my waist)
7pm: Almost all the staff had gone home at this time and one Mr M realised that he had to do something to pacify the crazy shouting lady from Birmingham. So he took my collection slip (for the passport application, mind) and promised to have my passport issued and posted to me by the weekend. There were only 6 days before I travelled.
I (AKA Mugu) believed the NHC staff (Mr M) and went back to Birmingham feeling very sorry for myself. Got home around 12midnight and went to work the next day to answer even more embarrassing questions about why I didn’t get the elusive TC.
Thursday 1st December 2016: Nothing in my letterbox. Too soon. They would only have printed it on this day.
Friday 2nd December 2016: Still nothing in my letterbox. Maybe they didn’t send it the previous day. Would definitely arrive tomorrow.
Saturday 3rd December 2016: Waited outside my front door for postman. Poor man seemed frightened to see me with anxious face lurking by door so early in the morning. Disaster! No passport from the NHC!
Sunday 4th December 2016: Usually no postal deliveries so I wasn’t expecting anything. Sleepless night. I was to travel in 2 days and I still didn’t have my travel documents. More prayers.
Monday 5th December 2016: Yet another embarrassing conversation with HOD. Asked to be allowed to leave after first lecture so I could travel to London FOR THE THIRD TIME! HOD seemed to believe my predicament (God bless her) and sorted cover for me. I bought expensive train ticket from train station near work for London. (left car at work)
Arrived at NHC around 2.30pm. Collection of TCs started around this time. One of the NHC staff came out to flip through TCs that were ready for collection. I was confident that mine would be ready. Man checked 3 times and did not find my TC! If I believed in jazz I would have suspected foul-play. Found Mr M in the NHC and asked if he had posted my passport. He looked confused and asked if he had met me before! He also received several slaps. Mildly satisfied that anger was vented through the slaps, albeit imaginary.
6pm: I waited in the cold waiting room as people came and went, still no TC. My flight was the next day. I tried to cry but tears didn’t come. I wanted to yell, but at whom? There was no one at the desk for TCs…..
To be continued next week. What happened next?
Writer – Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listening to her musings on everything.