The Day My Nigerian Passport Got Stolen
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Back when I was just starting out with my speaking career in Houston, I got an invitation to be
the keynote speaker a workshop facilitator at the 2010 NSBE (National Society Of Black Engineers) conference in Toronto, Canada. I was ecstatic! So ecstatic that I almost forgot that nah green passport wey dey inside pocket…translation I needed to get a Canadian visa to make the speaking engagement happen.
Thankfully the Canadian visa process was straight forward, you basically filled out a bunch of forms, photocopied another set of forms including school certificate, birth certificate and even sef…death certificate. And the most important document, your proof of financial happiness (aka how much do you have to spend in our country). Ok so I lied, the process is not that straight forward, but its better than driving to the Canadian embassy (which you now have to do now). All I had to do was compile a bunch of documents from the comfort of my desk and place them into a certified envelope along with my green Nigerian passport and mail it out.
My whole life was practically contained in that envelope!
The processing time then was about 21 days…I waited patiently for this time to elapse and then emailed the Canadian embassy when I had not heard anything.
Mind you, although this was my first visit to Canada I was quite confident I would get a Visa. After all I had gotten an American Visa which was like the Champions League of Visa applications.
So I emailed the embassy (you never call) and started raking for them…ok ok I lied again. I no get liver to rake, I simply asked them where my passport was. The next morning I received an email from the embassy saying that my passport had already been mailed out. That was weird, I had checked my mail box the day before and the morning before I left my home and I saw no passport. “Maybe it was still in transit” I thought to myself.
When I got home that evening from work, I checked my mail box again, but still nothing. Just a bunch of you-need-a-new-credit-card and you-have-not-paid-your-bills-yet envelopes. I was worried…
And then my mind started playing tricks on me. All of a sudden my mail box seemed a bit slanted as if someone had tampered with it. I could have sworn that I saw a smudged finger print on the side of the box and an even bigger smudge on one of the many envelopes. Had someone ransacked my mail box and stolen my passport?
That’s when I entered full panick mode. Mogbe…they have stealed[sic] my passport, my only passport, with my working VIisa and my I-94 and my fine face…they will deport me o.
So the next day, I emailed the Canadian embassy and this time I was raking. I was like…you people have lost my passport, what type of nonsense is this, what is the tracking number you sent it with,
you people will have to give me Canadaian residency o. I was stressed out and needed a breather. Fortunately, I had an event that night….
It was one of those professional events, I can’t remember if it was a NSBE alumni event or one of the many African Professional Organizations I belonged to. I just know there were Nigerian people there. Actually Nigerian people are everywhere so that doesn’t count. Anway sha…my body was there, but my mind was not. All I could think about was my missing Nigerian passport.
Then I met a guy (I can’t remember his name, this incident happened like 4 years ago so allow me) and started narrating my story about how I applied and packaged my passport and how I have not yet received the passport. He just nodded his head as he listened intently, until I reached the part where I said…”I think my Nigerian passport was stolen from my mail box.” His reaction…priceless…
As cool as a cucumber or an air conditioner on full blast…he said and I quote “nobody steals a Nigerian passport.” And he walked off into the sunset (actually there was no sunset and he did not walk off, but this was more dramatic). After he said that, I felt a calm in my body that I had not felt for days. I would have said it was a type of spiritual calm…the one you get when you realize that what you were worrying about was nothing to worry about and Jesus had already saved you without you know it. It was the sudden realization, like some of you might have been thinking while reading this article that “nobody ever steals a Nigerian passport.” Especially in America. I mean of all the passports in the world out there…Nigeria was actually the last one a person would want to steal. Actually not last to be more accurate 78th…
According to a 2013 Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index, Nigeria ranked 78th out of 173 countries ranked according to global restriction to travel. The Index measured how likely you would have to go through the laborious Visa application process to visit a country. For example, an American wanting to travel to South Africa can wake up and go…but a Nigerian…would have to apply for Visa, pay Visa application fee, drive to Embassy, Yan one long story, submit documents and then
wait for his passport to come back get denied. The index also indirectly represents the likelihood of a person returning back to their home country. On average, an American traveling to South Africa has a higher chance of returning back to his own country, than a Nigerian travelling to Afghanistan South Africa…Ranked ahead of Nigeria on this list include Uzbekistan, Ivory Coast, Mauritania and Benin Republic. So what does all this mean and what does it have to do with my stolen Nigerian passport?
I have been
blessed chanced to travel a lot. I have seen my Mum strip searched 4 “random” times on a round-trip Lagos-Amsterdam-Houston flight in 1995. I have seen flight attendants morph into rude militants on flights headed to Lagos and o…let’s not forget the American embassy, where kids as young as me, get to talk anyhow to Nigerians because they are seeking entry into their country. And a lot of times it angers me because I want them to treat us better.
But I realize that Visa’s are like loans…people give it you when you don’t need it. And I guess the day Nigerians don’t need to travel to other countries for medical check ups, college degrees or 20 year long tourist visits, that’s the day people will be begging us to come an collect visa. But this is nothing new, you probably knew this already. But its worth mentioning, maybe as a reminder like an alarm clock that keeps beeping and beeping until we wake up. A reminder that our focus should not be about whether the British, Americans or the Canadians treat us well but rather our focus should be on whether we as Nigerians treat Nigerians well. Whether you and I treat our drivers and house-helps with dignity and respect. Whether politicians treat their citizen and constituents with respect. At the end of the day it is all about us, not about them. I guess that’s the little idea I wanted to share.
And o…my passport? Well the next day (and I am not making this up). I got an email from the Canadian embassy saying that I failed to put in a pre-paid envelope in my initial application packet. Apparently my passport was never mailed out and the initial person I communicated with was just quoting the standard your passport should have been mailed jargon’s. I guess no country is perfect…but some are more perfect than others!
Written By Okechukw Ofili. Follow him on twitter, Facebook or subscribe to his blog for more honest talk and as @ofilispeaks on instagram for more sketches! To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here. His third book How Intelligence Kills will be coming out in December of 2013 pre-order here http://bit.ly/intelligencekills
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