In the years I have been in Jand, the closest I have ever gotten to the Nigeria High Commission is to stand on the road opposite it, shouting protest slogans at the embassy’s walls as if they could hear me.
Oh, I’ve also joined various Nigerians of indeterminate ambitions to carry home-made placards in the cold in front of the embassy, while my mates were busy collecting money from politicians thousands of miles away.
Well, the people I have spoken to have always said that if you ever have the misfortune of needing a travel document/visa/passport for your child, illegitimate wife or your visa over-stayer self, then you need to have the following:
- The bladder of a camel, because they will leave you for eons on the queue with no restrooms.
- The skin of a rhinoceros, because they will verbally insult you at the slightest opportunity.
- The efficiency of a German, because they will not allow you set foot in the place without complete documents, whether you came from Scotland or you live in London.
Until last week.
So how did it go when I had to face the Nigerian High Commission for a new passport?
Well, I took the liberty of writing a diary so forget the rumours, folks. This is what to expect from your fellow Nigerians when you go to the Nigerian High Commission:
7:00AM – I leave home, even though the embassy opens at 9:30 am. I advise you to tell yourself the same thing I told myself: “Ruona, the Nigerian embassy at Northumberland serves the whole of the UK. So unless the witches on your fathers’ side have retired from your case and are now receiving pension from your other relatives, then keep sleeping at home, arrive there late, and blame everyone else but yourself if/when you can’t get in.”
8:00AM – After enduring an impromptu squashing of my body parts by other body parts on the Tube, I arrive at the embassy. By the side of the building is a small queue of 9 people. Four of them are obese half-caste children whose father is drenching his iPhone in a copious amount of spit by speaking rapid-fire Igbo into it. I congratulate myself. In fact, if I wasn’t holding on to my Subway sandwich I would have pat myself on the back right there. Every immigrant who has been to the UK visa office in Nigeria, especially the one at Billingsway Road in Oregun will know the importance of arriving early. Oregun…where even when though you have scheduled an appointment, you have to push, pull, head-butt and bite your way into the premises, while the MOPOL cock their rifles and whip your visa-seeking behind with koboko. After the akara called Oregun, Northumberland is like shawarma jor.
8:05AM – I start having my breakfast on the queue but remember to drink only half of my orange juice…bladder of a camel tinz. Hmm. You won’t believe these are the same Nigerians who bite, slap and kick outside embassies at home. So we can actually queue. It really feels like we are in another country. Oh. We, actually, are in another country.
8:10 AM – There are now about 8 people behind me. 17, if you add about 9 others who have run off in search of a cybercafé to print out documents they suddenly realised they didn’t have.
8:24AM – OMG! I spoke too soon. We really are in Nigeria. There are people emerging from nowhere to claim they were in front of me, just like at home. A woman and three children who smell like they took the £1 bus from Glasgow are now claiming to be the family of a man who was in front of me. At this rate I am now at least number 25 on the queue. Why are Nigerians like this??! Even the oyinbo passers-by give us weird looks for standing hapharzardly all over the pavement, forcing others to walk in the road. It seems Nigerians can only stand in a straight line and form a queue for just 10 minutes at a time. Including me.
8:50AM— Igbo Man is still bathing his iPhone with saliva under the guise of taking a phone call. A woman in one of those round, suede caps that many good Christians wear shuffles along the line. She is handing out flyers advertising some Naija Pentecostal pastor…from where I am it looks like Oyedepo. I shake my head ‘no’ as she tries to offer me one. Of course I am a good Christian girl; I go to church. I just don’t want her to have to see me use Oyedepo’s picture to wipe my grimy Subway-sandwich fingers. Daz’all!
9:10AM— A handsome man called Umar comes out and tells us politely to start showing our papers to gain entry. I do not know what is happening but the line is going rather quick. Before I know it, I am in front of Mr. Umar and staring up at his chiselled, fine nose. It seems many came with baggage, which isn’t allowed into the embassy (for obvious security reasons), while others came without the required papers. At this rate I don’t care to know…I keep staring at Mr. Umar’s nose and almost get kicked out when my phone beeps in the corridor.
9:15AM—I can’t thank the Nigerianity of my fellow citizens enough. Their inability to follow instructions, even when clearly outlined out on the internet means I get given ticket NUMBER 8! #DancingAzonto
9:32AM —More Nigerianity, and some people get turned back at the till….meaning I am the 5th PERSON TO BE ATTENDED TO! God bless Nigeria! #Lwkmd
9:50AM – I get summoned to an upstairs waiting area, where there is a big flat-screen TV with NTA showing on it. For some strange reason, the TV is on mute. Ugh.
I find out it may be because many people who are there to collect their passports seem to either be deaf, or have forgotten their own names. Like this Ida-something guy who finally walks up in his white canoe-shaped shoes after being called up to seven times. Sigh.
10:08AM—I get called into the Biometric Room, where about half a dozen officers are talking about Ebola while taking our details. They smile, they are pleasant, and they leave me puzzled. I expected to be hassled.
10:16AM –I walk into the sunshine and blink at my phone. I have spent less than an hour at the High Commission with nothing but good service. Hmm. I never got to try out the toilets thanks to the sparse liquid at breakfast but still….wow! Was this a one-off? Let me tweet abourrit.
10:37AM-Onwards —My tweets get replied….many are as surprised as I am and someone says: “Had an equally pleasant experience 2 months ago. Concluded that many that have trouble there come with it themselves.”
You know what? On this occasion there’s no need for that damn crowbar. *wink wink*
See you next week