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CHECKING OUT!

– How’re you getting on with your travel preparations?

– So you’ve got your visa to travel!

– Lucky you!

– By the way, were you given the number of months/years you asked for?

It’s that time of the year when the above conversation will be topical in cities in Nigeria. And this goes on till about August. It’s summer in the Europe. Soon schools will go on a long vacation and children will travel with their parents. A visit to any major airport will show a flurry of activities at the peak during these months, day or night. From Lagos to Abuja through Port Harcourt airports, Nigerians could be seen in long queues clutching or pushing their luggage to the check-in counters. Children travelling with their parents can be seen holding on to Papa or Mama. The check-in area is a beehive of activities. We love to travel – for business or pleasure. Only on flights from or to Nigeria does one see children and young adults in Business and First classes – zones usually considered the reserve of the wealthy. British Airways can testify to this. I used to work and live in the Cote d’Ivoire. I remember how I used to have the Economy Class cabin to almost myself on flights from some European countries to my Ivorian destination. That was in the days of SABENA, the defunct Belgian airline. That and some other reasons might have contributed to the airline company going burst. But Nigerians enjoy travelling. Flights in and out of the country are always full.

Many Nigerian families are already processing their visa applications at various embassies. Some have made reservations on their preferred airlines. Others are yet to do so. By the end of June the pitch will be fever high among those planning to travel for the summer. Not all visa applications will be granted for it’s a different story this year. Nigerians are now being viewed and treated like the migrants from other countries – those shown in television footages, those running away from their countries because of war, religious intolerance or economic depression. These three factors and more are also present in our country. Nigeria’s at war within its borders – militancy in the Niger Delta, Boko Haram insurgency same as local terrorism, insecurity, kidnapping, religious hostility in the north resulting in internally displaced persons situation (IDPs); there’s also the nation-wide economic downturn. So brothers and sisters just brace yourselves for having your visa applications processed with our social and economic situations at the back of the minds of those consular officers. Heard from the grapevine that the visa request of one of our top business guru was cut down to just 10 days by a European country. He had requested for a multiple entry for six months. He often travels to the said country for business. He was given a 10-day visa only. No one can say if and when the protocol staff of this mogul will ever challenge the Embassy on this. True the economies of these European countries are in shambles. They are also confronted with terrorism, both local and international. But that’s no reason for them to show disrespect to any visa application from Nigerians. Consular staff – local and international – should be trained to show courtesy to the Nigerian passport holder.

Every Nigerian – moneybags or just ordinary folks like you and me – is now seen as an economic migrant running away from the economic downturn in the country. The European Union regulation requesting that respect be given to family members of an EU citizen isn’t even respected in Nigeria (may be all over Africa) by some of these European embassies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should look into this.

Even when the visa is obtained, prepare yourself for a hostile reception at the entry point of the foreign country of your destination. There’s a renewed hostility to the green passport. The type of hostility experienced in the 80s and 90s when all Nigerians were seen as fraudsters and all sorts. It’s as if the immigration staff at the borders have been coached to say or do things that would provoke the holder of the green passport. Some of them would look through your passport as if it was an ‘Oluwole’ passport. They ask that you produce your return ticket and want to know what you’ll be doing during your stay within their walls. Don’t get excited or provoked by their ill manners especially when these immigration officials are young men and women old enough to be your children/grandchildren. Keep your cool and answer their questions as calmly as possible. Remember that they are only their Master’s Voice.

Foreign countries should understand that though Nigerians enjoy travelling, they also love to go back home to bond with their kith and kin, because ‘ajo ko le dun ko nile ma re le’ – no matter how pleasurable the journey is, the wayfarer always yearns to return home.

Imagine!

‘How driving for just an hour a day can make you pile on 5lb’ is the title of an article in the London’s Mail. A Professor Takemi Sugiyama of the Australian Catholic University said that ‘prolonged time spent sitting in cars – in particular over one hour per day – was associated with higher total and central adiposity (fat and a more adverse cardio-metabolic risk profile)’. Further on in the article the reader got to know that the research was based on the ‘driving habits of 2,800 adults’ from Australia. Those who carried out the research should come over to Lagos to see that their findings would never apply to the drivers – both private and professional – who sit for hours in the Lagos traffic. Our professional drivers do more than an hour in the traffic while taking their ‘oga’ or the family either to work, schools, markets or any other destination. Some of these drivers can even pass – and most have attempted to pass – for their ‘oga’ when it’s only them in the car. It’s rather the fuel queues that can and should be associated with ‘a more adverse cardio-metabolic risk profile’ in our case.

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