A warm welcome to Nigeria

I have prepared myself for quite  few things when I come to Nigeria, Lagos, in 2009. I have read about the country, I have brought Malarone, and I am half prepared to be given a hard time upon my arrival; I am prepared for people wanting money of me, for offering to “help” me with my suitcase, and the whole lot.

The African experience starts already on the plane: a few rows behind me there is a man who is being deported. He screams. And screams. And screams. The officers next to him eventually give him a shot of some sort, with the result that he stops shouting and appears anaesthetised.

“I don’t know what his problem is,” mutters a woman behind me.
“He doesn’t want to go back to Nigeria,” a man replies from the other side of the isle. The woman shakes her head angrily.
“Nobody should want to not come back to Nigeria,” she argues. “I am proud to come from Nigeria! It is the best country!”
“I guess he’s not in agreement. He does not like Nigeria!” the man replies again.

Their conversation sounds like an argument to me. Both raise their voices to such an extent that the air hostess asks them to keep quiet. She is bluntly told to back off, though they lower their voices and go on bickering quietly instead.  By my side, an American oil worker is on his fourth bottle of wine. His speech has gone slurry. And talks to me about his children and his wife and about life as an oil worker in Nigeria.

I have given up any notion of sleeping, by now.

Upon landing, I make my way out of the plane and into the airport. I try to identify the queuing system,but before I know it I am waved over to the custom’s desk. I am met by an incredibly pleased custom’s officer as he looks at my visa and realize it is, indeed, a tourist visa.

“You are here to visit just for pleasure?” he asks me. I nod. He raises both his arms.
“WELCOME TO NIGERIA!” He announces warmly. Squinting at my  visa, he looks at me again and says “three months? You only got a visa for three months?”
“3 months is sufficient,” I assure him. He shakes his head decisively.

“No,” he insists. “I give you six months!”

I am sure he wasn’t supposed to write on my actual visa but he does. With a blue pen, he changes 3 months to 6 months.

“Welcome to Nigeria!” he announces again.
I thank him and leave. I cross my fingers that nobody is going to check my visa again and question what on earth I am trying to do.

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