Anywhere But Here

by Chidi Jas Onyia

Two months ago in a flat in Festac town I met Calistus for the first time, a third year engineering student from University of Benin; we had similar tastes in music, films and women. He had been denied a Schengen Visa third time running, my name had failed to surface in the last four Green Card Lotteries, we concluded; ‘Nigeria no be am’ and in the words of the late Fela: ‘Very, very at all!’

Ade was a security man working at the wharf, he saluted Cally like an old comrade whereupon they had a private discussion, and it was then Cally forced a two hundred naira note into my hand and ordered me to buy as many loaves and sardines as it would buy. Where Kazim featured in the plan I never really knew because after the accident he was never mentioned again, but four of us ended up stowing away in a fourteen foot container stocked with cable and stationery bound for Calais….. Or so we thought. According to Ade’s information we were on course for France with no stops and to spend roughly eleven days at sea but by the fifth day we were out of food and our drinking water was dangerously low. We managed to saw an opening at the rear end of the container but after the last blade of the hacksaw snapped, the opening was only large enough for a child or a small man… in our case Kazim, to squeeze through. We became dependent on him wiggling out of that hole for us like some parent rodent foraging for its young; on the first night he came back with some canned mushrooms. But then he started to stay out longer and longer and returned more than once empty handed telling us shortly everywhere was ‘locked up’

Cally and Ade were beginning to get suspicious and after the last exit from Kazim they sat by the hole and using the ends of the stocked cable, forced the hole wider until with great difficulty we were able to get through. Ade discovered about thirty empty cans of what had been baked beans, sweet corn and mackerel, hidden under some sacking, Kazim for whatever reason had been holding out on us. We waited silently in the shadows for his return.

We chased him through the maze of precariously perched containers until we had him cornered. Rather than give himself up for a sound beating the foolish man scrambled on top of a large crate which was against the deck and in his excitement he missed his footing and vanished over the side of ship. We heard shouts and running feet. There and then we swore an oath. Illegal immigration is one thing, manslaughter is another.

The three of us were handcuffed and put in one of the storage rooms. The sailors were not in agreement with what to do with us. We were at sea for two more days and then unceremoniously offloaded at Rotterdam .It was bitterly cold. The representative from the Immigration and Naturalization Service was the only person we met that spoke English. We were detained for a further four days and then escorted to the train station by the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Seaport Police and transferred to Amsterdam. We were then put on a KLM flight, five and a half hours later we touched down at Murtala Mohammed Airport.

Cally is back in school, Ade later got a job as a driver for a firm in Lagos and me? Well I watch the ports and wharves; I’d rather be anywhere but here.

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Ibironke Babalola July 16, 2007 - 10:46 pm

With a mind like that, you dont need to be anywhere but here. Trust me, Nija go better again and if I were mother Nigeria, who would I reward? The traitors who took off at the first signs of trouble or those who stoic-ed it out so we could 'salvage it together'? What I say is this… Seize your chance to clear your head – God knows the occasional trip out always helps me appreciate both sides a little better – but remember, the only trip worth making is the one that has us returning with the (LEGITIMATE) spoils of the lands whence we went stuffed full into our Prada ruck-sacks. So go, but with your goal in mind – and make the Mother land proud!

bola July 16, 2007 - 5:12 pm

And what if the anywhere is teh great beyond? Ever considered that? Better wise up, study hard, earn a 2:1 degree, apply for scholarship, get it and go abroad like a man instead of like a little rodent, stowing away on ships…


Rosie July 16, 2007 - 5:01 pm

Funny story. Dear Lord, I hope it is not an actual account.


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