The Recruiters and the Recruited: Instancing How Nigerians Have Been Agonizing, Traumatizing and Duping One Another (Part I)
On a sunny afternoon, in the company of one of my associates, I set out to mobilise votes for my election into one of the elective posts in my chapter of the Nigerian Diaspora Association. On the return journey to our destination, of course, in the dead of the night, we were somehow at lost regarding how to link up with the route leading to our destination. To our saviour was one haggard looking chap, a fellow black man, with whom we had boarded a train to the place that was to link us to our main destination. We demanded his assistance which he gladly offered. So, we became walking companions.
Inquisitively, I asked him, where are you from? In a tired and sorrow-laden voice, he replied, ‘my brother na from Niger.’ What about you?, he requested from me. I replied, same country. To enable us flow without any inhibition, I went ahead, this time around to ask him in broken English, ‘Bros, wetin you dey do for dis dry land? My brother, he replied, na Sanpaa. While our conversation was ongoing, my partner kept mute. He was smart enough to know the term Sanpaa was beyond my grasp, so, he whispered to me in Yoruba, what it meant. Unable to stand this, I asked aloud, Sanpaa, all the way from Nigeria! How you con enter this jagajaga?, I asked in befuddlement. Bros, na long story, he responded, in a grieving and modest voice. This tragic and heart rendering story in addition to other means used in tricking people abroad constitute the hub of this piece. What a tale of agony which profiles what and how Nigerians have been exploiting the mad rush to travel abroad as a means of duping people of their meagre and hard-earned money.
Sanpaa, means the hawking of items which may include toothpick, cotton bud, cutleries, wall clocks, and some other minor commodities. It also passes for street hawking. My fellow countryman, who will be subsequently referred to as Victor, is one of those guys who strongly believe that life abroad is far better than Nigeria. Victor is from a struggling Nigeria family which can hardly afford three daily square meals. The hardness of time is so pressing on his parents such that they cannot avoid sending Victor to school. He eventually learnt the usual act of buying and selling and was planning to join his friends in the popular Alaba market. This was with the hope of fending for himself and if fate so willed, he hopes to become his family’s breadwinner. How to get the capital was a major issue which kept Victor postponing his planned trip to Lagos, where he hoped to join his fellow town men.
On one rainy afternoon, Victor received a call from an old friend who has travelled outside the shores of the country. ‘Oh boy! Na village you still dey…. No hope for you oh because if you think sey e go better like that, you no go ever make ‘em for life. I just say make I ring you oh, because as I don dey for paradise now, he no good make sense make I no say hallo to you my padi. You feel dey call me on this line…. Greet papa and other’s oh!.’
As Chukwu dropped his call, Victor became restless and began to think of what to do. He thought of either to continue with his Alaba dream or relates with Chukwu, his aged long childhood friend, who now lives in paradise.
After a week, Chukwu had another phone conversation with Victor and told him how he meditated over his plight and how he plans to rescue him out of the pangs of poverty. He informed Victor how he can arrange for his travelling and that whatever costs incurred will be recouped after two months of his arrival in the land of plenty. Victor discussed this with his mother who in turn approached her husband that they should sell one of their lands to send their son abroad. At first, the father was a bit sceptical. After much pressure was mounted on him, he decided to sell his land. He made about one million naira out of this, which was invested on Victor’s purported journey to paradise.
Chukwu truly lived to his promise by securing Victor a travelling permit. On arriving the land of destiny, Victor told me how he has hoped to compensate his father, whom he fondly refers to as my papa. However with Chukwu vanishing into the thin air after some while, Victor soon realised that a friend whom he trusted, a townsman with whom he has once shared the agony of poverty and more importantly childhood experience has deceived and abandoned him in the middle of the red sea. What to do and how to put smiles on his ageing expectant parents occupied Victor’s mind, so, the vigorous search through the uncertain for the certainty of a possible certain survival.
While roaming the street of the destiny land which so turn out to be a land of hustling, Victor met some Niger boys who were also on the street for the sake of survival as he is. These are able and tough looking boys who have fallen prey of the antics of Chukwu’s likes. Desperate to survive in a land where race and money matters, Chukwu chat up his colleagues on the ‘tarmac’ by asking them how and what they have been doing to survive in what he calls desert land. Oh boy, the gang leader replied, na scammer be the gist, powder work and arranging people as dem arrange you. Oh boy, na like this e bee, so was Victor told. How to do this? Just dey follow us.
After realizing that what was being implied is 419, drug trafficking and playing all sorts of dubious pranks to swindle people of their money, Victor developed cold feet. He told me how his mind became filled with the consequences awaiting him, if he is caught by the laws of the land. He narrated how he dreamt of ending up in jail and how disappointed his parents became. Will I end up like other members of the ‘tarmac,’ who have been killed or jailed when caught by law enforcement agents? Victor told me, he continued to ask himself all sorts of apprehensive questions. These questions, Victor battled to provide convincing answers but to which none existed. How do I get out of this jumble?, he kept wondering. He thought of trekking back to Nigeria and at a point, to declare himself asylum seeker, but soon realised no place for this in a land which despises some faces. What to eat, where to sleep and what to do?, were the ragging questions which paralysed the hopeless Victor. Victor told me how he cried ceaselessly and was shouting papa, mama, and Jehovah, wetin I do to deserve this wahala and suffer suffer since when den born me.
Bros, Victor continued in an emotionally tensed spirit and morally downtrodden mood, at last, I decided to leave the ‘tarmac’ boys. Unlike many others, Victor withdrew to face the challenge of life headlong by courting raw hardship, in a land where foreigners are burden. If the sons of the land are partly responsible for this stereotype, what do we say of our ‘tarmac’ boys who are transacting the mugun and atike (powder) business? Both have their blames, I suppose. Eventually, Victor chose to do Sanpaa to keep body and soul together. All this while, I could not look Victor in the eyes because I was simply overwhelmed as I cannot withstand the raw hardship he was going through. This was a hardship he paid for and travelled all the way from Nigeria to book a date with. If this has come at no monetary price, and without havin
g to board a plane, at least, the adrenalin of human compassion and the spirit of one soul, and one humanity would not have been crushing me. He bought hardship, travelled into hard times, and now lives in hardship.
In a low voice, I summoned a man-like courage to ask him, wetin you com tell your mama and papa. Bros, he said in cry-loaded voice, the true storri. He went ahead to narrate how his mother has been trying to raise money so that he can make it back home and possibly try his luck with the Alaba market. Victor ended his story by telling us that, na so e bi oh, na niger man dey put eim niger brother inside problem. To sey I know, I for no come. If I don use the money wey I use for travelling for my Alaba trade, bros, I for don make ‘em oh. I wish to help Victor as much as Gboye (not real name), my colleague also desired. But, all we could do was to wish him good luck and thank him for all he has done for us. We both parted ways as we boarded buses heading to different destinations.
The story of Victor is just one variation of how some Nigerians recruit and deceive themselves into the uncertainty of living abroad. Victor did not join the fray by tricking others who like him, will gladly welcome any saviour that will facilitate their sojourn abroad. What a sad story!, which passes for fraud, deceit and human trafficking. The second variation which completes the cycle of what Victor failed to do by joining the fray of recruiters, I will also demonstrate by narrating the story of one divorcee.
Owning to matrimonial problems, the woman in question joined the wagon of those single mothers, seeking greener pasture abroad. Little did she know that the crookedness and agony of fate was lurking around her! Her arrival was not as smooth as she expected because she soon became a victim of visa-racketeer. There is another version of the story which has it that, she got into this mess following a bogus attempt by a lecturer tuned student recruiter to fix things for her. What remains indisputable is that she paid dearly with everything that matters to a woman of substance, bodily and materially. She was not only violated beyond redemption, but also made a slave of flesh. Her case was so compounded and helpless, such that her international passport was confiscated.
One day, this woman managed to escape from the iron grip of her subjugator. So, she began another chapter of her life by looking for a comforter who will bail her out of this horrible travail. Luckily, she ran into one gentle man who is reported to have known her while in Nigeria. She summoned effort, yet tearfully, to chronicle her predicament to the familiar face whose support and assistance she hoped for. Forthwith, the man whose help was sought will be referred to as Kunlesi.
Mr. Kunlesi was so emotionally overtaken about the woman’s plight, to the extent that he fought back tears from his eyes. It was such a hopeless case of over-use and reckless abandon. To cut the long story short, Mr. Kunlesi pledged his assistance. With religiosity of intent and purpose, Mr. Kunlesi played the role of a comforter by securing this woman admission for higher studies. In effect, she regained her freedom from the control of those who have ‘liquidated’ her womanhood.
Instead of exploiting her new found opportunity for the acquisition of knowledge, she began the act of making monetary gain out of her new status. It did not take her long to study the terrain and get herself acquainted with how her studentship can be exploited to make a living. She began and soon perfected the act of arranging student visa by securing admission for prospective travellers from Nigeria. The admission which she secures at no cost, as reported, trades for around $1000 dollars. Realizing the profitability of her new fond business, she managed to secure her school’s certification as one of its special programmes’ recruitment agent. This boosted her confidence level and granted her business a measure of legitimacy. Her price tag then soared. She also managed to get such certifications from other schools. Since most of her clients are either school dropouts or non-students, she also provides them all the academic documents requisite in arranging them student-visas. She attracted strong patronage within a short time. One of the antics used by her in swaying her client is to deceitfully impress in their minds, the streams of opportunities that await them abroad. In the long last, her clients have always been ending-up being victims of misinformation, dupe, fraudster, trafficker, monster, and husband snatcher.
There was the case of one man, an herbalist, whom this woman arranged a student visa on the deception that he will get a good pay as tanker driver. The man who sold his property with the hope of earning 1500 USD a month met his waterloo on arriving his destination abroad. After his arrival and all outstanding fees paid his agent, our dear madam left for another recruitment trip in Nigeria. While in the dark regarding how to get job as a tanker driver, the old man approached those Nigerians with whom the woman resides in the neighbourhood. Baba was simply told that he was a victim of human trafficker and was advised to leave the country before his visa expires. When asked of his job in Nigeria, he said Herbalist. Didn’t you request the oracle divination, people enquired from the poor old man. He replied, we rely on others to do that for us because this is the rule. The man who was later mocked, eventually left for Nigeria. A number of people are still being recruited year-in year-out by this woman, some of whom end up prostituting themselves and others, slugging it out with the agony of fate…To be continued