To one who does not know, an Ethiopian proverb reveals, a garden is a forest. The last two weeks of my life will forever remain the most precious ones to remember for a long time to come. I spent them on the heels of the Netherlands Consulate in search of an MVV- an Authorization of Temporary Residence. The process began on the 3rd of July when I visited the Consulate on Gana Street Maitama Abuja to submit my visa documents. At the gate, I met the security men who greeted and welcomed me very politely. I was thoroughly amazed by this and for a second I thought this was a ploy or perhaps I was day dreaming or in a metaphysical trance of some sort. For the next few minutes I stood in awe; so to make good I was not in the wrong place I asked one of the guards again if indeed the door behind him led into the Netherlands Consulate.
Well the long and short of this is that, like a man who has been bitten by a snake I was skeptical of an old rope. Truth be told, the security men at the various embassies in Nigeria are very rude, overzealous, over ambitious and ill mannered. Thus going by all I had read in the past about them I didn’t expect to get that sort of treatment, let alone from the Dutch Consulate. The security men were polite, courteous and helpful. It is interesting to note that even after encountering the same security men on a few more visits to the consulate they remained resolutely consistent in their good mannerism. To top the icing on the cake, the staffs attending to visa applicants were no different; very polite, courteous, encouraging and helpful in a natural way.
Ben Okri, a great Nigerian writer once said, as writers it is our moral onus to ask questions of reality and so I am buoyed by this assertion to comment on the treatment meted out to potential Nigerian travelers by embassies in the country. With the treatment I got at the Dutch consulate, it leaves me wondering why it is a sharp contrast at other embassies. The treatment (very cold) I experienced at the British Visa Application Centre (VAC) earlier this year was not appreciated. Besides the fact my application was turned down for a flimsy reason, the guards lied to me “the systems were down” barring from entry that day; meaning I had to return the next day thus costing me more money and a huge inconvenience after travelling over 300km to submit the application.
I nevertheless took solace in the adage that, “in every disappointment there is a hidden blessing” and picked myself up gracefully. The experience however greatly changed my perception of Britain and the British and quickly decided against studying there and opted for the Netherlands; where student visas are arranged by the Universities and are almost 100% guaranteed.
It is sad but I have also heard and read of similar unpleasant; sometimes outright harsh treatment at other embassies including the American embassy (who seem to champion fairness). I personally experienced a not very nice treatment at the Turkish embassy when I went to submit a student visa application for my brother and they made us stand outside in the sun while they attended to us through a tiny window at the gate. It is saddening the manner in which these embassies treat Nigerians as if we are not humanly equal. It leaves me wondering, are some humans more equal than others? This question should serve as a food for thought for the Ambassadors back there and I would like the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs to look into these issues even though he travels on a diplomatic passport. What goes around comes around you know.
The crux of this essay is to bring to the fore; that certain little details, facts, experiences such as these leave lasting impressions on people. I must state matter-of-factly that I made my choice to study in the Netherlands instead of Britain due to my experiences and that of many of my friends’ even though it would have been cheaper. Statistics show that the UK makes over £23bn a year from International students and with the visa policies they have in place, I believe this figures are sure to plummet because Nigerians contribute to this huge earnings but are refused students visas for the most trifling raison d’êtres. The same applies to the Americans, so European countries are grabbing them and the huge revenue they bring. Globalization erhh!
An African saying goes like this; “A hunter cannot scare a monkey with a dead baboon” thus prospective students have started looking elsewhere to pursue their education so as not to be disappointed, discouraged, scared and emotionally wrecked by the British American Student Visa Refusal Alliance (BASVRA). Ask the Turkish Cypriots, Malaysian, Ukrainians, Dutch, Irish universities how much they are raking in.
To draw the curtain, we can only hope that hope which is the pillar of the world would provide us with a way out problems such as these, so that we the youth (leaders of the future) can be better exposed and equipped with the skills and know how to develop their countries and salvage them from what Gordon Brown calls the greatest evils of our time; hunger, disease, famine, illiteracy, inequality.
For that will be the perfect treatment.