“That’s a pipe dream!” I retorted at Bernard’s optimistic opinion about Nigeria. That was on a really hot evening in my scantily furnished room where Johnson, Bernard, Prezzo and I lamented over our unpalatable status quo. Perhaps the sultry weather exacerbated our already depressed moods. Putting blames couldn’t stop, at first it was the government, we bemoaned bitterly the issues of corruption, unemployment, inequality, to mention but a few; as though those in power would readily hear our cries. We went on saying the country’s misfortune was caused by habouring too many witches and wizards, and thus got us all jinxed, how ludicrous of us! Crystal clearly, I remember Johnson shouting rather annoyingly in pidgin “ No be my fault, na my Papa wey born me for this accursed land”. He seemed to be the most disgruntled of us all, but hell No, he wasn’t! I was only being reticent, he couldn’t be half as frustrated as I was.
After about half an hour of our tireless, fruitless lamentations we found some peace in believing that we weren’t just destined to make it in Nigeria, after all we had mates that rode oppressive, success-provoking jeeps already. No one would have thought otherwise anyways, being a second class upper civil engineering graduate who had sought job for four years but to no avail, made me feel pathetic. Although I had had few undeserving stints at the seaport, a block industry and garment factory, they all offered me lilliputian income that barely afforded me good food. I knew my family members had lost considerable amount of hope in me, even though this was never voiced out, actions spoke louder.
Saying I was unhappy would be under-descriptive, I was utterly disheartened, yes I was! Suicide could have been an option, but where was the nerve? As I lay on my bare foam- [one of my most valuable asset] with my face glued to it and my legs flexed, trying hard to insulate myself from my friends’ grumblings which I was already getting tired of. I had taken enough alcohol to get me inebriated but it only kept me pretty calm. After heart-sinking thinking, an idea came up; one that was going to leave an indelible mark in my years of human existence.
The thought was that I should leave Nigeria. But how, when? The questions beclouded my mind with feelings of impossibility. Granting visa to an individual without prospect like me was something hugely burdensome. Even if a miracle happened and I was granted a visa, ticket fare was financially unattainable for me. My 5 years savings would hardly accrue to half the ticket fare.
During my stint at the shipping port, I worked for the white man in cleaning some of the vessels in which oil was kept. At such points in time, the thought of smuggling myself with the ship never occurred to me, as this was done only by the intrepid desperados. Choicelessness brought me to resort into such despicable means. But I had no other hope of getting to my greener pasture.
To my progress, I had made quite a number of friends at the seaport which I owe to my friendly disposition and I strongly believed one, If not more would be instrumental to my illicit emigration.Without further waste of time, I discussed my intentions with Boniface the chief steward of the ship. In about two weeks the ship was to leave for Spain. I tried hard not to say goodbyes because I wanted my intentions to be as clandestine as possible, I only suggested the idea to Johnson who showed outright dissatisfaction at it and I never bothered coaxing him. Time flew incredibly fast and the two weeks was soon over. I was one of the first persons to board so as to be out of sight. The steward hurriedly led me to the starboard where drums of oil were kept. On reaching there, I met another die-hard like me, kado by name. Of course this gave me a bit of relief, having a partner-in-crime makes it easier.
The first three weeks of the voyage wasn’t bad at all, we had food to eat twice a day as brought by the steward or any of his sub-ordinates.
Things began to go awry on the twenty-fifth day of our voyage when the captains had to go round for inspection. The steward having heard this, came to fore-warn us. Consequently, we had to hide somewhere they wouldn’t reach, otherwise we were going to be caught and most likely thrown into the sea.
Even though the practice of throwing a person into the sea was declared an offence by the then government, the ruthless white captains wouldn’t adhere since the government authorities wouldn’t get to know. We had to go to the propeller section of the ship, we weren’t oblivious of how extremely dangerous this was, but we’ll better try that with the hope of a survival than being pitilessly thrown into the sea. Even though I was prepared for the worst, the speed at which the propeller spun got us so frightened. Making matters worse, there was no place to sit or rest one’s back owing to the waterlogging;more so the propeller section was also of impenetrable darkness. We had to hold on to a horizontal pole that travelled from one end of the ship to another and we tried to hold on as firmly as possible, the slightest slip-off would cause us to be severely blown over by the propeller. Hunger was a serious problem, but this was subconsciously relegated to the background as a greater challenge of not falling from the pole faced us.
As the days went by, hoping to arrive soon and free ourselves, our pain threshold was being surpassed and the water level seemed to increase. Kado couldn’t bear it any longer, and involuntarily, his hands slipped. I Instantly heard the sound of the propeller change from “woo woo woo” to ‘whew whew whew” ,caused by Kado’s flesh obstructing the movement of the blade. I knew it had happened, the propeller chopped him so badly, worse than the way a poor Yoruba woman would share a small piece of meat among a family of seven. I smelt blood, I tasted it. It was gory! The propeller was cruel, it couldn’t be more unforgiving.
At this point in time I knew death was an inch away; I cried and cried until tears in my lacrimal glands got vexed and stopped to roll down. Even though I had never really taken my spirituality serious, I believed in life after death, fear coerced me into asking for forgiveness of my innumerable atrocities. Only if I knew we were just 14 hours to arrival, I could have begged Kado to live, as though it was his choice.
As soon as the ship disembarked, Boniface came down to the propeller to check. He asked of kado and I told him the sad news, he didn’t seem to be worried, was he used to seeing people die? All of these ran through my mind. Before we left the ship he gave me some pieces of clothing so I could appear as if I was a worker, contact of a friend of his in Spain and some money. I got ashore and rather surreptitiously walked out of the seaport.
On getting out everything felt different, even the air breathed in! It was absolutely fresher. The ground wasn’t what I was used to, this one was clean, everywhere was superbly scenic. I was ineffably joyous I finally made it to Spain, but I had to swallow my erupting joy lest I call for suspicion.
I had barely walked a stone-throw when I saw this good-looking young man, he was a black man . He wore a pair of blue jeans and he walked rather swaggeringly with his earpiece tucked in his very oval ears. I approached him for some help as to getting to the address the steward gave me. His response was very ready and he told me to come along with him. Mesmerized by this uncommon hospitability, I followed him to his car, parked some metres away. As he drove, he asked me questions about myself and why I liked Spain, and I made sure I promptly answered, he reciprocated by introducing himself, even though I never asked him to. I felt really lucky seeing someone else that was going to be of help.
To my utmost chagrin, this supposedly friendly chap drove me to the Spanish immigrations office. The moment I was bundled into the office, I realized he was an undercover immigration officer who was one of those assigned to apprehend illicit immigrants that found their way out of the seaport. My heart sank, the disappointment was colossal, and the betrayal was inhumane. Why was it done by someone of the same colour?
As if I was a liability already, I was to board the next flight to Nigeria which was in two days time. I was deported, I couldn’t even brag of bringing home a nice pair of shoes from “obodo-oyinbo” land. I shared my sad story of how my desperation did me no good with people. I wanted a place of endless opportunities, a place of infallible aesthetic sensibility; where I thought they had gutters that were like aquariums.
This was written by Emmanuel Daniel and sent in by Adeniyi Marcus. You guys are awesome! Thank you!