By Adeola Aderounmu.
John sat down at the waiting hall of Charles de Gaulle International Airport to take a rest. His breathe had become shorter and shorter but his heart slows down. He fell into a slumber. He never woke up again! I remembered my plight at this same beautiful airport two years earlier and before the famous collapse of some parts of it. I was stranded having missed my connecting flight to Lagos but the airline took the responsibility for my expected situation by lodging me at Sofitel. How could I have missed the clumsiness of the ticket booking that I was offered by my sponsor? I was not expected to be able to make the connection. It was a marketing strategy for Air France. Not only did John not make the connection to Sweden or to wherever he was heading, he died waiting. Of course the circumstances are different and I don’t know the airline he flew with.
The first time John left Nigeria was in 1989, the same year that I left high school. He bought a fake Syrian visa at Oluwole for 3000 naira but it was not detected at MMA (maybe he bribed the officials). Terrorism had not become a major threat in 1989 so I wasn’t surprised that the fake visa was undetected by the airport officials of the foreign countries he passed through. In 1989, who would have cared what you are about to do with your life if you were heading to that part the world? When he told me that he worked and earned decent living in Lebanon, Syria and later Hungary, the only thing that came to my mind was one of my history lessons in 1987. My history teacher taught me many things some of which I thought were very funny including how a cripple won a (revenge) war in one of the old empires. He taught me Wolof-Jolof story which I thought was the origin of Jollof rice. What caught my attention most was when Mr. Osuoyah told us that some people in some parts of the world in 1986/87 were seeking permission to eat humans. They were running out of rodents! So, for John to tell me in 2003 that he was in that part of the world making money in 1989 or 1990 was a huge surprise to me. Was my history teacher lying, now 20 years ago?
John was a little shy of 40 years of age when he passed on to a place where no one has ever returned from. Osaze who barely knew John told me that they must have followed him from home; they killed that boy from Africa, he said. When Mike broke the news to me, he pretended (typically Nigerian abroad) not to know the John that had been rumored dead. How many Johns did Mike knew in small or greater Stockholm? For the next few hours as the news filtered in from more angles and the image of the John became clearer, the most significant hypothesis was that if a man was coming from Nigeria and died in France en route to Sweden, they must have followed him from home.
Truth is constant, not only does it not change, the taste also persists. It is bitter. This was a young man who transverse the Middle East and Eastern Europe for more than 12 years before finally entering Sweden. If he went back home during those years, the society would have deemed him a failure because in his eyes and according to many of us, he would not have met the expectations of the people. A stroke of fate brought some luck; John got married and eventually settled to life in Europe. He could now go home or even visit the UK if he so desired. It seems that many people are keen and desperate on financial success as a substitute for a life of contentment. Doing menial jobs or working normal jobs 8 hours a day does not appeal to business minded individuals of all races. Even non-business minded Africans are also in a hurry to accumulate wealth and impress people at home. Eight hours a day job is almost abominable to persons on the fast lane.
We have had some friends we will never see again. We have friends that we will never know what became of their desperate and undesirable exploits. They just disappeared into thin air! We have friends who we have dined with but never really knew what they had under the table cloths. As a matter of fact, we have brothers and sisters we wished we could talk over to the patient side of life. Yes, that side that bears pains and trials. John, Femi and I visited an Irish pub in Stockholm 2 weeks before he went to Nigeria. We drank though it was a cold afternoon. You can’t wish for too much sunlight in Sweden. John’s wallet was fat enough to sponsor the drinks on that day and he was not happy that Femi wouldn’t drink blaming his Asthma for it. As usual, we talked about our struggles and our concerns for the future. In our minds it was imperative that we took the harvest home, to Nigeria. I had no inkling that John had been in and out of the country on several occasions often to Nigeria and back or that he was even planning a trip home soon. He did not even mention it this autumn afternoon as he had his last sip with Femi and me. But I knew he always talked about living in Holland again.
I called Femi and told him the bad news coming from Charles de Gaulle and he couldn’t believe his ears. Femi had only been in Sweden for 2 months and he had the privilege to meet John just that one time through me before his last misadventure. After months of speculations and guessing, the truth gradually filtered in on why John sat, slept and never stood or woke up again. It was not the carelessness of the Airport officials. People can take naps at the airport while waiting. It was not fatigue per se and it was not due to anything like they followed him from home . John had swallowed wraps of cocaine and the thing had backfired. Who will complete the houses that John started? Who will John impress with his wealth or anticipated riches now that he is gone?
There are many questions. So, when I keep reading about people swallowing stuffs and been caught at various destinations worldwide, I imagine but I cannot comprehend the risk. Is it really worth it? No one would ever believe that it was their turn for misadventure. A person who is not caught can die anytime from ill luck. Isn’t that scary enough? Oh well, we mourned and buried our friend. Every time we gathered for one event or the other or just basking in the rare summer heat, we always remember John. He was a funny guy and he said many things that made us laugh. But we have moved on with our individual lives. John’s wife too had since moved on with her life. Wetin concern oyinbo?
Dedicated to John. May the soul of the departed rest in peace.