Excuse Me Mr. John Campbell, I Was Denied An American Visa!

By Adeola Aderounmu

Mr. John Campbell in faraway America is probably feeling the pain, frustration and disappointment that several thousands of Nigerians face monthly in Nigeria and elsewhere.

He was denied an entry visa to Nigeria because his application did not meet the stipulated requirements and he did not appear keen to fulfill the questions raised about his planned trip to Nigeria.

I am aware that Mr. Campbell wrote a book that did not go down well with the Nigerian Authority. He had predicted the fall of Nigeria latest 2015. I have no grouse with Mr. Campbell’s prediction. There would have been no Nigeria today if Mr. Lugard and his co-travelers did not loosely weld the different nations together in 1914.

It is therefore a matter of historical calculation that one day things will either fall apart or to their rightful places. It will take men and women whom the gods want to destroy to continue to deny the way Nigeria is heading. The outcomes of the recent elections in Nigeria are too remarkable to ignore.

The story of biological evolution taught us that remarkable changes can be extremely slow, but they do take place. This is my take on Nigeria today.

As I was saying, Mr. Campbell should learn to follow the right procedures and he should not in any way think that he is special. It doesn’t matter that he was a former US envoy to Nigeria. He is human like the rest. The US embassy in Abuja and the US State Department are looking into the matter and they have protested the visa denial.

The question now is: how many protest letters shall the Nigerian Foreign Ministry or the Nigerian Embassies around the world write on behalf of the thousands of Nigerians who have been mistreated and denied entry visas to several countries around the world?

Let me begin with my own story. In 2002/2003 I was a UNESCO scholar trying to find solutions to the malaria problems in the world. I was living in Stockholm and had spent my summer holiday in London that year.

As the autumn gave way I had 2 important assignments to fulfill. One was to present a paper in Lagos, a sort of update on my research. The second was to attend the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) meeting and make a poster presentation for one of my research papers.

To cut the story short the option of travelling to the US was truncated because I was denied a US visa at the American Embassy in Stockholm. The reasons are the same old jargons; I am single and have no ties bla- bla-bla rubbish.

I have no State Department to turn to, so I wrote a strongly worded letter to the American Embassy in Stockholm. I expressed my dismay about their shocking decision to ground a UNESCO student on the Scandinavian Island based on such flimsy excuses. If the US Embassy in Stockholm cares to know, they can check my update at the Swedish tax office-it still states clearly-S-I-N-G-L-E.

When I write about my wife in my essays, it’s for the sake of simplicity. No long thing. The US embassy and other embassies around the world should learn how to respect people’s marital statuses and separate that from the purpose of visa applications.

Apart from family ties and employment, one of the several silly reasons for denying Nigerians entry or travel visas is predicated on the overblown drama surrounding some mischievous Nigerians. The truth is that Nigerians who engaged in swindling, forgery and other sorts of misdemeanors are quite negligible compared to the total population of Nigerians.

In a more realistic comparison Nigerians are contributing to the economic development of several communities and countries around the world. Such contributions are not appreciated because the Western Press dominate the airwaves and chose what to propagate. But we are not deterred; we continue to help the world through our commitments and dedication.

It pains when honest and innocent Nigerians applying for visas are lump both as economic migrants and fraudulent minds simply because they sought visa to the US, the UK and other places. Every application should be treated on its own merits. There should be clear distinctions between the roles of the embassies in foreign countries and the immigration officers on home soil.

Mr. Campbell became a victim of what I have always argued about. There are rules for visa applications which have relegated the use of common sense and discretion. Almost all the embassies in the world continue to live by the rules and that is where Campbell’s application fell flat.

It is very easy to argue also that he was denied a visa to Nigeria because of his negative comments about Nigeria.

On discretion and common sense, Mr. Campbell, in his capacity as the former US envoy to Nigeria, would probably still have been granted a visa with 6 days’ notice instead of the prescribed seven days. Unfortunately rules remain the standard for all embassy staff and visa officers. They live by it.

I wrote a story here about the French embassy denying an entry visa to someone who has probably travelled around the world, is on his way to Switzerland and only needed a Schengen visa to get to Sweden to visit family members. The rule says he must go to the Swedish embassy.

There are scores of provoking responses to my blog post on this issue and sometimes I just needed to cool off and accept that people see things from different perspectives and it is going to be impossible to impose common sense and discretion on people’s minds. People will never come to see things the same way.

Every concerned person will live with his or her own frustrations on this matter.

But as long as Nigeria last, Nigerians must begin to tell their own stories. I have written a lot about my disappointments in the Nigerian government. It is a failed government that has given rooms for so many opportunities for the promotion of negativity including maltreatment of Nigerians in embassies in Nigeria. In the midst of rife corruption and collective citizenry nonchalance, the situation persists.

Even as I try to write about other things, it is very hard to ignore the states of things in Nigeria- the primary source of our collective embarrassment.

In all I have tried to stay clear of praise worshipping because I know the interpretations that come with such. But those whose jobs it is should start promoting the likes of Fashola of Lagos. The rest of us-while appreciating the work done and contributing our quota-should never fail to let them know that there is still more work to be done. The goals are to lift our standard of living and both the value and dignity of our lives on all fronts.

To close, Mr. Campbell must be feeling the same kind of disappointment that I felt 9 years ago. Sometimes you feel that you should get something because of who you are, but you don’t. That is life, you can’t have it all. By protesting the American Embassy in Nigeria and the US State Department is protecting and looking after one of its own. Those who rule Nigeria, while it last, need to start taking care of Nigerians. That care may be an antidote to Nigeria dancing on the brink by John Campbell

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The Day I Was Arrested At Frankfurt Airport

Adeola Aderounmu

I’d wanted to tell this story since December 2010 when I was arrested by the German Police at Frankfurt Airport.

Sonala’s article stating MMA as a metaphor of a Non-Governing Governance gave me the needed impetus.

I have a butterfly knife that I love so much that I always carry it with me. It serves as a utility tool. Last December I took it with me to Nigeria. Somehow it ended up in my backpack where I also have the basic things that my children need.

We left Nigeria on Dec. 28 after celebrating Christmas in Lagos.

We went through rigorous checks at MMA. They turned everything inside out and we even went through the scanners and all their cancer-inducing machines.

You can imagine my shock when I was stopped at Frankfurt the next morning and ordered to step aside. The police were called immediately and I was interrogated and made to give a written statement.

They found my butterfly knife in my bag. They have a functional scanner there in Frankfurt. Or maybe they are not looking at just the human physiology like our brethren back at MMA.

They told me that I could be required in the court of law and a notification will be sent to me about that. I have waited since December 2010 but it appears the case was not pursued further. Hopefully this essay will not stir it up again.

The officers took my knife and wanted to retain it as an exhibit. I guessed they will throw it away. I told them that I really cherished the knife and that it meant something to me. They were a bit surprised but respected my views.

They said I can only retain the knife on one condition. I have to go out of the waiting hall and check in at Lufthansa’s desk. To save my knife it became necessary for me to check in at a point of transit. I took one of our baggage with me, put the knife inside and checked it in.

Even though I had the status of a “potential terrorist” I was still allowed to exercise my rights and to choose what I wanted to do with my knife.

We had luck that there was ample time to our connecting flight. I was still able to fly with my family. They were waiting for me at another point but they could see me. The arrest was something I had to sort out alone since I was the one carrying the bag.

If a butterfly knife on the side pocket of a backpack cannot be detected at MMA, I could only imagine the possibility of a terrorist being able to blow up the entire airport in these days of micro- and nano-technologies.

I remembered one day in 2002 when my things were taken from me at MMA. I was not given any choice at all. They just “obtained” me like that. They took my things and I left Nigeria with such a sad experience. The story is the same today. When I leave Nigeria these days I travel light.

There are several sad things about MMA that Sonala didn’t mention. I trust that he wanted to save Nigeria from some serious embarrassment.
MMA should actually have been converted to a local airport altogether. On developmental scale, MMA is on the same level as Iyana Ipaja because Oshodi is far better these days.

There is nothing about MMA that fits into international standard. I was embarrassed that my family first’s visit to Nigeria took them through this point of entry. There was nothing to explain because they have read many of my essays.

The traffic in Lagos almost made us cry and the work rate of NEPA not only made us deaf temporarily, it also ensured that my kids found a special toy in Nigeria-the torchlight. How they loved it!

I have also wondered about the crowd at the airport. Is it possible to divert the crowd to Onikan, Adamasingba or National stadium so they can provide the spectatorship that our football games are longing for?

I was afraid I could be mishandle by the thousands of uniform men at MMA and that was the reason I didn’t take any picture at all. Too many angry faces looking for preys!

It is as if all the security men in Lagos are based at MMA. The variant of uniforms will make a good thesis for a post-graduate student.
Someone should take the offer so that the rest of us can understand why thousands of uniformed people are stationed at an overcrowded point like MMA. Is that the meaning of double wahala?

There are so many waste materials, big and small, different forms and shapes, electrical and others littering all the premises of the airport. The interior of the airport is too stuffy, hot, disorganized and haphazard. It pains the eyes.

It took more than 2½ hours for us to retrieve our luggage when we arrived that fateful evening that eventually turned to night at MMA. I had to tell my cousin to take my wife and children home while I waited for the remaining luggage. My brother in law it was who kept record of the time. I’m happy he didn’t faint in the waiting process.

There was one funny but sad situation also that same night.
One of our luggages was not on the major conveyor belt. We were told it could have been sent to the small or extra conveyor belt. Bu alas!
They can’t find the guy who has the key to the conveyor. It was a sort of crazy-looking conveyor that led directly from the outside to the inside and it is used for transporting wheel chairs and sorts into the main waiting hall. After a long wait, they found the guy with the key.

When we got back to our base in Europe my brother in-law politely told me that it has taken just 20 minutes since we arrived and we are already driving home. What was I supposed to say?

He didn’t have to tell me about the absence of crowd or uniformed people. He didn’t have to say the rest. I’ve been living with it for nearly a decade.

The level of security at MMA is appalling. The long wait and long queues are surely pretenses that someone or some people are working hard. It’s all nonsense. The things that take you 5 minutes at other airports around the world can take you several hours at MMA. If you have a heart disease or you are hypertensive you should either avoid MMA or take loads of medication with you.

The sad stories about MMA are inexhaustible.

I was also frustrated that I have to fill some forms as I entered Nigeria even though it state clearly on the top that it is for foreigners. And every time I gave the form back there was something I didn’t do right. I was turning brain-dead on the queues and I can’t believe that officer expected me to write my full address on that form. Who knows there the forms are heading?

As far as MMA is concerned it is a serious embarrassment to Nigeria. To call MMA a disaster or a disgrace is an understatement. It is not organized at all. No one should hope for a terror attack at that airport, the fatalities and consequences would be devastating. Let’s not imagine it. MMA is the worst airport I have been to. It is what you get when you have a Non-Governing Governance.

Two True Stories From Pakistan

Adeola Aderounmu

There was once a liberal governor in Pakistan in the state of Punjab.

He wanted peace to reign in his domain and he wanted to promote the spirit of tolerance. He wanted to promote the right of children and women. He did his best.

One day a woman was sentenced to death, charged with speaking blasphemy against the holy prophet of Islam. But before she would be killed the governor decided to do a private investigation into the allegation and the judicial process.

He discovered that the woman was falsely accused. She is a Christian and one of the 2% of the followers of Christ who are scattered among 180m people.

The governor went on air to make a statement that he has found out that the woman was falsely accused and that the case against her may be dropped.

In addition he also said that he will be looking into either adjusting the law that allows people to be sentenced to death for blasphemy or have it removed altogether.

In the midst of this religious imbroglio the governor made a visit outside of his territory. He went to Islamabad. Then as he was about to enter his car to return to his hotel room he was shot 29 times by one of his personal security aides. He died.

The man who shot him was charged to court. As the trial was about to begin, thousands of Pakistani made their way to the court yard to praise the murderer. They throw roses and beautiful flowers at him.

They praised him for killing the governor of Punjab. Many of them mentioned that they would have done the same if they had the opportunity to kill anyone speaking blasphemy against Islam and its prophets.

There was also a young girl who was not born a Christian. Somehow she met with the Christian faith, became a Christian and decided to attend a bible college. She was very shy but studious and for two years she studied the scriptures and became versed.

One day she travelled back to her roots to help people who have been displaced by flood. As she helped them she spoke about The Christ.

People asked her many questions and she provided answers to all of their questions.

Some men did not like what the young woman was up to so they threatened her. They would kill her if she continues to spread the word about Christ.

She called her bible teacher who told her to leave the zone and report back to the district where she has attended bible school. She obeyed.

However as she rode on the back seat of a bicycle to the train station, unknown to her, an ambush has been laid. She was shot at; she sustained injuries on her legs but was lucky to have escaped the murder attempt.

In pain she got to Lahore and was treated. She is alive to tell the story.

She didn’t want her bible teacher to visit the remote place in the south of Pakistan where she has worked as a volunteer and shot. The man of God wanted to make a police report and to see if they can start a judicial process to seek justice.

In the words of the young woman “I have forgiven those who tried to kill me because they don’t know what they are doing”.

These stories touch my heart and they remind me of the recurrent killings in parts of Nigeria especially in the Northern Province. Some of the religious and or tribal killings do not make the news. When they do, they are no longer headlines. In short they have become part of our existence.

We now accept that it is “ok” that innocent people be murdered in certain parts of Nigeria. Life has become meaningless and lawlessness is now an acceptable pattern to us. Or how many perpetrators have been arrested in Jos, Bauchi and Borno?

Just to let sleeping dogs lie, I try to refrain from discussing or writing about religious matters either in Nigeria or elsewhere. It’s too sensitive. People get stirred up when religion is debated or reported in a certain way. It’s puzzling because of rigid opinions.

Yet it is so unbelievable how evil has spread in the minds of people representing all the religious groups around the world.

Around 1992/93 I wrote an essay for an English course at the University of Lagos. It was titled Religion and Morality. I argued that religion from a moral point of view has helped to shape the world. That argument probably belongs to the dustbin now.

No doubts I can now add that religion has also changed the world order forever. Intolerance based on religion (along with social injustice) has come to stay as a parameter that has ensured that the world is totally unsafe for all.

Religion has ensured that peace is elusive to humanity.

Acknowledgement
I wrote down these stories after listening to a preacher from Pakistan. The stories are real.

SO MANY MOTHERS’ DAYS….becoming boring..!

Adeola Aderounmu

There are several mothers days that I am not totally confused. I have seen two mothers day aready in 2011. Now today the 8th of May is the mothers’ day in the US.

I have also just learnt that there is a mothers’ day on May 29 in Sweden.

Now that is about 4 mothers’ days that I know.

I think this is an issue the United Nations or UNESCO can take up.

All the dates should be analysed and a common date should be agreed upon.

Why should we be celebrating mothers’ day on several dates of the year? What is the point? It is very boring and distasteful to know that several countries celebrate mothers on different dates.

Let’s come up with one common date and make it a big one.