Monday, January 18, 2010

The Airport shuttle…I mean, shuffle

Have you taken a trip to the States (or any country) lately? Were you harassed at the airport? Well, Nigerians are usually harassed at airports...But was there anything “extra-ordinary” about the latest standard of harassment you received?

Mohammed Ahmed- Shaibu, the coordinator of Youth Leadership Network (YOLEN); an initiative that focuses on Moral Values, Leadership, Integrity and Community Development through education and youth participation had what anyone will call “an awful experience” when he flew in through Amsterdam to Detriot International Airport on the 3rd of January.

As usual, on arrival, everyone went through immigration for their entry to be documented. Mohammed was asked by the immigration officer why he was visiting the States, which he responded to. The officer requested to take his thumb prints and proceeded to enter his passport data for the record. However, when he saw Mohammed’s Nigerian passport, he called for backup.

Mohammed was taken aside for further interrogation. “I was led into one of their rooms and for the next 45 minutes, I was asked series of questions by Five US immigration officers. Unfortunately, they were not satisfied with my response and asked if I had any luggage. While searching my laptop bag, they almost read all the notes in my notepad and even asked questions relating to them.”

Afterward, they requested to search his luggage and he led them to the luggage cart. “You'll not believe that my clothes were scanned one after the other. They saw my LEAP Africa certificate, and asked what LEAP Africa was about. I also told them about my community initiative in Lagos, as well as serving as a camp leader during summer camp (showed documents to prove it).”

They asked if he heard about the Nigerian who attempted to blow up the Delta Airline airplane at that same airport, and Mohammed replied in affirmative. They asked how Nigerians back home felt about it--that was the opportunity to sell Nigeria’s good image. “Nigerians are loving and affectionate people. Even in hard times, we will never want to take someone else's life--it can never get to that extent.”

But is Mohammed on the run from the Nigeria he speaks so fondly about? He replied “If I wanted to stay abroad, I’d have done that many years ago. I know that Nigeria is more blessed than any of these countries. We only need to get it right and that'll be all. If you think you can get a better life in another country, think twice! It is not always rosy on the flip side of the coin. Even though everyone has a reason why they are out of the country, staying back and not returning to Nigeria when your stay expires is criminal! I see a new dawn for Nigeria and Nigerians because there is light at the end of every dark tunnel.”

culled from the Nation Newspaper, Sunday Edition- Jan 24th 2010.

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