Hello Nigeria, and at 50 you’ve really grown up. I would actually be quite proud to chaperone somebody these days or encourage a western colleague to go to the embassy and get their visa or in my case a passport.
Nigeria is going all computerized with its passport and visa system. I was informed that my old Nigerian passport was now obsolete and I had to go online to get a new one. Here we go I thought; let’s navigate these shark infested waters.
Can I really trust my intimate data and details to a Nigerian platform in the light of my own previous experiences and the myriad examples of IT website 419 (Nigerian code for advance fee fraud) con merchant chicanery? I had no option; my uncle had died and I wanted to accompany the family as we transported him home to be laid to rest in the family compound.
I was surprised and pleased as to how easy the process was. I got online, the procedure was self explanatory; codes, and reference numbers were given for the online registration and the receipt document to say that I had paid. OK, I thought, that’s the first hurdle over with – but now for the dreaded embassy.
Chaos in the bad old days
In bad old days, going to the Nigerian embassy was the quick sharp shock treatment needed to engage the unsuspecting individual with portent of what is to come for the person who travels to Nigeria without kith, kin or compassionate friend on the ground. There would be a queue (lose sense of the word) outside 9 Northumberland Street (passports) or 56 Fleet Street (visa) with people banging on the doors with frustration to get in.
One could stay there all day and not enter the crowded halls or choose to wedge a foot in the door at a first shaft of light and bring dash (money) in order to gain privileged access … then stumble past the gate keeper into the throng of people inside only to find out something was wrong with your paper work or the photo was not good enough or the postal order was configured wrong. You’d be chucked back out to the madding crowd to try your hand on another day
A world of a difference
This time was soooo different. View by appointment only, papers shown at the door, ushered into an air conditioned room with fellow compatriots on one side, visa seekers on the other, smart official looking young men and women calling the would be traveller in serial order half dozen at a time to a busy but professional inside office where the paper work is carried out.
Not enough money or photo too small? No Wahala (no problem.) There is a business center equipped with photo booth, cashier till et al to facilitate the transaction and provide you with a receipt. Brilliant! And then I was given a document with ID numbers etc., asking me to return after a given date and my documents would ready. It was a fantastic experience and I was so proud to see that Nigeria really is trying and working, that at 50 we as a nation have finally reached an epoch in our history that can be a window for others.
A world of a difference – for all of Nigeria?
This augurs well for the future of finance and tourism. Nigeria is a beautiful country with beautiful people. If the delegates at the top of the tree (socially and politically) start to get it right it will percolate through the echelons to the bottom. I know the hardworking, industrious Nigerians (the many) will take the opportunity with both hands to create a country that we can be proud of; a country that will be the gate way to Africa and role model to the many countries in that vast continent.
I’m sure we have a long way to go but what I have seen in the last few weeks gives me hope that we are not a million miles away from getting it right. It has been said that Rome was not built in a day. No but it was built; and I can see the last 50 years have not been wasted. Nigeria is well on its way to greatness.