By Louis Kelechi, Sr.
It was two months of vacation in the United States, the first of its kind for mea after serving for 28 years in my organization.
I was happy that I was leaving the US. I was also sad that I was coming back.
In America, you are free as far as you do not break any law, even if you entered the country illegally. You are free to roam, do legitimate business, and be gay or lesbian or transgender. You are free to do every other thing except to break their law or to kill others or yourself.
Not so in Nigeria. In Nigeria, you are not free even if you don’t break any law. The Police man or state thug would hide in a corner and watch if you will break the traffic. If commuters are smart not to break it, they look for an innocent and unsuspecting victim. Knowing you did not break the traffic they will jump into the road and pounce on you like lions.
They did it to me somewhere in Ilupeju in Lagos. They said, ‘we stopped you, and you were moving.’ By the time you know it, they have opened the car in a commando style and entered. Their captain in evil would shout, ‘Oya, take him straight to the station.’ As you are trying to defend yourself, they have brought their receipt booklet and slam you with a fine of N15,000. You look at them dressed in mufty you wonder if they are the agents of State or a mafia. The night before that day I had dreamt where someone had grabbed my wallet and ran. Here I saw it being played out by these children of Satan.
That is Nigeria. You are careful you don’t break the law but you are not free. I was glad I was free from these for these two months.
However, I saw another thing in the US. In their freedom I saw that they are bound, that they are not really free. In church, they become itchy on their seats after a while. They want to leave. They had left their food to cook in the microwave. They are bound by their microwaves.
They are bound by the credit card system. They are bound by the system not to discipline their children. You are free to practice your religion but not to tell someone to convert. A lady walked into an office and accused a Christian for saying God created man. The man was fired. In tears, he packed his things and left.
Not long after, the manager that fired him died mysteriously. After that, the owner of the company died. They called the man to come back but he had moved on with his life.
So, in America you are free to break the law of God, not that of the state. This is slavery in a so-called land of freedom.
In Nigeria I am not free. In America I was still not free. I was happy that I was leaving. I was sad I was coming back. I was torn between the two.
I admired the infrastructure in America. They build roads as if it is an art. You see beautiful architecture, not just in buildings but in their roads and in their environment. They do not only pave and mark the roads, they would stop, and design the sides of the roads. The mountains and the descents add color to the beauty of the roads. A four hour trip becomes like an hour flight.
As you drive, you see the wonders your tax is doing. What you would have used for vehicle repairs is transferred in the building of the road. After all, there is no loss. It is even a gain.
Electricity works. You pay for it but you see it. In Nigeria, you pay for what you do not use. I came back and saw a bill of N16000 a month.
No Air-conditioning. Just a small sized freezer and refrigerator. Yet the power is erratic. Sixteen thousand Naira extorted from me through estimated billing system by Ikeja Electric. Though the meter is there it is not read. Neither is it being replaced by any Prepaid meter.
So, it was with mixed feelings when we were being checked in to a Turkish airline flight back to Lagos.
To board into the plane at the George Bush International airport the Police mounted guard with a menacing sniffing dog. The dog had ‘examined me and found nothing’. The Police were not satisfied. They called me aside and grabbed my passport, and seeing I was a Nigerian, asked how much dollars I was carrying. I guess the dog is not trained to catch money launderers. I told them. I was not the kind of people they were looking for. They let me go.
Flight from Houston to Istanbul was fine. Waiting almost 24hrs was not funny. Unlike some other airlines, the airline does not take responsibility for lodging or feeding even if you are to wait for more than a day to connect to another destination. If you are to find your own lodging, you must pay for a transit visa to move out of the airport and come in. For us, the 23 hours of waiting over night seemed like days.
It was the waiting till 3pm the next day that was the tough one. Food and water extremely expensive at the airport. A small bottle of water was $3. A rip off. No internet access.
On departure, they put the check-in at the last gate, 706. At the call of the flight we had to trek from Gate 309 that we were to the place, like walking from one end of the airport to the other. On check in, they had to subject us to putting our our hand luggages to see if it can fit into a cabin, and yanked them from our hands to check them in. I even thought they were going to charge us for them but they did not.
Apparently they gave us a smaller plane, which on take off it’s brakes were making a frightening noise. Surprisingly, it lifted and bore us for the six hours flight to Lagos. God is indeed great! We landed safely.
That happiness was short-lived. At least, we were back in the land of “suffering and smiling.” As we came out from the plane, I was jolted to fear when I saw some airport staff with torch lights, leading us out of the plane into the building. No electricity. What a welcome!
By the time, we got our luggages out and we left the airport, it was a little to 12 mid night. As I sat quietly in the car, I prayed quietly that no man or police would stop us. No man did but the Police tried to, I spoke to my friend to drive on but praying that they would not cause a scene. If they stopped us in that lonely place, Satan may put it into their hearts to rob us after searching us. My friend hearkened and moved on. Yet through lonely road and curves we got home safely. Our God is good indeed!
America wonder, Nigerian miracle; Between Houston and Lagos
By Louis Kelechi, Sr.