COMING TO THE UK

AUTHOR : Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani 

Somebody stomped on my foot while another person dragged at the collar of my brand new polyester shirt. I felt my feet being hoisted off the ground; my face became trapped in a damp, bristly female armpit. Nevertheless, I pressed on through the horde of morning breath and adrenaline-soaked sweat without stopping. All of us had one common goal. Everybody wanted to be first to cross the partly-opened gates.


‘Behave yourselves, behave yourselves!’ the potbellied security man howled. But the gusto on his face did not correspond with the rage in his voice. He was living the plebeian’s dream — the opportunity to exercise some morsel of tyranny. ‘You people shouldn’t annoy me this morning!’ he continued, howling even louder than before. 

The crowd paid no attention to him and continued surging forward like a plague of rats being lured by the Pied Piper of Hamelin’s tune. Seeing their high commander so defiantly ignored, the more gaunt security men descended on the crowd with curses and whips. Yelps of pain sprang up from the crowd in rapid intervals, like firecrackers on a New Year’s Eve. Half-heartedly, we attempted to restore what had just a few seconds ago, been an orderly queue. A few clever ones exploited the commotion as the perfect opportunity for them to steal a place or two ahead of their original positions.  

I had arrived as early as five o’clock that morning to queue up in front of the vast British High Commission building on Walter Carrington Crescent in Lagos. At the time, there must have been at least one hundred and fifty other visa-seekers waiting ahead of me. Many of these pilgrims had camped there since the previous night. The American Embassy at the other end of the crescent must have had about five hundred people gathered in front of their own building at that same time of the morning. But at least, the Americans were kind enough to provide semi-adequate shelter and seats where their customers could feel at home. Never mind that about ninety percent of those people seated so comfortably now, were soon going to depart with their hopes of living in God’s Own Country squashed like lice between the fingernails of the remarkably swift American Embassy clerks. Without even being given enough time to recite their expertly-composed fibs about what they were going to America to do, whom they were going to see, and whether or not they intended to return home. After standing in the unfriendly Harmattan draught for hours, finally, at noon, the gates to the British High Commission compound had been thrown open to allow us into the visa-processing section of the building.  Read More>>>>

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