Humiliated abroad, rejected at home: Pathetic, painful world of Nigeria’s deportees

Published: 30/Apr/2016
Source: The Punch (Nigeria)

Seated on a fragile-looking plastic chair, metres away from where a handful young men treated themselves to cold bottles of beer and spicy, peppered meat enticingly heaped on a ceramic plate, LA, as he is fondly known around his Shitta, Surulere, neighbourhood, a sprawling suburb in the heart of Lagos, was completely cut off from the realities around him that sunny Tuesday afternoon. Decked in a long-sleeved khaki shirt, a pair of black chino trousers dotted with cream coloured butterfly design and a brown suede boot to complement – about the best in his wardrobe at the moment – the compelling aroma of the delicacy and the tempting sight of chilled liquor yards away was not enough to arrest his attention – he was deeply lost in thought. At 53, life has dealt the Kwara State-born several deadly blows, inflicting on him, sharp, excruciating wounds in the process.

The fifth of 14 children born under the roof of a polygamist, Sadiq Ibrahim, as he is originally known, had huge dreams while growing up as a little boy on the streets of Shitta, one of Surulere’s most popular neighbourhoods notorious for illicit drugs and a combination of small and monumental crimes. It is an environment where dreams are nurtured and or extinguished in equal manner. But Ibrahim, by virtue of his humble background and the hardship he had faced growing up, was desperate to stand tall. He wanted to be a civil engineer – after an uncle he had seen pluck fortunes from the vocation. For several years after secondary school, he horned his skills taking up different positions at construction sites in preparation for a big future in the industry.

However, in the early 1980s, the search for greener pastures took him to Germany where he stayed for a while before crossing over to London, United Kingdom around 1989. Two unfruitful years in the Queen’s land meant the Kwara native had to return to Nigeria in 1993 to refuel his energy. In 1999, after years of patching up, Ibrahim finally found his way to Los Angeles, California, one of the largest cities in the United States. Over the next five years, the city, from where he got his now famous moniker – LA – would be his home. It was dreams gradually coming true for a struggling young man battered by years of hardship occasioned by deprivation. Everything was going on smoothly until one day in July 2006 when suddenly things came crashing.

“I was at a friend’s apartment in New York one afternoon when suddenly I heard a knock on the door,” Ibrahim recalled with nostalgia as he shared his touching story with our correspondent who traced him to the small drinking joint in Surulere earlier in the week. “Two police officers had come to pick and hand me over to the immigration because according to them, I was not permitted under the law to visit any other state yet aside from California where I lived. I had left Los Angeles two days earlier after some guys who racially abused and molested me threatened to kill me. Before I knew what was happening, I was already in a detention centre,” he said.

With no prior record of any wrong doing in his time in the country, Ibrahim, through a lawyer, had hoped to secure a fair hearing before a panel that looks into such matters. Having paid taxes while working for a number of reputable firms in the city like the Bank of America, Wells Fargo and telecommunications giant – AT&T, his expectations of coming out of the case unscathed were well-founded. But in a twinkle of an eye, every such hope fizzled into thin air, halting a promising journey just before it had fully throttled off.

“I was bundled into the next available flight to Nigeria after my appeal failed,” he said, looking forlorn. “I wasn’t even given the opportunity to take any of my things with me. My Hummer H2 SUV, my cash at home and in the bank, my clothes, shoes, electronics, gadgets, everything I ever worked for in the US, I lost it all. I was thrown into the plane like a common criminal. I never believed such a day could come where I would be so humiliated. In fact, I was going to be chained in the plane but was lucky the security officers that watched over me were lenient. Before I knew what was happening, we were already in Lagos.

Read further on Punch website.

Themes: Deportations
Regions: Nigeria
Year: 2016