The Effective Use of Your Country’s Consulate Abroad

Lady Ijeoma Bristol

Lady Ijeoma Bristol

In June, I arrived in Lisbon with a German Schengen visa that was to expire on the 17th and I was speaking at the SWITCH Conference on the 16th. After speaking at the conference, my visa would expire and I would be in Europe illegally. I was very worried. My heart began to pound. If there is anything I hate, it’s not having a valid visa or overstaying my visa. I was worried so I called the organizers of SWITCH Conference. I told them about my situation. Just right after the conference, they left Lisbon and deserted me and my visa situation. The text  I got was: “Let us know if there is anything we can do for you.” I laughed. Of course, there was something you were supposed to do for me. You needed to arrange for an extension for me. I was left to face my demons alone.

I had to turn to my embassy. I sat, frozen, infront of my laptop and thinking of what to do. I sent an e-mail to Ambassador Ijeoma Bristol, the Nigerian Ambassador to Portugal. Within some few minutes, my phone began to ring. I knew she was the one. I picked. She laughed on the phone and said, ‘Did your people abandon you?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Come to the embassy in the morning and let the consular officer find a way to help you.’

On the next morning, I went to the embassy and the consular officer, Mrs Abimbola Wonosikou, a very lovely woman who attended to me like I was a President began to take care of my problem; she made me sit comfortably in her office while she prepared the documents I would take to the Portuguese Immigration Department. When she was done, I took her signed letter to the Immigration and within two hours, a new visa was ‘stickered’ to my passport with my fine image. The Immigration Officer even asked, ‘How many months do you want?’ Out of humility (and fear), I said, ‘One month is okay. I just want to leave.’ And she issued one month. I hoped then I had asked for a one year visa.

Portugal would be the first country I visited 5 times in one year. I was there in January, May, June, July, August and December. I’m in Portugal now, for a poetry night organized for me, to read in a bar. The moment I arrived in Lisbon, I was invited by the Edo community to attend the Edo Day and it was an amazing experience. I was told that the Ambassador would love to see all Nigerians in the ‘residence’ on the next day. I joined them on the next day, although I came late. It is one of the best experiences I’ve had, with diplomats and representatives of Nigeria.

Back in 2010, I was refused entry into Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Immigration Department, but Consul-General of the Nigerian Consulate, David Obasa and many celebrities in Hong Kong went ahead to petition the Hong Kong Immigration Department and the Director, Mr. Chan was forced to issue my visa immediately and I found myself in Hong Kong, where I had lots of speaking engagements. By the time I was in Hong Kong, my welfare was taken care of by the consulate; I was hosted at the ‘only revolving’ restaurant in Hong Kong by the Nigerian diplomats. Each time I want to return to Hong Kong, the embassy makes sure they process my visa themselves. Yet, I haven’t done anything to deserve this special treatment.

The point I’m making here is this, it is not so with the Nigerian embassies in other countries. I had met Ambassador Charles Ononye in Budapest and he was a very nice and humble man. Few weeks later, he was moved.  In France, it is a different experience. I did not feel the connection. There is no Nigerian embassy in Czech Republic. It is difficult to get into the Nigerian embassy in Italy and I am sure many people have horrible stories to tell about Spain too, but it seems that things are changing. Nigerians in France feel rejected by their embassy. In India, it is one of those horrible experiences we can always have. The diplomats don’t care.

So what do I do? I turn to Rani Malick of the Indian embassy in Nigeria for anything. I can’t ask anything from my embassy, because they will chase me away. “Look at this rogue with dada.”

When Ambassador Ijeoma Bristol hosted Nigerians in Lisbon, I listened to the stories of Nigerians. Criminality among Nigerians in Portugal is low, because they have an Ambassador who stoops so low to try to solve their problems. This may be hard, but a woman with such heart needs to be praised. It doesn’t matter what tribe you are from, as it is the case in India, where the diplomats are bent on helping you based on your tribe. Lady Bristol has also sponsored the trip of a sick Nigerian lady back to Nigeria, to make sure she was well again. Just on the Edo Day, she had come to the venue earlier than the organisers and spent 2 hours waiting for the events proper to start and it didn’t start on time; she had to leave. These are the things one should admire in such lady who just resumed office.

During her appointment as Ambassador, critics, like Reuben Abati had written her off, based on personal instincts, but with what she is doing at the moment, she is proving all critics wrong.  Nigerians in Spain may have started moving to Portugal because of Lady Bristol’s motherly love.If all diplomats could emulate Lady Bristol, by understanding the human predicament, maybe, we can have a group of Nigerians abroad who will start having the interests of the country at heart.

There are many reasons, however, why Nigerian representatives abroad don’t like to associate with their nationals. Most Nigerian citizens who have ended up in Tihar Jail in India never get visited by their representatives; Americans and Canadians in jails in India always get visited by their own people, wanting to know a way out. It is a pity that they don’t know that they have nothing to lose if they visit their nationals who are rotting in jails in foreign lands. If other embassies open up their doors just like Lady Bristol, we might just have a few Nigerians staying outside Nigeria illegally and making terrible moves.

It is also true that most Nigerians abroad engage in things that put the embassies in trouble. Last time, a member of the Nigerian embassy in Czech Republic was shot to death by a Czech man who has been duped by a Nigerian via the internet. He was so angry that he went to the embassy and rammed bullets into whoever he could find in the embassy. The embassy was shut down. These are their fears, I understand, but there are ways to stop these things from happening and that is by getting closer to your citizens abroad.

Honestly, there is no big deal in trying to solve the problems of your citizens abroad, because, simply, as I believe, they are the reason why you are where you are.

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Onyeka Nwelue  is a Nigerian novelist, short story writer, poet, filmmaker and journalist. He is recognized by critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation. His novel is  The Abyssinian Boy, which critics hailed as ‘out-of-the-box’. He won the 2009 TM Aluko Prize for Fiction and Ibrahim Tahir Prize for First Book. He has been nominated thrice for the Creative Artiste of the Year at the Future Awards. He lives in Prague.

28 Comments on The Effective Use of Your Country’s Consulate Abroad
  • Meredith December 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Abeg make una siddon one place. Wat r u looking for up and down? Stay In your country and make it work please.

    • laide December 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      lmao…like seriously?..dats ur solution! ..smh

    • AA December 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      You are small minded and silly.

    • sweetie December 22, 2012 at 1:07 am

      poverty mentality

    • zsa zsa December 23, 2012 at 3:17 am

      Seriously??? the writer made it clear he has speaking engagements in different parts of the world, or did you miss that part? and did you even bother to read his accomplishments at the end of the write up? ughhh..

  • Sugabelly December 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    “It is also true that most Nigerians abroad engage in things that put the embassies in trouble”

    Excuse you. MOST Nigerians abroad DO NOT engage in criminality. The vast majority of Nigerians that are abroad are not only there legally, but are law abiding students and workers.

    Only the MINORITY of Nigerians that are abroad break the law.

    • Nice Anon December 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Thank you!

      Also, sounds like she’s praising them for doing what they’re employed to do.

  • BlackAngel December 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    What the hell was the point of this article?? To thank the people who helped her? Then write them a thank you note and keep it going because nothing she has said made any sense. So upon all these travelling you are doing, what have you gained. Where are you now located? Abeg e, on to the next.

  • lola December 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    i second sugarbelly…how can this man say most nigerians….seems he has now started deceiving himself that he is now a foreigner and only sings the ambasador’s praises cos he wanted extention visa and got it…

  • Joyce December 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    @Meredith, the world is dynamic and everyone cannot be in Nigeria. People travel to different countries due to their career, hobbies, etc. There is no excuse for the horrible treatments Nigerians receive abroad from their fellow Nigerians at our consulates. If they are not ready to do the job, let them go because there are millions of our graduates looking for jobs. Anyway, I don’t blame them, anything goes in Nigeria. No one is held liable for their actions even those in government.

  • tgirl December 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Well lady Bristol, Alot of people like me will this agree that these embassies help. Few month s ago, I had to renew my epassport to enable me continue my job and boy what those guys in London did to me, Iwill never forget. I have never been so humiliated and insulted

  • Bola Sango December 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    what is she on about?

  • Dlapikin December 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Great Mr Nwelue! It is good to give praise when deserve. African diplomatic missions are such a nightmare that when one is trying we must encourage them so that they don’t get thrown in the bunch with the many bad apples…

  • tgirl December 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    The way Isee it,you must be popular or pull strings to be treated properly,this is a deviation from the topiic but I hate when people claim these embassy staff are good when in reality they are only nice to celebs or people who have connections and choose to use it.

  • AA December 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    It is true , the Embassies and Consulates are changing. We had a very positive experience with the consular officers in NY

  • Style@atl December 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    My dear AA the consulate in NY and ATL are far better than that in London,I hv lived and experienced all of’em and the London consulate can never be good and thats d truth…overflowing toilets,no heating when UK is a constantly cold place,small and tight location et al.

  • Obi December 21, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    ATL? Please don’t mention. HORROR!!! Get your info wrong and force you to pay for it. New York? Much better than ATL, but not the greatest. The receptionist/ secretary/ whoever she was literally told me she had to hang up the phone because she had things better to do than listen to me ask questions. Literally. I had called to ask whether the standard procedure for processing certain documents because the way ATL was doing it was not yielding positive results. As soon as ATL left my mouth, she shut me down even after pleading with her to let me complete the question. I thought she was joking, as soon as the question left my mouth and she told me she couldn’t waste her time with me, the lady hung up. Some of us without connections have no one to turn to, therefore remain at the mercy of those employed to help us. I’ve paid twice for my passport, and we had to drive 11hrs to get to ATL. Had I known, I wouldn’t have bothered.

  • Obi December 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    *… what the standard procedure …

  • mimi December 22, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Er, onyeka nwelue is a guy with dreads guys, not a she. Likes to boast too. Smh

  • whatever December 22, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Immediately I read ….. “Within some few minutes, my phone began to ring. I knew she was the one. I picked. She laughed on the phone and said, ‘Did your people abandon you?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Come to the embassy in the morning and let the consular officer find a way to help you.’ “…… I stopped reading because she must have known you on a personal note else like other Nigerians, your case would have waited its turn which is most likely one month after the expiration of your visa. Mschheew

  • MoWaGbeborun December 22, 2012 at 4:58 am

    …. And this guy is a writer? This is apoorly written piece; not only is the grammer poor, the writers choice of words and the logic/argument is weak.

  • Creamy_Amie December 22, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Seriously, I don’t understand.

  • oma December 22, 2012 at 9:59 am

    All I cud get in dis article was d name droppings. Please spare me. U did not for once even mention anything concerning the topic. Ok we get it. U hv bn to all these countries and we r stuck in our villages. Next!

  • Turayo Tijani December 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    The one in DC…dear goodness it was embarrassing. The place was a mess, the workers arrived late and offered no apologies. There were no directions as to who was supposed to go where. It was just embarrassing.

    From this write-up, it is clear that if you don’t have some kind of connection or prestige. This guy is not the average Nigerian abroad. The average Nigerian does not have pleasant encounters with Naija embassies abroad. It would be nice if other ambassadors could be like Lady Bristol. But that’s not the case.

  • jyde December 30, 2012 at 4:55 am

    So thats what those buildings with dunces in suits are,embassies.
    Silly me,i thought they were just extensions of alaba market.
    Dont blame me,THE TRUTH HURTS.

  • Babaijebu July 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I reside in Portugal. Spare me all the bullshit you wrote. She invited us to her house and hosted us. Didn’t the money come from the federal Government? Did she even spend one-tenth of the total amount ?Abeg, park well joor.

  • ijawmanfromrivers July 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    My experience from same embassy is a sweet one. Never knew Nigerians could be that nice. Nigeria embassy in Lisbon is a good example of how to represent Nigerians. God bless those running that embassy.

    • prince January 27, 2014 at 12:19 am

      I also reside in Portugal didn’t she treat you well, when all Nigerians were invited to her house and host them?? Almighty God we bless her and her family…… Amen IJN

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