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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Value those Passport Pages

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As the year draws to a close, you find people taking a stock of what they’ve gone through and overcome in the course of the year. Plans begin for what I believe is the most commercialized season in the year.  Short term businesses spring up; hamper sales, holiday packages, a deluge of aso-ebi sales. Tis indeed the season to be merry and thankful.

Thinking about the things I’m thankful for and amongst the top 10 things is the fact that I was able to get the ‘data capture’ for my drivers’ licence done.  For those who have no idea why that in itself is deserving of an entire mention in the things to be thankful for, then you probably have not heard the tales of woe that accompany trying to get the Nigerian Drivers’ Licence.  Very few things fill my heart with dread like having to get certain things done at government offices.

You have to be ready to be Nigerian (respectful, deferring and flexible religiously). If you’re going to an office in Lagos, you should be go armed with a few respectful Yoruba phrases, smile and don’t assume an air of being more knowledgeably superior.

My friend, Rose, went to the Nigeria House in London without being armed with any of these tips. She filled out the requisite forms and arrived there in the afternoon.  She narrated how she was yelled at and asked who she was speaking ‘foneh’ for. Then she was asked to walk out of the building because she was not respectful.  After having to wait outside because she didn’t give the security man the respect he asked for, one man came along and asked her to ‘just beg him, so that he can let you enter’.  Then she was asked to go back home and ask for a letter of consent from her husband which would permit her apply for a passport using his name. She showed them her marriage certificate and was told that it was not enough.  The idea of going back home (outside London) and having to come back to do this entire dance all over was not appealing. By the time she left the high commission, she reminded herself of why she had not been back to Nigeria in 10 years.

Her experience is one of the reasons why a lot of people say they prefer to get their Nigerian passports in Nigeria. However, the situation in the Lagos passport office is not any better.  If you try to get it done via the straight and narrow path, you might never get your passport. So you go through the legalized touting system where the sum of 20,000 (plus or minus – depending on your guy) is paid. The cost covers the official fees and the myriad of signatures your file is supposed to have just before you get to the stage of thumb printing and getting a retina scan.

While you wait to be called you are required to sit outside in the sun (it’s fine, what do you need to be comfortable for?) If you get there in the morning, you are enjoined to the praise and worship/prayer session. With fervent intensity, you are prayed for – prayers for visas and successful travel following the acquisition of this passport. Surely, no one in their normal state of mind is seeking a passport for identification purposes. That is why you have ‘business centres’. Your passport is not called ‘International’ for you to sit within the shores of Nigeria. No! Simply unacceptable.

Anyone who has gone through the ordeal of trying to get a Nigerian passport can testify that there is a certain ‘bad eye’ you use to look at those people who just stamp on the pages willy nilly. There’s a strong urge to say ‘Ahn ahn.. see space in that page na! Don’t waste the pages.’

I think I have bored you guys enough for one morning. Please share some of your fun stories about getting Nigerian passports/visas and or drivers licence.

Have a beautiful week ahead. I’m already having one because I just got this done and I’m really looking forward to reading the comments.

Peace, love & cupcakes.

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You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.

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