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Fresh from Nigeria

After about six months in travel, Dennis finally ended up in the UK. He got a job with Tesco, offloading and unpacking deliveries during night shifts.

His, has been a long tale of travel. The journey started in Sapele, a town in Delta State in Nigeria. He first travelled to Benin City in Edo State where he met a certain Waziri. He paid a certain amount of money to Waziri, who gave him a brown envelope and a telephone number of a person to contact in Kano. Dennis travelled using the night bus to Kano. Immediately he arrived Kano he contacted Isabella. They met up in a dimly lit apartment in the suburb area of the city. He was connected to a certain Mallam who guided him to the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. At the border Dennis began his journey to Europe via Libya. He had heard so many tales of torture, deaths, dehumanizing circumstances but that didn’t deter him. He kept saying that his future laid in Europe and not Nigeria. He had tried everything humanly possible  after graduating from university with a 2.2 in economics to secure a job, but he couldn’t. He went into petty business and it didn’t work. He did not have the financial muscle to push the business agenda forward. He did not know people in government who could help him. He did not have god fathers. He was from a poor background. The whole family had thought that the moment he graduated, he would be able to secure a job to help alleviate the suffering of his poor mother and take care of his younger siblings. Life did not seem to smile pleasantly upon him. Anywhere he went, it seemed as if there was a barrier that constantly wedged between him and success.

He decided to try out the religious houses. He went from one church to another. He went from one spiritual home to another. He went from Imam to another, one priest to another. Then he decided to try the gods. After all the gods know all things. The gods are always hungry. They need to be fed, so the first thing is always food and drinks for the gods. Now, in the 21st century, the gods have assumed a new dimension. They have gone digital. They accept things digitally, like POS payments, bank transfers, foreign currency and even flamboyant liquors like Bailey’s and Hennessey’s.

Dennis heard all kinds of tales during his period of consultations. He could write a book on consulting the gods. At one stage he gave a serious consideration to the thought of writing a book on consulting the gods, the only snag being that, he didn’t have the wherewithal to execute the project, so he thought.  When you embark on such a quest, you must be ready for what you will hear. Different mediums proffered different solutions to his problems. It was always one family member to another being the cause of the stagnation in his life. How does he break this curse? He wanted to move forward in life. After his national service ten years ago, he has not worked for a single day. sometimes he forgot that he was a graduate. He decided to settle down for menial jobs just to be able to meet his daily needs. He was working as a brick layer in a construction site in Sapele where he got paid daily.

While working at this site, he overheard that the owner of the house was a rich man based in Europe. The rich man was on a visit to Sapele. He needed his house ready so that he could move in before he went back to his base in Europe.

The site supervisor Mr. Megidda, was conducting Alhaji around the site. Alhaji Suleiman was like a god to the supervisor. Obviously! He was the one putting food on his table on a daily basis. He had come from Europe to inspect his property. All the workers were working with such zeal and enthusiasm. The supervisor Mr. Megidda had warned them, if by any act of omission or commission, Alhaji Suleiman cancelled their contract or did not remit their payment on time, as a result of catching a worker slacking on duty, such member of staff should consider himself or herself dead.  In light of this, you can only imagine the zeal at which the workers were all working especially when Alhaji was touring the site.

First it seemed as if Alhaji had paused to examine a portion of the building under construction. Could he have detected an error or was he rather impressed at the quality of finishing? His face betrayed his emotions. The dark shades he wore did not help matters.

Three workmen were busy at this portion of the house. None dared to look up, or to express any sign of idleness.

“Papa Dennis” he bellowed.

Dennis looked up while his two mates carried on working.

He removed his shades and called again, “Dennis Dennis.”

“Suleiman, papa Suleiman” Dennis chanted back.

They rushed into each other’s arms. The supervisor and the workers were all surprised. No one dared as much as calling him Mr. Suleiman. He was always addressed as Alhaji or oga, a term for bossman in Nigeria.

The co-workers of Dennis never realized that Dennis was a graduate. He didn’t act as one and they all treated him as one of them.

“What are you doing here?” Alhaji Suleiman asked.

“Well what does it seem like I am doing?” Dennis retorted.

“What has been happening to you?” Suleiman asked. “You should be working in Shell or Chevron or one of the big multinational companies. You guys were the smart ones at uni.”

“I should be. But here I am working as a brick layer in Alhaji Suleiman’s mansion. The twists and turns of life eh.”

8pm that night, Dennis was sitting with Suleiman in his hotel room and they were catching up on life after graduation, several years down the line.

“Dennis, I totally understand where you are at and how you feel. Like they say life is unfair. I have had my fair share of life’s misfortunes and travails. Until I left the shores of Nigeria sevearl years ago to Europe. I am now based in Amsterdam. But I operate businesses in Malta and Spain. I am in the process of actually retiring to Nigeria to open up new areas of business. Business is a little slow these days but we thank Jah.”

“What type of business do you do?”

“I ferry people to Europe for a fee. But the borders are so tight now in Malta, Italy and Spain, and it is also very risky especially at the Libyan end. The business has come under a lot of spotlight recently that’s why I am branching out.”

“Before you branch out, you have to smuggle me into Europe Sule.”

Three months later Dennis had made it across the rough terrains all the way to Spain. He saw hell, conquered it and moved on. It seemed like the gods of sojourn were with him. He watched his several co-sojourners die and become food for the various creatures in the ocean and desert. He saw how those who were captured, were dehumanized and made to lose their sense of thinking. Yet, he managed to survive these odds and gain momentum in his journey to Europe.  From Spain he managed his way to Norway and finally ended up in England where there was no language barrier.

At his new work place, everybody was calling him Mike. He was genuinely confused as to why the new name Mike. He didn’t know whom to ask or talk to as he was living illegally in the country. His name wasn’t that hard to pronounce. Just D-e-n-n-i-s.  Could it be that all the new people who arrived UK were given new names? Then he found out that other people were calling others Mike as well. So he concluded that Mike is the name that people call workmates in the UK.

“Hello Matey, what time does your shift end?”

He looked around and there was no one else around, so it must be him that was being addressed.

“I am sorry my name is not Matey but Mike. Since I arrived everybody has been calling me Mike, why have you changed it to Matey?”

Rob laughed and laughed till he couldn’t contain himself anymore. “Listen mate, we call the folks we work with mate. It’s not Mike.”

That is what happens when you arrive fresh from the continent.

Uwem Mbot Umana©2018

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18 Comments

  • YEMI ADEBIYI Posted June 14, 2020 1:31 pm

    Dennis saw the testimony of a less brilliant colleague (through wealth and affluence) who made it big by working abroad. And when the opportunity to travel abroad though same man came, Dennis grabbed it and braved all odds to cross to Europe through the Sahara route. It was not unexpected by a man who had given great efforts, but unsuccessful, to get meaningful employment in his homeland for ten years.
    He expected everything to go on perfect as he secured a job in Britain but he started to realise things might not be completely rosy with the loss of his cultural identity.
    I like how the story captured the job seekers situations in Nigeria and the imagined confusion in fresh from Nigeria Dennis at the foreign workplace.
    An appropriate and funny closer that turns a reader to want to probe further…

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:48 pm

      Thanks Yemi for your response. Another analytical comment from you…keep reading, keep writing.

  • Joel-levi Omotayo Posted June 14, 2020 7:25 am

    The writer, being able to explain that not all graduates have opportunities after graduating, being the smartest in the campus or graduating with good grades does not guarantee a job even in your own birth country really worked well. Graduates need to know that there is no 100% guarantee of getting a job after finishing school so they should graduate with a ready mind of if I don’t get a job what else can I do? If Dennis had had that mindset he would have stood a better chance in making it. I like how the writer also portrayed that in Nigeria people still believe that someone is responsible for their misfortune by showing in Dennis’s visits to numerous churches, Imams, and consultation with the gods.

    A twist was introduced in the story which was unexpected – Dennis’s reunion with his friend which brought him an opportunity. This shows that in life, many times we don’t have to give up, opportunities can come from unexpected places, there is always light at the end of the tunnel if you keep pushing. And also in the light of when it seems like there is no hope, God has a plan for you. I really liked that.

    The writer painted a gory picture of the passage to Europe. I could imagine what Dennis went through- Going through the rough and long journey to Europe, the thin chances of making it ,the high chance of being killed, dehumanized, eaten by beast in the ocean and all, still, Dennis fought through and made it to England, his attitude and zeal really caught my attention and inspired me.

    I feel the total negativity of the country Nigeria in seeking a job or starting a business is too discouraging. The writer portrayed a totally ‘no good’ country which to me is not all so true. A chance of making it should have been somehow stated even though Dennis may not have gotten the chance. This would have created a more balanced perspective, after all even in his job as a bricklayer, he was making a living honestly.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:33 am

      Thanks Joel for writing in. I like all the angles to the story you have commented on. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Lilian Eseme Posted June 14, 2020 1:09 am

    1 what work Ed well in this story was that Dennis is a graduate and he found favour in the sight of his old school friend. Who helped him travel to out of Nigeria as he has always wished for inspite of the predicament Nigerian graduates face after obtaining their 1st degree, NO JOB ANYWHERE.
    2 I like the fact that inspite of him being a graduate, he was still determined to do a menial job. Instead of involving himself in dubious life style and get quick ventures to elevate his Family from poverty.
    3 what caught my attention the most was that him becoming an illegal immigrant of that country with all what he went through his journey to get to that country, he is still at a great risk. Because, anybody can set him up which may result to Deporting him back to Nigeria. It is also very absorb , that there was no mention of him in contact with Suleiman who helped him get to the U.K.
    4 I think Dennis should have asked Suleiman to help him get an apartment with someone he knows, who can help him and put him through on how life and things works out in U.K.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:35 am

      Thanks Lilian for your comment. You have brought out some important angles to the story. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Marcus-Philemon Omotayo Posted June 14, 2020 12:45 am

    The story shows how unfortunate most Nigerian graduates are after the long struggle to acquire knowledge they are left with no jobs at all.Thos was the case of Dennis.
    However meeting his old friend Suleiman turned things around for him to fulfilling his dream through his boss though it was rough he arrived at England.
    I liked the fact that Dennis was working for his friend and his friend Suleiman recognized that he was an intelligent young man who deserved a better life thus giving him a way to get to the UK.
    This was what caught my attention,Dennis,holding on to his dream of getting to the UK even with the so much problems on the way, he pushed till it came to pass.
    I didn’t like the fact that we were not told about Suleiman and Dennis ever communicating in the UK and how Dennis’s life eventually turned out.we were kept in suspense.The writer should have given us more information about Dennis’s life in the UK.
    An interesting story.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:36 am

      Marcus thank you for your response. Your responses are getting better and better. A very well done to you. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Bamidele Mary Posted June 13, 2020 6:39 pm

    This story depicts the actual picture of the average unemployed Nigerian graduate on the lookout for greener pastures in the white man’s land, and the hardships, twists and turns encountered in the process.

    Considering the widely believed notion that there is “no job” in Nigeria, a good number of us have decided that no good can come out of our Nazareth, hence we tend to look out for opportunities in “the abroad” so we look down on the possibilities abiding in our country and would rather risk our life hustling to get onto international shores.

    Dennis could have directed all that energy, time, money and effort, he exhausted on landing an international gig, on building a startup business from scratch! He studied economics for crying out loud, he should have not be put down by the lack of a lucrative job and hustled a bit to get enough capital to get his own thing going for him.

    I laud the writer’s ability to use Dennis as a metaphor for intelligent, yet unemployed graduates who still suffer for lack of a nice white collar job here in the country, when the smart thing to do is putting all the knowledge they’ve acquired all their lives to good use by building their own empire; creating jobs rather than waiting on the government or their well-to-do friends to hand them pennies.

    The “there is hope outside Nigeria mentality” really is becoming alarming, and the irony here is most of these grads who should have established themselves as business moguls if they put in the work while in their fatherland, end up as a random black guy wiping the white man’s shoes, “way to go mate”.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:37 am

      Thanks Mary for your piece. What do you think Dennis should have done? How would he have established himself as a business mogul?

  • Aimée Posted June 13, 2020 10:29 am

    What worked well was how the writer was able to portray the life of 80% of Nigerian graduates after school. Imagine someone graduating with a good grade and can’t find a single job in this country. This situation makes many of us leave our countries of residence in search of greener pastures. In the case of Dennis, he tried everything possible and obviously, nothing could bring solution to this problem. You would think someone with a 2.2 in Economics should be working in a big company or at least, an organization you would be proud to be identified with but Dennis ended up as a bricklayer on a construction site. When he came in contact with Alhaji Suleiman, who shared with him how his hustle through life brought him to his stage of success, Dennis saw this as his opportunity to leave this country and without hesitation, he took action.

    What I liked the most was the determination Dennis had. He knew deep down that his future wasn’t in nigeria but Europe and despite all he faced, the disappointments from the economy, family members, religious and traditional help and even the death, torture and dehumanization that accompanied these six months of travel, Dennis did not back down. He was determined to reach his goal and indeed, he got to Europe. This goes to show that, life isn’t a bed of roses, it’s what you make of it that matters. Dennis was from a poor background but he refused to settle for less and did all he could to make something of himself. Once a person can set his mind to achieve something, with the right help, it would be possible. Success doesn’t come cheap, we need to give up things to achieve it.

    Being in a new environment, Dennis found himself without a name, without an identity. One can only imagine. The writer could have told us more on his experience in Europe and how he even got the job.

    An interesting piece!

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:40 am

      Thanks Aimee for your response. Would you like to use your sense of imagination to write a story about Dennis in Europe? It doesn’t have to be a lengthy story, it could be in the form of a flash fiction. What do you think?That would sure make an interesting read, I bet. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Ewoma Senu Posted June 11, 2020 10:17 pm

    This story is a great piece
    I love the reality of this story, it speaks of the twists and turns of life, Dennis was the smart one in university days who would have thought he will one day be a brick layer in Suleiman’s house.
    In a nutshell this story tells how one can be at the top today and tomorrow be down.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:41 am

      Thanks Ewoma for your short and crispy comment. Very powerful. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Ossang Posted June 11, 2020 4:02 pm

    This is a conversation between an Oga and his boy
    Oga:Egbe please go and buy me blead
    Boy:Oga this is the bread
    Oga:not blead that they eat buy blead to shave beard beard,accent at times can be very misleading,it takes time and inculturation to adapt.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:42 am

      I like this drama script adpatation. Well done Ossang. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Josue Posted June 10, 2020 6:02 pm

    The twist where dennis and Suleiman knew each other was well placed however it wasn’t well explained. The reality of the story is what I love best about it. All in all its a great piece

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 22, 2020 12:42 am

      Thanks Josue for your comment. I am glad you loved the story. Keep reading, keep writing.

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