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