I curled up in the engine room of the ship. That was the best space $790 got me. The heat was killing, if I didn’t know better I’d have thought I was on my way to hell, but no I just wanted to cross into Italy by all means possible. I had hoped that fortunes would smile on me after several years of hustling in the fatherland but that hope went bleak after a close friend swindled me and relocated to China. We were supposed to deal in exporting of agricultural products from farmers in 4 states. I called him one afternoon and that was it,
“The subscriber you’re trying to call is currently switched off.”
At first I thought it was a momentary thing, until 3 weeks passed and I saw a picture on my friend’s Instagram page. He was standing at the arrival section of the Beijing airport. After days of bombarding his DM with messages, he finally replied,
“I am sorry bro, I’ll sort you as soon as I settle down.”
I waited endlessly, I guess he never settled down. While I waited I tried my hands on other business but none was productive. I gave them my best shot but I had lost belief. I always feared for the worst, expectantly. My friend’s betrayal drowned all of me in negativity. I tried, to fail only, subconsciously.
Slowly, I eased into depression. Frustrated, I gave up on myself and blamed it on Nigeria’s underdevelopment. I cursed our leaders daily but I was aware I had lost it; the will, passion too. Being the first child didn’t help, I conceded to pressure and helplessly became irresponsible. I was ashamed, too withdrawn to talk to anyone. At some point I visited a fire church located on a mountain in the Southwest for special prayers and deliverance. It was in the process that I was informed of where my fortune resided – Europe.
I was denied Visa to Germany and Belgium. My bank account zeroed. I was at my junction one evening to buy noodles for dinner one day when I overheard someone talking to someone over the phone about how to get a work permit in Italy. Shamelessly I said – when he was done talking,
“Sir, please help my life. I also want to go to Italy. Do you help people with Visa?”
He was in high spirits, with every of his words echoing in thick Oyo accent; his face clawed on both sides. He assured me of getting into Italy but never mentioned anything about Visa. He just kept hammering on a down payment of 500,000 Naira. I sold my properties, ones I had painfully acquired over years. When I still couldn’t raise all the money, I stole my mother’s land documents and sold them too. In the end I had close to 2 million Naira. I paid him the initial agreed fee and my journey unravelled.
It started from Lagos where I’d lived all my life, through the River-Niger bridge to connect the north, to Niger republic, linked Libya through a drive in the desert, till we eventually arrived at the shore of the ship sailing for Italy. Of course Baba Oyo didn’t come along, he connected me to someone who connected me to another till I met the captain of the ship. I was extorted at every opportunity. I paid for the same papers I’d previously paid for but never got.
“What you have on you can only get you a space in the engine room. Don’t worry, you’ll be safe there.”
I accepted my fate but it was far from safe. The smoke from the engine choked my soul daily. The continuous bang sound of the engines as they jammed and propelled one another kept me awake all night. I wasn’t the only one there, we all became sea sick; vomiting over each other severally. We were only given a loaf of bread and a litre of water for a week. It was a mess! The storm and heavy tides didn’t help.
After 57 days of sojourn on the Mediterranean Sea – I counted with my rosary, the captain order that 10 of us be brought up deck for fresh air. I heaved a sigh of relief, finally, something worthwhile. Upon our arrival on deck we didn’t see any one. It was just the captain and two armed guard. He ordered them to give each of us a bottle of soft drink, then went ahead to orientate us.
“You don’t need to be told that you’re travelling illegally. Look over there, that’s Italy. We should be there in 4 hours.”
Indeed we could see a tiny light that seem to be upon a skyscraper. He continued,
“Your journey can as well end here if you don’t cooperate. This is the final price you must pay; myself and my men will have sex with you. Your fate is in your hands, step forward if you’re willing and aside if you’re not.”
I froze on the spot. Horror met my heart when the 4 men who stepped aside were shot in the leg and tossed into the sea. I moved.
We finally arrived in Italy, Verona to be precise, and they there were waiting for us – the border patrol.