Friday, July 20, 2007

1st week in Abuja: Passport Control- yay!

The first thing that hits me as the Lufthansa pilot is making the descent towards Nnamdi Azikwe airport in Abuja is how green everything below looks.Hills, grass plains and streams everywhere. "Isn't Abuja in the desert?" I think to myself. Although I primarily lived in Lagos, my dad's job is based in Abuja so my summer hols back in secondary school were spent complaining about how DRY and BORING the city was.

As we de-board the plane and walk through the skywalk there are photos of Nigeria's tourism spots along the wall. Nice intro, I think. The weather is cooler than I expect.

On walking into the arrival terminal, I see what would become the highlight of my flight across the Atlantic: passport control. The signs read:

Line 1: Other passports
Line 2: Nigerian passports
Line 3: Diplomatic passports and Crew
Line 4: Nigerian passports. (Again!)

Instinctively I want to join the very long line of people at Line 1, because as far as I can remember I always fall at the end of the slow moving "other" line at every airport.
Then I remember: THIS IS MY COUNTRY.

I suddenly feel very important and proud of my green passport as I stroll past the LONG line of foreigners to my left and stand behind five Nigerians in line 2. Another five are on line 4. I contentedly smile to myself.

No anxiety.
No shaking.
Immigration is for me, not against me!

Nobody will ask me where I am staying and for how long, while checking me out five million times to make sure I'm the person in the passport photo. They will not tell me to wait while they consult their oga about something seemingly shady about my visa. Neither will they book me like a criminal, taking my fingerprint and mugshot.

I look back at the line of "other passports" and see tired and impatient faces – probably wishing they had a green passport just so they can get on with their important money-making agendas.
Most are used to breezing through passport control on their EU or U.S. passports: My dad tells me that in the visa world, there's the principle of reciprocity. Visa policies between any two countries always match. So if they say we need a visa to go there, then we say they also need one to come here, and we issue it at the same price they do. That's why westerners visiting Naija can't walk in visa-less like they can in U.S., England or other EU states.

Again, I feel very content. Not only do I get through the usually tedious and defensive procedure in record time, but I'm warmly greeted as the immigration officer says he knows my dad.

"You're welcome back," he says as he hands me back my passport.

10 comments:

  1. That's what i'm talking bout! a dose of their own medicine...hehe...i'd love to experience that feeling that you received of not feeling of like a criminal in the airport...as one is made to feel these days...

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  2. whoa!
    I am not sure I have heard of anyone being that proud of the green passport! but even i would have been proud.
    Imagine the thought of immigration personnel on your side!
    and that the visa officer new your pops? now that is a warm welcome.
    You should post pictures!

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  3. Very Interesting! Sure makes me more homesick than I have always been! I can imagine that feeling! Being proud of the Green for once! Abi?

    Pls keep them blog coming cos me is thinkings of moving backs to 9jas soon too!

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  4. @!!estella!!, baby girl, the land is green O. If you feel this is where you are supposed to be don't be afraid! The Lord will clear a straight path for you

    @ade, I have some pics on my facebook. I will post some on here soon.

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  5. awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww... gosh.. nostalgia

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  6. isn't the green passport the best! though i was born in the US, i got mine when i was a bit younger, but i know if i didnt have it, i would join all the other foreigner in jealousing you people...lol

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  7. Beautiful, fair is square.

    'The Green' shall flourish yet again..................time.

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  8. hmmmm...i wont lie, i never noticed this in Muritala Mohammed. That's where i always land whenever I go home. I'll be sure to smile at all the foreigners waiting in line if they have the same set up. Ahhhhhh after all the years of struggling in the "foreigners" line at O'hare. This should be fun hehehehe

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