Wale in Geneva: Are Nigerians Abroad More “Human” Than Nigerians At Home”?

By Adeola Aderounmu.

This article is a follow up to The French Embassy in Nigeria must be useless

Wale is now in Switzerland and I must say that while I respect the views of other people I find it unbelievable that some Nigerians will defend the behavior of the French.

Why do the foreign embassies respect Nigerians living abroad but disrespect Nigerians at home? Why are they more relaxed with their visa application rules with the same Nigerians abroad than at home? Are Nigerians abroad more human than Nigerians at home?

It is true that many of us have travelled out on visiting visas and never returned home. It is also true that many of us have travelled abroad to study and established niches for ourselves after our studies instead of returning home. However, it is still not the duty of the embassies to deny visas to prospective/regular travelers, students, private persons or civil servants who can demonstrate the genuineness of their proposed trips.

These various countries have functional immigration monitoring authorities. However, on a global basis, immigrants have found ways to beat different systems and stay illegally in various countries. In other cases, some temporary migrants have gone through normal procedures to prolong their resident permits. Sometimes employment, businesses and new family ties offered the ways to settle in another country. With the arrival of the internet, there are now no limits to travel opportunities.

As an illustration on the title on this essay, let me take just two examples. In 1999 Tayo was denied a UK visa in Lagos. In 2002 after studying in Sweden for just 5 months he was offered a 6 months visa to the UK. It was on that occasion only that Tayo had to apply using an invitation letter from a friend who resides in London.

With subsequent applications, he put his forms and passport in the mail and each time the passport was returned with UK visa affixed. He didn’t have to appear for the other UK visas that he got and there were times that he didn’t even bother to make the trip after obtaining the visas! To obtain a UK visa now, he has to show only that his permit in Sweden is still valid!

In what ways are Tayo’s applications more credible nowadays than when he was living in Lagos? Why was Tayo’s application to the UK acceptable in Stockholm but not in Lagos? Why was Wale’s application to France unacceptable in Lagos? Why doesn’t it matter that Wale had a valid Swiss visa to attend a course? Why does it not matter to the embassy of France in Nigeria that Wale’s passport contains valid visas to several countries including UK and USA or that he had traveled extensively in Europe before? Why is a hotel booking in Paris more important than Wale’s travel possibilities and options?

The difference of course is that Wale still resides in Nigeria and Tayo is now studying in Sweden. So it is essentially useless to these foreign embassies how many times you have travelled before or how many Nigerian passports you have exhausted. Are they not telling us that we are less human at home? Doesn’t it mean that they are using their "so called" discretion to humiliate us?

So Tayo is now more human than Wale, abi be ko ? I also know Femi. Femi was denied a visa to the UK as well. He is a vet doctor and he had been admitted to a school in the UK. He failed to secure a visa that would have enabled him to attend the Masters program. Anyway in 2005 Femi landed in Uppsala in Sweden for a similar Masters program and he told me that he would still like to go to the UK to make enquiries about his school. What happened next?

Femi secured a visiting visa to the UK. Just like Tayo he never had to go to the embassy twice. As I write this article, Femi is on his second summer holiday visit to the UK and he didn’t have to visit the UK embassy in Stockholm. He also got his visa by post and didn’t have to do any useless interview. By the way, he is now studying for his PhD degree.

Suddenly Femi is more human now because he is living in Sweden. If he had been given the UK visa in Nigeria (by my interpretation of the embassy’s decision to deny him a student visa) he would have gone to the UK and disappear into thin air like some other people did. The foreign missions and embassies in Nigeria must learn how to judge individual applications on its own merit irrespective of what others have done after being granted entry visas.

Indeed, Nigerians travel daily and MMA is never empty but the conditions under which we get the visas to travel out of Nigeria makes me wonder if applying for a visa makes us less human than when we are repeating the same application on another soil. If it is because of a hotel booking that the French denied Wale an entry visa, then they probably consider him less human and untrustworthy.

Yes, thank you! I know that they have standard procedures…why are these procedures not followed when we start to live abroad legitimately? Is it because we are now suddenly more human or is it a direct consequence of the society that we live in. Yea, it’s so cheap to blame the arrogance and the ineptitude of the embassies on Nigeria and Nigerians even if those are strong factors. In my own opinion, an embassy that cannot refund money for visas not granted is a looting organ.

In the meantime, many other questions and humiliating rules are begging for answers. Why do the embassy shield applicants away for a specified period of time when it is actually possible to provide missing items in less than 24 hours. A hotel booking can be provided in less than 1 hour-it’s just a phone call away. There are other questions and legitimate/ genuine travelers who are still suffering in the hands of the embassies can fill them in.

I hope that my friend

    Hakeem Babalola

can see one of the reasons why many Nigerians will pick up dual citizenships or a single foreign citizenship when the opportunity beckons. Ever heard about the expression: visaless countries? The experiences at the embassies can be frustrating, heartbreaking and humiliating (in your own country and abroad too). I wish Wale a nice stay in Geneva and Lugano and a safe trip back to Abuja come July 5.