If You Think Living In Nigeria Is Hell Try Underground World


Farouk Martins Aresa



Who the hell am I to tell you where to live, eh? After all, I reported myself to the Immigration hoping they would deport me back home. The nice immigration lady kindly told me that they had not received my medical report back yet and I should wait until they get it. Unknown to her was that I thought once I showed up, they would deport me back to Lagos, Nigeria. Home, sweet home. Well, that was many years ago.

You see, I was so disappointed with everything. When I showed up at manpower for job, I met this lady that directed me to the line where some folks were waiting to go and clear the heavy snow that day. I was not even properly dressed for the snow and my shoes from home were just too light. The snow soaked both feet into water freezing my toes. When I got home, I swore not to go back the following day. But when I got hungry, nobody showed me the way back.

It was not the only reason I wanted to go back home. By the time I finally accepted that I was not going to get any court clerk job as I had at home, my dressing for job-hunting changed. We always checked the papers for jobs where I saw opening the following morning for car-washers. First come, first hired. Some of us got there early at 5 a.m. We met others there waiting on line as we lined up behind them.

The owner of the car-wash got there at 7 a.m. and started picking us from the line. As he was picking his workers from the line, he finally got to me. Somehow, he jumped to the next guy. Thinking it was a mistake; I stood with those he had already picked. There was no reason to jump the line when he got to me. He looked back and said: you out! 

I went home crying. After a series of events too many to write here, I realized I was a mama’s boy who forgot that there were different jobs where I was coming from. It finally donned on me that there were factory workers at Apapa for morning, afternoon and night shifts. How could I have forgotten. Indeed, I. K Dairo had a song about people with high school certificate working as laborers at Ikeja and many other places.

When I enrolled at the university and told other African friends my experience, they burst out laughing, telling me I have not seen anything yet. My Nigerian friends made it worse. They asked me what the hell a Lagos boy was doing in the university. Most Lagosians they know do not study. They worked, lived in nice places and drove mustangs. They told me I was too well mannered because I did not brag, showed off or shakara with bottles. You, a Lagosian?

There is this saying that if everyone writes their problems on their forehead, you would thank God for yours. Some of my friends were working under the table for less than minimum wage if they could not find jobs. One advantage was that most of us were young men that were still strong with durable body for hard work. The Italians and Portuguese did many of the strenuous jobs. Ironwork, heavy lifting and construction paid good money but could also break your back.

A friend of ours said those were the jobs he wanted because he wanted better paychecks. So he went into construction, which was hard to get into in the first place. He came back home one day and could not get up the following morning because he had pains all over his body. He told us he wanted the money because he had a brother at home he had to send to school. He also bought an expensive camera he sent to another brother that qualified as a photographer.

He came home tired one evening complaining his body could not stop vibrating from the machine he used at work. While still in pains, he managed to get up to collect a letter from sweet home. The photographer thanked him for the camera expressing how happy and grateful he was. There was only one more thing he wanted from his brother. He wanted him to send some money as soon as could for the graduation party! My friend burst out crying.

Another friend joined a cleaning crew. In order to get the job, he was asked for his experience. He told them he had done the same job in Germany and was very familiar with all machines used for cleaning. They gave him one of the swinging machines one day. As he started the machine, it threw him flat crashing into the wall. He came home with bruises all over. He was later fired for lying that he knew how to use the machine.

While we were lamenting on different odd jobs, we saw a black man on television that went with fishermen on the high sea. When he saw high waves, he started hallucinating. He begged the captain to send him back to the shore. It was too late, they were far deep into the high sea. When they realize he might commit suicide by jumping into the sea, they had to restrain him in the cabin until they saw emergency crew that could take him back.

Well, these are relatively decent jobs. Africans have come back home telling us about nefarious promises made to them about better prospects in Libya, Malta, Italy and different islands between Europe and Africa. Even worse are the humiliating activities of our young girls lured out by promising them good money only to find out that they were sex slaves in many of these countries. These were untold stories years back. Italy and Greece refused to sell refugee islands 

The attraction for greener pasture is obvious. Some Africans that left came back with exotic cars, enough foreign money to buy properties in high-class areas. While others that went to the same countries complain that by the time they pay rent or mortgage, pay for car and other bills, they only have so much left to send home after taking care of their immediate families. People then wondered what type of abroad they were when their colleagues were making big money! 

Of course there are many Africans in high profile professions making good money without getting involved in crimes. Many also combine their day jobs with other jobs. You never hear of a friend that worked to death stocking up his store after day job. He had his wife in charge but their children only helped sparingly since they have their priorities. The burnout rate for highly “successful” folks is very high because of pressure from colleagues and demand from their jobs.

It is one thing to be successful at home in a nourishing environment where you could get the community support in order to alleviate the pressure. It is different in hostile communities.