This, before some one starts to say 'not again', is not about me. Its about my egbon. Mr Mac Ovbiagele, a foremost advertising practitioner, and I dare say, one of the best in his generation - likes to do things by the book. I should know since I have known him for almost 40 years and I have used him as a sounding board for many of my projects.
True to type, when he realised he needed to travel to Canada, he started preparing early. By January, he had booked his ticket for a wedding that was to take place towards the end of July.
On May 4, he took his passport with all the necessary documents to the Canadian Embassy. Although the Embassy said the applicants should give an allowance of 30 working days for processing, he was prepared to give more.
When he got to the Embassy, he met three ladies he had known for a long time. One of them was his contemporary at the University of Ibadan. Everybody was confident that they had made early preparations and acted responsibly. But had they?
Three weeks later, one of them had an all expenses paid offer for a three-day trip to Dubai for a board meeting. But she didn't go because her passport was in the Canadian Embassy vaults. Another of the ladies thought it would be a good opportunity to cross over to the US after her business in Canada. She wasn't sure if her visa would not have expired at that time and she wanted to book for an appointment at the US Embassy. But she could not because her passport was locked up in the vaults of the Canadian Embassy.
The third lady had what turned out to be a fortuitous experience. Her son had a bad back condition that needed to be operated on. The doctors advised a quick operation so that some nerves would not be damaged permanently. Again, her passport was locked up in the Canadian vault. But being an 'abiyamo' (an endearing Yoruba word for motherhood) she decided that her son's life was more important than going to Canada. When she made moves to retrieve her passport, she was told, ominously, that she would have to go to the bottom of the line and start all over again if she brought her passport back. She retrieved her passport any way and flew to the UK with her son. The operation was timely and was successful. What's more, she put in for the Canadian visa in the UK. To her surprise, her application was granted in 24 hours.
Please note. It was the same woman, the same passport and the same documents. You want to ask. What is it about Nigeria that sets these Western countries on edge? And why should any country lock up any body's passport for any length of time in this day and age? Back to my big brother, Mr Ovbiagele. Sensing that he might not be able to make his earlier booking, he wanted a new date. He was asked by his travel agency to cough up an extra two hundred thousand naira for something that was definitely not his fault. So he did what any reasonable man would in the circumstances.
He took the 'aso -ebi' and all the wedding things in his possession and couriered them to Canada - at a considerable cost of course - and cancelled his booking. As we speak, more than three months after, none of these three people has had their visa or their passport returned to them. P.S. Now, I have just been told that a friend's wife (and also my wife's friend) has just been refused a UK Visa. Reason? She didn't show 'sufficient attachment' either to the US where she resides, or to Nigeria, her country of birth.
Now, this lady is close to 60. She is a grandmother who has been travelling to the UK for at least 30 years.
She has a green card which entitles her to live and work in the US. She and her husband have a beautiful home in the US, and beautiful homes in Nigeria. All her children had their tertiary education in the US. A couple are back in Nigeria and the others comfortably settled in the US. No child lives in the UK. And they say she doesn't have 'sufficient attachment' to Nigeria or the' US.
All she wanted was to be able to attend the wedding of her niece slated for early August. And as at the time she applied, she had a five-year visa which was about to expire. Now tell me. What pull does UK have over the US and Nigeria where she has her family, her home, and her businesses? And if it was her intention to disappear into the thin (or wet) UK air, why did she have to wait for her five year visa to expire? Doesn't make much sense does it?
PS 2 I am sure there are many ridiculous and sometimes ludicrous visa experiences out there. I'd like to hear (and maybe air) them.
I told you of mine six months ago at the US Embassy. To their credit, they responded and corrected what many considered to be an anomaly.
Muyiwa Adetiba was the former Editor of Vanguard