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Escape from desert snakes: A Ghanaian struggle to reach London (Part 2)



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YOU see, there is this boat called Al-Bashir. It is a rickety, engine powered passenger boat that sails from the edge of the Nile through a circuitous route to the port of Tripoli. I got on that boat one fateful Friday night and arrived in Tripoli in the early hours of Saturday morning. We were all arrested at the end of the journey. I paid $2,000.00 for my release. I hope I am not boring you…”No, not at all,” I answered. In Tripoli, I helped fishermen at the shore to offload their haul ashore. Every evening, I smelt like fish and had to bath twice at night. I stayed in Tripoli for one year and three months and realised that Libyans were far more racist than the image of a saviour and brotherhood Ghaddafi projects to the world. Some Nigerians died in the hands of their police and immigration officers who are trained to hunt for black African migrants.

In 1996, I bought myself fake papers and got to Dubai, the capital of the Arab Emirate. I stayed in Dubai as a man Friday hired to carry luggage on the head for tourists and the locals. It is a most popular job among black African immigrants. Anyway, this is the kind of job they perceived to suit black Africans perfectly. There, they still thought that we are made for the most gruesome, demeaning kind of job because of the myth of black power and transatlantic slavery. The Dubairates would not touch my hand and the fawning Indians and Pakistanis regarded us as animals. Later, I moved on to be a car washer for the rich Arabs.

Living in England now, I now know that Dubai-Arabs are far more racists than the white man. Know what, they throw it on your face. There in Dubai, there are some hotels that would not offer rooms for blacks.

I was in Dubai for 1 year where I worked my heart out. Nightly, I will cry and feel like killing myself. At such low mood, a providential call will come from my cousin in London and there would be another round of hopeful talk. Then I met this kind-hearted elderly Pakistani who had helped so many African migrants escaped to Ireland. He got on my case and with $3,000. 00 paid to this Asian middleman, I waited with baited breath.

Early January 1997, I landed at the Republic of Ireland with my Ghanaian passport. When the plane touched Dublin, I was sweating profusely. I have thrown my last dime on this adventure and could not contemplate a deportation. Anyway, Ireland offered me hospitality, freedom and human dignity. Though the pain of my epic journey to Europe was locked in my memory, Ireland struggled to erase it. I joined a thriving Ghanaian community there and with their assistance, I got my first job as a care worker. Charlie, we Ghanaians are humbler than Nigerians when it comes to doing all sorts. I worked from Monday to Saturday with occasional Sunday looking after old men in their various homes as a visiting carer. Some suffered from dementia and there were several temptations to steal their money and credit cards, but I did not. I reasoned that I had suffered too much to be arrested for stealing and fraud. I declared myself as an asylum seeker. In the late 90s, you Nigerians called it ‘aduro’ or ‘kawo soke’.

ALSO SEE: Escape from desert snakes: A Ghanaian struggle to reach London (Part 1)

You see, in the 90s, Republic of Ireland was a no mans land. It had a liberalised immigration policy and within 5 years I got my European passport. Charlie, the country was a magnet even for those who are living in London and desperate for European passport. Once your case is heard, you are entitled to draw from their social security and live well.

In 2003, I relocated to London and have been living here since. In 2006, I received a British passport and have travelled without molestation across Mainland Europe and have followed my team Arsenal to many European countries. I was in Ghana in 2006 after 15 years on the run. I was in Arizona in 2007 and also travelled to Canada last year. Charlie, I forgot to mention that I married an Irish woman in 1998 and that translated to an open door of opportunity and legal-paper blessing. We are blessed with three children and we live in the Northumberland area of Tottenham. I can tell you that in my journey, I have seen man’s bestial nature, racism, cheating, disappointment, near starvation, resignation and death.

Also, I have seen man’s capacity for endurance, patience, determination, sacrifice, hope, faith in God, blind trust, fearlessness and risk taking. Charlie, I just don’t know why I have to tell you this darker side of my life but one thing I love Nigerians for was what your country did for me. The story of Robert Kuffour started in Ghana, my self-rediscovery happened in Nigeria and now my self-refashioning is happening in London…It’s like I have escaped from desert snakes.”

“Did you say you are a writer”? I nodded, entirely engrossed with his tale of penetrating courage and triumph. To my left, a young beautiful, ebony-coloured girl was wriggling her Bakassi basin furiously. Then I heard a propeller of a song…”I am going to Ghan..No mercy for Alanta…No corner, corner…One, two buckle my shoes…welcome to Kotoka”! Within minutes, I was in Kotoka in the hands of a raging, Bakassi-endowed beauty who would not mind a chance to pirouette with a dangerous stranger. Such is the laid back, easy-going lifestyle of average Ghanaian. Richard winked at me, delighted that I got a partner for the night. Concluded.
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