The Baptism of Muritala

There is a peculiar experience you get when you land at Muritala Mohammed International Airport. A baptism that is one part familiarity, one part nostalgia, and two parts disappointment.

Because as you step off the plane, you are greeted by an old friend: the humid heat native to this part of the country. Like a tout, he is permanently posted at the door mouth; and like a duvet, he envelopes you with a stifling hug. You push him off without hesitation.

I knew it! You are always here! That’s why I brought my fan. Abeg my friend, get out! Before you kill me...

He is a sign of the Nigeria you know, so you are not as excited to see him, as he is to see you. In fact, you are immediately tired of his presence.

Perhaps that is why, as you walk together towards immigration, you begin to look for something to take your mind off him. Some proof that even if he hasn’t changed, the country might have. Within minutes you have found them :-  New equipment, new uniforms, new procedures… new developments. The optimist in you exclaims:

Change in progress! There is hope for Nigeria yet.

But as you pass one broken down apparatus after another, you soon realize that these were not signs of change, but survivors. Change was begun, but it is no longer in progress. What a shame. There is only one air-conditioner left to cool you, as you approach the immigration queue.

Suddenly, your fellow passengers begin to speed up…

They say chance is a matter of time and place. But within Nigeria, they can chance you at any time, in any place. So you speed up too. The rush feeling all too familiar, the struggle, nostalgic of the “Naija hustle.”

The seasoned Nigerians among you take the lead, and you join the long queue a little tired, and out of breath. Now you are sweating heavily, and annoyed at yourself for losing first place in the immigration race. You begin to reminisce about the time, not so long ago, when the temperature was cooler, the passengers were patient, and the queue was orderly.

Meanwhile, all around you, pockets of chaos, ensue. The one passenger thinks that because he is a chairman, he can jump the queue. Another, refuses to understand that the fast track lane, is for first-class passengers only. While a third group, a family of about ten, neglected to fill their landing forms.

Oga, wetin you bring for us?”

You want to slap the immigration officer. First for snapping you back to reality, and second for adding insult to injury. On top this heat and struggle, he wants to empty your pocket. Nonsense! Anyway, this is the Nigeria you know, not the one you were hoping for. So it is to be expected; You do as any Nigerian would, to grease the wheels of progress.

Now at baggage claim, you are unsurprised to find all the passengers crowded around one conveyor belt. You sigh to yourself: It must be the only one still working.

Like the officer, and the A/C before it, the conveyor belt is simply the last man standing: representing survival instead of change.

You wonder whether this is a reflection on society…


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