With her sisters words ringing in her ears she stepped out of the airport and was wrapped in a blanket of heat which threatened to smother her.
The trip to Nigeria was planned for months but yet Ber hadn’t really told anyone about it as she knew neither her family or her friends would be impressed or approve. But then again approval from others was not to high on her list of life’s priorities after what she had gone through. Now was the time to explore and enjoy life. But her steps were way to fast for a woman who had just escaped an abusive marriage, to slow down never entered her head. Little did she know but this trip would send her spinning and tumbling deep in to despair, a despair so deep it would take years to recover. The only way to recover for Ber was forgiveness .
Nigeria was a country that she knew very little about and she knew less about their destination Iperu-remo, Ogun State . But she trusted the man sakiru with who she was in love and believed he loved her also. The fact that he was a muslim didn’t have any bearing on the relationship because when it came to praying they prayed together. Him on his mat and she sitting on the chair reading her bible . God created us all so we all pray to him.
Preparation for the trip got underway and Ber had all the relevant injections . She stored her proof for immigration alongside her passport which held her visa for entry to Nigeria . Sakiru knew a Mr Ojo in the Nigerian Embassy at 56 Lesson Park, Dublin 6. Ber never met the man but on the day she went to get her visa at the Embassy she spoke to him on the phone. He directed her where to go . On entering the building she was met at the door of an over filled room by a tall man. Looking around all she could see was a sea of African faces . The noise level was high with crying children. The man instructed her to go straight ahead and go through the door in front of her in to the next area. But she read a sign saying ” Please take a ticket and wait for your number to be called”. Being Ber she questioned the mans decision as she could see that there were so many people there before her. He replied ” They are fine “. She said that she was fine also and took her ticket, going to sit in a corner to wait her turn. Yes there’s a first time for everything and this was her first time in the Nigerian Embassy. Her second was to collect her passport with the lovely visa inside.
Between working and getting ready for Nigeria the summer of 2011 was very busy time for them both. Ber was celebrating her birthday in Iperu-Remo on the compound of Erelu Olayiwola Aina of Folasade Farm. Who’s daughter was organising a beautiful cake for the occasion which was shared with one of her daughters who shared the same month with Ber .
Sakiru was making his own preparations to return to Nigeria also and these involved exporting car parts and electrical equipment to Nigeria using a loan that Ber had given him. This loan was legally signed over in the presence of a lawyer whom later she was to discover was struck off in 2009. The loan wasn’t peanuts and it was seen by her as a solid investment. This investment was to be the beginning of a better life. Yes ! a better life but not for her as Ber was to find out on returning from Nigeria .
With her sisters words ringing in her ears she stepped out of the airport and was wrapped in a blanket of heat which threatened to smother her. Her sister had told her over a lovely lunch in Mayfield D6 that the trip to Nigeria wasn’t a good idea but Ber had just dug her heels in more saying she was going. Now the words ringing in her ears were ” If you get kidnapped I’ve no money to pay a ransom” Now who was going to kidnap a small town girl she thought as she followed Sakiru to the car where Abisola sat waiting for them, The ac in the car was so welcoming after the outside heat.
They arrived at the compound and met Erelu, who was to become a good friend to Ber untill her death in 2012. Everything was so different to what Ber had expected. Her perceptions of Africa were of poverty and mud structures all given to her by the nuns in school. Here infront of her was a beautiful bungalow on a good-sized compound complete with a massive gate and a gate man. whos daughter became very close to Ber during her stay.
On her first morning she woke to find Sakiru had gone out but he had taken a suitcase with him which contained some of her toiletries. She searched and eventually found a bar of soap to wash with among her clothes. Now washing was interesting but it soon became second nature to Ber to use buckets of water instead of a shower. She was dam near killed with the hot water the first few mornings but she rectified this by getting cold water to wash with. Breakfast was lets use the word interesting . Ber made the mistake of asking for cereal but the milk given was yuck to her and she ended up pretending she wasn’t hungry. The coffee and bread were like nothing she had ever tasted. After breakfast she heard a voice shouting out over the compound. The voice of Erelu was one she grew to recognise with joy as it called everyone’s name each morning, she laughed the first day her own was added to the list .
Bers first day passed in a blur as she was tired, excited and anxious. Tired from traveling. excited at being in Nigeria but anxious about the missing Sakiru who had mumbled something about going to the mosque . She went out with Abisola and her daughters to a beauty salon in Iperu where she got her hair braided
Deep inside her she hoped he would be back in the compound when they returned and couldn’t hide the tears of disappointment when he wasn’t. He returned soon after because Abisola phone him .
The days rolled in to each other as Ber was shown a small piece of lagos and Abeokuta. The promises that they would climb Olumo rock never were honoured just like so many forgotten promises. Sakiru introduced her to some of his friends who came to the compound and others who she met in Lagos, a piece of Lagos she has rarely seen in friends photos. They stayed in a resort in Iperu one night called Living Springs . There they had dinner and drinks around the pool. The promise for a swim in the pool was false also as the next morning they left early.
Ber visited Sweet Sensation among other places to eat and met some lovely people. She receive beautiful presents of African cloth from Sakirus Mother and jewelery from his friend Kabiru’s Mother . She wears them with pride.
Sakir continued to disappear and leaving her to be with the women. This didn’t bother her too much untill it came to-night time as Ber is afraid of the dark. To combat the fear she had brought a torch to Iperu.
The loan was not mentioned by anyone but she questioned Sakiru about the goods that he was shipping to Nigeria to Lagos and was told that the goods never arrived, this was another lie she was to uncover on her return to Dublin in October 2011.
Oluseye Owoaje is one person she remembers for his kindness to her. Everyday in Abisolas home in Abeokuta he made her coffee. In fact he bought the first Puff puff she ever ate . Everyone was so kind to Ber she missed the telling signs of untruth around her. Sakiru played his game very well pretending to care when all he really cared about was how fast he could get her on a plane back to Ireland.
Seeing an e-mil from a shipping company sent to Sakiru alarm bells began to ring but he still insisted the cargo never arrived. Coming up to her departure date he kept suggesting that she go and get her hair braided again by Christine in the salon in Iperu but Ber dug her heels in and refused to waste precious time sitting in a salon full of strangers. Christine came to the compound and braided her hair before her departure date.
Eventually the cargo and loan was mentioned and Ber was told that Sakiru had told everyone not to upset her by talking about either of them. She knows now that this was a ploy to stop her from finding out too much.
Leaving Iperu-Remo was hard as Ber had met some pretty amazing kind people like Auntie Joyce , Segun , Oladipupo and thre gate mans daughter Ungozie( Spelling is wrong ) and many more. She was shown nothing but kindness and saw nothing but smiles everywhere she went despite the hard life some Nigerians live. Everyone one was smiling right from Erelu to the people selling wares on the street.
Departure day arrived and it was with a heavy heart Ber arrived in Murtala Muhammed Airport. Sakiru said good-bye and promised the sun, moon and stars but God can only give us these. His lies used to hurt so much but Ber learned that forgiveness is the key to her healing and future.
She arrive in Dublin on the 3/10/11 and was met my Sakiru’s friend Akeem ( Prince Dapo). They drove to her apartment where she discovered her car had 2 flat tyres , Now Akeem was ment to keep an eye on the car and the shock on his face told her so much. Politely she got rid of him as he was as much use as a band-aid plaster on a hole in a dam wall.
Life returned to semi-normal as Ber worked and received calls from Nigeria but always the credit ran out or the network cut.
Sakiru arranged for her to be in touch with his old boss Tunde which was good as he carried fuel for the fire to her home. Then Sakiru started calling in the middle of the night saying he was dying of malaria. Ber was so so upset she rang Tunde who assured her no one was dying and that he needed to talk to her.
Ber was in for a tough moment of truth the next evening when Tunde came to her home. She was told Sakiru had more children than the 2 she had met and that he had a girlfriend in Dublin. Also Tunde told her that the cargo had arrived in Lagos . He knew this as he had sent family some electrical equipment with the main load. An African woman who eventually rang her and told her that the money was spent by her and Sakiru. Not being happy with doing this the woman whose name Ber now knew friended her on FB and showed her happy photos of herself and him. Ber was devastated and her whole world fell apart.
For weeks even months she just worked in a blur, slept and hardly ate. She reached out to make friends on social media. Ber made some pretty amazing friends and also met some people who would eventually use her when they discovered how isolated and vulnerable she was. Music groups on FB such as the jazz group and the old school music group gave her wonderful outlets and friends whom she interacted with and still can call her friends. Some of these friends she has met, some she hopes to meet in her life travels. Friends over time have become her family.
Over time Ber has come to terms that she was scammed out of 25 thousand euro by one bad egg. Now just because one egg is bad does not mean we throw away the dozen. God , her health and happiness are her riches now.
Every race, creed and culture has people looking to make fast money, To do this they look for vulnerable victims. people who are isolated and vulnerable. No one person is bad enough to deem the whole nation bad. Do not tar a whole people with the same brush because you have a bad experience with one person from any country. Stroke it up to experience that enriches our lives and our history which makes us who we are today.
Today Ber is a very happy stronger woman who lives a great life among all people because the blood that flows in our veins is the same. She has set up a FB page called Speaking From Experience and My Heart. By speaking out she hopes that others can be spared living through her history but also learn that not everyone is bad. Just one man nearly killed her by his greed but nearly is the operative word because like the phoenix she has risen again . Now Ber is a born again christian and God holds her tight.
If Ber had not travelled to Nigeria she would never have tasted the best water melon ever, nor nearly got knocked out by a coconut. She would never have met all the wonderful people she loves and keeps close to her heart nor would she have tasted the local rice wrapped in leaves. Not travelling to Nigeria was never an option because once her mind was made up nothing would stop the stubborn mule of a woman . Africa is one continent which pulls her so much as she remember’s .
Ber has so much to tell her on her blog and so much more to add as she lives a blessed life. Yes 25 thousand euro would have made her quality of life better but hey she’s able to work so is not complaining . Never complain about what you have because there is someone somewhere crying for it .
Good night and God bless
love you all